Comparing Award Charts: American And US Airways

Earlier in the week US Airways joined the OneWorld alliance, a move I have mixed feelings about (though it was inevitable, so my feelings are a moot point).

American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles are two of my very favorite mileage programs… but for completely different reasons. They’re the two legacy frequent flyer programs with the best redemption rates almost across the board, so it was nice that they gave us access to both OneWorld and Star Alliance award space.

Unfortunately now that both carriers are part of OneWorld, the spectrum of airlines on which their miles can be redeemed have decreased, though there are still advantages and disadvantages to both programs. For those of us with miles in both programs, it’s actually kind of cool because we can basically do “comparison shopping,” and decide with each redemption which program works better for us.

In general, both American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles have roughly similar rates across many regions, and in some cases the mileage options are nearly identical. In other situations the mileage rates vary wildly, so hopefully this is an interesting comparison. Given that both carriers are preserving their individual award charts for the time being, I thought it might be helpful to compare the various redemption options.

Here are their respective award charts:

To start out, I think it’s worth noting that just because one program charges fewer miles to a particular destination doesn’t necessarily make it the best value. American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles have vastly different routing rules (I wrote about US Airways’ routing rules and stopover rules the other day), so there are many more factors to consider outside of the mileage price.

Please note in the below tables that the numbers in blue mean that there’s a price difference, and they represent the better value between the two airlines.

Looking at itineraries within North America, the mileage rates are very similar.

North America To:AAdvantage EconomyDividend Miles EconomyAAdvantage BusinessDividend Miles BusinessAAdvantage FirstDividend Miles First
US & Canada25,00025,00050,00050,00065,00050,000
Hawaii45,00040,00075,00080,00095,00080,000
Caribbean & Mexico35,00035,00060,00060,00060,00060,000

The main thing worth mentioning here is that US Airways charges the same rate for three cabin first class as they do for two cabin first class (or business class on a three cabin aircraft). So if you’re looking at redeeming miles on one of American’s premium transcontinental routes or in Cathay Pacific first class between New York and Vancouver, you’ll save quite a bit by booking through the US Airways mileage program.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-104
Fly Cathay Pacific first class New York to Vancouver for 50K US miles roundtrip

Similarly, for first or business class travel to the Middle East, Africa, or the South Pacific, the Dividend Miles chart is typically more lucrative.

North America To:AAdvantage EconomyDividend Miles EconomyAAdvantage BusinessDividend Miles BusinessAAdvantage FirstDividend Miles First
Europe60,00060,000100,000100,000125,000120,000
Middle East90,00080,000135,000120,000180,000180,000
Africa75,00070,000150,000110,000200,000150,000
South Pacific / Oceania75,00080,000125,000110,000145,000140,000

The AAdvantage rates for travel to Africa are borderline obscene, especially giving their routing restrictions. Your only real option to Africa with American miles is to fly on British Airways, which of course incurs fuel surcharges, and award space tends to be pretty limited.

Instead, you can use Dividend Miles to route through Doha on Qatar, or potentially even via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. And that’s not even factoring in that their redemption rates to Africa are substantially lower.

The same is true for travel to Australia. American won’t let you route via a third region, while US Airways will let you route from the US to Australia via Asia.

Bear with me here, because for other regions it gets a bit more complicated.

This shouldn’t surprise me, given my experiences with geography and US Airways, but the two airlines have vastly different opinions as to which countries are in which regions.

For example, both US Airways Dividend Miles and American AAdvantage break the Central and Southern American region into multiple zones, but the countries within each zone vary. I’ve tried to break this out by country, but as an overview:

  • US Airways combines Mexico and Central America into one region, and all of South America is a second region.
  • Meanwhile American combines Central America and “Northern” South America into one region, and “Southern” South America is separate.
  • It’s also worth noting that American considers Easter Island to be in the South Pacific, whereas US Airways places it in Chile.

North America To:AAdvantage EconomyDividend Miles EconomyAAdvantage BusinessDividend Miles BusinessAAdvantage FirstDividend Miles First
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama35,00035,00060,00060,00080,00060,000
Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela35,00060,00060,000100,00080,000125,000
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uraguay60,00060,000100,000100,000125,000125,000
Easter Island75,00060,000125,000100,000145,000125,000

With me so far?

Good, because the charts for Asia are a cluster.

Each airline has multiple (and rather arbitrary) award zones on the continent, and there’s not really a tremendous amount of logic involved for either program, in my opinion.

North America To:AAdvantage EconomyDividend Miles EconomyAAdvantage BusinessDividend Miles BusinessAAdvantage FirstDividend Miles First
Japan, Korea, Mongolia65,00060,000100,000110,000125,000120,000
Guam, Saipan70,00080,000110,000110,000135,000140,000
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau70,00060,000110,000110,000135,000120,000
Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,90,00060,000135,000110,000180,000120,000
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Chagos, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan90,00080,000135,000120,000180,000160,000
Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar,
Phillippines, Singapore,
Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam
70,00080,000110,000120,000135,000160,000

This is the chart I really find interesting though.

Firstly, there are a half-dozen countries on this list that I’m fairly certain aren’t serviced by any OneWorld carrier, so that’s fun. Secondly, the pricing for various destinations in Asia varies dramatically with each program.

My beloved US Airways 90k business class awards to North Asia are still intact, and American remains the best program for first class travel to Southeast Asia.

Bottom line

Not only do both airlines have some industry leading “sweet spots” on their award charts, but there are also significant cost savings to be had by booking through one carrier over another for travel between certain zones. Ultimately the value you get out of each airline goes far beyond the actual mileage costs. It’s also worth keeping in mind the routing and stopover rules of the respective carriers depending on what kind of a trip you’re planning.

Eventually miles from both American AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles will be combinable, though we don’t have a date for that yet, unfortunately. In the meantime the best we can do is maximize value through the respective programs.

Comments

  1. Easter Island should not really offer F awards. The LAN 763s that fly that route only offer J and Y. It’s a decent J product, but may disappoint those expecting F on the 5+ hr flight.

  2. Don’t forget AA has off-peak rates to many locales, including Europe (40k) and Japan (50k).

  3. I think you forgot to highlight the 135k level for travel in AA First for North America-Asia 2 🙂

  4. does BA display correct availability on LAN for SCL-IPC and GYE-GPS routes? ’cause i can never find any there…

  5. I thought it was only 120,000 US dividend miles for a roundtrip first class ticket from north america to north asia (China, Japan, etc.) On your chart, it states 125k.

  6. For me the biggest difference is that US Air does not and apparently does not plan to offer one way awards.

  7. Thanks for doing this comparison! One update through, AA business to Australia (South Pacific) is 125K roundtrip.

  8. Thanks! It was getting pretty confusing — can’t figure out why every airline defines geographic zones differently (esp. in Asia).

    So what should we expect for the award chart when it all gets combined — the max of AA or US rates; or perhaps going UA route and having separate charts for: (1) AA/US, (2) OW; (3) non-OW partners.

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