How to Spend American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

AAdvantage miles are the currency of the AAdvantage program. These come from purchased flights, credit card spending, and several other sources. The fun, of course, comes from spending them. Spending on flights, with American Airlines or its many partners, is the most obvious way to redeem miles. And generally, that’s the best use of value. If you really don’t fly or have miles to use up, there are other ways to spend them.


Using AAdvantage miles on American Airlines flights

Just a few years ago, almost all airline mileage programs offered fixed-price award tickets based on a fee schedule. The airline would make a certain number of seats available for redemption on each flight, and these would always cost the same fixed number of miles.

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Many airlines are now opting for dynamic award prices, where the number of miles required changes according to the equivalent cash price of the ticket. All former US airlines have now done this to some extent. This can make prices better or worse. Apart from early booking with lots of flexibility, it usually costs less.

Rewards on American Airlines is the most obvious choice. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines is the only legacy US carrier to maintain fixed prices for its own rewards. It still offers fixed rewards, known as the SAAver Mile on all American Airlines domestic and international routes. At the same time, it has also implemented dynamic pricing, through what it calls Economy Web Special rewards.

The price of Advantage rewards changes between flights, often significantly. Picture: American Airlines

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

  • Special Web Economy. This is the new dynamic price rewards offer. Fares may be lower or higher than MileSAAver rewards. It’s worth checking multiple dates or routes for price differences, especially if you’re booking well in advance.
  • Economy MileSAaver. These are fixed price rewards, with very limited availability. Pricing starts at just 7,500 miles for the shortest domestic routes (less than 500 miles). There are also peak and off-peak dates for each region, with different rates.
  • Economy at all times. AAnyime rewards 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 Mile SAaver. Fixed-price Restricted Availability Awards in International Business Class or Domestic First Class.
  • Business/Premiere Anytime. The same higher prices in business class or first class.
  • First MileSAaver. American Airlines International First Class Fixed Price Restricted Availability Awards. American Airlines still operates international first class, although this is on the way out.

The following table shows American Airlines flight prices for international flights in the main cabin. For details of the different cabins and routes, see the charts on the AAdvantage website.

Award Award for AA Economics. Picture: American Airlines

Redeeming AAdvantage miles on partner airline flights

One of the best ways to use miles is to use flights on partner airlines. It’s possible on everything amembers of the global alliance, as well as several other partners. These include JetBlue (excluding transatlantic flights), Hawaiian Airlines and Etihad Airways.

Reward fares are based on zones and class of travel. There are no fare differences as there are with American Airlines award tickets. For a full breakdown of pricing by region, see the tables on the AAdvantage website.

Status provides benefits to all oneworld member airlines. Photo: Getty Images

A business class award, for example, between Europe and Asia costs 75,000 miles. Economy class would only cost 35,000 miles and first class 90,000 miles.

This would be the same no matter which airline you choose – so for this example you could use Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Finnair or Qatar Airways.

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

Each award may use one or more partner airlines. Partner airlines can also be combined with American Airlines flights. The award price is based on the itinerary and will be the same even if multiple flights are included. This is a great advantage and useful for flying between hard to reach places. For Europe to Asia, this could involve a mainline long-haul flight from London to Hong Kong, with connecting flights from anywhere in Europe to London and a connecting flight from Hong Kong to another city Asian.

British Airways, as a oneworld member, can be used for awards. 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 should not backtrack and should stay with maximum (generous) total flight distance. Stopovers are not permitted (all connections must be less than 24 hours). Also be aware of taxes and fees, as these can be high for some airlines (like British Airways). The excellent booking tool will quickly price it for comparison.

Use miles for upgrades

Upgrading the service cabin is another often beneficial use of miles. It was generally better value for money before the introduction of premium economy cabins, when direct upgrades could be made from low-cost economy airfares directly to business class.

Upgrading is a good use of miles with American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

On American Airlines flights, upgrades are possible by one cabin. When upgrading from a reduced fare (i.e. not Y, W, J, D or R class full fare fares), higher miles and a cash co-payment are required. The table below shows the current upgrade rates for American Airlines flights, based on destination and fare purchased (you can access it on the AAdvantage website). For now, American Airlines is still operating international first class – and is the only major US airline to do so. There are plans to phase it out, but it’s unclear when exactly.

Upgrade fares for American Airlines flights. Picture: American Airlines

Upgrade is also possible with British Airways and Iberia. However, this is more restrictive and is only possible from full fare (class Y, B, W, C, J, D or R fares). Up to three flight sectors can be upgraded in a single award. A major restriction to consider is that the ticket must be originally booked through American Airlines or include at least one American Airlines flight to be eligible for an upgrade. See full details again on the AAdvantage website.

Upgrade fares for British Airways flights. Picture: American Airlines

Flightless Exchange Opportunities

Flight rewards or upgrades are usually the best use of miles. However, there are other options. These include in particular the following:

  • Use of miles for hotel stays. AAdvantage offers a hotel reservation platform, in partnership with a third party. Hotels can be booked internationally, and options include private hotels and chains. You can choose to pay in full with miles or partly in cash.

AAdvantage operates a hotel and car rental reservation portal, which awards miles and frequent flyer points. Picture: American Airlines

  • Use miles for car rentals. Again, this is possible in the United States and abroad. AAdvantage has its own partner portal, offering deals with several major rental companies.
  • Access to Admirals Club lounges. American Airlines does not offer Elite members complimentary lounge access on domestic routes. Instead, members must purchase an annual Admirals Club membership with cash or miles.
  • Give miles to friends or charities. There is also a final option for donating your miles. To transfer to family or friends there is a fee, and the value will depend on the intended use. Don’t forget that you can also use the miles in your account to buy tickets for someone else.

There are many ways to redeem miles. With so much flexibility in flight rewards, there are great value options and plenty of possibilities. Feel free to discuss how you use miles and your thoughts on the best value opportunities in the comments.

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