The amazing value of American’s OneWorld distance based awards

This past weekend I met reader Carberrie in Shanghai, and among our topics of conversation were… miles and points (shocker, I know). Anyway, one of the topics that came up was American’s OneWorld distance based award chart, and while I’ve mentioned it many times in the past (including in this TravelSort article), I do think it’s worth highlighting what an amazing value it can be one more time, especially in business class for further distances.

American’s all partner award chart doesn’t allow any stopovers except at the international gateway, so it really limits the number of destinations you can visit on a single trip. However, American also has a OneWorld award chart, which is a distance based chart, with the following costs:

There are a couple of interest things to note about the chart. First of all, it’s interesting how the premium for business class over coach is minimal, while the premium for first class over business class is substantial, especially as you go further down the award chart.

I think the real value in the award chart comes with the zone 6 and zone 7 awards. Let’s look at the zone 6 award, for example. You can fly between 14,001 and 20,000 miles in business class for a total of 130,000 miles. A simple roundtrip business class award to Australia would usually cost you 125,000 miles, and you couldn’t include any stopovers (except at the US gateway airport). Instead, for a premium of only 5,000 miles, you could fly business class from Los Angeles to Brisbane to Melbourne to Sydney to Auckland to Los Angeles, stopping at each airport, and still have nearly 4,000 miles of travel to spare. Alternatively, you could fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Melbourne to Sydney to Los Angeles on a zone 6 award, stopping at each airport. Those are just a couple of examples, as the possibilities are endless.

If you go up to a zone 7 award for only 150,000 miles in business class, you can really thoroughly explore both Asia and Australia (or Europe and Asia). For example, you could fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Singapore to Melbourne to Sydney to Auckland to Los Angeles, stopping at each airport, and still have nearly 4,000 miles of travel to spare.

In some instances you can even save miles by using a OneWorld award over a partner award. For example, American usually charges 135,000 miles for business class to the Middle East, while you can almost always get there in fewer than 20,000 miles, which would only cost you 130,000 miles on a OneWorld award.

Anyway, if you have a lot of time on your hands and want to visit lots of destinations, the value of a OneWorld award can’t be beat.

The basic restrictions are as follows:

  • A maximum of 16 segments are permitted
  • You need to fly at least two OneWorld airlines
  • Can’t connect in any city more than twice

Comments

  1. Brian says

    Do you know if a stopover is allowed, on a traditional award ticket, from Canada? Can I fly from Chicago to Toronto, then to NYC, stop for 2 days , and fly back to Chicago, for the price of one round trip award?

  2. lucky says

    @ Brian — Unfortunately not on a 25,000 mile North America award. If you have the stopover it would “break” the ticket and be billed as two separate one ways.

  3. Dale says

    When you say you have to fly at least 2 OneWorld Airlines, American doesn’t count as one right? But you can include them in your ticket?

  4. lucky says

    @ Dale — That’s correct, you can include American, though there need to be at least two other OneWorld airlines.

  5. FF says

    So I can fly JFK-AUH(stopover)-DEL-JED-AUH-JFK all for 130k in Business? Am I understanding this correctly?

  6. Alex says

    OneWorld awards are the best use of AA miles, period. I just flew SAN-LAX-NRT-HKG-DPS|BKK-DEL-AMM-SSH-AMM-CAI-MAD-LAX-SAN in business for 150,000 miles. I believe the mileage was right around 24,900. If I would have purchased each of these tickets separately it would have cost approximately $27,000.

  7. lucky says

    @ FF — Almost, though the issue is that Etihad doesn’t belong to OneWorld, so you can’t include them one a OneWorld award.

  8. Label says

    I am from YVR. To get to any international gateway on OW, I would have to fly to either NYC or Dallas. Is it possible to combine Alaska Air on the OW award so I can fly from YVR-LAX to get to Australia/Asia (minus the YVR-HKG trip on CX)?

  9. Michael says

    1) when you stay stopping at each airport, are you saying you can stop for 23 hours in each city if you could plan it that way? I mean, the value would be being able to see each city on that chart, right?

    2) Can you really find business class award availability on Qantas?

  10. lucky says

    @ Label — Unfortunately you need to stick to OneWorld airlines only, so Alaska, Etihad, Air Tahiti Nui, etc., are all excluded.

  11. lucky says

    @ Michael — I’m saying you could stay for as long as you want. Stopovers are allowed at each of the cities, so you could stay in each city for a month if you wanted to. The only limitation is that travel needs to be complete within a year from the date the ticket is issued.

    Qantas space can be tough to come by, though it’s not impossible. I swear!

  12. Carberrie says

    I think the value here can be great, but unfortunately I don’t have the time opportunity to use this award chart very often… Where’s my vacation?

  13. brahms77 says

    Since you cannot connect multiple times in a same city, its use in Asia can be a bit limiting… but once MH joins and Kingfisher finds a way to survive, this indeed is a very nice type of award to maximize the value of your AA miles. I wonder if this type of award is available on *A (UA/CO) – NH does, but fuel surcharges can be a bit annoying -… it would make a great use of miles!

  14. says

    I did jfk-cmn-fco-ist-cai-dar-bom-bkk back in 2006. I believe the mileage requirements have not increased since then. I had to go through hubs in MAD & LHR twice so it was an incredible value for that much business class flying.

  15. Rik says

    Do you have to return to your origin on these trips? In other words can you make it a really long one-way trip with unlimited stop overs? That would be amazing value as well.

  16. ikonos says

    I have plans to go for a AUS/NZ/Fiji trip in the next couple of years and I was thinking I would have to fly to SYD RT and then buy alternate tickets for the rest of the segments. You really saved it pointing this value. I guess I can start dreaming about Cathay F to HKG and Quantas F back to US. Thanks Ben for pointing values time after time.

  17. ucipass says

    You need to fly at least two OneWorld airlines

    instead

    You need to fly at least two OneWorld (NOT AA) airlines

  18. eponymous_coward says

    I could see using the Zone 2 economy class award pretty creatively in Europe, given that you could connect in LHR, LGW, LCY, TXL/BER and DUS twice, and that’s only 35K.

    Given that and given that if you have oneworld elite status, the only thing you’re missing is maybe a blocked middle and a onboard cold lunch from business class, it seems to me that might be a good award to use to tour Europe (depending on how the YQ and departure taxes mess you up).

    You would also be able to use Rail&Fly with your AB tickets, in theory.

  19. nighttripper says

    real value opportunities here for US east coast-Europe in Biz, such as JFK-LHR-FCO-MAD-JFK which comes in at 8767 miles. OW award cost is 80,000 miles, vs. 100,000 AA miles from the All-Partner award chart. Use AA/BA/IB. Stopover in each city.

  20. Alex says

    Lucky, I’m pretty sure you can’t actually fly the first itinerary you gave as an example. That would be all Qantas, so you don’t have another non-AA partner.

    “Instead, for a premium of only 5,000 miles, you could fly business class from Los Angeles to Brisbane to Melbourne to Sydney to Auckland to Los Angeles, stopping at each airport, and still have nearly 4,000 miles of travel to spare. “

  21. Michael says

    Lucky,
    I need to plan a one way continuous flight from Bali to Australia to new Zealand back to San Francisco in early May. Would greatly appreciate your thoughts on what airlines and cities you would personally route? Many thanks

  22. thrashsoundly says

    It seems like a trip to Europe only will be tough now if you don’t want shell out tons of fees with British Airways and Iberia. Finnair is a good option, though not easy to get J space, but now Malev is dead. Bummer.

  23. Ryan says

    Recall too that actual mileage flown determines the miels needed for the award. It used to be that only miles between stopovers counted, such that JFK-LHR was approx. 3400 miles, even if you routed JFK-LAX-SYD-HKG-LHR without any stopovers.

    Also while one can change dates and times, the routing cannot change, so you better be happy with it before you ticket. Traditional All-Partner awards, especially as an EXP (where change fees for re-routes are waived) are far more flexible.

  24. lucky says

    @ Michael — If you have time/miles to spare, I’d do Bali to Hong Kong to Sydney to Auckland to Los Angeles to San Francisco.

  25. Max says

    Sometimes I get upset when the good secrets get shared with the masses. If you do this award right (and spent forever planning) you can nab an amazing value.

    DFW-SYD – Qantas 747
    SYD – SIN – Qantas A380
    SIN (Connect) HKG-CDG Cathay 747
    CDG-BOS on a tired, old 757

    All obtainable and ticketed in J for 150k!!

  26. lucky says

    @ ikonos — I believe those flights are operated by Jetstar, and that’s something I’d rather avoid.

    @ Kris Ziel — Though United has some truly phenomenal values that American doesn’t have, like US to Asia via Europe for 140,000 miles in first class. I could only dream of American offering such an award.

  27. MR H says

    @FF – Believe to AUH you could do JFK-LHR-AUH on BA vs. EY.

    Or could do DXB on BA, just 1 hour down the street and open jaw are OK if you really need AUH for onward connection purposes.

  28. lucky says

    @ MR H — Exactly, though it is worth keeping in mind that AAdvantage redemptions incur fuel surcharges for segments on British Airways.

  29. MG says

    Hi, considering high surcharges on all AA partners what route to choose to visit india , australia and new zealand with a possibility to add TLV/Amm, IST and some Europe( MAD, BCN, LIS, TXL) from the east cost on zone 6 or 7 award? To minimize surcharges and find actuall availability? The only asian city could be added for the routing are SIN, BKK( HKG is a last resort)? Any suggestions, Please?

  30. lucky says

    @ MG — The only partner for which American imposes fuel surcharges is British Airways. Where are you originating?

  31. Raj B says

    This is wonderful. Where do you go to price/book these OneWorld awards? AA only shows their flights. Thanks!

  32. lucky says

    @ Raj — You would need to call American to book since they don’t show OneWorld award space online. You can use gcmap.com to figure out distances.

  33. says

    Lucky
    it is 2 oneworld airlines EXCLUDING AA
    This trip would not pass the test – All I seeis QF

    “Instead, for a premium of only 5,000 miles, you could fly business class from Los Angeles to Brisbane to Melbourne to Sydney to Auckland to Los Angeles, stopping at each airport, and still have nearly 4,000 miles of travel to spare.”

  34. Silvia says

    Do you search first for award availability and then call AAdvantage desk? If so, where do you search for Qantas availability?

  35. MG says

    hello, again. I live in cleveland, but usually flying from NYC, or other east coast cities. Chicago, toronto and detroit are very possible. Thank you

  36. Michael says

    Thanks Lucky.
    The first part of our trip is actually booked SFO to HKG to DPS flying Cathay First Class.
    It seemed like such a massive detour DPS to HKG back to SYD. Are there any other alternatives? (e.g. a puddle jumper into Australia and then flying One World carriers through Australia, New Zealand and back to SFO?) Can use other groups (e.g Star Alliance) if that makes any more sense. Thanks again for your insight

  37. lucky says

    @ Silvia — Yes, you can first find the availability and then call American to book. For a tutorial on how to find Qantas award space, see this Travelsort post:
    http://travelsort.com/blog/how-to-find-oneworld-award-space

    @ MG — The only partner for which American imposes fuel surcharges is British Airways, so I’d stay away from them. Other than that, everything is fair game. I’d consider first going to Asia and then to Australia, and avoid India on the same ticket. Otherwise you could fly from the US to India, India to Asia, and then Asia to Australia, where you’d just have to pay fuel surcharges fro the flight from the US to India.

  38. lucky says

    @ Michael — You could book a separate ticket to Australia on Jetstar, and then from there fly from SYD to AKL to LAX to SFO (or add any other segments you might need).

  39. D says

    I have two trips for the price of one spread out over 7 months (but could have gone out 12 mos., if I had wanted. The first trip last fall was BOS-MAD-BCN-JFK. Next month the second trip will be JFK-MIA-MVD(open jaw), EZE-MDZ-SCL-LIM(transit)-CUZ-LIM-JFK(transit)-BOS. Carriers are American, LAN, and Iberia. In J for 130K. Being BOS based I did have to spend $129 to position for the itinerary to work.

  40. david says

    i need to go from jfk to hkg to mel to hkg to jfk and have aa miles and other airlines do you know what would be best and is it cheaper to do a oneworld vs a partner?

  41. HoKo says

    @ Lucky – Is mileage calculated as actual miles flown if you have a connection? I.E. HKG-BKK-AMM (with a <23 connection in BKK) is priced at 5,305 miles even though HKG-AMM is only 4,750?

  42. HoKo says

    @ Lucky – Ok just thought of another question, does flying KA and CX satisfy the 2 airline requirement or would KA and CX only count as one airline? Same question applies to JL & JC?

  43. says

    This is one of the best awards available for sure! I have been saving up my AA miles specifically to take a 35k RTW in Business Class on this award. Now I just need to find 6 months of time to do it!
    To those of you with lots of questions – this award has been around for years and there is a maasssiiiiivvvveeeee thread on it in the AAdvantage forum on http://www.flyertalk.com
    That’s a good thread to read if you’re wanting to book one of these and the users will help you out and critique your itinerary.

    To book the award you have to call in. Best to research all possible flights. It’s a lot of research and planning, but that should be expect for a 16 segment RTW trip!

    Also – most all airlines offer RTW redemptions like this. A few of you mentioned that you wished Delta or United had this option. They do, and it’s available on their website. The AA one is by far the best deal. For example the Delta one only allows SIX stopovers, but will still cost 180k miles. That’s 10 less stops than AA!

  44. BBD says

    So if I wanted to do DFW-MLE-DFW (19,613 miles) in F I would be better off using oneworld instead of AA miles? The routing is actually DFW-JFK-AUH-MLE-AUH-JFK. If oneworld doesn’t count change of planes (less than 24 hrs between flights)in the total miles calculation, oneworld is 180K miles vs 230K AA miles (50K + 180K). Does this sound correct?

  45. lucky says

    @ BBD — Unfortunately Etihad isn’t in OneWorld, so you couldn’t book any segments on them on a OneWorld award.

  46. Everett says

    So I’ve been trying to plan an Around-The-World flight for a few months ago and have been looking at this type of award redemption as my best offer. What I’m wondering is, say for the Zone 8 Economy class ticket for 140,000 miles, do these have to be AAdvantage miles specifically? Or can I use partner miles, such as using 140,000 British Avios miles? Or can I use some combination of the two? (70k BA Avios, 70k AA miles).

  47. lucky says

    @ Everett — They have to be AAdvantage miles. While most airlines in an alliance will have access to the same award space, they all price those tickets separately, so BA would have a completely different cost if redeeming Avios.

  48. sl4ppy says

    So a quick sanity check here to see if I’m understanding all this correctly. I’m trying to plan the following trip for my wife and I with our 375k AAMiles.

    DFW->NRT (AA)
    NRT->HGK (CX)
    HKG->BKK (CX)
    5 day stay
    BKK->HKG (CX)
    HKG->NRT (IB)
    4 day stay
    NRT->LAX (JAL)
    LAX->DFW (AA)

    The only way I can really do this is by converting miles to two OneWorld Zone 6 awards? Using straight AA miles wouldn’t allow the stopover in Tokyo and is a less efficient usage of miles? THe total trip is roughly 18k miles..

    Thanks in advance!

  49. lucky says

    @ sl4ppy — Correct, American doesn’t allow stopovers on “all partner” awards, so you’d want to do a OneWorld distance based award. Otherwise you’d pay 55,000 miles for the outbound, 30,000 miles between Bangkok and Tokyo, and 50,000 miles between Tokyo and the US, so you’d end up paying 135,000 miles vs. 130,000 miles.

  50. Tao says

    Lucky, how about this SEA-LAX-HKG-PER-JNB-LHR-MAD-ORD-SEA? I’m trying to stop in HKG, Australia, JNB, and Europe. Which city in Australia and Europe is not important. I get this under 30k miles for 150k AA miles in J, but don’t know if it’s possible to ticket for August or September. I’m open to suggestion on the routing. Thanks.

  51. Tao says

    my bad, the limit for 150k AA miles is 25k flown miles, I need to rethink my routing. Sorry.

  52. lucky says

    @ Tao — The major challenge is that you’re trying to book this for August/September. That’s going to be REALLY tough. If at all possible I’d highly recommend planning this further out.

  53. Simon says

    Ben,

    What’s the best option to search for, and piece together flights/segments? For example, if we want to fly to Australia via Asia (LAX-SYD-HKG-LAX), is the most reliable approach to find space on QF’s website and then call AA?

    Is the uplift to F (50k miles) really worth it to experience QF A380 & CX 773, in your opinion? I’ve only done QF F 744 and CX F 744. I did read your reviews on QF F A380 and if we were able to snare 2 x F seats on the SYD-LAX segment, that would be special!

    Thanks, Simon.

    P.S. Andrew (@Points Pros) is a rock star!

  54. lucky says

    @ Simon — Happy to hear he was great for you!

    Here’s a tutorial I wrote for finding OneWorld award space:
    http://travelsort.com/blog/how-to-find-oneworld-award-space

    You’re almost always best off searching it online and then booking via phone.

    I would say it’s not worth connecting in Hong Kong unless you want to visit or unless there’s no availability on the nonstop (which is the more likely scenario).

  55. sl4ppy says

    I got the flight I mentioned above on 5-day hold pretty easily. Was actually surprised how easy it was when you have the availability and flight numbers already checked out before you call.

    My one question is that they quoted me 160k miles for first class on all segments. That doesn’t seem to match up either with the straight up AA rewards OR any of the OneWorld award zones. It’s weirdly between a Zone 5 and a Zone 6 mileage.

    Any idea what’s going on there? I don’t want to waste miles unnecessarily but at the same time it’s less than the Zone 6 mileage.

    Tons of thanks for the help with this!

  56. Tao says

    Lucky, I did it! had to leave out JNB and PER though. Here’s my routing: SEA-ORD-MAD-PRG-MAD-VCE-MAD-FCO-AMM-CMB-HKG-SFO, all stopovers except the two latter MAD segments. All in biz class for 150k AA miles. Travel starts in mid September. Took two agents to put it together, the first one was not helpful at all, but it worked out! Thank you Lucky, you are my favorite blogger!

  57. kitty says

    Lucky,

    Thank goodness you are out there! I have about 350K in Amex Membership rewards and about 230,000 in AA. My husband and I would like to travel business class (or higher) LAX to AUK (cruise for 15 days ending in Sydney) SYD to Hong Kong or Bali or somewhere else in the south Pacific for a week and then home to LAX in January 2014. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

  58. Mr. Cool says

    so hopw do you book an AA distance based award plz?
    is there a an option that has to be selected on AA.com when looking for reward flights?
    is there a diff website?
    thanks

  59. Mr. Cool says

    how do you search using the 1world award chart? ..AA.com –> multi-city search?

    do AA award search result automatically show 1world award chart prices when searching b/w destinations not served by AA? must both, origins & destination, be not served by AA (only by partners)?

    thanks

  60. Kathrin says

    I just made a reservation with AA miles June 17th SNA to Dallas to Miami (1 night) continue to LRM (Dom.Rep) 12 days from Puerto P straight to Duesseldorf (1 night) next to Munich to Olbia (Sardinia)
    Flight back: Berlin to Duesseldorf to LAX Aug. 26th TOTAL of 77K miles is that good?
    I have 4 tickets in total (not easy to get)
    I have 2 Question. Is it a good way of using miles? Or should I use the OneWorld Explore award? I just started reading about it.
    Thanks for your help.

  61. says

    @ Kathrin — Sounds like a fairly good deal, and you wouldn’t save much with an Explorer award, so I’d keep what you have.

  62. Kathrin says

    I thought so. However I just found your website and read about the oneworld awards and now I am tempted to just buy a ticket $ straight to Europe and keep on saving for a big trip with Oneworld. It seems the father you go the better deal you get compared to award ticket.

  63. says

    Lucky,
    I am so glad I found your website. Great trips. I have to ask you again for the One World explore ticket. If I want to go from LAX hit the Caribbean, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and from there back to Southern Europe just continue further East (let’s say all the way to Latvia and then I turn around but hit more the Northern countries I would be better of with the one world exp. ticket since AA would charge me a lot more since I am going to Morocco (different zone). Do I understand the right? Thanks

  64. Kathrin says

    Lucky,
    Can you please give me the link for the flight mileage calculator. I can’t find it anymore.
    What do you mean by “partner award you would not be allowed an interna. stopover”?
    Can you please clarify this for me?
    I also saw the service you offer. That is really good to know. I might need to do that since you seem to be the pro here.

  65. says

    @ Kathrin – If you’re booking a zone-based partner award with American they only allow a stopover at your North American Gateway city.

    I use gcmap.com to calculate distances between cities, and it seems to be pretty close to what American uses. You might also want to review this post, as it has a bit more detail on how to go about booking something like this.

  66. Kathrin says

    Thanks Lucky,

    “If you’re booking a zone-based partner award with American they only allow a stopover at your North American Gateway city.” This is the way I normally book my awards with the zone (e.g. 60K RT LAX to Europe in High season).
    I just found your website and I try to understand the oneworld exp. ticket which is mileage (distance) based. Sorry I don’t want to make it more complicated. Thanks again

  67. says

    @ Kathrin – Of course, and it can get pretty complicated! Most people don’t know about the OneWorld award, which is why I recently wrote that other post. The one we’re commenting on doesn’t have as much detail as I think beginners need, in retrospect.

  68. Kathrin says

    Lucky,

    Finally I was able to read the article (oneworld explore ticket). I think I am not doing to well with my reservation (LAX-Dallas-Miami-LHR-POP-DUS-Munich-Olbia-Berlin DUS LAX) for 77K. I might rethink my trip after what I have read and save up more miles for a nice big trip.
    So for a little extra (20K) I can fly business on the entire trip?
    Q: to you example zone6. I could stop in Hawaii as well (it’s on the way to Japan anyway) and it would not cost me more right?
    I have up to 16 segments.
    Thanks

  69. Kathrin says

    Furthermore, with partner awards you can often include a “free” one-way on an itinerary.

    On a partner award you’re always allowed a stopover at your North American transoceanic gateway city.
    There are some restrictions in terms of the routing, but generally this means if you’re booking London > Los Angeles you can include a Los Angeles > Hawaii flight on the itinerary at no extra cost for travel on a later date.
    WOULD THAT APPLY TO ME on my way back from Germany to LA?
    Thanks
    Kathrin

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