10 Best Uses Of American Miles

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American miles are one of my favorite mileage currencies, and over the years I’ve redeemed millions of them for my own travels.

At the moment I tend to think American offers among the best award redemption values of any airline, given that they haven’t devalued their award chart in years, making their saver award prices significantly lower on average than those available through Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus. This is perhaps largely due to the merger, as their priority has been integrating over “innovating.”

With that in mind, I figured it would be fun to share what I consider to be 10 of the best uses of American AAdvantage miles. I’m not claiming that these are the 10 best redemptions, but rather that they’re among them. And I’m mixing them up, to showcase several different types of product. Again, there are lots of great products, but these are just a few examples.

With that in mind, in no particular order, here are 10 of my favorite redemptions (all prices listed are one-way):

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment From Abu Dhabi To Australia
Cost: 60,000 miles

Etihad has possibly the best first class hard product in the world, and even markets their A380 first class product as “Apartments.”

Etihad-A380-First-Class-01

And the hard product really is spectacular. The first class cabin features only a single aisle, making it the only widebody with a premium cabin that has just one aisle.

While you can redeem 40,000 miles for A380 first class between Abu Dhabi and London, I’d much rather redeem 60,000 miles for a flight which is twice the length, roughly ~14 hours. Etihad flies the A380 to Sydney, and as of June 1, 2016, will also fly it to Melbourne.

This is an amazing use of miles, and you can add on flights within the Middle East (including India) and flights within Australia/New Zealand at no additional cost.

Etihad-A380-First-Class-74

Cathay Pacific First Class From The US To Southeast Asia
Cost: 67,500 miles

Cathay Pacific first class is one of my all around favorite products in the world. The hard product is comfortable, with one of the best beds in the sky. And the entertainment, food, and service are all excellent as well.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-39

Nowadays Cathay Pacific tends to release up to one first class seat when the schedule opens, and then more seats as the departure date approaches. This is an unbeatable value for travel to Asia, given that United charges almost double as many miles for partner airline first class in the same market.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-31

Japan Airlines First Class From The US To Japan
Cost: 62,500 miles

Japan Airlines offers one of my other all around favorite first class products in the world, and they’re pretty good about releasing award space last minute as well.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-03

Between the food, service, seat, and excellent bedding, this is a fantastic use of AAdvantage miles.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-34

Keep in mind you can also fly Japan Airlines first class as far as Tokyo Narita, and then connect to Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines at the “Asia 2” price (which would be 67,500 miles one-way in first class).

Qatar Airways A350 Business Class From The Middle East To Europe
Cost: 30,000 miles

I was lucky enough to be on the inaugural commercial A350 flight, and it’s a heck of a plane. Qatar Airways has a fantastic hard and soft product on their newest planes, including the A350, A380, 787, etc.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30

So for 30,000 miles you can fly from anywhere in the Middle East/India to Europe. That’s a fantastic value.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-62

Qatar flies their A350s to Frankfurt and Munich, so I’d suggest doing what you can to get on that plane.

Economy Off Peak Awards From The US To Europe:
Cost: 20,000 miles

While I generally prefer redeeming miles for premium cabins, there’s no denying that American’s off-peak Europe awards can be lucrative as well.

American-Economy

For just 20,000 miles one-way you can fly off-peak awards between the US and Europe on American or any of their partners. This isn’t strictly limited to their metal, and their definition of “off peak” is also quite generous, as it runs all the way from October 1 through May 15, which is more than half the year.

Cathay Pacific First Class From New York To Vancouver
Cost: 32,500 miles

The single most comfortable flight in North America is Cathay Pacific’s flight between New York and Vancouver. It’s a nice taste of Cathay Pacific’s longhaul first class service without having to leave North America.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-54

And at just 32,500 miles, it’s a steal as well.

Qantas Business Class From Sydney To Perth:
Cost: 17,500 miles

Much like we have our coast-to-coast premium flights in the US, Qantas has similar flights in Australia.

These are primarily operated by A330s featuring Qantas’ new business suites. And at just 17,500 miles for a one-way flight in business class, it’s a bargain on points as well.

Qantas-A330-Business

LAN Business Class From Los Angeles To Lima
Cost: 30,000 miles

American charges just 30,000 miles for one-way business class travel to Northern South America, which includes places like Lima and Machu Picchu. Given that LAN flies their new 787s from the US to Lima, this can be a great use of miles.

LAN-787-Business

American Business Class US To Europe
Cost: 50,000 miles

American has very reasonable redemption rates between the US and Europe. The catch is that their primary transatlantic partner is British Airways, which imposes huge carrier imposed surcharges on award travel.

Lately American has been releasing a lot of award space on their own flights, though, which are a fantastic use of AAdvantage miles. American’s 777-300ERs feature a spectacular business class hard product with reverse herringbone seats, great entertainment, and wifi.

American-Business-Class

In case there’s no award space on American, you can travel on airberlin, Finnair, or Jet Airways without fuel surcharges, or travel on Iberia with minimal fuel surcharges.

Cathay Pacific Business Class From The US To Southeast Asia
Cost: 55,000 miles

While I’d rather pay an extra 12,500 miles for first class over business class, the reality is that Cathay Pacific is quite stingy with first class award space in advance nowadays.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-A330-40

Meanwhile Cathay Pacific is really generous with business class award space in advance, often releasing up to five seats per flight when the schedule opens. Cathay Pacific has a really solid business class product, with an excellent reverse herringbone seat, as well as good entertainment, food, and service.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-777-4

Cathay Pacific business class is a reliable, comfortable way to get to Asia, and at just 55,000 miles one-way in business class, it’s a great value as well.

Bottom line

American miles continue to be one of the most valuable mileage currencies out there. Above are just a few of my favorite uses of their miles. If you have a ton of American miles I’d definitely redeem them sooner rather than later, as miles only decrease in value over time.

Even though I’ve been playing this game for over a decade, the products your can redeem miles for (and the incredible values you can get) never cease to amaze me.

What are your favorite uses of American miles?

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Comments

  1. 3 oneways JFK – ZUR for 60K miles and $16.80 on American. Same flight with BA Avios was $800~. 3 oneways LIN – JFK via Helsinki (24-hour layover!) for 60K and $200~.

  2. Thanks for the very helpful overview Ben. Is it correct that all award QR & EY tickets using AA miles can only be booked by phone?

  3. This is what i am talking about. The blog should be more about this and less about everything else you have been doing last few weeks.

  4. @credit

    Seriously? This is a blog which means the blogger can put whatever he wants to blog about, on their own blog. Who are you to say what someone should or should not put on their own blog? Jeez.

  5. I second Rob’s question…

    How do we book these awesome flights? I can find some stuff through the AA website, but not a lot.

  6. You mention 40,000 London to Abu Dhabi in first, but that you like Abu Dhabi to Australia for 60k better.

    Still, I think 40,000 for London – Abu Dhabi – Delhi/Mumbai in the Etihad First Apartment AND Jetihad first is tough to beat!

  7. @ Gary — Hah, I’ll take DEL/BOM-AUH-SYD/MEL, personally. The issue with AUH-LHR is that it’s not actually long enough to enjoy the product. You can’t reasonably get a good night of rest and enjoy the meal service and suite, in my opinion.

  8. @ Kyle — For Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LAN, and Qatar Airways, you’re best off searching space through British Airways’ website, and if you find anything you can book it through American:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/04/01/use-british-airways-award-search-tool/

    For Etihad, here’s how you search space on them (then you’ll want to call American to book):
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/06/04/search-etihad-award-space/

  9. Lucky vs. Gary: Lucky, I think you’re probably right. However, I just booked OSL-LHR-AUH-MLE-DOH-AUH-LHR-CPH for 72,000 AA miles after 10% mileage rebate w/ AA card. Thank you both for making this trip possible!

  10. @shabs

    This is the comment section, which means I can comment on anything that’s on my mind, who are you to ……….

    Get it?

  11. I’ve just booked myself on the DEL – AUH – LHR flight for 40k, now that’s an absolute steal of a deal especially with the A380 on offer.

    I am looking forward to DEL – AUH – SYD/MEL early next year and later when MEL opens up (though they are offering literally no seats on the SYD route right now. Wouldn’t mind the LHR – AUH – SYD/MEL flight thought, 20 hours in an Apartment!

    It’s unfortunately that AA places limits on the points you can buy.

  12. I agree with your top 10 but would have included at least 1 premium redemption on actual AA metal. 😉
    For example, JFK-LAX in first is 32,500 miles one-way which I think is an awesome deal!
    I agree though that the true treasure of AAdvantage miles is redeeming on AA’s partners.

  13. You completely forgot the DFW- SYD on Quantas for 72.5 in first class each way… Tough to beat (and to actually get though)

  14. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the info — very helpful as always! I know you’ve talked about this in the past, but can you remind us about which (if any) intra-Asia routes have CX first these days? Ideally I’d love to purchase an Asia 2 award in which I fly CX F within Asia, connecting to JL F in TYO and then flying TPAC. Is HKG-TYO-USA the only available routing for this, or could I do something like BKK-HKG-TYO-USA, in which the first two legs would be on CX F?

    Thanks for your help!
    Adam

  15. @ Jose — Personally I don’t love Qantas first class that much, and that award is really, really, really, *REALLY* tough to snag. So almost not worth making a goal, in my opinion.

  16. @ Adam — The only route which consistently has first class is HKG-HND, and you can’t backtrack US-HKG-HND (but you could do SFO-HND-HKG, for example). Selectively Cathay also operates first class to BKK and SIN, though it’s not consistent. There’s also first class on Cathay and Dragonair to PEK and PVG.

  17. Thanks for the info! I’m currently saving up miles in the hopes of taking my parents on a trip to China (my mom is Chinese and hasn’t been back to the mainland in 40 years) and am aiming for premium cabin on Cathay Pacific. As someone who hasn’t flown premium cabins much, what are the main differences between Cathay First and Cathay Business? Basically, what makes it worth the extra 12.5k miles each way for First rather than Business?

  18. I was looking at an Asia trip next year and was planning on spending 62,500 to go to NRT from the US. With the quote below are you referring to the connect at NRT as a stopover? or just a way to connect to SE asia in order to take a longer flight in first class?

    Thanks for this post it is very helpful.

    “Keep in mind you can also fly Japan Airlines first class as far as Tokyo Narita, and then connect to Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines at the “Asia 2” price (which would be 67,500 miles one-way in first class).”

  19. @Lisa – I’ll throw my 2 cents into this. I think in terms of whether you’d prefer CX first vs CX business it would entirely depend upon how you feel about the added frills. I often say that luxury is wasted on me. I get no added value from the expensive wine and champagne, I don’t eat seafood so I don’t touch caviar, and I get no value out of the pajamas. The only value I get from 1st over Biz personally is the bigger seat and more comfortable bed. I find there is adequate privacy in Cathay Biz, and most business classes I’ve been on/seen on Asian carriers, that the additional privacy in First is a negligible benefit at most.

    So, if you value the extra attention, airline pajamas, want to drink expensive champagne and wine, eat caviar and a higher caliber meal (Remember, it’s still airplane food), value the less crowded and more comfortable lounge on the ground, with the nice cabanas in Hong Kong, then go First. If none of that stuff matters to you at all and you get no additional value from it, then stick to Business. You’ll be comfortable either way.

  20. Re: the AUH-LHR flight being too short to experience the product: I would agree. I’ve flown it recently and specifically selected a day flight – I didn’t want to waste flying time with sleeping 🙂

  21. Hopefully, we can soon add LAX-AKL to that list. Even if it is on American metal, it will be a great way to get somewhere hard to get on miles. 🙂

  22. what about Asia to Middle East for 30K in biz or 45 in F. Think you missed that one. Can fly Etihad, Qatar or Cathay.

  23. Lucky, it appears that AA has permanently(?) eliminated the 50,000/55,000 MilessAAvers award one-way in business from LAX to either NRT or HKG. It’s been grayed-out on the awards chart for months. Is it your experience that JAL and Cathay Pacific WILL honor that award? Or, when I call AA to book, will they tell me it’s closer to the 120,000 / 140,000 mile level they show for a Business Anytime award? Thank you!

  24. @Lisa,

    There is actually a substantial difference between Cathay business and first. Yes, there is more “stuff” but beyond the stuff there’s also a much more personalized experience, which is really worth taking advantage of, especially for 12.5k miles. I’ve flown Cathay First about four times now and it’s always been fantastic.

    The service is phenomenal and I’ve always made friends with the flight attendants on every flight. One even went so far as to give us a detailed list of everything she recommended doing in Singapore when we’d only mentioned we were thinking of stopping there on our trip. That’s the type of interaction we never could have gotten in business class due to the sheer size of the cabin.

    The food is better in first, too. And then there’s the added fun of being able to dine with your travel companions at 36K feet. If you want, they’ll serve both of you at the same table since there’s more than enough room for someone else to sit on your foot rest.

    It’s those kinds of things, in addition to the larger seat, that make it a far nicer and much more memorable experience. Cathay business is admittedly great but first is so much better.

  25. Also curious about Mark and Mark O’s question.

    I’m not up for fuel surcharges, and while I’m not completely destination agnostic I certainly would tailor a trip around where I can go on AA metal that is actually book-able.

    Thanks!

    Mike

  26. Hey Lucky,

    Any thoughts on the easiest eat to accrue aa points from the UK? Only one card (mnba) which doesn’t seem great and can’t transfer from Amex 🙁

    Any other tricks you have heard of?

  27. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks a lot for this info! So I am very new to the miles game. But I really have been attracted to American, considering I can redeem them on Etihad, Qatar and Cathay.

    I have a very basic doubt. Can you use the miles that you bought using your own money and not earned for a ticket or an upgrade?
    And do you need an AAdvantage Card for that? Or you can buy them using any card as long as you have a membership with American?

  28. Hi Lucky, when I pay for a flight on Cathay would you recommend using my AA miles account to claim the miles earned as opposed to using my Asia Miles account? My primary goal for the miles are to travel between US and HKG

  29. Hey Lucky,
    Any special trick on scoring the AUH to SYD on EY? I’ve been checking for the last 3 months but to no avail.
    Thanks

  30. @ Sam K — If nothing else, they seem to make space available fairly regularly at the last minute. Good luck!

  31. Great post! This is the type of post that really, really helps a long term hoarder cherry pick………and it shows the tremendous depth and breadth you bring to the subject! Kudos!

  32. What frustrates me about this article and every other blogger who talks about point redemptions is you only quote the one way price. This is unrealistic (and misleading) as eventually, we have to get home!

  33. I’ve used the BA site to find those elusive Cathay First Award seats between either SFO or LAX and HKG. BA’s website goes out 30 days further than does American’s. The last time I found one I liked, I called American to book it and was told that they couldn’t even book it over the phone. So how does this make AA miles so useful? Also, checking daily does not show ANY saver awards “last minute,” ever.

  34. @Chris I don’t think it’s misleading at all. What’s great is that we can fly there using one set of points and fly back using another. I think that’s much better than the airlines making us book roundtrip tickets.

  35. You mention that you can add on flights within the Middle East and Australia with the Etihad flight to Sydney. Could you explain a little more?

  36. Lucky, regarding the 60K Etihad apartment to Australia with free India add on, could you point me in the right direction on how to book this? Do I start of on the AA website?

  37. Hey Lucky,

    I am also curious about Victor’s question.

    Could you please explain a little more what you mean by :

    “Keep in mind you can also fly Japan Airlines first class as far as Tokyo Narita, and then connect to Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines at the “Asia 2” price (which would be 67,500 miles one-way in first class).”

    And does it also apply for Europe, let’s say FRA-CGK?

    Thank you in advance.

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