Free Holds, Maximizing Award Regions, Other Tricks for Booking Awards Using AAdvantage<sup>®</sup> Miles Free Holds, Maximizing Award Regions, Other Tricks for Booking Awards Using AAdvantage<sup>®</sup> Miles

Free Holds, Maximizing Award Regions, Other Tricks for Booking Awards Using AAdvantage® Miles

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American Airlines AAdvantage® miles continue to be one of the most-valuable mileage currencies — particularly for booking some of the world's best first- and business-class flights.

During a time of seemingly constant devaluations, it's notable that the American Airlines AAdvantage® partner award chart has remained unchanged since March 2016. Perhaps one of the reasons for this consistency is that AAdvantage® miles aren't easily accumulated through transfer partners.

However, earning AAdvantage® miles became easier at the beginning of 2020 when Bask Bank introduced the Bask Mileage Savings Account. When it was first launched, account holders earned 1 AAdvantage® mile per dollar saved annually. Since then, Bask has doubled this mileage earning rate*. Now, you'll earn 2.5 AAdvantage® miles per dollar saved annually.?gdpr=${GDPR}&gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_78}&us_privacy=${US_PRIVACY}&cachebuster=[CACHEBUSTER]

We've focused previous posts on how far and wide AAdvantage® miles can take you. In this post, let's dive deeper into some of the techniques that you can use to leverage your AAdvantage® miles for even more value.

Why You Should Open a Bask Mileage Savings Account

With all of the amazing travel you’ll soon be exploring, you’re going to want an ample supply of AAdvantage® miles. One of our favorite ways to earn them is with the Mileage Savings Account from Bask Bank — the one-of-a-kind savings account that earns 2.5 American AAdvantage® miles per dollar saved annually.

It takes just a few minutes to open a new account, and once you do, you can put your savings to work earning miles for your next trip.

Even better, the terms and conditions are straightforward and consumer-friendly:

  • Earn 2.5 AAdvantage® miles per dollar saved annually.
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn from your savings.
  • No minimum deposit or minimum account balance to maintain; just fund your new account within 15 days of opening.
  • No monthly account fees.

Now, let’s dig into our favorite strategies for booking top-value award travel with those miles!

Hold an AAdvantage® Award for Up to Five Days

One of the least-known aspects of American Airlines AAdvantage® is that you can hold award availability for up to five days. And putting an AAdvantage® award on hold is completely free — there’s no mileage or cash cost.

Award holds are an essential tool when you find rare award availability — like Cathay Pacific First Class or Etihad Apartments. If you don’t have enough miles in your account to book right away, someone else could confirm those seats.

With the AAdvantage® program, you can protect those flights when you need a couple of days to scrounge up some AAdvantage® miles. Perhaps you need to transfer Bilt Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy points to AAdvantage®. Or, it could be near the end of the month, and your miles from Bask Bank are about to be deposited in your AAdvantage® account (miles are deposited on a monthly basis by the fifth business day of each month).

The length of the hold is determined by when you book the award:

  • 15+ days to departure: 5-day hold.
  • 1-14 days to departure: 1-day hold.
  • Within 24 hours of departure: Hold until 2 hours before departure.

Remember that American Airlines has eliminated award redeposit fees. So, there’s no risk or downside to confirming your award once you have enough AAdvantage® miles in your account.

How to Put an AAdvantage® Award on Hold

To place an AAdvantage® hold, simply go through the award booking process. Then, on the final payment page, select the “AAdvantage® Hold” option. No need to do the math on how long the award hold will be. American Airlines will let you know right there when the hold will expire.

place an AAdvantage award flight on hold

While you can find flights operated by most of American’s partner airlines online, it’s worth noting that AAdvantage® holds are also available on partner flights that can only be booked by phone. Just ask your AAdvantage® reservations agent to put your reservation on hold!

Be Aware of Third-Region Routing Rules — and Exceptions

Generally, American Airlines doesn't let travelers connect through a different region when booking an award between two regions. This is the restriction that keeps travelers from using AAdvantage® miles to book Qatar's award-winning Qsuite from the United States to Europe via Doha.

However, you aren't just limited to flying Qsuite to the Middle East. That's because American Airlines lets travelers connect through select regions on the way to another region on one award. For example, you can fly Qatar Qsuite from the United States to the Indian Subcontinent — including destinations like the Maldives — and anywhere in Africa.

By knowing these exceptions, you can maximize an AAdvantage® award booking by flying all the way from Seattle to Cape Town, South Africa in Qatar Qsuite for just 75,000 AAdvantage® miles each way:

Seattle to Cape Town South Africa in Qatar Qsuite

Likewise, you can connect through Asia Region 1 (e.g. Tokyo) on the way to Asia Region 2 (e.g. Singapore or Bangkok). Or, if you can find award availability, fly Cathay Pacific to the Maldives or elsewhere on the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong.

The key is knowing the exceptions to the third-region routing restriction. For reference, we put together this full list of (unpublished) allowable third-region routings:

AfricaSouth PacificMiddle East
Asia Region 1Middle EastAsia Region 2 or Indian Subcontinent
Asia Region 1Indian SubcontinentAsia Region 2
Asia Region 1South PacificAsia Region 2
Asia Region 1AfricaAsia Region 2 or Middle East
Asia Region 2Middle EastIndian Subcontinent
Asia Region 2AfricaMiddle East
CaribbeanSouth PacificSouth America Region 2
Central AmericaSouth PacificSouth America Region 2
Central AmericaMiddle EastEurope
Central AmericaIndian SubcontinentEurope or Middle East
Central AmericaAfricaEurope or Middle East
EuropeSouth PacificAsia Region 1 or Asia Region 2 or Middle East
EuropeIndian SubcontinentMiddle East
EuropeAfricaMiddle East
EuropeAsia Region 2Middle East or Indian Subcontinent
EuropeAsia Region 1Asia Region 2 or Middle East or Indian Subcontinent
HawaiiIndian SubcontinentEurope or Middle East
Indian SubcontinentSouth PacificAsia Region 2
Indian SubcontinentAfricaMiddle East
MexicoSouth PacificSouth America Region 2
Middle EastSouth PacificAsia Region 2 or Indian Subcontinent
North AmericaMiddle EastEurope
North AmericaAfricaEurope or Middle East
North America
(excluding Hawaii)
Indian SubcontinentEurope or Middle East or Hong Kong (HKG) on AA or Cathay Pacific
North America
(excluding Hawaii)
Asia Region 2Asia Region 1
North America
(excluding Mexico)
South America Region 2South America Region 1
South America Region 1South PacificSouth America Region 2
South America Region 1Middle EastEurope
South America Region 1Indian SubcontinentEurope or Middle East
South America Region 1AfricaEurope, Middle East
South America Region 2Middle EastEurope or Africa
South America Region 2AfricaEurope, Middle East
South America Region 2Indian SubcontinentEurope or Middle East

Let's look at an example of how knowing these third-region routing rules can make a difference.

Consider Positioning Flights Across Regions to Maximize Awards

Sometimes it's worth spending a little more to maximize your experience. And that can include adding in a positioning flight and potentially a different destination in order to unlock award availability.

For example, I recently searched for first- or business-class award availability from Bangkok (BKK) to the United States. Searching awards on returned no results. That's because award availability on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific is very slim going across the Pacific.

no AAdvantage award availability on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific

Frustratingly, if you search the same route on British Airways' website, you'll see that there's Qatar Qsuite award availability on this route.

Qatar Qsuite awards available on British Airways website

However, this award doesn't show on AA's website because AAdvantage® doesn't allow flying from Asia Region 2 to North America via the Middle East. So, you'd need to book this through British Airways for 95,000 Avios each way.

But do you know what is allowed? Flying from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Atlanta via Doha. And this award only costs 70,000 AAdvantage® miles one-way in business class.

Colombo Sri Lanka to Atlanta via Doha for 70,000 AAdvantage miles

That means you can save 25,000 miles — plus pay lower taxes and fees — by positioning from Bangkok to Colombo. Plus, you can add a visit to Sri Lanka to round out your trip to Asia.

If you're considering booking a positioning flight to unlock award availability, you should be aware of another trick to the AAdvantage® program: American will let you combine award flights with a revenue flight operated by American Airlines.

Tack on a Revenue Flight to an Award

Ideally, you can book an AAdvantage® award from your home airport to wherever you want to go. But unfortunately, award availability doesn't always allow for this. While there might be award availability on an overseas flight, a lack of award availability on a connecting domestic flight could blow up your plans.

Savvy travelers may book a separate flight from their hometown to the international gateway to bridge this gap. However, booking two different tickets can be risky. If your first flight is delayed or canceled, you could miss your international flight. And if this happens, the airline has no obligation to rebook you on a later flight.

Thankfully, you can avoid this thanks to a unique AAdvantage® policy. American Airlines will let you combine a cash fare with an award booking.

Say you want to fly from Austin, Texas to the Maldives on May 14, 2023. Currently, there's zero award availability on that date — not even in economy.

No AA award availability Austin Texas to the Maldives

However, American Airlines offers Qatar Qsuite award availability from Chicago to Male that same day for 70,000 AAdvantage® miles per person.

AAdvantage award flying Qatar Qsuite from Chicago to Male for 70,000 AAdvantage miles

And a cash flight from Austin to Chicago that morning costs just a couple hundred dollars.

cash flight from Austin to Chicago

How to Combine an AAdvantage® Award and Cash Booking

  1. First, put the award on hold. As we covered above, you can do that on AA's website at no cost.
  2. Next, call American Airlines reservations.
  3. Give the agent your PNR (the six-digit code that you got when putting the award on hold) and explain that you want to add a revenue ticket to this booking.
  4. Provide your flight preference if you have one.
  5. The agent should be able to add the revenue ticket to the same reservation and collect payment for both that revenue ticket and the taxes/fees on the award.
  6. Check your ticket carefully to make sure all flights are booked on the same ticket.

If you get an agent that's unfamiliar with this process, you may need to start over with a new agent. Thankfully, your award availability is being held for five days, so you don't have to stress about needing to call a couple of times to get it right.

Boost Your AAdvantage® Mileage Earnings Via Bask Bank

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Bask Bank. In December 2020, I shared that I moved all of my cash savings into a Bask Mileage Savings Account. That's not quite the case anymore. Since Bask Bank launched the Bask Interest Savings Account, I earn a mixture of miles and cash through Bask Bank.

As we mentioned at the top, Bask account holders now earn 2.5 AAdvantage® miles per dollar saved annually. That means a deposit of $10,000 will earn you 25,000 AAdvantage® miles over 12 months.

Even if you don’t have a lot of savings right now, it’s a no-brainer to open a Bask Mileage Savings Account. A small balance will still trigger a monthly deposit of AAdvantage® miles — which is a great way to keep your hard-earned miles from expiring.

And if you have significant savings to deposit, your Bask Mileage Savings Account can put you on the fast track to your next incredible redemption.

Final Thoughts

American AAdvantage® is one the most versatile and valuable frequent-flyer programs in the world. These miles can book flights with 23 different airlines to over 1,100 destinations in 180 countries.

Combine that with predictable and competitive prices for travel with partner airlines and the industry’s most generous policy for putting awards on hold, and it’s easy to love American AAdvantage®.

If you haven’t done so already, click over to Bask Bank and put your savings to work earning miles for your next trip.

Terms & Disclosures:
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Texas Capital Bank.

Bask Bank is a division of Texas Capital Bank. Member FDIC. The sum of your total deposits with (i) Bask Bank and (ii) Texas Capital Bank are insured up to $250,000. Additional coverage may be available depending on how your assets are held.

*Rates are variable and subject to change at any time.

4.3 / 5 - (6 votes)
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  • Captain Mike says:

    When connecting through Asia foe example SFO-TYO-SIN can you layover in TYO for a few days before moving onto SIN?

    • Not with AA miles. Unfortunately AA doesn’t allow free stopovers. But that’s something that other airline programs (e.g. Alaska, Aeroplan) offer.

  • Leonardo Barbieri says:

    Muchas gracias por este artículo, sigo de cerca con mucho interés todas las publicaciones de AAdvantage

    • Leonardo Barbieri says:

      Thank you very much for this article, I follow closely with great interest all the publications of AAdvantage

  • Very informative article. I consider myself to be well versed in redeeming AAdvantage miles but had no idea that they could combine award and cash flights into one ticket.

    Does this also apply to return flights? For example, if I flew on a cash open jaw ticket from LHR to an AA hub as an outbound, can I tag on an award domestic flight onto it before the return?

    • Quite possibly. I’d recommend holding the award and then calling to try to add the cash flight. I’d love to hear if this works, as I’ve never tried it with the longest segments being cash fares.