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American Airlines (AA) has just added the ability to book Japan Airlines partner awards to its website. A few months ago, Etihad awards were added to the AA site as well, making this the second major partner added in 2019. While this improvement will make it far easier to use American miles for international travel without a phone call, it will also make these awards more accessible to millions of frequent flyers, meaning more demand for a small and finite number of award seats.
Booking Etihad Awards
Like many frequent-flyer programs, Etihad makes more award seats available to its own members than it offers to partner programs like American AAdvantage. Prior to this change on AA.com, the best way to find award availability that could be booked by partners was to search for Saver Guest awards on the Etihad website. Now, it’s possible to search for the award space available to AA and other partners on the American website, which offers a convenient calendar view to see availability for up to an entire month at a time.
Although AA miles can be one of the cheapest ways to book Etihad flights, there are some unique restrictions when you connect in a part of the world that is in a different region on American's partner award chart than your origin or destination. Put simply, unless your connection is on a specific list of AA “third region exceptions”, you may pay for two separate awards instead of a single price from origin to destination.
For example, if you fly from North America to Europe via Abu Dhabi, you'll pay separately for North America to the Middle East and from the Middle East to Europe—adding a significant number of miles to the price tag. Fortunately, an exception has been added to this list for many of the other logical region pairs for which you might transit Abu Dhabi. If you're traveling from North America to Africa, you'll pay a single award price as long as you're flying with Etihad on both segments.
Booking Japan Airlines (JAL) Awards
Booking award space on JAL is straightforward. Typically, from the U.S. to Korea or Japan will set you back 35,000 miles in economy, 60,000 miles in business class, or 80,000 miles in first class. Travel from the U.S. to Asia 2, which includes Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, will set you back 37,500 in economy, 70,000 miles in business class or 110,000 miles in first class.
Asia 1 is a third region exception for travel to Asia 2, which means you can connect for 24 hours or less in Japan (or Korea) on the way to Southeast Asia without paying extra.
The ability to book Etihad and JAL awards online is welcome news and should make searching for the award you want easier. Both airlines are among the best in the world for business and first-class products, so they are a great choice to get maximum value from your American miles. It remains to be seen whether the additional exposure of these previously phone-only awards will have a meaningful impact on the number of seats available. Since the majority of American frequent flyers redeem miles domestically, concerns about the additional demand could be overblown.
Still, it's wise to start your award search as soon as you have dates in mind. Unlike most programs, American generously allows you to hold an award ticket for up to 5 days and doesn't charge a fee if you change the dates on an award ticket—so long as your origin and destination airports remain the same. These two benefits make it less risky to snag a seat as soon as you see it, and beat the less-informed award travelers to the punch.
With these perks, it's easy to justify the annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months.
- Free checked bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic itineraries
- Priority boarding to help you win the race for overhead bin space
- A 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
- Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
Source: One Mile At A time
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