All things considered, American Airlines has fairly strict and complicated routing rules on award tickets. That can be frustrating, because the flights which have award availability might not be possible to book under a single award. In the past I’ve outlined how American award routing rules work, though the exact details are constantly changing.
To give an example of American’s ridiculous award routing rules at times, American doesn’t let you transit “South America Zone 1” enroute to “South America Zone 2.” That means you can’t route from New York to Santiago via Lima, even though that’s an extremely direct routing. You could, however, route from New York to Santiago via Sao Paulo, even though it’s a much more indirect routing (since Sao Paulo is also in “Zone 2”).
Anyway, American AAdvantage has just made a very positive change to their routing rules for travel between the US and the Indian Subcontinent. Under the old policy, you could only travel from the US to the Indian Subcontinent via a transatlantic routing.
This means you could fly on British Airways, Etihad, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, etc. That’s ultimately not too bad since Etihad and Qatar Airways are good about making award space available. However, back in the day before American partnered with Etihad and Qatar Airways, you were typically stuck paying the terrible fuel surcharges on British Airways if you wanted to fly to India.
There are hefty fuel surcharges for redeeming AAdvantage miles on British Airways
American has now added an exception to their award chart — you can now fly from the US to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American on a single award.
Here’s the new footnote in the award chart:
Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted only via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is Transatlantic only.
In practice this now means you can route from the US to Hong Kong to anywhere Cathay Pacific flies in the Indian Subcontinent. For example, you can now fly the following on a single award:
- Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Male
- San Francisco to Hong Kong to Delhi
- Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Mumbai
Those are just a few examples. This is a great change, since in many cases flying via the Pacific is faster than flying via the Atlantic. For example, Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Male is slightly fewer miles than Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi to Male.
Back in the day traveling to Asia Zone 2 was significantly cheaper than traveling to the Middle East/India. Though with American’s recent award chart devaluation, that’s no longer the case. Nowadays American charges the following one-way mileage for business class out of the US:
- 70,000 miles for business class to Asia Zone 2
- 75,000 miles for business class to the Middle East/India
- 110,000 miles for first class to Asia Zone 2
- 115,000 miles for first class to the Middle East/India
So marginally the values are excellent, as you’re only paying an extra 5,000 miles for the connecting flight. Then again, since you’re not allowed a stopover on award tickets, that’s not really the way to view it, since you’d just be connecting in Hong Kong as a means to get to your destination.
The redemption values continue to be much better through Alaska Mileage Plan, as they allow stopovers on one-way awards, and also have lower redemption rates.
American has slowly been tweaking their routing rules lately. The way I see it, this is the most significant single improvement they’ve made to routing rules in a while. It’s just too bad that this change is only happening after American greatly devalued their award charts.
Still, business class redemption rates continue to be quite good, and I think a lot of people will find value in routing to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific 777
(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)