Great fares to Asia on American next year!

For those obsessed with points and status, January 1 can be a daunting day as it’s when most elite balances “reset.” Therefore it’s always nice to have a bit of travel booked before the counter resets, so you don’t start panicking about all the miles and hotel nights you’ll have to rack up before the end of the year. That’s why I always like to book a couple of international mileage runs before the year even starts.

And it looks like American has some great fares to China for early next year, under $750 roundtrip from many cities in the US. And while that’s not unheard-of-amazing, keep in mind that American lets you upgrade all revenue fares with systemwide upgrades, so this can easily be in business class. For example, Seattle to Beijing is $730 roundtrip on many dates, and at a minimum you have to backtrack through Chicago, which adds quite a few miles:

That itinerary is roughly 16,600 elite qualifying miles roundtrip, and that’s without even maximizing the routing.

I see similarly great fares out of many US cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

To see if the fare is available from your desired city and for your desired dates I suggest using ITA Matrix.

Just enter the origin and destination. Then in the boxes below those cities enter “aa+” which indicates that you want to fly on American.

Then I suggest clicking the “See calendar of lowest fares” button, and entering the number of nights you’d like to stay in Beijing (which can be entered as a range).

Once that’s complete just hit “search.”

The calendar will show you the lowest fares, and you can play around with options from there. I see these fares all the way into March, for what it’s worth.

And while it’s perhaps on the other end of the spectrum, there are also some decent paid business class fares between Los Angeles and Tokyo for early next year. It’s not quite as good of a sale as American recently had to China, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. American has business class fares between Los Angeles and Tokyo for ~$2,100 all-in roundtrip early next year, which is quite good when you factor in that you can upgrade those tickets to first class using systemwide upgrades.

It’s worth mentioning that you need a visa for China if you’re a US citizen, though as an American mileage runner I always have a valid Chinese visa.

Happy mileage running!


  1. Maybe you can try waving your Air China membership card at the immigration counter and hope they mistake it for a Chinese visa (a la MMS)?

  2. “…though as an American mileage runner I always have a valid Chinese visa.”

    I spit out my drink for this one! May be the most hilarious points blogger/affiliate link hustler quote of all time!

  3. As someone without elite status (yet), just the thought of doing a run to PEK in Y makes my butt sore. I’m really regretting not jumping on the J fare last month, coupled with the DEQM/P promo.

    (Apologies in advance to theblakefish if that post offended him/her. Not)

  4. I’m also intrigued by the Chinese visa statement.

    You mean to say that you always have a valid visa in your passport, or that you always get a visa when you book a flight to China? (I know they let you in for 24-hours on a transit visa, or 48-hours if you enter in Shanghai).

  5. @ Todd — Yep, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and traveling without status can be painful. That’s why I always recommend jumping in with either a premium fare, during a double elite qualifying miles promotion, or with a challenge.

    @ Peter — I always have one. You can get a one year visa for relatively cheap, and given American’s limited longhaul route network, I’m always in China at least a couple of times a year.

    Keep in mind the transit visa doesn’t work if you’re turning right around to the US, as you’re not technically in transit. If you continued to a third country you’d be in transit, but not if you return back to your country of origin.

  6. This is a great fare, U was looking to go this summer on AA metal, and the cheapest in July is $2000 SEA-ORD-PEK, so this fare is almost 1/3 of that. Too bad it is only available during the winter.

    Also to note: this is a rather easy upgrade with miles+ co-pay on American Airlines if you travel on Tues,Wed & Thursdays, as there is great availability as you mention.

  7. A little ITA tip…It probably isn’t much of an issue here, but the ‘aa+’ command only limits it to AA flight numbers. If you also want the flights operated by AA, use ‘o:aa+’.

    Came in useful back in the day when redeeming UA ecerts.

  8. Lucky, I’m located in ORD. If on the return trip for this flight I hop off, will I still get the miles for the SEA-ORD-PEK-ORD legs, if i don’t feel like the flight ORD-SEA (and the cost of an additional SEA-ORD flight) is worth it?

  9. @ Ken — You wouldn’t get the mileage credit, unfortunately, unless you fly it. Could still be a good deal if you find a good roundtrip fare to Seattle. Otherwise there’s an equally good fare out of New York, which might be easier to position to.

  10. the only thing holding me back from AA is their crappy route network to Asia, i think they only go to Beijing, Shanghai, and Narita, no operated flights out of HNL to NRT even. And i enjoy the ease of booking Star Alliance awards on the UA website. I was impressed this week with AA’s service culture, really liked their pilots too, but will probably stick with UA.

  11. @ Lucky and Ken

    Wouldn’t he still get the miles for the legs he actually did fly on (I think that was the question)?

  12. Carl, there is the new DFW-ICN route starting in May to augment the rather paltry network. But yeah, to get to HKG, KUL, BKK, SIN, etc, means connecting on JL or CX (or, soon, MH).

  13. @ Lucky

    No problem. I just need to get these kinds of things squared away before making the switch to AA 😉

  14. What search process do you use to “maximize the routing”? I assume this means adding extra flights at little to no cost to get more miles per dollar. Have you made a post on this before?

  15. @ Antonio — Replace the “aa+” with an increasing number of “aa’s” separated by spaces. Each “aa” represents a segment, so if you want a three segment itinerary enter “aa aa aa.” Just keep entering those till it doesn’t price properly anymore.

  16. Hi Lucky,
    I do not have AA status but have AA miles. Once I buy the ticket, how do I upgrade it to the Business/1st class (with miles?)

  17. @ Carl, AA will also take you to Haneda (HND), which is a lot closer to Tokyo than Narita. You can also save about $30 if you don’t need to use the Narita Express train, though it is quite comfortable.

  18. @ Jen — You have to call in order to apply an upgrade. Just keep in mind that for cheaper tickets you’re stuck paying both the mileage and a co-pay to upgrade.

  19. Is it easy to get a chinese visa for open-ended travel, or do they want you to have something planned already? Can you elaborate a bit on the best way to proceed?

  20. @ mathlete — You do technically need an itinerary, though that can be a refundable ticket or just an award ticket on hold, they don’t really care in my experience.

    You can either go to a Chinese consulate directly or use a service. The service costs maybe $100 and you send all your documents to them and they take care of it for you. Otherwise if you go directly to the consulate you can get expedited same day service.

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