How to Book American Airlines Award Tickets

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We’re pretty big fans of American Airlines and their AAadvantage Awards program mainly because of our affinity for Cathay Pacific; we love to redeem miles for their Business Class.

Sign up for a free AAdvantage account and start searching.

Punch in your travel date – here, it’s a simple one-way search from Seattle to Hong Kong.

On the next page hit Open Full Calendar to reveal a full month of availability. You can easily toggle between the different award classes.

 

Once you find the date and award level to your liking the next page lists the available flights and times.

 

After selecting your flights the next page will summarize the points needed. 

 

Notice the negative points balance here. One of the best features is AA will allow you to HOLD an award reservation even if you do not have the available points in your balance. The hold will last for 5 days, at which point you will either need to purchase it or it gets canceled with your inaction.

Some general rules to follow (keep in mind AA’s routing rules are pretty draconian):

  • Stopovers are not allowed – that’s anything over 4 or 24 hours for domestic and international flights, respectively.
  • If you’re booking a partner airline, the routing on the primary over-water carrier must be offered on a published route. Basically the route must be available for purchase from that carrier.  
  • Only two regions can be involved in an award unless there is an exception. For instance, you can’t fly from the US to Europe to Asia; you have to fly from the US to Asia over the the Pacific. The US to Europe to Africa is allowed since no AA partners fly direct from the US to Africa.
    • In the last year, AA has made some routing changes that are slightly more consumer friendly.
      • For the Indian Sub-continent, it is possible to route via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Previously, the only option was British Airways with its heavy fuel surcharges.
      • For Africa, it is possible to route via Doha on Qatar Airways. Previously, the only option was British Airways with its heavy fuel surcharges.
  • The most direct route must be booked, although there are rules that conflict with this and will make you take the long way.
  • In general, you will gain the most value from American partners like Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines flights.

In addition to it’s own award flights, AA.com is a good place to search for airberlin, Alaska, British Airways, Finnair, Hawaiian, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian. We like British Airway’s site for other partners like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LAN, Iberia — basically, the rest of the Oneworld members are not searchable on AA itself. Find the flights there, make note of the itinerary and then call AA to book. Remember to ask them waive any phone booking fees for flights that are not bookable on AA.com.

Please visit this page see some of the destinations that AAdvantage miles can help you reach.

To help pad your AAdvantage balance, we like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World EliteTMMasterCard®. The 10% back on redeemed points is definitely a nice perk.

  • Earn 2x miles on eligible American Airlines puchases; 1x miles on all other purchases
  • First checked bag free
  • 10% back on redeemed miles
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Group 1 boarding
  • $95 annual fee; waived the first year

Don’t forget to sign up with the AAdvantage Shopping site and the AAdvantage Dining site to earn miles doing what you already do – shopping online and dining out.

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3 Responses to "How to Book American Airlines Award Tickets"

  1. tassojunior says:

    I’m pretty sure Alaska is no longer an AA partner.

    I wish there were a way to block British in searches as AA seems to prefer them and their ridiculous fee costs in searches. That monthly calendar telling you all those awards to Europe are available are 95% prohibitive BA flights.

    Low level awards have almost disappeared from AA since Doug Parker bought it. A nearly worthless program currently.

    Reply
  2. Stu says:

    I have a ton of AA miles to spend, but every time I try and find flights for a vacation in Europe the additional fees for taking a BA flight are more than a regular ticket would cost.

    Reply

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