After a substantial devaluation last March, American Airlines AAdvantage miles are not worth what they once were. Nevertheless, there are still sweet spots on the award chart (mostly premium cabin) that are worth taking advantage of. Here are my top 10 redemptions on American.
Top 10 AAdvantage Redemptions (one-way basis)
1. USA to Africa (75K Business)
While this is not a great deal for going to Egypt or Morocco, this does represent a great value for travel to places like Kenya or South Africa. Even better, American allows you to route through Doha on oneworld partner Qatar. When you book in advance or very close-in, there is often enough space for the entire family in business class. Plus, connecting in Doha and visiting the Al Mourjan Lounge is a great experience.
You can also route on British Airways via London (caution: high fees) to Nairobi, Johannesburg or Cape Town. Iberia also serves Johannesburg and makes a fair amount of award space available.
Note that while AA allows routing via Doha on Qatar, it does not allow routing on Etihad via Abu Dhabi, at least on a single award. If you do fly on Etihad, you will be charged for a one-way from North America to the Middle East and one-way from the Middle East to Africa.
2. USA to Japan/Korea (60K business / 80K first)
JAL is one of my favorite airlines and flying business or first class from the USA to Japan represents an exceptional value. I would rate a recent JAL First Class flight in the top three flights I have ever experienced in all my life. United and Delta charge 75K and 80K miles (respectively) for business class to the same region.
Note that you cannot, for example, fly from New York to Tokyo or Seoul via Hong Kong. Hong Kong is in a different (more expensive) region so if you route through HKG you would be charged 110K one-way for first class to Hong Kong than 30-40K more miles for the flight to Tokyo (depending on whether you flew business or first).
3. USA to Northern South America (30K business)
Northern South America (South America 1) includes:
- Manaus (Brazil) [the rest of Brazil is in the South America 2 region]
This is one sweet spot that was not touched by the devaluation. LATAM offers lie-flat service to Lima from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Miami. LATAM’s Ecuador arm offers lie-flat service to Guayaquil from New York and Miami and to Quito from Miami. This is a great use of 30K miles, especially because you can add on domestic connections for no extra miles.
4. USA to Europe for (57.5K Business)
I’ll give AA this–at least it is relatively easy to find premium cabin space to Europe. The trouble is that AA releases virtually no space on its own metal and the British Airways space that is available can you run you over $1,000 r/t in taxes/fees.
But stick to Finnair, Air Berlin, and Iberia and your fees will be much lower. Note that a lot of phantom Finnair space shows up online and you must call to book Iberia space. Also note Air Tahiti Nui flies from Los Angeles to Paris with good award space and JET flies from Toronto to Amsterdam, also with good award space. Both must be booked over the phone.
5. New Zealand to Australia (25K Business)
Australian domestic (20K miles in business) is a great buy for routes like Sydney to Perth, but flying between New Zealand and Australia presents and even greater value proposition. Flying from Auckland to Perth on Qantas and you can get 7.5hours in lie-flat business class for only 25K miles.
Note that this pricing only seems to apply for Qantas. Although it is not stated on the website, when I tried to book a LATAM Fifth Freedom flight Auckland to Sydney I was charged 30K instead of 25K. The agent read me some fine print stating that the 25K rate does not apply on LATAM or other partner carriers.
6. Middle East/India to Europe – Business (42,500 miles) or First (62,500)
This jumped up in price from 30K in business, 40K in first class prior to the devaluation, but still offers some incredible possibilities. For example, you can fly in the Etihad Apartments from Mumbai to London via Abu Dhabi for 62,500 miles or fly to Paris on the Qatar Airways A380 in first class. For what amounts to over 10 hours of flying time, this is a great redemption and availability is good in business and even first on both carriers, especially when booked in advance.
7. USA to Fiji or Tahiti (80K business)
American partners with both Air Tahiti Nui and Fiji Airways, opening up tropical paradises using your miles. Even better, there are no fuel surcharges on Air Tahiti Nui flights (unlike with Delta) and award space is fairly easy to obtain if you are able to book 10-11 months in advance.
8. USA to Middle East (70K business)
Both Qatar and Etihad offer reliable, comfortable business class service directly to the Middle East. Royal Jordanian has lie-flat seats and fairly good award space. You can also take a number of oneworld carriers via European hubs.
9. USA to South Asia (70K business)
While first class (110K one-way) does not represent a good value to Asia 2 (everywhere in East Asia other than Korea and Japan), 70K for business class is still a great deal. Since American charges on a one-way rather than per segment basis, you can route through Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur enroute to Bangkok (if you wanted too…). In other words, with the strong oneworld presence in Asia, you can usually get to where you need to go with some creativity.
10 (tie). Fiji Domestic (5K economy / 10K business)
Sometimes it is the shortest flights that can be the most expensive. Fiji Airways has a monopoly on its domestic routes and correspondingly charges a premium for many domestic flights. Although mileage space is often rare, it is always worth a check if you are finding only expensive ticket options.
10 (tie). Intra-Country Awards in South America (6K in economy)
With the exception of Brazil, which is 7,500 miles one way, national/domestic awards in South America can represent a great value at 6K miles each. Like the Fiji example above, sometimes short flights like Lima to Cusco can cost hundreds of dollars. 6K miles is a much better value proposition than that.
AA still has some great values on its chart (you can review the award chart here). Take advantage of these sweet spots above to not only maximize the value of your miles, but also to enjoy great comfort on some of AA’s stellar partners. Let us know at Award Expert if we can help you plan, research, and book your trip.