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The AAdvantage awards should you book now and alternatives

by on Mon March 14, 2016 • 5 Comments

American AAdvantage

Next week, on March 22, American AAdvantage will change the prices of many awards.

The good news is any award flight you book by then, even flown after March 22, can be booked at the old prices. That means you can lock in the old prices for flights through all of 2016, and even early 2017.

And as long as you’re traveling more than 3 weeks from now you can change the dates of your award free of charge any time if space opens up. American also lets you hold awards free of charge up to 5 days.

You can see a side by side comparison of all the new and old award prices here.

The bad news is award space for the awards that will increase in price the most, business and first class to much of Asia and Australia, are pretty scarce, so you’ll have a hard time locking something in at the old prices.

But others that are going up in price, like Business and First Class to Europe, or transcontinental First Class from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, still have decent award space, and there’s still time to lock the old prices in.

Here’s a rundown of the changes…

Who shouldn’t panic

The good news is most AAdvantage members saving for an Economy Class award aren’t going to see much change.  Award prices in Economy Class are about the same, or changing very little, so there’s not much to think about.

Here are key Economy Class changes from the U.S.:

  • Same: Domestic awards are unchanged at 12,500 miles one way, as are regular awards to Hawaii at 22,500 miles one way
  • Better: Short flights less than 500 miles within the U.S. are now 7,500 miles one way (better than 12,500 miles before)
  • Worse: Flights to Canada and Alaska are now 15,000 miles one way, up from 12,500
  • Worse: Flights to Hawaii during the off peak season are 20,000 miles one way, up from 17,500 miles
  • Better: Flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America are 15,000 miles one way, down from 17,500 miles
  • Worse: Off peak awards to Europe are 22,500 miles one way, up from 20,000
  • Worse: Flights to Australia are 40,000 miles one way, up from 37,500
  • Better: There’s now an off peak award to Asia 2 (China, Hong Kong Southeast Asia) for 32,500 miles one way, only on AA flights
  • Worse: No more off peak awards to Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, and off peak awards to Asia are only valid on AA flights

Business Class awards don’t have a lot of good news, but they aren’t being gutted either. Here are key Business Class changes from the U.S.:

  • Same: Business Class / domestic First Class awards within the U.S. are still 25,000 miles one way
  • Better: Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America Business Class awards are now 25,000 miles one way on AA flights, less than 30,000 miles now. And partner flights like Alaska Airlines are now 27,500 miles one way, less than 30,000 now.
  • Worse: Europe in Business Class is now 57,500 miles one way, up from 50,000 miles now. There’s also an extra 7,500 mile charge if your domestic leg is on AA’s LAX/SFO-JFK flights, or any other international style plane with 3 cabins in it (Economy, Business, and First).
  • Worse: Australia in Business Class is now 80,000 miles one way, up from 62,500 miles now
  • Worse: Asia in Business Class is 10-15,000 miles more expensive one way

They’re not great, but they’re not stunningly high price increases, and are generally cheaper than the prices you’ll pay with United or Delta miles.

Who should try booking now

Where the real hurt comes is in the price of ultra long haul Business and First Class awards, which are almost entirely going up. And AAdvantage is getting away with it by pricing most of them near the prices United MileagePlus and Delta SkyMiles charge today.

If you’ve been saving up for a super premium award, you know AAdvantage had some very special prices for some very special flights.

Looking at the global AAdvantage changes, below are the biggest old bargains from the AAdvantage award chart, along with alternatives and the few remaining bargains.

Southeast Asia in Business / First Class

  • Old: 55,000 miles Business / 67,500 miles First
  • New: 70,000 miles Business / 110,000 miles First

This was one of the greatest bargains on the AAdvantage award chart, letting you fly Cathay Pacific First Class to Hong Kong and beyond. The only good alternative here is Alaska MileagePlan’s Cathay Pacific award, which is 50,000 miles in Business and 70,000 miles in First.

Singapore KrisFlyer will let you get to Singapore for about 91,000 miles one way if you stick to Singapore Airlines flights, and KrisFlyer miles are easy to accumulate because they are a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.


Australia in Business / First Class

  • Old: 62,500 miles Business / 72,500 miles First
  • New: 80,000 miles Business / 110,000 miles First

United MileagePlus lets you fly for 70,000 miles in its own Business Class, but you’ll have to play the waitlist lottery most of the time if you’re hoping for a Business Class seat.

Alaska MileagePlan lets you fly for 60,000 miles in Business and 80,000 miles in First on Cathay Pacific and 55,000 miles one way in Business and 70,000 miles in First on Qantas.

U.S. transcontinental First Class

  • Old: 32,500 miles
  • New: 50,000 miles

American is the only airline with a 3 cabin First Class on flights from the West to East Coast (New York JFK – Los Angeles / San Francisco), and it’s jacking up the price of awards in its secluded 10 person First Class cabin by almost 50%. You can still sit in Business Class for 25,000 miles, but there’s no alternative to First Class.

The same price increase applies to Cathay Pacific’s New York JFK to Vancouver flight. If you have Alaska MileagePlan miles you can fly it for 35,000 miles one way.


North Asia in Business / First Class

  • Old: 50,000 miles Business / 62,500 miles First
  • New: 60,000 miles Business / 80,000 miles First

The new prices here aren’t terrible, and will remain among the best deals to get to North Asia. But the old prices were a steal, so lock them in while you can.

Alaska MileagePlan has Business Class for 50,000 miles on Cathay Pacific and you can fly in First Class for 70,000 miles.

If you use Singapore KrisFlyer miles and fly Singapore Airlines from the Los Angeles or San Francisco to Tokyo or Seoul, you can score First Class in Singapore’s Suites for about 75,000 miles when booking via


Middle East to Australia / South Pacific in Etihad Apartments

  • Old: 60,000 miles
  • New: 100,000 miles

Mile for mile this was one of the cheapest ways to enjoy a super premium flight and there’s not much alternative with the Etihad A380 only flying to Sydney, London, and soon New York at the moment.


Middle East to Europe in Etihad Apartments / Qatar First Class

  • Old: 40,000 miles
  • New: 62,500 miles

The new price isn’t impossibly high, but it’s hardly the bargain it was for 6-7 hours in some of the world’s best first class cabins, and there’s no real  alternative.


Remaining bargains

North Asia in First Class and Business Class

  • 80,000 miles one way in true First Class is still hard to beat by the big mileage programs, especially considering you can fly Japan Airlines’ top quality product. United MileagePlus charges 120,000 miles for its partner ANA, and Korean SkyPass charges 95,000 miles for its own First Class.
  • 60,000 miles one way is also hard to beat for Business Class on Japan Airlines or American’s own flights.

Asia to the Middle East in First Class and Business class

  • If you like hopping around on Etihad Airways in First Class, 50,000 miles for an 8+ hour flight is about as good a deal as you can get now. It’s only slightly up from the old 45,000 mile price.
  • And while Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights are also options in theory, they don’t fly First Class cabins against the Gulf carriers to the Middle East. Qatar Airways is also an option, though only on its Doha to Bangkok A380 flight with First Class.
  • Business Class for 40,000 miles one way is also a good deal, compared to 60,000 miles with United MileagePlus

How to play it

There are some alternatives that might outlast the changes:

  • For now, Alaska MileagePlan lets you redeem for American Airlines flights at prices similar to the old AAdvantage award chart, but don’t expect that to last long.
  • Alaska MileagePlan also allows awards on Cathay Pacific and Qantas at prices even lower than the old AAdvantage prices. Since Alaska is not a OneWorld partner, it’s possible these award prices may stay intact despite the AAdvantage change, given the agreements with Cathay and Qantas might be independent of any American Airlines relationship.
  • Singapore KrisFlyer and Korean SkyPass have tactical opportunities to fly First Class for prices that are a touch less than the new AAdvantage prices.

AAdvantage allows 5 day holds on awards, so if you see something there’s no risk to put it on hold, either via or by calling AAdvantage on 800-882-8880.



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5 thoughts on The AAdvantage awards should you book now and alternatives

  1. Jim O

    Why does AA charge 120,000 award miles to Sydney from Tampa and 37,500 miles for the return flights? Why such a big difference?


      @Jim O – It comes down to Saver award availability. Those 37,500 mile flights have inventory available at the lowest mileage prices. The other ones….AA is hoping to sell them for big $$.


    @marie – Right now the AA website isn’t working well for pricing awards – seems it may be overloaded. But if you see one with an AA flight to London, then BA flight to Amsterdam, the fees are quite low (about $20 extra vs all AA). Also, Iberia has lots of space on its JFK-Madrid flights – you can ask for those over the phone as they don’t display on Catch is many of the Iberia flights from Madrid to Amsterdam only have 2 seats per flight. You can search for Iberia space by setting up an account on the British Airways website (


      @marie – You just use the BA account to check availability. You can call AA directly to book what you see at the AA prices. Iberia flights with AA miles can only be booked over the phone.


    @Greg- 57,500 miles Business, 85,000 miles First are the new prices. Old prices were 50,000 Business and 62,500 First.


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