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Each frequent flier program has specific routing rules that can be a combination of simple or complex, lenient or strict and transparent or opaque… or anywhere in between.
American AAdvantage® has some of the more arcane routing rules around. The airline doesn’t publish most of the routing rules for the program, but the rules can be pieced together by calling in to speak with a representative and by searching flight availability online.
To start, you’re limited to three flight segments for each one-way award within the U.S. and Canada. So for example, New York to Tucson via Dallas is fine. But New York to Charlotte to Dallas to Phoenix to Tucson isn’t allowed.
And you’re limited to four flight segments for each one-way award everywhere else (eight segments for a roundtrip).
On top of that you’ll want to keep an eye on six factors to keep your award plans ‘legal’ at the lowest possible price.
In this article:
- Region definitions
- Routing exceptions
- Maximum permitted mileage
- Most direct routing
- Published fare
American Airlines’ award chart is based on regions.
For example, if you are flying from the North America Region to the Europe Region, your award is going to cost the same no matter where you’re flying from or to.
Here are all of American Airlines’ regions defined:
|Africa||Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
|Asia Region 1||Japan, Korea|
|Asia Region 2||Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam|
|Caribbean||Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Vigin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad/Tobago, Turks/Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands
|Central America||Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama|
|Europe||Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom|
|Hawaii||Any flight within Hawaii requires a separate award and is only valid on Hawaiian Airlines|
|Indian Sub Continent||Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan|
|Middle East||Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates|
|North America||U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, Mexico|
|South America Region 1||Bolivia, Brazil (Manaus only) Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru|
|South America Region 2||Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile, Falkland Islands, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|South Pacific||Australia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Palau, New Caledonia, Tonga, Vanuatu, American Samoa, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu|
|U.S.||Contiguous 48 states & Canada|
As a general rule, if you are flying from one region to another, you cannot touch any other region along the way.
For example, if you are flying from Los Angeles to Australia (North America Region to South Pacific Region) you cannot route via Asia unless you want to pay for two separate awards (Award 1: US to Asia, Award 2: Asia to South Pacific).
Photo via www.gcmap.com
But there are a few unpublished exceptions to this that are pieced together on the Traveling Better and FlyerTalk forums. These exceptions may let you go from one region to another while connecting in a third region.
This is generally because it would be impossible or very challenging to get to that region otherwise with American’s partners. American Airlines doesn’t publicize these exceptions and availability can vary. You may not be able to make certain reservations online. Instead, you’ll have to call AAdvantage for details.
From the mainland U.S., the key exceptions are:
- You can go to India via the Middle East (letting you use Qatar and Etihad via Doha or Abu Dhabi), Europe or Hong Kong (on Cathay Pacific only*
- You can go to Africa through theMiddle East, or via Europe (which is less attractive because of British Airways surcharges), but you can’t go via both Doha and Europe without paying for another travel reward for the second leg
- You can go to Asia Zone 2 (China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia) via Asia Zone 1 (Japan, Korea) – letting you fly Japan Airlines
To find out which transit regions are allowed when using one award redemption between two region zones, please contact American.
Note: If you’re traveling in Hawaii, flights on Hawaiian Airlines are charged separately for each segment. For example, a Maui to Honolulu to Kona flight will be charged as two separate awards.
Maximum permitted mileage
Each pair of cities that you can fly between has a maximum permitted mileage that you can fly to travel between the two cities. This isn’t the straight line distance between the two cities, but rather the number of miles you can fly while making a reasonable number of connections.
When you are booking an award with American Airlines, you are allowed to exceed MPM by 25%. The easiest way to determine MPM for your flight is by consulting ExpertFlyer.com, a paid membership program.
Most direct routing
American Airlines wants you to use the most direct routing possible to get to your location, subject to available seating. This rule is a little bit contradictory to the previous rule, but luckily this is based on the agent’s judgment that you are working with when booking over the phone and you shouldn’t run into trouble with it online.
Basically, as long as it doesn’t look like you are intending to fly an indirect routing, you shouldn’t run into any problems. If the agent suspects that you are trying to fly an indirect routing, they can break your ticket up into two separate awards, which would cost many more miles.
If this is the case, you should politely say no thanks and try calling a different agent.
You can fly long haul between two cities if the overwater carrier publishes a fare itinerary between the two locations.
Say, for example, you want to fly St. Louis to Cape Town via Dallas/Fort Worth and Doha using Qatar Airways. Qatar needs to publish the full travel itinerary from St. Louis to Cape Town. Here’s an example:
Finding published long haul fares from different cities shouldn’t be too much of a problem because airlines like to make money and if they don’t publish a paid fare between city pairs that people want to book, they won’t be able to sell tickets, which means they won’t make money on that route.
And an airline doesn’t actually need to fly the route to be able to publish a fare. They use partners and codeshares to get around that.
You can check published fares between two cities by plugging the cities into the airlines website or any online travel site (like Google Flights, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.). Then call American AAdvantage® to see if there’s award space available.
You can also search for fares and redeem miles directly on the American Airlines website for the following partners:
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cape Air
- Cathay Pacific
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qantas Airways
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
Tip: If you call to make a reservation and the AAdvantage award pricing is unusually high, not following a published fare may be the culprit. Show the agent the published fare from the airline carrier.
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 2 miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores & for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
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- Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
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See additional details for American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
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- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
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See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
You may be able to escalate to a supervisor who might be able to get a manual pricing override, though this is a pretty rare occurrence. The mileage required for a trip may vary.
One of the big downsides to American Airlines’ redemption program is that stopovers are not allowed. So you won’t be able to piece together a multi-city vacation without paying with multiple rewards.
A layover that is 24 hours or longer on an international award is considered to be a stopover, and will cause your itinerary to be priced as two separate awards.
When you are putting together an international award, the 24-hour limit applies to your domestic connections in addition to your international ones, so if you run into options that exceed this your award won’t price and you won’t be able to book it as one award.