Best Uses Of American Airlines AAdvantage Miles To/From The US

Filed Under: American, American AAdvantage
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While most people aren’t planning any travel immediately, this is a great time to think about strategies for earning points, so that you’re ready to redeem for travel when the time is right.

Beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with planning travel way in advance, given the deals that are available. However, if you’re going to do so, go into it with the expectation that the trip may not materialize, as we don’t know how the current situation will evolve.

In this post I wanted to share some of my favorite uses of American Airlines AAdvantage miles. While American historically isn’t great about making saver level award seats available on their own flights, there are some fantastic partner airline award opportunities, which are my favorite way to use American miles.

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 65,000 American AAdvantage Miles

At the moment the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® (review) is offering a great welcome bonus of 65,000 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 65,000+ 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.

What are the best ways to use those 65,000+ 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. Instead I recommend flying Etihad and Qatar, which have great products and fly to lots of points in Africa.

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 last year I redeemed 75,000 miles to fly them one-way from Cape Town to Dallas.

Royal Air Maroc also recently joined oneworld, so you can now easily use American miles to fly to Morocco and beyond.


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.

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 historically 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.

American Airlines Web Special Awards (Prices Vary)

Historically American Airlines hasn’t released much saver level first and business class award availability on their own flights, though that’s something that they’ve become better about.

In particular, American has “web special awards,” where they make award seats available at prices that are lower than the published costs on the award chart. Not only that, but they often have better availability with these web special awards than they may otherwise have.

For example, it’s not unusual to see long haul business class awards starting at just 40,000 miles one-way, or long haul first class awards starting at just 50,000 miles one-way.

American 787 business class

How To Search Availability & Book

You can search and book American awards directly on aa.com. Just search an award on the aa.com homepage, and then select the calendar function. You’ll almost always find better availability for connecting itineraries.

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® Mastercard®, as you get 65,000 miles with the annual fee waived the first year. Once you complete the minimum spending, that’s essentially 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?

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Comments
  1. Error in “First Class to Asia 1” section: mentions the free stopover on Alaska oneways (recently withdrawn).

  2. I like the AA web fare specials. 45K-50K for business class between US and Asia is good value. That along with good seat selection makes for a relaxing long haul flight.

    However , we don’t know what travel will be like post COVID. Wouldn’t be surprised if i find myself cancelling awards and paying a $150 redeposit fee.

  3. I have an AA web special booked in December for Italy – only 105,000 miles RT for J class. Hopefully it holds and we’re not still grounded.

  4. Biz or first to aus not bad.

    I had to cancel a family trip to London in March. My points still haven’t redeposited.

  5. Due to the paucity of Qantas First Class award seats in Jan 2016, we booked (using a bunch of AA miles) west-to-east First Class awards on Qantas A380s from London-(Dubai)-Sydney to Australia for later in the year. Had to take separate (but same day) flights home from Sydney to the U.S. since I could only find single seats. It was a convoluted booking, but we did get to enjoy the Qantas A380 First Class experience on board their big/quiet/stately and smooth-flying A380s.

    Main takeaway: if/when possible, use AA miles to book seats on the best foreign airlines for international travel

  6. @DenB: Alaska only eliminated stopovers on intra-asia one-way flights, not from US to Asia. Are you thinking of Asia Miles recently nuking their stopover policy?

  7. My usual routing is Maui to Munich. Checked yesterday, just for fun, all of September wide open in Eco/Business. Eco web special 17 K, are you kidding me? Business 60K, all three flights in Business, compare that to United Eco 35 K, and Business 65K with their stinky ‘Mixed Cabin’, meaning Maui to West Coast or even East Coast in Eco, the rest in Business.

  8. What’s going on with Etihad awards on AA lately? Can’t seem to find any awards from the US but only AUH to LHR. Has AA blocked these or should we just continue to check etihad’s site and call Aus?

  9. Booked business class to Germany in November for 84,000 miles web special which is well below even the regular saver cost. If doesn’t happen no problem paying to redeposit miles. Price was too good to pass up IMHO

  10. Why travel in business or first when you may not even get a meal served? Would wait and see what happens here with air travel before I spend any of my miles!

  11. Based on their on time record, I think using AA miles to book Royal Air Maroc would be a waste of miles.

  12. Thanks for the heads-up on AA Business Class to Haneda for 45k miles. I was able to snag a MIA-DFW-HND round trip for early February of next year when (hopefully) things will be back to normal. I added in a separate JAL Osaka-Haneda flight using 6k Avios on the return, and gave myself a 4 hour buffer in case of any issues (if there are major issues, there’s always the Shinkansen).

  13. @DenB can you provide a source? Never heard of this change. Indeed a blow to AS miles value if it’s true

  14. For those of us willing to sit in the cattle car in back, USA to Europe is 34,000 miles, round trip. Colorado to Dallas to Frankfurt, reversed coming home, all on American so no London surcharge.

  15. I have been trying to book one of the 45k business or 55k first class awards to Tokyo but all of the positioning flights (DEN-DFW in my case) only show economy available. It has always been a little tough to find first-class positioning flights, especially non-stop and/or desirable times but there are literally none showing any day of any month until the end of AA’s bookable calendar. Does anyone have any insight? Temporary glitch?

  16. I’ve been hoping to find availability on Qatar utilizing AA miles to fly IAD-DOH-CPT but there’s never any availability 🙁 I’d consider doing DOH-SEZ or DOH-ZNZ as well, some better availability there.

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