At the moment there are excellent welcome bonuses on co-branded American Airlines AAdvantage Cards, as follows:
My favorite uses of American 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 for business class awards only increased marginally. There are still so many great ways to redeem American AAdvantage miles, and in this post I wanted to share some of my personal favorites for travel originating in the US (I’ll write a separate post with my favorite ways to redeem miles for travel originating outside the US).
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 Class||First Class|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. States||25,000||50,000|
|Canada & Alaska||30,000||55,000|
|South America Zone 1||30,000||55,000|
|South America Zone 2||57,500||85,000|
|Middle East / India||70,000||115,000|
|Asia Zone 1||60,000||80,000|
|Asia Zone 2||70,000||110,000|
So, what are the best award values using AAdvantage miles for travel originating in the US? Here are some of my favorites (all prices are one-way, and none of these redemptions have any carrier imposed surcharges):
Business class from the US to Middle East/India for 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. Both airlines release a good amount of award availability, especially if booking in advance. I’d note that they’re both inconsistent with releasing award space, though, especially Etihad. 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.
How to search availability & book: Use British Airways’ website to search Qatar Airways award space, and Etihad’s website to search Etihad award space, and then call American to book
Etihad 787 business class
Business class from the US to Africa for 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 oneworld you potentially have some great access. To fly to Africa with American miles you can fly either British Airways, Iberia, or Qatar. British Airways has big carrier imposed surcharges and a not-great product, and Iberia has limited routes. Meanwhile Qatar Airways has many routes to Africa, and has the best business class product of the three airlines. So there are all kinds of great flights you can add onto the US service.
Note that while Etihad also flies to Africa, you can’t redeem American miles for travel from the US to Africa on Etihad under a single award, so you’d have to book two separate awards. That’s why you’d want to choose Qatar over Etihad.
How to search availability & book: Use British Airways’ website to search Qatar Airways award space, and then call American to book
Qatar 777 business class
Business class from the US to Asia Zone 2 for 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 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.
How to search availability & book: Use British Airways’ website to search Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines award space, and then call American to book
Japan Airlines 777 business class
Business class from the US to Southern South America for 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. So 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 also partners with LATAM, 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.
How to search availability & book: Use American’s website to search and book American award space, and use British Airways’ website to search LATAM award space, and then call American to book
American 787 business class
First class from the US to Asia Zone 1 for 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 a great first class product, and redeeming 80,000 miles for first class on a 13 hour flight is quite a good deal.
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.
How to search availability & book: Use the websites of Alaska Airlines or British Airways to search Japan Airlines award space, and then call American to book
Japan Airlines 777 first class
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.
There are lots of other great uses, and I’ll be writing a separate post with my favorite American awards for travel originating outside the US (however, I figured I’d write this post separately since much of our readership is in the US).
What are your favorite ways to redeem American miles for travel originating in the US?