American Airlines AAdvantage Program Overview

Today I’m going to introduce the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

I think the main reason why most people don’t collect miles is that they don’t see the value in understanding how points and mileage systems work.  Who really wants to research every mileage program in an effort to determine which is the best program for earning miles?

I’ll tell you who – me.

I’ll tell you why – so you don’t have to.

As a result, over the next few months, I’ll be featuring some of the basic, introductory material about different award programs.  That way if you’re new to the ‘game’, you can just read this cheat sheet rather than trying to compile all the information by yourself.

American Airlines Advantage Program Details

Published October 2011.  Changes after this date may not be accurate in this summary.

Partners:

American Airlines is part of the One World Partnership. One World Airlines include:

  • British Airways
  • LAN
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • JAL
  • Malev
  • Mexicana
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordinian
  • S7 Airlines

Award Booking Chart:  You can access a full award chart here or enjoy a quick look below:

AA Award Chart

 

Award Booking Chart Notes, Gems, and Cautions

One of the gems of the American Airlines program is the off-peak economy flights.  For example, a 40,000 mile round trip to Europe is amazing.  Unfortunately, to competitive destinations you’ll need to book almost as soon as the flights are available for booking.

Notice also the opportunity to fly to Asia (zone 1) for 50,000 round trip.

The 10,000 miles for booking wholly within countries puts Australia and New Zealand together as one.  10,000 miles between Australia and New Zealand is an outstanding opportunity.

Award Booking Policies and Possible Fees:

You can book award tickets on American Airlines 331 days in advance.

If you want to cancel an award ticket after you’ve made the reservation, it will cost $150 for the first ticket on the same itinerary booked from one account and $25 for each additional ticket.  The fee is waived for Executive Platinum members.  When you cancel your tickets, your miles will be re-deposited into your account.

You can make date changes to existing itineraries free of charge.  However, changes to departure or arrival cities will essentially involved the fees listed on the cancellation policy as you will be required to cancel your existing itinerary and book another one.

If you book your ticket within 21 days of departure, you’ll pay an extra $75.  This fee is waived for Executive Platinum, Platinum, and Gold members.

Of course, when you book using AA miles, you’ll be responsible for the taxes and fees associated with the ticket.  In the US, that is $10, and overseas it varies dramatically, based on airport taxes and fees.

One Way Policy:

American Airlines does allow one way reward ticket bookings.  This is very helpful for vacation planning.  Let’s say you want to tour around Europe.  Well, you could fly into Paris and out of Rome.

Stop Over Policy:

American has a very poor stop over policy.  Unfortunately, you can only stop over on international flights, and the stop must be in the US hub city.  This means on a flight from Denver to Santiago, Chile that went through Miami, they would allow a stop over in Miami, but not any other cities in South America that you might happen to pass through.

Hold Award Ticket Policy:

You can hold an award ticket for five days.  This is actually one of the best on hold reward ticket booking policies.

Fuel Surcharge Policy:

American Airlines does not charge fuel surcharges on award tickets.  However, when flying on British Airways (using AA miles), you will pay a fuel surcharge.

American Airlines AAdvantage Award Ticket Availability

According to WebFlyer.com, American Airlines was ranked #4 (tied with three other airlines) in terms of availability (check October 2011).  They show American with a 61% success rate when booking rewards.  This means that when 61% of people try to book their rewards, they are able to find available flights between the city pairs on their desired dates.

Major Earning Opportunities:

American Airlines has very good award earning opportunities.  This includes everything from the Citit AAdvantage credit card to changing your energy provider.  You can get a full list of earning opportunities here.

Overall Rating of American Airlines AAdvantage Program

Scale = Poor – below average – average – above average – strong

Depending on your travel needs and preferences, I think AA has a strong frequent flyer rewards program.

What are your thoughts about the AAdvantage program?  What other information would you like included on these summary lists?

Comments

  1. Matt says

    I think it is also worth mentioning that they have other partnerships (outside of One World Alliance) as well. For example, I recently used American Airlines miles to book a flight from Portland to Cabo on Alaska Airlines. Fortunate for me too, because award flights to Cabo on American Airlines would have taken me all the way to Dallas before backtracking to Cabo.

    • Craig says

      Matt,

      You are correct that American has a code share with Alaska Airlines. Technically, this is different than the partnerships in the traditional sense. Either way, yes, you can use miles to fly on Alaska Airlines.

  2. Carol says

    Thanks Craig. I am not familiar with code shares. Suppose I did want to use my American miles to fly on Alaska Airlines … how would I go about doing that?

    • Craig says

      Carol,
      Code share flights are flights where two airlines use the exact same flight. For example, AA flights 245 and Alaska Airlines flight 385 (just made up those numbers) are actually the exact same flight. American can sell tickets for the flight and Alaska can sell tickets for the flight. However, in this case the flight may be operated by Alaska. Thus, you buy an American Airlines ticket and you fly on Alaska Airlines.
      To book a codeshare on Alaska Airlines you can just contact AA and let them know the Alaska Airlines flight you’re interested in taking.
      Does that make sense? Let me know if you have any other follow-up questions.

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