10 best uses of American Airlines miles: Visit Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean and more

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American Airlines miles can get you around the world on more airlines than you might think thanks to its partnerships with other airlines. There are sweet spots and savings with these partners to popular destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe and, of course, right here at home when you fly with American. Lots of people (and many of us on the MMS team) tend to collect miles for high-value awards that would otherwise cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in cash. You can use our expertise to save money and book your next trip at a huge discount.

What are American Airlines miles?

The first thing to know about how to use American Airlines miles is there are two award charts: One for American Airlines flights and the other for partner awards. While there’s a lot of overlap, there are a few differences. Depending on which carrier you want to fly, make sure to look in the right place.

The first thing to note about American Airlines’ miles is that American Airlines moved to dynamic pricing. This is a bit of a bummer, as it’s harder to pin down specific prices for award flights. But it also opened up the doors for some amazing deals. Just recently prices dropped (briefly) to 10,000 miles round-trip for flights to New Zealand, and with the introduction of the American Airlines Economy Web Specials, one-way prices starting at 5,000 miles are available on all sorts of routes. Note that the Economy Web Specials can be great deals, but they can’t be changed once ticketed (your only option would be to cancel the award and have the miles redeposited for a hefty fee).

Once you’ve set up an American Airlines account and earned some miles, you’re ready to start booking travel.

American Airlines award chart

If you want to fly on American Airlines, whether domestically or abroad, refer to the American Airlines award chart. Here is the chart for economy awards:

You can redeem your miles for multiple levels of awards, including:

  • Off-peak flights
  • MileSAAver awards (the lowest level)
  • AAnytime Level 1
  • AAnytime Level 2

Typically, the best awards are MileSAAver awards, especially when you can book travel during off-peak seasons. With certain awards, you’ll save miles by flying on American Airlines, but that’s the exception instead of the rule.

Oneworld and partner award chart

Other times, you’ll need (or want) to use American Airlines miles to fly on an airline partner. In that case, you’ll want to check the Oneworld and partner award chart. Below is the partner award chart for economy awards:

You’ll notice most off-peak dates are gone here, except certain flights to Europe, and a couple of awards cost a bit more. But for the most part, flying on a partner costs the same as flying American Airlines and in many cases, that’s preferable.

You can use American Airlines miles to fly on any Oneworld airline, including:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Air Lines
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7
  • SriLankan Airlines

Other American Airline partner airlines include:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air
  • Cape Air
  • China Southern
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines (except flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii)
  • Seaborne Airlines

You can book almost every partner airline on the AA website except for China Southern Airlines, Interjet, Etihad and LATAM. With those, you must call AA reservations at 800-882-8880. There’s usually a $25 phone booking fee, but you can ask them to waive it.

Best ways to use American Airlines miles

Now, I’ll highlight 10 of the best uses of American Airlines miles.

1. Mainland U.S. or Canada

You can book any short American Airlines flight 500 miles or less within the U.S. and Canada for only 7,500 American Airlines miles each way in coach. All other flights are 12,500 each way to/from anywhere in the U.S. or Canada except for Hawaii or Alaska. In reality, however, you can easily find flights for much less thanks to dynamic pricing and the AA Economy Web Specials. I regularly book flights for 5,000-6,000 one-way, but I’ve found that typically the best prices are for flights at less convenient times.

Just take a look at the dozens of options (marked in blue) you can book from Chicago for only 5,000 miles each way. There are tons more options for 6,000-10,000 miles, which is still less than the standard price.

2. World’s best business class

The Qatar Airways Qsuite is regarded by many as the best business class in the world thanks to exceptional service and a revolutionary seat. Each seat is contained in a fully enclosed suite and the middle seats can even fold down into a double bed. Not only that but the barriers between certain sections of the middle seats also can be removed to create a common dining or leisure area for four seats.

Qatar Airways Qsuite business class cabin. (Photo by Eric Rosen)

American Airlines charges 70,000 miles each way from the U.S. to Doha in business class. As long as things don’t change Qatar Airways will have a Qsuites equipped plane serving all its U.S. routes by August 2020. These are the U.S. cities where you’ll be able to find Qsuite award to/from Doha:

  • Atlanta (starting May 2020)
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami (starting August 2020)
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Washington

3. Visit Hawaii off-peak

If you can line up a trip to Hawaii on American Airlines’ off-peak dates, you can save 5,000 miles off the normal round-trip coach price. Off-peak dates to Hawaii are:

  • Dec. 29th – Mar, 12th
  • Aug. 11th – Nov. 18th
  • Nov. 24th – Dec. 10th

Off-peak dates from Hawaii are:

  • Jan. 7th – Mar. 19th
  • Aug. 18th – Nov. 27th
  • Dec. 3rd – Dec. 25th
Hawaii has no shortage of beautiful beaches. (Photo by guiklaime/Shutterstock)

During these times, you’ll pay 40,000 American Airlines miles for a return trip to the Hawaiian Islands. This is especially helpful if you’re flying from the East Coast or Midwest since cash flights are expensive. If you’re OK with the restrictions of the AA Economy Web Specials, there are deals available for 15,000 miles one-way to Hawaii.

4. A sweet spot to the Caribbean or Mexico

Just like Hawaii, you can get a deal and pay the domestic coach price to visit the Caribbean (including Bermuda) or Mexico during off-peak times, which are:

  • September 9 to November 18
  • April 21 to May 20

Outside of peak times, you’ll pay 12,500 American Airlines miles each way in coach from anywhere in the mainland U.S. or Canada. So if you find yourself needing a spring or fall getaway, give this one a shot and see what you can find. Thanks to the Economy Web Specials, you also can find deals from 10,000 miles each way during peak season and even less in the off-season.

Take a look at these prices from New York to the Caribbean and Mexico:

5. Anywhere in Europe

Thanks again to American Airlines’ broad regional definitions, you can visit any European country for only 30,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach. This is the only award that has off-peak dates for partner airlines, which fall between:

  • January 10 to March 14
  • November 1 to December 14

During these times, you can visit Europe for only 22,500 American Airlines miles each way, which is a great deal. You could visit places off the beaten path, like Croatia, Romania or Serbia or places that are usually expensive, like northern Europe and Scandinavia. And thanks to Economy Web Specials, I was able to dig up one-way flights to Europe from 20,000 miles, even during peak season.

6. Business class to Japan or South Korea

Anywhere in China, Japan or South Korea is considered the Asia Region 1 and you’ll pay 60,000 American Airlines miles each way in business class. This is a real treat when you consider you can book an award with Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific business class is a great use of AA miles. (Photo by Zach Honig)

I’ve been dying to visit Seoul.  Even better, you can mix partners on the same award. Team member Jasmin booked an award from Asia back to New York on both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines and got to experience both airlines.

This is by far one of my favorite awards with American Airlines miles.

7. Deals to Australia or New Zealand

Speaking of mixing carriers, you can fly to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui or Fiji with Fiji Airways, then onward to Australia or New Zealand on Qantas. Some members of the MMS team have flown from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji, then to New Zealand for an incredible trip. You can do it too, for 40,000 American Airlines miles one-way in coach, 65,000 miles in premium economy or 80,000 miles for business class.

Again, I found awards on American Airlines operated flights for less than what the AA award chart advertises. But I only found discounted economy awards and, thanks to dynamic pricing, premium economy and business-class awards were more expensive.

Be aware that nonstop flights in premium cabins to Australia are scarce at best. But if you’re willing to connect in Fiji or Tahiti, you have a much better chance of piecing together an award. There are worse things in life than having a layover in Tahiti.

8. Anywhere in Africa

Here’s the best example of American Airlines’ zone-based pricing — all of Africa is one region. If you haven’t noticed, Africa is big, so take advantage.

You can fly all the way down to South Africa, or stop at any of the cool countries on the way like Kenya or Zimbabwe. Your best shot is flying over on Qatar Airways and connecting in Doha. Otherwise, you can connect elsewhere in Europe. (If you can avoid flying through London you’ll save on taxes.) American Airlines doesn’t fly to Africa, so you’ll have to find a partner award flight and pay:

  • 40,000 miles each way in coach
  • 65,000 miles each way in premium economy
  • 75,000 miles each way in business class
  • 120,000 miles each way in first class

That’s a bargain for all the flying you can get, not to mention all the amazing adventures awaiting you in Africa.

9. Reduced Mileage Awards

If you have certain American Airlines credit cards, you can get a 7,500-mile discount on round-trip coach flights with the American Airlines Reduced Mileage Awards. The awards you can get change regularly, so it’s worth checking if you like to travel domestically.

Cards that qualify for the biggest discount for flights over 500 miles include the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

There are frequently lots of small regional airports on the list. So if you call a rural town home, you can save some miles when you head back for a visit. Plus, doesn’t everyone want to visit Manhattan, Kansas?

But seriously, this is worth keeping an eye on.

10. Your own apartment in the sky

Update: This might not be available going forward. The CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, Tony Douglas, said in an interview with The National that the airline’s Airbus A380s may soon become a casualty of the pandemic. 

This one isn’t for everybody, and that’s all right. But if you want one of the most opulent, over-the-top airplane experiences, it is hard to compete with. You can fly in Etihad’s first-class apartment for 115,000 American Airlines miles each way between the U.S. and Abu Dhabi with your own huge bed, onboard shower, lounge access and private chef. Yes, for real.

Inside the Etihad Apartment class. (Photo by Zach Honig)

That’s a lot of miles, but considering these seats can sell for $10,000+, you can get one of the most unforgettable trips of your life. Currently, you can’t search for Etihad awards through the American Airlines site, so you’ll need to call in to book.

Best ways to earn American Airlines miles

The quickest way to earn American Airlines miles is by earning the bonus on one of the top American Airlines credit cards.

You can earn American Airlines miles with cards like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, which currently has a bonus of 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening. This card also comes with benefits that mimic American Airlines status perks, like a free checked bag and preferred boarding. We’ve even included it in our list of best airline credit cards

For more ideas, check out our guide to the 9 best ways to earn more American Airlines miles

Bottom line

American Airlines is part of the Oneworld alliance, so AA miles are an excellent way to book awards with world-class carriers like Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Now that American Airlines has begun the march toward all-out dynamic pricing, you can also find excellent deals when booking awards on American Airlines-operated flights. I regularly book domestic flights for 5,000 or 6,000 miles each way.

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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