Booking an American Airlines AAdvantage Award flight is simple enough, but making sure that you are getting a good deal on those hard earned miles is a little trickier. When booking an AAdvantage award flight it is important to first review the AAdvantage award chart, found here. The AAdvantage award chart will help you understand how to achieve maximum value your AAdvantage miles. The award chart is not as generous as it was just a little over a year ago, but there are still some sweet spots! It is important when reviewing the AAvantage award chart to also review the “Details on Award Travel” section to check which dates are considered “off-peak.” Off-Peak awards will generally help you get the most out of your mile if you do not mind traveling to certain areas during parts of the year with less than ideal weather.
Once you have reviewed the AAdvantage award chart and have a better understanding of where and you would like to travel you are ready to begin looking for the perfect flight. I will be using an example I just booked for the purpose of this post.
First, visit the Find Flights page of the American Airlines website. Next, make sure to select “AAdvantage Award” at the top of the search box to search for award travel only.
The above is an example of traveling from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) in late march. When booking award travel, it is best to select dates flexible to see available flights around your desired travel date. Also, when booking award travel, it is best to book several months early or very close to your desired departure date as those are generally the periods when the airlines open up award space. For this example, traveling in Business Class using the MileSAAver level. When you click continue, you will arrive at the page to select your flights.
In the above screenshot, you’ll notice there is plenty of available business class availability, but much of the open award space is on British Airways, which is fantastic, except British Airways (BA) charges fuel surcharges.
As you can see, when traveling on a transatlantic British Airways flight in business class, BA will charge an additional $485.00. When traveling on American, the charge is only $5.60! Sure, British Airways business class is a little better than American’s, but hard to say it is worth an additional $480.
When searching for flights, you can eliminate any partner airlines from your search by selecting “American Airlines and American Eagle” at the bottom of the first screenshot above. When you check that option, you may notice a significant drop in MileSAAver availability, but at least you will not be selecting flights that charge insane fuel surcharges.
Another area to consider when booking award travel is the type of aircraft and seat you will actually be sitting in. For this particular example, you have the option of flying non-stop on a 767-300 or connecting through Dallas on a 787-800 and onto Paris on a 777-200. Of the two options, it would be great to visit the airline lounges in Dallas and spend some time on the new American Airlines Dreamliner, but you will be sitting in an older business class seat that does not lie flat from Dallas to Paris. The non-stop flight features American Airlines 767-300 Retrofit with fully lie flat business class seats! Obviously one redemption option is a much better value. In fact, one could spend an extra 30,000 AAdvantage miles to fly First Class MilesSAAver from Chicago to Paris by connecting through Dallas, but again you would be sitting in an older First Class seat which is only slightly better than the seat featured on the 767-300 retrofit. A guide to help you get the best seat can be found here.
Once, you book your AAdvantage award flight, you can change your reservation to any other flight with the same availability for free or cancel and redeposit your AAdvantage miles for $150. The $150 fee is not ideal, but at least you do not loose your miles.
I hope this helps when trying to book an AAdvantage Award flight, it is also important to note that booking an award flight is best done on a real computer rather than trying to use the mobile version or mobile application. Also, remember to use miles wisely as they can often be used for a flight that costs significantly more than the price you paid to earn them.