You Can Now Use AAdvantage Miles to Pay for Seat Reservations on American Airlines

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American Airlines has started rolling out a new way for AAdvantage members to redeem miles. As American Airlines confirmed to AwardWallet this afternoon, AAdvantage members can now use their miles to purchase seat reservations on select routes.

Business Class on American Airlines 777-300

Key Terms

Here's what we were able to confirm with an American Airlines spokesperson:

  • Starting May 19, 2020, AA customers can purchase seats using miles.
  • This option is only available on AA.com when viewing a ticketed reservation in your AAdvantage account. This redemption option is not currently available during the booking process.
  • This is currently only offered on tickets originating from these 10 airports: Atlanta (ATL), Austin (AUS), Nashville (BNA), Denver (DEN), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT), Raleigh/Durham (RDU), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Orange County (SNA)
  • AAdvantage miles are redeemable for seat selection for both domestic and international itineraries.

This 10-airport rollout means that not all AAdvantage members are going to be able to utilize this option now. However, this is likely a small-scale test before a larger rollout.

Is this a Good Deal?

Whenever loyalty programs offer a new way to redeem miles, the first thing we want to know is: is it a good deal? Just because you can spend your miles this way doesn't necessarily mean that you should. The key detail is the conversion rate that American Airlines is using for these redemptions.

The folks at Milenomics made a dummy booking from one of the listed cities and found that AA is valuing miles at 1¢ each towards seat purchases. We don't have confirmation that all AAdvantage members will get 1¢ per mile for all seat selections. It's possible that this value could fluctuate for future reservations as AA continues to roll out this program.

While my baseline value for AAdvantage miles is around 1.5¢ each, this could still be a useful option in some situations. If you only have a few thousand miles in your account, there aren’t many ways to turn them into something of value.

If you have a larger balance, the value of your American miles depends on how you use them, and how easily you can earn more. If you use miles for international business class or book last-minute flights, your savings on award tickets could easily be two or three cents per mile. In that situation, redeeming miles for one cent apiece on seat selection is a terrible idea.

But on the other hand, folks with a lot of miles (and limited date flexibility when they travel) might not have many opportunities to book the cheapest SAAver awards. If you often book higher-priced awards, the one-cent valuation could be just fine. As long as you make an informed choice about whether to use the new feature, having more options is always a good thing.

Final Thoughts

If you don't have elite status with American Airlines, seat selection can be a particularly stressful part of booking a flight. If you've just managed to find the best deal on airfare, the last thing you want to do is give up all your savings by paying for a seat reservation.

The ability to use a few thousand AA miles to snag a better seat is a great development. Increased flexibility when redeeming miles is always positive, but in this case, AA has also managed to offer something that could genuinely improve the customer experience.

Would you use AAdvantage miles to reserve a seat?

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Comments

  • Not sure if this is a good value. I suspect not

    • As the article mentioned, it depends. For those who don’t travel often and have low balances and compete with mileage expiration, it could be worth it. But all of us know 1cpp is a terrible redemption rate.

  • tassojunior says:

    United is letting you pay your Chase card annual fee at 1.5 cents per mile. I suspect it costs them something. American is only giving 1 cent per mile for something that costs them nothing. Shame.

    • Wow. I’m really impressed. 1.5cpp is above average for United so that’s actually a fairly solid use of miles.

  • I guess it would depend upon the situation if I wanted to use my miles to pay for the seat or not.

  • Any additional options to use/earn miles are worth a look. This one is just so-so.

  • Florencia says:

    Just because you can spend your miles this way doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Spending miles to reserve seats never convinced me. You can get good seats by being the first to check in.

  • María de los Dolores Sanchez says:

    Can I use my miles for a cheap ticket to Miami?
    Whether do Flights from Argentina start?
    Thank you

  • Personally, I would, especially at that price, pay cash and receive the additional miles, however few they are to save up for a really big award redemption.

  • If I was not a regular flier on AA, and was traveling with a family (especially with kids), what a great way to give some level of confidence that we could be in a seat which we could pick and not end up in the last few rows…. nice to see this flexibility….

  • I will not avail myself of this “benefit” / “feature.”

  • AA should wants those miles spent quickly.

    • Yep, two things they need: increases in cash and reduced liabilities. This lowers their cash but reduces their liability at a greater than 1:1 ratio (in their favor) so it’s certainly a win for them. And some people won’t care and some will like it so it’s really a win/win all around.

  • Juan Ignacio says:

    It’s quite similar if we compare it with Flyingblue… the main difference is that as a FB member you can earn miles with seat reservations.

  • In certain circumstances, this could be a good deal.

    • It depends on how you define deal. I would say most people focus on the redemption rate to determine what is a good deal and what isn’t.

  • That’s legitimately kind of surprising in a time where they need cash. It reduces their liabilities in a way that benefits them more than the consumer but it forgoes cash now. Interesting.

    • I suspect many people who use this option wouldn’t have paid cash instead so overall a benefit to American in liability reduction.

  • Very nice alternative when your kids have a couple of thousands miles and it’s not possible to redeem any kind of trip. Now this option could add value to these miles.

    • I’d rather make the occasional shopping portal purchase if necessary and let them build up – even if the first free flight isn’t until a decade later.

      Actually literally now as I see that typed out, with a decade of devaluations and potential compounded interest on your money saved vice spending it, maybe this can be a good redemption for those in that situation. Hmm. Thanks for provoking me to talk that through.

  • Not a bad thing for people that dont have many miles.

  • Something Delta has had for years – ability to use miles at 1c/mi if you are a credit card holder for flights, seat upgrades, etc.

  • I’m always glad to have new uses for miles!

  • Steven William Van Meter says:

    There are certain things that one takes for granted… like seat assignment. This may work for some, but i’m not sure if this works for me and my family. Probably good for business travellers.

  • I don’t think that I understand. I thought that when you buy a ticket, you get to pick your seat on American. I know that Southwest doesn’t assign seats.

    • You do generally get to assign a seat, but the free options are limited to those towards the back or in the middle. This is a way to use miles to pay for the seats that cost extra.

  • It’s definitely not the worst deal, and if I was sitting on a small amount of miles at the time, I’d consider it. But normally I’d say no.

  • Are these for main cabin extra seats or something else?

  • It’s always great to have more redemption options. I can see this as being a fantastic use for orphan AA miles that would otherwise not be used.

  • I’ve never understood the concept of having to pay to choose your seat. You’re already paying to fill a seat on that plane (and paying for baggage and taxes and fees etc etc), and I think you should just be able to choose your seat based on availability at the time of booking just like you do when you go to the movie theater.

  • Silvia Espinosa says:

    It could be a good deal if part of your miles are about to expire and this could help you have activity in your account

  • The airlines are blocking middle seats and rearranging seat assignments at boarding time to rebalance the weight and create more distance between passengers to prevent the spread of virus. In this environment, I’m concerned that I might not get the seats I preselected even if I paid for it with cash or miles.

  • Looking at it purely from the “cents per point” angle it’s not a good deal, but as others state it’s all subjective depending on things such as how easily you earn the miles, and any costs you associate with that earning (ie. if you’ve bought them for 1.1 cents, it seems mad to use them somewhere you will only get 1 cent of value – however if they’re expiring, then go for it)

  • Considering the value received for booking a seat it’s definetely not a way I’ll spend my AAdvantage miles.

  • Will be particularly useful if airlines start to bring BACK those pesky mileage expiration time limits!

  • But do you have to pay for more expensive “Main Cabin” seat to do this or can you still book the cheaper “Basic Economy” fare and then upgrade after? Wouldn’t surprise me if AA is withholding from those who pay the base fare.

  • Harvey Kwan says:

    Good for people that have a lot of AA miles to use.

  • Santiago says:

    I think is not a bad thing for people that dont have many miles.

  • If you have a small amount of miles this could be useful.

  • It seems interesting if some of your miles are about to expire. But you can always get a decent seat choice at no charge by getting earlier at the check in counter.

  • I hope to fly on AA very soon 🙁

  • Katy Metson says:

    For someone like me with a small mileage balance, this may not be great value, but at least I can spend my miles for something useful!

  • Shame MIA is not on the list I would have used for seats to SJU. I wonder if miles for baggage will follow.

  • Maria Jose says:

    I think it’s a really good idea, specially when you don’t have many miles in your account. I would use it and appreciate it.

  • One more option to use miles! I think this is a good deal

  • The quicker you use the AA miles, the better probably. Too much uncertainty with them right now for me.

  • Taking something that should be free and asking customers to pay is terribly bad idea.

  • Micaela Miodownik says:

    Does it work for other One World airlines as well?

    • JT Genter says:

      Just limited to AA flights in certain markets for now. It could be expanded to other airlines, but I doubt that they would be able to do so easily.

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