American miles are worth less than they used to be
I’m certainly in many ways frustrated by the redemption ability of American miles. They release very little saver level award availability on their own flights, so I value American miles at ~1.3 cents each. This is significantly lower than my previous valuation of ~1.5 cents per mile, and prior to that, my valuation of ~1.8 cents per mile.
What can you really do with American miles?
Several people commented about how American miles are simply worthless, though I strongly disagree. Like I said, I’ve lowered my valuation of American miles, and have been vocal about their decreased value. At the same time, some balance is needed there. That’s why I wanted to look at some of the best ways you can use American miles
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|
My goal here isn’t to go through all the possible award redemptions you can make, but rather to highlight some wide open, great opportunities for redeeming American miles, which also show that these miles are far from worthless (even though they’re most definitely worth less than they used to be).
I think the best AAdvantage redemption opportunities for travel originating in North America are for travel in business class to Asia, the Middle East/India, and Africa.
Examples of good award redemption opportunities
If going to Asia, Cathay Pacific business class awards are typically wide open when the schedule first opens, and at 70,000 miles one-way to all destinations in Asia 2, I consider it to be a good value. Being able to snag 4-5 seats on many flights this far out is a great opportunity.
While not quite as wide open, Japan Airlines business class also has reasonably good availability, especially if booking way in advance. JAL business class is fantastic, and it’s only 60,000 miles for business class from the US to Asia 1, which includes Japan.
If you’re wanting to head to the Middle East (or beyond), having access to both Etihad and Qatar is great. Qatar business class award availability isn’t quite as good as it used to be, but is still pretty readily available, both close to departure and in advance.
The other cool thing is that American lets you route to Africa via Doha on Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways has an exceptional business class product and also an extensive route network to Africa, so getting there for 75,000 miles one-way in business class is a good deal.
Etihad business class is another great option, though they’re consistent with making award seats available. Sometimes award availability on them is wide open (almost) across the board, while other times they’re quite stingy. However, if you book at the right time they should have plenty of space, and their 787 and A380 business class products are great.
All of the above redemptions cost 60,000-75,000 miles one-way. At a rate of ~1.3 cents per mile, that’s the equivalent of $780-975 one-way in business class, which I think is a very fair valuation. There’s still potentially value to be had to Europe, South America, etc., but I tend to think the sweet spot with American miles is Asia, the Middle East/India, and Africa.
So even though American miles are worth less than they used to be, I still think earning them can be worthwhile. As a reminder, here are some ways to acquire.