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Can’t find AAdvantage award space for 2 or more people? Try this before giving up

by on Tue April 14, 2015 • 4 Comments


Finding award space on American Airlines’ own flights at the attractive MileSAAver level can be tough, especially if you’re trying to get to Europe this summer.

But there’s a little publicized way to get award seats that you won’t find when searching on

It’s called QMAX, which is the internal name for a system American Airlines phone agents can use to request that award space be opened up on your behalf.

It’s hit or miss, and well discussed in this FlyerTalk thread, but generally, QMAX is designed to open up award space in these situations:

  • When you need space for more than one person on a flight that already have some award space
  • To find space on a leg that lets you finish off an award (like flying Paris – Dallas – Austin, where the Dallas – Austin leg isn’t showing available)
  • If there’s a family emergency (generally medical situations or the death of a family member)

The most common situation you’ll find this useful will be if when need space for more than one person on a flight.

Let’s say you search for space for 3 people in your party, and don’t find anything available.

But if you change your search on for 1 or 2 people, you *do* see space available. That means there is space for 1 or 2 people, but that extra seat or two is not yet available.

In that case, it’s worth calling in and asking an AAdvantage agent whether QMAX can open up space so that all 3 of you can book an award on the same flight.

The method works for Economy, Business, and First Class awards at the lowest priced MileSAAver level, and it only works on American Airlines flights.

American can’t open extra space on partner flights like British Airways or Qantas.

It’s also helpful if the times that are available aren’t great.

Let’s say you’re flying Charlotte – New York – London, with a 6 hour layover in New York. You can request to have space opened up on a flight that gives you a more convenient layover.

And it’s worth considering for those times when the only option is an overnight layover, something often likes to sell.

There are no guarantees with this method.

It generally won’t work if the flights you want have no award space at all, like a nonstop flight from New York to Los Angeles with space for no one.

And it’s up to the whim of American’s revenue management algorithms.

But if you can’t find the MileSAAver award space you want on it’s definitely worth calling and politely asking whether QMAX will open up more space.

Consider it another arrow in your arsenal to avoid paying fuel surcharges on British Airways awards with AAdvantage miles.

And please, when you do call AAdvantage on 1-800-882-8880, be polite and ask nicely.

Unfortunately, Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus don’t offer similar programs for their awards, though if you are a top tier United Global Services member, you may find some exceptions granted.

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4 thoughts on Can’t find AAdvantage award space for 2 or more people? Try this before giving up

  1. Kathyrn

    QMAX was a bust for me. Booked 2 tickets on AMS-LHR-ORD-DFW on June 25, 2015. On 2-15-16 received email that the last leg flight had been cancelled and we were put on a next day flight forcing a 9 hour layover at ORD – 7:55pm to 5:00am. Requested a different route – offered several options from LHR – all were rejected – no awards available. Agent said she put in request to open seats but warned that I may or may not hear something. 2 weeks later. Have not heard a thing. Frustrating when those flights show many available (for fare) seats. GRRR

  2. Sam

    A much needed topic.

    However, the FT thread you cited on QMAX pretty much concludes that QMAX is no longer in use, and may have been shut down without announement along with the other April, 2014 changes to eliminate Explorer awards and stopovers.


      @Sam – There were 2 levels of discussion there. One was about the automated system, which agents can use to check if there was any space pre-authorized. The other was about manual requests to get space when none was pre-authorized in QMAX.

      The manual requests were eliminated. But the automated system to find inventory that we the public can’t see in special cases still exists. Had success while researching, and also noted here:

      But very hit or miss, and like many parts of AAdvantage something under constant watch by the new regime.


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