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How to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles

AAdvantage miles are the currency of the AAdvantage program. These are earned from purchased flights, credit card spending, and several other sources. The fun, of course, comes from spending them. Spending on flights on American Airlines or its many partners is the most obvious way to redeem miles. And in general it is the best value for money. However, if you really don’t fly or have miles to use up, there are other ways to spend them.


Redeeming AAdvantage miles on American Airlines flights

Just a few years ago, almost all airline miles programs offered fixed-price flight awards based on a price table. The airline would make a certain number of seats available for award redemption on each flight, which would always cost the same fixed number of miles.

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Many airlines are now transitioning to dynamic award pricing, where the number of miles required changes depending on the ticket’s cash price. All US legacy airlines have now done this to some degree. This can make awards more or less valuable. Unless you book early with plenty of flexibility, prices are usually worse.

American Airlines awards are the most obvious choice. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines is the only incumbent US airline to maintain fixed prices for its own awards. It continues to offer fixed awards, known as Mile SAAver, on all American Airlines domestic and international routes. Alongside this, it has also introduced dynamic pricing through so-called Economy Web Special awards.

Advantage award prices change between flights, often significantly. Image: American Airlines

This results in a somewhat complicated pricing system where the number of miles required can vary between dates, routes and flights. Depending on your itinerary, the following award types are available on American Airlines flights:

  • Economy web special. This is the new dynamic price award offer. Fares may be lower or higher than MileSAAver awards. It’s worth checking multiple dates or routes for price differences, especially when booking well in advance.
  • Economy MileSAAver. These are fixed-price awards with severely limited availability. Prices start at just 7,500 miles for the shortest (less than 500 miles) domestic routes. There are also peak and off-peak times for each region with different tariffs.
  • Profitability Anytime. AAnyime awards are more expensive (with two tiers reaching two to three times MileSAAver rates). These offer much better availability and terms, including priority access and fewer change restrictions.
  • Business/First MileSAAver. Fixed fare awards with limited availability in International Business Class or Domestic First Class.
  • Business/First AAnytime. The same higher-priced awards in Business or First Class.
  • First MileSAAver. Fixed fare awards with limited availability in American Airlines International First Class. American Airlines still operates international first class, although this is on the way out.

The table below shows American Airlines fares for international flights in the main cabin. For detailed information on the different staterooms and routes, see the tables on the AAdvantage website.

Award prices for AA Economy. Image: American Airlines

Redeem AAdvantage miles on partner airline flights

One of the cheapest ways to use miles is to fly on partner airlines. This is possible on all oneWorld Alliance members as well as several other partners. These include JetBlue (excluding transatlantic flights), Hawaiian Airlines and Etihad Airways.

Award prices are based on zones and class of travel. There are no fare differences like American Airlines flight awards. For a full regional breakdown of plans, see the tables on the AAdvantage website.

Status offers benefits for all oneworld member airlines. Photo: Getty Images

A business class award between Europe and Asia, for example, costs 75,000 miles. There are only 35,000 miles in Economy Class and 90,000 miles in First Class.

This would be the same regardless of the airline chosen – so for this example you could use Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Finnair or Qatar Airways.

Award miles from Europe with partner airlines. Image: American Airlines

Each award can be used by one or more partner airlines. Partner airlines can also be combined with American Airlines flights. Award prices are based on route and are the same even when multiple flights are included. This is a great advantage and useful when flying between hard-to-reach places. For Europe to Asia, this could involve a main long-haul flight from London to Hong Kong, with connecting flights from anywhere in Europe to London and an onward flight from Hong Kong to another Asian city.

British Airways can be used for awards as a member of oneworld. Photo: British Airways

There are some routing rules to be aware of, but in general AAdvantage is very flexible. Up to four segments can be included, routes must be non-backtracking and must stick to a (generous) maximum total flight distance. No intermediate stops are allowed (all connections must be less than 24 hours). Also be aware of taxes and fees as these can be high for some airlines (e.g. British Airways). The excellent booking tool will quickly calculate this for comparison.

Use miles for upgrades

Upgrading the service cabin is another good use of miles. This was generally cheaper prior to the introduction of premium economy cabins, when direct upgrades could be made directly to business class from cheap economy fares.

An upgrade is a good use of miles on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

One cabin upgrades are available on American Airlines flights. Upgrading from a discounted fare (ie not to the full Y, W, J, D or R class fare) requires more miles and a cash co-payment. The table below shows the current upgrade prices for American Airlines flights based on destination and fare purchased (accessible on the AAdvantage website). For now, American Airlines still operates international first class – and is the only major US airline to do so. There are plans to phase it out, but it’s not clear when exactly.

American Airlines flight upgrade fares. Image: American Airlines

You can also upgrade with British Airways and Iberia. However, this is more restrictive and only possible from the full fare upwards (Y, B, W, C, J, D or R class fares). Up to three flight sectors can be upgraded as one bounty. An important caveat to be aware of is that the ticket must either originally be booked through American Airlines or must include at least one American Airlines flight in order to be eligible for an upgrade. You can find all the details again on the AAdvantage website.

Upgrade fares for British Airways flights. Image: American Airlines

Non-Flying Redemption Opportunities

Flight awards or upgrades are typically the cheapest use of miles. However, there are other options. These include the following:

  • Use miles for hotel stays. AAdvantage offers a hotel booking platform in partnership with a third party. Hotels can be booked internationally, and options include private and chain hotels. You can choose to pay fully with miles or partially with cash.

AAdvantage operates a hotel and car rental booking portal that awards miles and loyalty points. Image: American Airlines

  • Use miles for rental cars. Again, this is possible in the US and internationally. AAdvantage has its own partner portal that offers deals with several major rental companies.
  • Access to the Admirals Club lounges. American Airlines does not offer Elite members complimentary lounge access on domestic flights. Instead, members must purchase an annual Admirals Club membership using cash or miles.
  • Gift miles to friends or charities. There is also one last way to give away your miles. There is a fee for transferring to family or friends and the value depends on the intended use. Remember, you can also use miles in your account to purchase someone else’s tickets.

There are many ways to redeem miles. With so much flexibility when it comes to flight awards, there are cheap options and lots of possibilities. Feel free to discuss how you’re using Miles and your thoughts on the best value options in the comments.

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