Reader Brad sent me an email asking the following:
I just tried to book an award ticket using American miles from Los Angeles to Hong Kong by way of New York. In a previous post you wrote this should be allowed since it does not exceed the MPM by more than 25%, yet the agent told me that routing would require two awards. Any clue why?
I believe Brad is referring to this post, in which I covered three major topics related to redeeming American AAdvantage partner awards, which I’ll very briefly recap:
1) American will let you exceed the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) for a city pair by up to 25% on an award reservation. For example, from Los Angeles to Hong Kong the MPM is 8,698 miles, and 25% more than that is 10,872 miles. Los Angeles to New York to Hong Kong is 10,547 miles, so in theory it should be allowed.
2) In order for an award routing to be legal, the transoceanic carrier has to publish a fare between the origin and destination. For example, Etihad publishes a fare between New York and Male, but not between Tampa and Male. So if you want to fly to Male using American miles on Etihad, you’d have to book your ticket from Tampa to New York separately.
3) On an award you can’t transit a third region (other than the region of your origin and destination), unless it falls on the exception table, listed in this post.
But back to the point of this post. Should Brad be allowed to route from Los Angeles to Hong Kong via New York since it exceeds the MPM by less than 25%? Sort of.
American has seemingly contradictory policies. On one hand they say you exceed the MPM by up to 25%, but on the other hand they also say say that “passenger must travel the most direct routing.” Those two seemingly contradict one another, don’t they?
That’s because American’s award routing rules are based on intent and not necessarily numbers. Back in the day mileage running was great because most airlines would let you make three or four connections in each direction on a domestic ticket. Why? Because the assumption was that nobody on earth would want to fly more than they have to, and that if someone was making multiple connections it was out of necessity based on availability. Of course we proved them wrong, and over the past few years airlines have tightened up the fare rules on domestic tickets, now that they’ve seen some of us actually do like making extra connections to earn more miles.
I think what it all comes down to is this clause from a memo on flex awards that’s posted on Traveling Better, which I think seems to apply to most American awards nowadays:
The number of awards assessed should be determined by the customer’s intentions. If the indirect routing is booked at the customer’s request, multiple awards should apply using Pricing Override Options – Force Fare Breakpoint. If the routing is booked based on lack of award availability on direct routes, then an exception may be made, allowing Sabre to price as one award.
So basically you should be allowed to exceed the MPM by up to 25%, but only if it’s not your intention to do that. So if you’re still intent on routing via New York, perhaps approach this a bit differently. When you call American don’t say “I’d like to fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong via New York. I have the flights that are available, so may I give them to you?” Perhaps instead ask what’s available, and when they can’t find anything, say “shoot, I really need to fly on those dates, do you mind maybe checking award space via another Cathay Pacific gateway city?” See if they’ll suggest New York, which they might if they’re creative. Otherwise it can’t hurt to suggest it at that point if they don’t.
So it’s odd for a company this big to have rules based on intentions and not purely what the computer will price, though hopefully by understanding this you can modify your approach towards booking a “complex” routing using an AAdvantage partner award.