You Can Now Redeem American AAdvantage Miles To Sudan

You Can Now Redeem American AAdvantage Miles To Sudan

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Don’t all plan your Khartoum vacations at once now, okay? 😉

Long story short, a few weeks ago I wrote about how it’s not possible to redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel between the United States and Sudan (and select other destinations, for that matter). I also shared American Airlines’ reasoning for this.

There’s now a positive update on that front, as these redemptions are now possible. Let me first share how we discovered this issue, why American said these redemptions weren’t possible, and then lastly what has changed.

Issues with redeeming American AAdvantage miles to Sudan

Back in early May, my awesome colleague Jordan at PointsPros was helping a client who was trying to redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel from the United States to Sudan.

This seemed like it would be easy enough — one of the best uses of American AAdvantage miles is for travel on Qatar Airways between the United States and Africa, and Qatar Airways had business class award availability from Chicago to Doha, and then from Doha to Khartoum. This award should have cost 75,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in business class.

This wouldn’t price on aa.com, as Khartoum wasn’t recognized as a destination on American’s website. So Jordan called American — an agent couldn’t book Chicago to Doha to Khartoum as a single award (even though logically this would be a valid routing), but could book Chicago to Doha and Doha to Khartoum separately, while charging more miles (125,000 miles, rather than the 75,000 miles that it should cost).

By all accounts it seems like this should have priced as one award:

  • Both American Airlines and Qatar Airways file fares between Chicago and Khartoum
  • Sudan is considered to be part of the Africa region on aa.com, and AAdvantage lets you route from the United States to Africa via Doha

This award seems like it should be possible with AAdvantage miles

American’s explanation for this strange issue

At the time I decided to bring this to the attention of American AAdvantage. My assumption was that this was just a glitch, and that no AAdvantage member had actually tried to redeem miles to Sudan since travel restrictions were lifted (or at least didn’t escalate it enough when it didn’t price correctly, to the point that it would get corrected).

At the time that didn’t seem to be the case, and an American spokesperson provided the following explanation for this policy:

“American doesn’t actively file award fares for locations designated by The U.S. Department of State as areas with higher security risks. Note that because of combinability rules, some revenue itineraries may price on aa.com. We apologize to our AAdvantage members for any inconvenience this may cause.”

I was stumped:

  • So American was happy to book you on a revenue fare when flying to Khartoum, but not an award fare
  • American was somehow making a judgment call about where people should travel based on the Department of State designating a place as having high security risks, even if there were no travel bans in place?
  • The irony in all of this is that it came at a time when a majority of countries were on the Department of State’s “Do Not Travel” list, yet the airline was happy to let people redeem miles to most of those destinations
  • For what it’s worth, there were no issues redeeming United MileagePlus miles for travel on Turkish Airlines to Khartoum

My assumption was that the policy simply remained in place because no discussions had taken place that would change the status quo.

American didn’t want you to fly Qatar Airways to Sudan when redeeming miles

There’s now a positive update

An American Airlines spokesperson has reached out to me today to let me know that following a conversation with the carrier’s government affairs team, there has been a policy change — American has updated its fares, and can now sell partner fares and awards on Qatar Airways to several destinations that weren’t previously bookable, including Sudan.

Indeed this change is immediately reflected on aa.com, where these awards are now bookable.

These awards are now bookable directly on aa.com!

Bottom line

There was a quirk whereby it wasn’t possible to redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel to certain destinations, including Sudan. This policy has now been updated, and I’m happy to see that these awards are now bookable directly on aa.com.

While this admittedly won’t benefit that many people, hopefully this is useful to some people. I’m grateful by American’s general willingness to look into issues and get them fixed when appropriate, as we saw happen here.

So, who’s going to be the first person to book a United States to Sudan ticket with a single AAdvantage award? 😉

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  1. Alex Manero

    Suden has OFAC restrictions still I believe. Could have something to do with that.

    1. Ben

      @ Alex Manero -- Fair, though not sure I can make sense of how it's okay to book a paid fare the entire way through, and okay to book it as two separate awards, but just not okay to book it as a single award.

  2. Jonathan

    Sounds like just another everyday story of AA on its way to become a shit airline

    Lucky, you should fight back on this bogus justification since it was a single fare filed in the market, not because of combinability which would mean that it’s separate fares filed between the US and Doha and Doha and Sudan

  3. Chip

    AA’s explanation seems to be off here because I was just able to book an award fare to Baghdad which is also considered higher risk a few weeks ago. I wonder if it is because Sudan until recently was considered a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and AA just never updated their system.

  4. Jared

    OFAC and @Chip hit the nail on the head.

  5. Eric

    Interesting. I was wondering why I couldn't book Khartoum with Qatar Airways on AA. So, I went with Djibouti instead as a side trip to my Dubai trip late this year.

  6. Brian G.

    Honestly, I do not think the spokesperson researched this issue at all. Lucky, any HACA for AA spokespersons? :-)

    I have booked AA award travel to high-risk nations (as defined by the U.S. State Department) pre-COVID-19. Also is AA now claiming they only fly members on award tickets to "safe" nations. So they are guaranteeing my safety at destinations? Seems like there might be a liability issue there.

  7. Kory

    Although Trump announced that Sudan would be removed from the embargoed country list last year, I believe there hasn't been a complete removal of Sudan yet. US Department of Treasury considers Iran, North Korea, Syria, Crimea region of Ukraine and Cuba to be embargoed countries/territories. Cuba's a bit tricky but otherwise I would suspect that it's all clear if you book a trip to, let's say Iraq or Afghanistan using miles.

  8. Tomas

    I redeemed Avios for LAX-DOH-KRT no problem. Qatar Airways from the U.S. without issue, to see the pyramids of Meroe. Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.

  9. Paddy O

    I had the same issue just yesterday trying to book Qatar via AA miles from Chicago to Bali. I wanted economy to FOH amd DPS. Return I wanted business from DPS and Doha. They wanted 122,000 miles. I thought that was such a strange number. I had to do it over the phone as the only partner routes showing were Evergreen, didn't show any Qatar.

  10. Bwgs

    Off topic, but have you noticed the scandalous surcharges AA is now applying to mileage award tickets on QR? Like BA level scandal?

  11. Sam

    For a moment there i clicked on hoping to read that you're planning a trip to Sudan and was sooo excited....meow!

  12. Michael M

    While my question is only tangentially related to this one, I was wondering if you could reach out to Alaska Airlines to ask them why they are not showing JL first class award space on their website (NONE AT ALL, even since 4/1/21). I believe JL changed first class award space from Z to A and I've been told in written correspondence that Alaska has made the change, yet when I've spoken to reps (including...

    While my question is only tangentially related to this one, I was wondering if you could reach out to Alaska Airlines to ask them why they are not showing JL first class award space on their website (NONE AT ALL, even since 4/1/21). I believe JL changed first class award space from Z to A and I've been told in written correspondence that Alaska has made the change, yet when I've spoken to reps (including supervisors) at the partner desk, they are able to confirm that there is a discrepancy between award space they are able to see and award space they are able to book. I'm sure that many of us would appreciate your help with this.

  13. GDL

    Question (and possible partial solution): if instead the ticket begins on QR's flight from Montreal/YUL, is AA willing to issue that?

  14. Matt

    This is BS. I just redeemed and flew a QR business award with AA miles from Dulles to Tehran. I'm pretty sure Iran and the US are not on the best of terms.

  15. John

    BTW, I've worked with Jordan twice on some very difficult to obtain award tickets and is the absolute best!

  16. MJS

    @Bwgs I booked MLE-DOH-BOS recently on QR business class using AA, and it $52 per ticket in fees and surcharges. Maybe I'm newer to this, but that seemed pretty reasonable to me. That being said, I just looked up my flight and now seems they're now over $200 per person, so maybe they did go up.

  17. Tony

    It's not OFAC because they're selling revenue tix. Major companies take actual OFAC restrictions very seriously and if that were the real explanation, we wouldn't be seeing the inconsistent treatment of revenue vs award tix.

  18. Alvin

    Meanwhile its a breeze booking TK to Somalia via mileageplus

  19. Rafael

    You’re only publishing it because you won’t earn your commission on this redemption

  20. Gaurav

    It's not even that they care about your safety if they will sell you separate awards to get you Khartoum!

  21. Nana

    I think it is more of a programming error when the last flight is on a second day. We had flights scheduled Calgary to Portland me in April and when they cut back the number of flights from Canada the flight connection caused an overnight in Dallas. We could not get the booking as one flight. Even though the system said it was 8000 mile flight it would only book it as 2 flights at...

    I think it is more of a programming error when the last flight is on a second day. We had flights scheduled Calgary to Portland me in April and when they cut back the number of flights from Canada the flight connection caused an overnight in Dallas. We could not get the booking as one flight. Even though the system said it was 8000 mile flight it would only book it as 2 flights at more than double the cost
    Nobody at as would try to fix it so we flew into a different place where it would book as one flight

  22. Stefan

    I redeemed AA miles for Qatar Airways to Tehran and there was no hiccup.

  23. Blaz

    This is a decision made by an accountant. Logic doesn't apply if revenue is the top priority.

  24. Andrew S

    AA continuing to show its incompetence--are we really surprised here?

    It would be cool for you, or someone on staff, to hit up the more obscure countries such as Sudan, as it would make for an interesting article.

  25. Sal

    I went to Sudan three years ago.
    I flew RJ ORD-AMM-KRT. My AMM-KRT segments never posted, I wonder if this has something to do with it.
    @Guarav - Khartoum is the safest city in Africa. It is not dangerous at all. Shopkeepers will chase you down the street to give you your change back. I found Sudanese people so refreshing - Sudan is one of my favorite places I have visited (The heat is something else though).

  26. Ismail M

    Ben this bring a question and I hope you can help me out. I am planning a trip to Colombo soon with AA mileage with Qatar Airways. I have a friend who live in Tehran and would like to use miles for round trip Tehran/Colombo/Tehran and I looked it up and available as well. What I afraid is since Iran is considered a security and trade ban etc.. will I breach any legal issue here? Appreciate your help or commitments from this post participants.

    Ismail

  27. Pierre

    Yes Ben, I can make sense of it:

    Somebody in his/her right mind at American (I know, it sounds exclusive but there are exceptions) has decided that you should not go to Sudan and he/she is right. DON'T GO.
    Sudan and the US may have been on a flirting basis at high levels and may have decided that it's OK to go but it's YOUR skin, not theirs. The man in the street in...

    Yes Ben, I can make sense of it:

    Somebody in his/her right mind at American (I know, it sounds exclusive but there are exceptions) has decided that you should not go to Sudan and he/she is right. DON'T GO.
    Sudan and the US may have been on a flirting basis at high levels and may have decided that it's OK to go but it's YOUR skin, not theirs. The man in the street in Khartoum doesn't know, doesn't care, doesn't like Americans, and even less Jews (which you regularly mention being in these columns).

    Sudan and Israel may be on the verge of peace and recognition but the average Sudanese will still kill Israelis with joy.

    You sometimes take (or say you'll take) unworthy risks. Do you remember your new "Buddy" who wanted to give you a grand tour of Lagos and Nigeria? I am so glad you didn't go.

    It reminds me of the story of the Rockefeller scion who disappeared in Papua New Guinea a couple of decades ago: Whan emissaries from the family reached the place where he had vanished and made clear that the were ready to pay A LOT for getting him back, the Chief of the tribe started to cry: He finally sobbed that, had they known he was worth so much money, they would gladly have returned him instead of eating him. Still, he's still dead.

    I surely sound like an old fart but the world is infinitely more dangerous than a German-Floridian (even bright as you are) thirty-something imagines.

  28. john

    I've been to about 40 countries and have found that the southwest side of Chicago is more dangerous than just about anywhere else I've been to, including Africa and the Middle East. To say that the average Sudanese would kill Israelis with joy is zenophobic, if not racist. Please, stay in your little bubble in Florida. In fact, given what I read about Florida, you seem to be in the right spot.

  29. Steven M

    Reminds me of my experience trying to book a one-way using SkyMiles from Windhoek (Namibia) to Brussels via Amsterdam. Windhoek wasn't in Delta's computer system because Delta. A polite email after a phone call with a supervisor got it programmed in, and I got my award ticket.

  30. Osama Hassan

    Yeah.that doesn't make sense.i went through the same thing, although sudan has been removed from the countries sponsoring terrorism by Trump last year
    But it's a revenue thing by AA I think.
    Pierre your comment about the average Sudanese would kill a Jew with joy is just untrue to say the least,,,khartoum31 is one of the safest place es in africa.

  31. MFK

    Hi, Ben. Could you list the other destinations that have been opened? I had speculatively been looking at flights to Namibia and couldn’t find any availability, but I thought that might be because Qatar isn’t currently flying there, but perhaps AA was the problem. Thanks!

    1. Kyle

      Qatar hasn't resumed flying there or bothered to put future flights in the schedule. I was looking too on AA and BA and Google Flights. No nonstops between DOH-WDH thru end of schedule.

  32. Welltravbrit

    Sudan is an amazing place and I agree with the other posters who have been there that the pyramids at Meroe are incredible but there is so much more to the country too.
    We used Avios to fly Doha to Khartoum and UA to fly Khartoum to the Seychelles on Ethiopian via Addis - what a great trip.

  33. Steve

    Sudan hadthe death penalty for being gay until they changed it last year, now its only a five to seven year prison sentence. Why would anyone want to go there? And to think people actually believe the US is not a good place to live haha.

  34. Duck Ling

    I can pretty much guarantee why this guy wants to go to KRT.....

    To take advantage of a well known 'mistake fare' that was circulating a few months ago. Basically from Africa to Australia and Asia via the Middle East on airlines like Emirates and Singapore Airlines (via DXB with FlyDubai operating the KRT-DXB leg) IN FIRST CLASS (yes, suites) for around $500-$600 round trip. The only catch - the departure city was KRT.

    Just...

    I can pretty much guarantee why this guy wants to go to KRT.....

    To take advantage of a well known 'mistake fare' that was circulating a few months ago. Basically from Africa to Australia and Asia via the Middle East on airlines like Emirates and Singapore Airlines (via DXB with FlyDubai operating the KRT-DXB leg) IN FIRST CLASS (yes, suites) for around $500-$600 round trip. The only catch - the departure city was KRT.

    Just do a google search for: 'flyertalk ex KRT fare' and you will see what I mean.

    Actually, it wasn't just a single airline that posted a mistake fare ex KRT. It had something to do with currency or such and affected ALL the airlines that priced fares ex Sudan in local currency instead of USD or EUR.

    Loads of people jumped on these fares although Emirates later cancelled the bulk of theirs they sold. The other airlines so far haven't though.

    The challenges of getting to KRT are quite big. First, there are hardly any airlines that fly there and those that do have infrequent schedules. You also need a Visa and there is scant information online about how you actually go about that. Thirdly, for non US citizens (and this is a biggie) - any visit to Sudan invalidates the ability to apply for a US ESTA to visit the US. If you are from one of the countries you can normally just do a quick online application for an ESTA, if you have visited Sudan this is no longer possible. Instead, you need to apply for a full on US Tourist Visa via the US Embassy.

  35. Richard

    I can bring up an award ticket to Sudan on the AA website, but can't get one originating from KRT, even if I use the multi-city option to connect in DOH. Even a one-way KRT-DOH won't process.

    Almost fixed...but not quite.

  36. a holes r us

    And maybe seven people throw up their hands and shout "Hoo-Ray?"

  37. Angie W

    I travelled to Khartoum two weeks ago on Emirates award with AS points. Business class was priced at 82,500 each way. Would've used AA points on Qatar if redeemable then.

Featured Comments Load all 41 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Duck Ling

I can pretty much guarantee why this guy wants to go to KRT..... To take advantage of a well known 'mistake fare' that was circulating a few months ago. Basically from Africa to Australia and Asia via the Middle East on airlines like Emirates and Singapore Airlines (via DXB with FlyDubai operating the KRT-DXB leg) IN FIRST CLASS (yes, suites) for around $500-$600 round trip. The only catch - the departure city was KRT. Just do a google search for: 'flyertalk ex KRT fare' and you will see what I mean. Actually, it wasn't just a single airline that posted a mistake fare ex KRT. It had something to do with currency or such and affected ALL the airlines that priced fares ex Sudan in local currency instead of USD or EUR. Loads of people jumped on these fares although Emirates later cancelled the bulk of theirs they sold. The other airlines so far haven't though. The challenges of getting to KRT are quite big. First, there are hardly any airlines that fly there and those that do have infrequent schedules. You also need a Visa and there is scant information online about how you actually go about that. Thirdly, for non US citizens (and this is a biggie) - any visit to Sudan invalidates the ability to apply for a US ESTA to visit the US. If you are from one of the countries you can normally just do a quick online application for an ESTA, if you have visited Sudan this is no longer possible. Instead, you need to apply for a full on US Tourist Visa via the US Embassy.

Steve

Sudan hadthe death penalty for being gay until they changed it last year, now its only a five to seven year prison sentence. Why would anyone want to go there? And to think people actually believe the US is not a good place to live haha.

Richard

I can bring up an award ticket to Sudan on the AA website, but can't get one originating from KRT, even if I use the multi-city option to connect in DOH. Even a one-way KRT-DOH won't process. Almost fixed...but not quite.

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