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American AAdvantage is one of our favorite frequent flyer programs. In this post, we'll cover all the rules for American Airlines award travel to help you use miles for your next adventure.
One of the key ways to get more value from your rewards is to spend a little time learning the rules for booking awards with the points and miles you acquire. Each program has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand them clearly, you’ll be able to choose the program that best suits your goals for a particular trip.
- Types of Rules
- AA Award Travel Costs & Partner Airlines
- American Airlines Award Booking Rules & Fees
- Which airlines can I book using American AAdvantage® miles?
- Can I use my miles to book for another person?
- How far in advance can I book my ticket?
- Can I put an AA award travel on hold?
- Does American charge a close-in booking fee?
- Does American charge a phone-booking fee?
- How much does it cost to include a lap infant?
- AA Award Travel Change and Cancellation Rules
- American Airlines Award Itinerary Rules
- Can I book a stopover with American miles?
- Can I book one-way travel with American miles?
- Can I book an open jaw with American miles?
- Can I fly with multiple partner airlines on the same trip?
- Can I book an itinerary with multiple classes of service?
- Can I book a 'round-the-world ticket with American miles?
- American Third-Region Exceptions
- Itinerary Rules for Complex Award Bookings
- Final Thoughts
Types of Rules
Booking rules cover the details you need to know to get your trip confirmed. Can you use your miles to book a flight for your grandma? How much does it cost to add an infant that doesn’t need her own seat? How far in advance can you confirm your flights?
Change and cancellation rules cover all the fine print to make sure you don’t pay unnecessary fees and know exactly what to expect if your plans change.
Itinerary rules cover your options and limitations for the flights you add to your trip. Can you build in a stopover in Europe on the way to Asia? Can you book a one-way flight at half the price of a round-trip? Will you save miles if part of a business-class trip is in economy?
AA Award Travel Costs & Partner Airlines
Before we get started, there are two important factors that aren’t covered in this post:
The number of miles you need and the taxes and fees you’ll pay out-of-pocket are determined by the type of points you redeem. In many cases, the costs in miles and money can be more important than other rules.
You can use AAdvantage miles to book travel with more than 20 partner airlines. But it’s also true that you can use dozens of different types of points to book flights operated by American or its partner airlines. If you aren’t familiar with this, check out our beginner’s guide to award travel planning.
If you’ve done a good job of diversifying your points, you should have the option to use points from other frequent-flyer programs to book a similar (or identical) itinerary. When using AAdvantage miles makes the most sense, here are the rules.
American Airlines Award Booking Rules & Fees
Which airlines can I book using American AAdvantage® miles?
|Partner Airline||Region||Hubs||On AA.com?||Affiliation|
|British Airways||Europe||London (LHR)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Cathay Pacific||Europe||Hong Kong (HKG)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Japan Airlines||Asia||Tokyo (NRT & HND)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Malaysia Airlines||Southeast Asia||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Qantas||Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands||Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL), Sydney (SYD)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Qatar Airways||Middle East||Doha (DOH)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Royal Air Maroc||Africa||Casablanca (CMN)||Yes||Oneworld (joined April 2020)|
|Royal Jordanian Airlines||Middle East||Amman (AMM)||Yes||Oneworld|
|S7 Airlines||Russia||Moscow (DME), Novosibirsk (OVB)||Yes||Oneworld|
|SriLankan Airlines||Southeast Asia||Colombo (CMB)||Yes||Oneworld|
|Air Tahiti Nui||Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands||Papeete (PPT)||Yes||Independent|
|Alaska Airways||North America||Seattle (SEA), Anchorage (ANC), Los Angeles (LAX), Portland (PDX), San Francisco (SFO)||Yes||Planning to join Oneworld in 2021|
|Cape Air||North America||St. Louis (STL)||Yes||Independent|
|China Southern||Asia||Beijing (PEK & PKX), Guangzhou (CAN)||No (ExpertFlyer)||Independent|
|Etihad Airways||Middle East||Abu Dahbi (AUH)||Yes||Independent|
|Fiji Airways||Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands||Nadi (NAN)||No (Alaskaair.com)||Independent|
|GOL Airlines||South America||Brasília (BSB), Rio de Janeiro (GIG), São Paulo (GRU & CGH), Fortaleza (FOR)||No (ExpertFlyer)||Independent|
|Hawaiian Airlines||North America||Honolulu (HNL)||Yes||Independent|
|Interjet||North America||Mexico City (MEX)||No||Independent|
|LATAM Airlines (ended April 30, 2020)||South America||Santiago (SCL), Sao Paulo (GRU), Lima (LIM), Bogota (BOG)||No||Independent after leaving Oneworld in April 2020|
|Seaborne Virgin Islands||North America||San Juan (SJU), St. Thomas (STT), St. Croix (STX)||Yes||Independent|
Can I use my miles to book for another person?
- Yes, American Airlines will let you book a flight for anyone you wish.
- Program terms and conditions prohibit selling miles, so you shouldn’t book for people you don’t know.
- American Airlines requires that the name on the credit card which is used to pay the award taxes and fees matches the name of the AAdvantage account holder.
Here’s a summary of how the other frequent flyer programs handle booking award flights for others.
How far in advance can I book my ticket?
- You can redeem AA miles up to 331 days before departure.
- Some of AA's partner airlines like British Airways and Cathay Pacific make awards available almost one month earlier.
Here’s our master resource on how far in advance you can book a flight with miles.
Can I put an AA award travel on hold?
- American has one of the most generous hold policies of any frequent flyer program.
- Members can hold an award for 5 days if the award is booked more than 14 days before departure.
- Between 1-14 days to departure, members can hold awards for 24 hours.
- Even within 24 hours of departure, you can get a hold until 2 hours to departure.
Does American charge a close-in booking fee?
- AA no longer charges a close-in-booking fee.
- In February 2020, American Airlines eliminated its $75 close-in booking fee.
More details: Some frequent flyer programs charge an extra fee when you book a ticket within 21 days of departure. American Airlines award travel no longer has this fee.
Does American charge a phone-booking fee?
- American charges a $30 fee to book by phone for travel within the U.S.
- The phone booking fee to book an international award ticket is $40.
- These fees are explicitly waived for tickets that cannot be booked on AA.com.
Pro Tip: Phone agents may still try to charge this fee when it should be waived. Make sure to insist or consider putting your award on a free five-day hold, and call back to confirm with a different agent who will waive the fee.
You can find the waiver and other award terms and conditions here.
“The American Airlines Reservations Ticketing Service Charge will be waived for all members redeeming miles for awards that cannot be booked on aa.com”
How much does it cost to include a lap infant?
- International awards — American charges 10% of the cash price of an adult ticket to add a lap infant to your reservation.
- Domestic awards — Within the U.S. or to Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, there is no additional cost.
- You can add your child to your ticket by calling AA reservations at 800-433-7300.
Here’s American’s resource on traveling with children and infants.
If you’re flying on a business- or first-class award, 10% of the retail ticket cost can be a lot of money. Here are the best award programs for traveling with a lap infant.
AA Award Travel Change and Cancellation Rules
The AAdvantage program really shines with its rules for travel changes and cancellation policy. The change or redeposit fee is quite expensive, but you won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be charged the fee for changes that would trigger the fee with other programs.
How much does American Airlines charge to change or cancel an award ticket?
- For awards ticketed before June 30, 2020, American Airlines is waiving change and cancellation fees on awards.
- Starting July 1, 2020, AA will charge up to $150 per passenger to change or cancel an award ticket.
- However, there's no fee if you make changes or cancellations more than 60 days from the date of travel.
When do I have to pay a change fee?
American Airlines used to differ from many other programs in not assessing a change fee as long as you keep the same origin and destination. However, with the new rules taking effect on July 1, 2020, that's changing.
You will be charged up to a $150 per-passenger fee for changes to the origin, destination, date of travel, routing, operating airline, and even changes to the specific flights you book.
Does American allow free changes within 24 hours?
The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines serving the U.S. to give travelers an opportunity to put itineraries on hold or to change or cancel a ticket for 24 hours after booking without penalty. American meets the requirement with the (up to) 5-day award hold, so it isn't legally required to allow cancellations in the 24-hour grace period.
With that said, American has historically honored free-cancellation requests within 24 hours of booking an award. Please let us know in the comments if your experience is different.
How to can I avoid change fees?
If your departure date is more than 60 days out, you can now change or cancel your American Airlines award travel without a fee.
The fee is up to $125 for changes or cancellations between 7 and 60 days to departure. However, if your plans change in this period, you may want to wait to see if there will be a change to your schedule.
Involuntary changes aren't subject to the same fees as those initiated by the passenger. If American makes a significant change to your reservation, it should waive any fees to rebook your award or redeposit the ticket. As long as you don't forget to take action more than 7 days before departure, you might escape the fee by waiting for an involuntary change.
Don't forget, AwardWallet tracks all your travel plans automatically (and alerts you to any changes) by importing reservations from your email or connected accounts. The best method for getting all your travel plans into AwardWallet is to link the email you use for reservations.
American Airlines Award Itinerary Rules
Can I book a stopover with American miles?
- American does not allow free stopovers.
- Any connection of 24 hours or more on an international award will result in paying for more than one award ticket
- Connections of up to 4 hours are allowed for domestic itineraries
American and Alaska have a lot of redemption partners in common. If you want to build in a free stopover on a one-way award, Alaska MileagePlan (program guide) is a great place to start.
Here are some awards we'd recommend booking with Alaska miles instead of American miles.
Can I book one-way travel with American miles?
- Yes, you can book one-way awards with American Airlines AAdvantage miles.
- American charges half the price of a round-trip award for one-way itineraries.
- However, some round-trip Web Special awards will price out cheaper than two one-way awards.
Pro Tip: For international tickets, be aware that many countries require proof of onward travel. Thanks to American's generous five-day hold policy, you can create a record locator for a return trip without actually confirming the ticket. If you prefer to have a confirmed reservation, consider booking a fully refundable ticket or use a ticket-rental service like OneWayFly.
Can I book an open jaw with American miles?
- American allows open-jaw tickets at both the origin and destination.
- An open jaw ticket that includes more than one region will be priced as two one-way awards.
If you aren’t already familiar with the routing scenarios covered above, check out our beginner’s guide to stopovers and open jaws.
Can I fly with multiple partner airlines on the same trip?
- Yes, American allows you to combine partners on an award ticket.
- Award prices are the same for all partner airlines, so there shouldn't be any extra cost if your flights are operated by more than one carrier.
- However, any itineraries including partner-operated flights are ineligible for Web Special pricing. So, it might be cheaper to book an itinerary that only has AA-operated flights.
Can I book an itinerary with multiple classes of service?
American charges the award price for the highest class of service you book on your itinerary. This differs from some programs like Avianca LifeMiles which charge a prorated number of miles based on the percentage of your trip in each class. With American, you won't save any miles by booking one flight in economy and other flights in business class.
However, American does not have any rules that prohibit you from booking a ticket with different classes of service (you may see this referred to as a “mixed-cabin award”). This is a good thing. In some situations, you might not be able to find business- or first-class awards for the entire trip.
For example, if you're flying from Amsterdam (AMS) to Boston (BOS) via New York, you might find a business-class ticket across the Atlantic, but the short flight from New York to Boston is only available in economy. You can lock in that award, and if the short flight becomes available in business class, you might be able to upgrade without paying any extra miles.
Most domestic “first-class” awards are treated as business class when you pair them with an international flight. In other words, you won't be charged the first-class price on an international business-class award because you add a domestic flight.
Pro Tip: American's mixed-cabin award rules generally work in your favor. But be aware that American will happy charge you the business-class price for itineraries with a 10-hour flight in economy and a 45-minute flight in business class.
Can I book a 'round-the-world ticket with American miles?
Some frequent flyer programs like All Nippon Airways offer a 'round-the-world (RTW) ticket at a discount compared to booking each award separately. Trips with stops in more than one award region (as defined here) are not a strength of the AAdvantage program.
American uses a zone-based award chart, which means that the price of travel between two regions (like Europe and the Continental U.S.) should be consistent regardless of the specific origin and destination airports. Prague to Los Angeles requires the same number of miles as Dublin to Boston—even though the former is twice the distance!
However, when your itinerary connects at an airport that is not in the same region as your origin or destination, American Airlines may charge you for each trip separately. For example, if you book a flight directly from Paris to New York, you’ll pay the Europe-to-U.S. price on the award chart. But if you fly from Paris to Doha (in the Middle East region) and then to New York, you’ve transited a “third region”.
As a general rule, you’ll pay more when you transit a third region. But American has a list of exceptions that don’t require separate awards. For analysis and in-depth examples, check out our post on American's third-region rules and exceptions.
American Third-Region Exceptions
|Africa||South Pacific||Middle East|
|Asia Region 1||Middle East||Asia Region 2 or Indian Subcontinent|
|Asia Region 1||Indian Subcontinent||Asia Region 2|
|Asia Region 1||South Pacific||Asia Region 2|
|Asia Region 1||Africa||Asia Region 2 or Middle East|
|Asia Region 2||Middle East||Indian Subcontinent|
|Asia Region 2||Africa||Middle East|
|Caribbean||South Pacific||South America Region 2|
|Central America||South Pacific||South America Region 2|
|Central America||Middle East||Europe|
|Central America||Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Middle East|
|Central America||Africa||Europe or Middle East|
|Europe||South Pacific||Asia Region 1 or Asia Region 2 or Middle East|
|Europe||Indian Subcontinent||Middle East|
|Europe||Asia Region 2||Middle East or Indian Subcontinent|
|Europe||Asia Region 1||Asia Region 2 or Middle East or Indian Subcontinent|
|Hawaii||Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Middle East|
|Indian Subcontinent||South Pacific||Asia Region 2|
|Indian Subcontinent||Africa||Middle East|
|Mexico||South Pacific||South America Region 2|
|Middle East||South Pacific||Asia Region 2 or Indian Subcontinent|
|North America||Middle East||Europe|
|North America||Africa||Europe or Middle East|
|Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Middle East or Hong Kong (HKG) on AA or Cathay Pacific|
|Asia Region 2||Asia Region 1|
|South America Region 2||South America Region 1|
|South America Region 1||South Pacific||South America Region 2|
|South America Region 1||Middle East||Europe|
|South America Region 1||Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Middle East|
|South America Region 1||Africa||Europe, Middle East|
|South America Region 2||Middle East||Europe or Africa|
|South America Region 2||Africa||Europe, Middle East|
|South America Region 2||Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Middle East|
North America includes the regions of the contiguous U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean unless otherwise noted.
You can find an in-depth discussion of the third region exceptions for AA award travel on the FlyerTalk forum. However, note that some of the content is outdated.
Itinerary Rules for Complex Award Bookings
The remaining routing rules aren't likely to be a factor for most award bookings. However, if you find yourself unable to book the flights you want online, one of these could be the problem. It's worth noting that American's reservations system is known to make mistakes. If you see a price in miles that is higher than what you expect based on the award chart, check these rules first.
It's also worth noting that few American reservations agents understand these rules (or even know they exist). If the computer says 110,000 miles, that's what the agent will try to charge you. Fortunately, the AAdvantage program does have a process for manually ticketing reservations when the system makes a mistake. If you've checked these advanced rules and the price doesn't look right, ask your agent to check with the rates desk or a supervisor.
Published route requirement
American's general rule is that awards must be booked on a published route. More specifically, the airline that flies you across the ocean (the overwater carrier) needs to sell a ticket between your origin and destination.
Let's take a trip to the Maldives for example. There's no better way to go than in Etihad's Apartments. However, in order to book an AAdvantage award, Etihad has to sell a ticket between your origin and Male (MLE). To confirm this, you'll want to check ExpertFlyer's Fare Information search.
While it's not as exact, you can also search the route on Google Flights and see if there's an option to book on Etihad.
If you're departing from a major airport such as New York City or Los Angeles, you aren't going to have any issues finding a ticket sold by Etihad:
However, there are no published fares on Etihad between Charleston (CHS) and Male:
So, you wouldn't be able to book an AAdvantage award on Etihad flights on this route. If you run into this dilemma, it may still be possible to book the ticket depending on the agent that's ticketing the award. Otherwise, you might need buy a separate “positioning” flight from the smaller airport to a major hub with a published fare to your final destination.
Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM)
“Maximum Permitted Mileage” is a lovely piece of jargon that means exactly what it says. For each origin and destination, there is a maximum number of miles you can travel. AAdvantage relies primarily on the “published route” requirement explained above. However, in cases where your desired award ticket isn't a published route, you may still be able to book it if the itinerary is less than 125% of the MPM.
Unfortunately, the MPM isn't published online. ExpertFlyer members can check the MPM under the “Travel Information” section:
- American allows up to two connections (3 segments) on one-way domestic awards
- American allows up to three connections (4 segments) on one-way international awards.
For round-trip travel, you'll be allowed the above one-way limits in each direction of travel. Your destination is the first stop that is more than 24 hours (international) or 4 hours (domestic). If your trip requires more than this limit, American Airlines will charge you for more than one award.
Married Segment Logic
In the past, American Airlines released award availability flight-by-flight. Say you wanted to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Frankfurt (FRA). If you found award availability on a flight from Los Angeles to Dallas/Fort Worth and on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Frankfurt, you could book the award. Likewise, someone just flying from Dallas to Frankfurt could also book an award on just that nonstop flight.
That all changed in late 2017. Instead of releasing award availability by flight, American Airlines now releases award availability by trip. Under these rules, you might only be allowed to book the Dallas to Frankfurt flight if you start in Los Angeles. If you want to start in Dallas, you might need to connect in Charlotte or Miami on the way to Frankfurt to book the cheapest award.
This irritating way of releasing award availability is referred to as “married segment logic” because the award availability for each individual flight is “married” to the entire itinerary. Put simply, American uses these rules to make the cheapest awards less convenient with the hope of getting you to pay more miles for a nonstop award.
American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be extremely valuable if you know how and when to use them. While there is certainly a learning curve for more complex itineraries, there are plenty of awards you can book at a great price with limited experience.
American's policy for putting award tickets on hold is among the most generous of any frequent flyer program. When planning travel that will require more than one type of miles, it's a huge asset to be able to lock in your AAdvantage award for up to five days while you figure out the other parts of your trip.
The rules for changing tickets are also a standout feature of this program. With the changes that take effect in July 2020, it will be more expensive to change your travel dates within 60 days of departure, but the new policy of allowing free changes outside of 60 days remains is far better than you'll find with many other programs.
The AAdvantage® booking rules are more complex than revenue-based programs like Southwest and JetBlue, but a little extra effort to learn how this program works can pay huge dividends. Other programs like Delta and United have moved towards dynamic award pricing—which means the price can vary widely. American Airlines continues to publish the number of miles you need to travel to each region. If you know the rules, you should be able to determine exactly how much an award will cost and plan accordingly.
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