American Airlines (AA) miles used to be one of the most sought after currencies for frequent fliers looking for outsized value when traveling on AA metal, both domestically and abroad. When AA completed their merger with US Airways in 2015, Saver award availability suddenly became scarce. With a few exceptions (flights to/from Asia), award availability remains relatively dismal.
We recently told you about a 25% bonus when transferring hotel points to AA. Because of this, we thought it would be prudent to remind readers about challenges that exist in using AA miles.
AA Award Availability
When AA devalued their award chart in 2016, the general expectation was that higher (mileage) prices would lead to more availability. However, award availability continues to get worse. One Mile At A Time recently noted that saver award space is practically non-existent between New York and Los Angeles through the end of 2017 regardless of ticketing class, even when open seats are available the day of flight.
Getting to Europe
Trying to get to Europe in business or first class without paying the surcharges that come with flying British Airways through London? Good luck! I found a total of 9 days with J or F class award availability from JFK to either Paris or Madrid through November (primarily on Finnair through Helsinki).
View From the Wing identified a potential way to use AA miles on OneWorld partner Jet Airways to fly from Toronto to Amsterdam.
Getting to Asia
If you are routing from the US to Asia, there is some hope. Searching for availability from US west coast cities to either Hong Kong or Tokyo on AA OneWorld partners Cathay Pacific (CX) and Japan Airlines (JL) reveals some award space at approximately four months out in business class. If you don’t have the freedom to book in advance, both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines tend to release additional premium cabin award space within two weeks of departure.
AA’s website will not show Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines award space. To search online, you can use British Airways search feature. Recently, British Airways began blocking close-in Cathay Pacific award space on their website. If you can’t find space there, try searching Cathay’s website or call an AA agent to see if there is availability. Additionally, Alaska Airline’s website will show award availability for Japan Airlines.
Earn and Burn
People have been collecting AA miles for a long time because they are (were?) more valuable than most miles and easy to accumulate. Unfortunately, there are currently few ways to redeem AA miles with a value proposition that makes sense. Be prepared and have a redemption goal for spending your miles before you start stockpiling them. If you want to fly in the front of the plane and don’t want to burn a ridiculous number of miles, that probably means heading to Asia.