Best Uses Of American AAdvantage Miles To/From The US

Filed Under: American, American AAdvantage
In the interest of full disclosure, OMAAT earns a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the below links. These are the best publicly available offers (terms apply) that we have found for each card. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Please check out my advertiser policy for further details about our partners, and thanks for your support!

While American isn’t great about making saver level award seats available on their own flights, there are still some fantastic partner airline award opportunities available. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at that for those based in the US. In particular, nowadays the sweet spots seem to be for travel in business class.

Earn 70,000 American AAdvantage Miles

At the moment the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® is offering an increased bonus of 70,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $4,000 within four months. The $99 annual fee is even waived for the first year, so this is an easy way to pick up 70,000 miles for your business just for spending several thousand dollars on the card.

There are many reasons to pick up this card with this bonus, including priority boarding, free checked bags, and more. See this post for the best credit cards for earning American miles.

So, what are the best ways to use those 70,000 AAdvantage miles?

Best Uses Of American Airlines Miles

There’s no denying that American miles are worth less than they were before the AAdvantage devaluation of March 2016. In many cases we saw the cost of international first class awards go up significantly, while in some cases the cost of business class awards only increased marginally.

Nowadays I don’t generally consider international first class to be the sweet spot anymore, but rather international business class.

In this post I wanted to look specifically at what I consider the best uses of AAdvantage miles to be for travel originating in the US.

American Airlines International Award Chart

To start, here’s what American’s award chart looks like for first & business class redemptions originating in the continental US on partner airlines (and you should generally be redeeming your miles on partner airlines whenever possible anyway):

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Business ClassFirst Class
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00050,000
Canada & Alaska30,00055,000
Hawaii40,00065,000
Caribbean27,50052,500
Mexico27,50052,500
Central America27,50052,500
South America Zone 130,00055,000
South America Zone 257,50085,000
Europe57,50085,000
Middle East / India70,000115,000
Africa75,000120,000
Asia Zone 160,00080,000
Asia Zone 270,000110,000
South Pacific80,000110,000

What are the best award values using AAdvantage miles for travel originating in the US? Below are some of my favorites (all prices are one-way, and none of these redemptions have any carrier imposed surcharges).

Business Class To The Middle East & India (70,000 Miles)

One area where American AAdvantage miles continue to be among the most valuable is for travel to the Middle East & India. Per American’s award chart, this region includes everything from India to the Maldives to Oman to Sri Lanka. There’s so much beauty in this area, and it’s somewhere that’s otherwise tough to get to on miles.

Best of all, American partners with both Etihad and Qatar, and both of them have excellent business class products. You can also fly Royal Jordanian, but their business class isn’t quite as good.

Royal Jordanian 787 business class

All three airlines release a good amount of award availability, especially if booking in advance.

I’d note that Etihad and Qatar are inconsistent about releasing award space. Sometimes they open up tons of space in advance. Other times they don’t have any space for months at a time, and then suddenly there’s availability most days.


Etihad 787 business class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book both Etihad, Qatar, and Royal Jordanian awards directly on aa.com.

Business Class To Africa (75,000 Miles)

This is an extension of the above concept of going to the Middle East. Africa is one of the toughest continents to get to using miles, and with Etihad and Qatar you potentially have some great access.

While you could fly to Africa on British Airways or Iberia, that would mean you’d have to pay significant surcharges. So instead I recommend flying Etihad and Qatar, which have great products and fly to lots of points in Africa.

So whether you’re flying to South Africa or Tanzania or Kenya or Rwanda, there are tons of options. Personally my favorite choice is Qatar Airways, and I recently redeemed 75,000 miles to fly them one-way from Cape Town to Doha to Dallas in business class.


Qatar A350 business class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book both Etihad and Qatar awards directly on aa.com.

Business Class To Asia 2 (70,000 Miles)

Two of my favorite oneworld airlines are Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, and both are pretty good about releasing business class award availability. For just 70,000 miles one-way you can fly business class between the US and Asia 2, which includes China, Singapore, Thailand, etc.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class

Cathay Pacific isn’t quite as generous as they used to be with releasing award space, but they still generally release two business class award seats per flight when the booking window opens (they used to often release five seats), and then often many more seats as the departure date approaches.

Japan Airlines also often releases two business class award seats when the schedule opens, and they have an excellent product as well.


Japan Airlines 787 business class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines awards directly on aa.com.

Business Class To Southern South America (57,500 Miles)

American has an extensive route network in Latin America, including many flights to Southern South America. While American historically isn’t great about releasing award availability, they do occasionally have periods where they release a good amount of availability to South America.

Given American’s extensive route network to South America plus their good redemption rates, this is a very good opportunity when you can find the space.

American 787 business class

American also partners with LATAM (at least for now, though that partnership is ending soon), though they are generally pretty stingy when it comes to releasing award availability to partner airlines.

That’s not to say that they never release space, but rather that they don’t do so reliably. At a minimum, you can use LATAM to easily find connecting flights between the major South American gateways and smaller markets.

LATAM 787 business class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book American awards directly on aa.com. For LATAM awards you’ll want to use British Airways’ website to search availability, and then call American to book.

First Class To Asia 1 (80,000 Miles)

When American devalued their award chart, they largely adjusted the “sweet spot” redemptions from first class to business class. Prior to these changes I almost always redeemed American miles for international first class, while that’s not the case anymore. The way I see it, many first class redemptions aren’t as worthwhile anymore:

  • Redeeming 85,000 miles for first class to Europe is hardly worth it, since American doesn’t release much space, and award travel on British Airways is subjected to huge carrier imposed surcharges
  • Redeeming 110,000 miles for first class to Asia 2 on Cathay Pacific is steep, especially when you can book that same award with a stopover through Alaska Mileage Plan for 70,000 miles
  • Redeeming 110,000 miles for first class to Australia on Qantas is expensive, not to mention the award is one of the toughest to snag; when I see Qantas award availability I prefer to book through Alaska Mileage Plan, as they charge just 70,000 miles for the same award, and they allow a free stopover

With that in mind, the one international first class redemption originating in the US that I consider to be a really good deal nowadays is flying from the US to Asia 1 (which includes Japan) on Japan Airlines. They have an excellent first class product, and redeeming 80,000 miles for first class on a 13 hour flight is quite a good deal.


Japan Airlines 777 first class

The catch is that Japan Airlines isn’t consistent about releasing award availability in first class anymore. They sometimes release a seat when the schedule opens, but otherwise your best odds are to book closer to the departure date, as they often open more availability. I realize that’s not ideal for those hoping to book in advance, or those traveling as a couple.

Japan Airlines first class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book Japan Airlines awards directly on aa.com.

Bottom Line

The above aren’t the only good ways to redeem American miles, though they’re some of my favorites when you factor in a combination of availability, relative pricing between programs, and the products you can enjoy.

While there are lots of great sweet spot awards out there, I figured focusing on some of the best options out there for those originating in the US would be useful.

This is all the more reason to pick up the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®, as you get 70,000 miles with the annual fee waived the first year. That’s enough miles for a majority of these redemptions, and nearly enough miles for a US to Africa redemption.

What are your favorite ways to redeem American miles for travel originating in the US?

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Comments
  1. I think you should frame this differently… First, identify a region. Then, rank the best ways or currency to redeem miles to that region when considering miles required, ways to get those miles, and most importantly, how available award space is, how consistently award space is release and how predictable that availability is…

  2. I really wanted to fly first class and have been to Asia a dozen times already. The Q Suites on Qatar from Houston to Doha to Johannesburg seemed like a sweet spot for 75k each way . I opted to fly British Airways from San Francisco to London in first class. I’ve never flown first class before and have never been on the a380 before but the surcharge was $650.

  3. Ben, why don’t you include Canada in the article? For example, you need the same number of miles for Business to the Middle East with Qatar, from Montreal.

  4. Are there any flights from the US in Business/First that ever release 5+ seats on a consistent basis without high fuel surcharges? I have 4M+ AA but usually need at least 5 flights, which is almost impossible to find.

  5. @Jorge +1

    But now they have a “Canada” contributor they don’t have to think about it. So we can read cute posts, about one a month, about how many provinces there are, and how we have banks and credit cards, too, and electricity and indoor plumbing.

  6. @Ben – you should note the glitch on Etihad awards that while they are technically bookable on AA.com, the US website and call center have extremely restricted availability. You can check availability on Etihad’s own site and then have access to the full available inventory by calling the AA Australia call center. I used this trick on a recent booking to the Maldives. I could see that award seats were available on Etihad’s site, but the US call center saw no availability. Australian call center had no problem however.

    You have discussed this extensively before, so surprising that you make no mention of it in this post. See below:
    https://onemileatatime.com/redeeming-american-miles-on-etihad-trick/

  7. @ Joe – good luck with that! I’m based in Chicago and virtually no premium seats are ever available on the flights to Europe. Everything is typically pushed to BA metal and, with $600 surcharges to London, I’m just as happy to fly in the back. The actual economy flights are often cheaper than the taxes. I’m glad that I’m down to 110,000 remaining… good riddance.

  8. @joe

    I booked 5 x business class LAX to LHR and 5 x business LAX to EZE (actually it was economy LAX to DFW, business DFW to EZE) last year, 2018.

    All on AA metal.

  9. When did you last see a F award to Australia from the US on Alaska MP? Or a genuine (not mixed-cabin) Business award? Not recently, I can confidently say. Qantas (a.k.a The Queen of Mean) had cut off premium seats to Alaska.

  10. Tried to book QF first class SYD to HKG, showed availability on AA website, but got stuck once you click the “Proceed buttom”. Does anyone know why?

  11. Note that business class to SA2 can be 55,000 miles in business class if going through LIM. Of course, this really only works for routes with business from LIM on LATAM. However, 42,500 for J to LIM and Y to SA2 is not too bad either and provides more flexibility if you don’t have a lot of miles.

  12. @Joe, it is possible but you have to be flexible with cities and times (usually last minute). I’m in Barca with my three kids and I see one stoppers back to Chicago for all of us in biz this week. Usually there’s cheap one ways on economy in backup.
    @glenn t, I assumed the same. And then the unicorn of all unicorns presented itself earlier this year when qantas made available up to 4 seats in F from the USA to Aus in peak December. I snapped up 2 on one day and three on the next day using Alaska to fly my family home for Christmas. Often still see availability in j via Vancouver on qantas for multiple seats.

  13. I just booked AA peak season STT to AKL. Miles award in the back of the bus. 90k to NZ and 45K return to St. Thomas. How do they do that. The disparity coming/going.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *