Why American’s award routing rules drive me nuts (sometimes)…

Quick trivia question to start off the post: which of the below two routings looks like it wouldn’t be permissible as a one-way award reservation with American?

Routing 1:

Routing 2:

Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that the answer should be routing 1, though in reality it’s routing 2 that isn’t allowed with American.

American simultaneously has the stingiest and most generous award routing rules, as I discussed in great detail in this post. They’re extremely generous because they’ll let you exceed the MPM (maximum permitted mileage) for a city pair by up to 25%. That’s more generous than just about any airline. At the same time they don’t let you transit a third region when traveling between regions, even if it’s the most direct routing imaginable. They’ll only let you transit a third region in the following instances:

To/From Via
North America to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe
North America to/from Africa can connect in:Europe
North America to/from Asia 2 can connect in:Asia 1

Central/South America to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe
Central/South America to/from Africa can connect in:Europe
Central/South America to/from South Pacific can connect in:S. America 2

South America 2 to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe

Indian Sub Continent/Middle East to/from Asia 1 can connect in:Asia 2
Indian Sub Continent/Middle East to/from South Pacific can connect in:Asia 2

Africa to/from Asia 1 can connect in:Asia 2

Asia 1 to/from Europe can connect in:Asia 2
Asia 1 to/from South Pacific can connect in:Asia 2

Compare that to United, which will let you route from the US to Asia via Europe or the US to Australia via Asia, or US Airways, which will… okay, let’s not kid ourselves. They’ll allow you to route between any regions through just about any region.

The most frustrating example of American’s region policy has to be traveling from the US to South America zone 2. They won’t let you transit South America zone 1, where LAN has a hub. So in other words you couldn’t fly from Buenos Aires to Lima to New York on a one-way AAdvantage award, while you could fly from Buenos Aires to Santiago to New York on a one-way AAdvantage award, even though it’s a longer routing.

It’s instances like this that drive me nuts about redeeming American miles. Routing via Lima makes sense. The total travel distance is 5,584 miles, while the MPM plus 25% is 7,951 miles. So that’s nearly 2,500 miles under the maximum number of miles that could be flown on such an award.

At the same time, LAN’s published fares between Buenos Aires and New York allow routings via Lima.

Yet because Lima is technically in “South America zone 1,” it requires two awards.

So pardon my rant, but c’mon American, I love you guys!

Filed Under: American, Awards
  1. Does LAN not advertise a direct 1 stop flight JFK-LIM-SCL like they have LAX-LIM-SCL that is advertised as LAX-SCL so it would theoretically be bookable with AAdvantage?

  2. I am planning a trip to QUI from DFW in May. Mileage tickets are expensive and scarce. Economy tickets are high and i hate to use a systemwide upgrade fir a four- five hour flight. What are some suggestions on maximizing my MPM. This is my first ever S American trip and I’m struggling with it. Any advice is appreciated.

  3. Not allowing US-Asia via Europe is a MAJOR issue for me (since US is my homebase and Asia is where I head to most often).

    From the US East Coast, going to Asia via Europe is not that much further than via NRT (JL) or HKG (CX).

    But thanks to that restrictive routing policy, for most of my travel, I can’t leverage LA/QF/BA/IB/AY/AB/S7/RJ/QR at all.

  4. LOL I noticed this when I flew SCL-LIM-JFK, had to redeem SCL-LIM with Avios. At least I saved on AA miles. And at least OneWorld protects you on separate tickets … just use AA for LIM and Avios for EZE if you are in a bind.

    Same thing with India. Can’t even go through Asia. At least I can go to CMB, and with UL joining OneWorld, soon take a cheap Avios hop over to India.

  5. @ Andrew — They do and that would be allowed, except there’s no award space on the “direct” flight, but rather only from LIM to JFK.

    @ Peterson — Totally agree that’s frustrating, but then again at least Cathay Pacific is in OneWorld, which has an amazing product and releases a generous amount of award space.

    @ Amol — Have always found it funny they consider CMB to be Asia 2 (which I love, don’t get me wrong).

  6. I definitely agree that some of AA’s routing rules are extremely illogical.

    The one that annoys me most is the inability to use HKG as a connection point to Asia; i.e. JFK-HKG-KIX requires two awards. I could understand it if AA had the lift to Asia, but their own service is quite sparse when compared to UA or DL.

    The other one, which I’m hoping AA will see the light soon given their stronger QR relationship, is the inability to fly USA > Australia via Middle East. That’s really the beauty of the Middle Eastern carriers — the ability to go between just about any two points on the globe with a maximum of one stop.

  7. Is there ever a circumstance (perhaps via a direct flight) where you can transit Asia 2 to get to Asia 1?

    If not my interpretation of this rationale is that it is impossible to fly JAL as your carrier south of KOJ or anywhere other than Korea/Mongolia…

  8. What’s the maximum number of segments you can do on an AA-issued ticket? and can you transfer at the same city more than once?

    I was wondering if it’s possible to do something like TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-TPE-HKG-JFK? (Which I think should be within MPM+25%)


  9. Sorry should have clarified above, I meant the “all partner awards” tickets, with all the above legs in CX

  10. @ London Tim — Hah, have never come into a situation where I’ve reached a segment limit, but you can’t transit an airport more than once, which is the main limiting factor.

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