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How to book American Airlines flights with Citi ThankYou points

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This article was last updated Mar 28, 2016, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

With the addition of several airline mile transfer partners, Citi ThankYou® Rewards turned from a boring, run-of-the-mill point program into a first-rate travel rewards program that could eventually give Chase Ultimate Rewards® and American Express Membership Rewards® a run for their money.

Since Citi ThankYou® Rewards has partnerships with airlines from all three alliances, you can redeem your points on any member airline from any alliance. And even though American AAdvantage® isn’t a transfer partner, you can still book American flights using five of Citi’s transfer partners that are also partners with American Airlines, so you can book American Airlines flights using their award prices:

  • Qantas Frequent Flier
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Qatar Airways Privilege
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich

You’ll find if you put in a little legwork, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest, and Malaysia Enrich can offer good reward values for many American Airlines flights, especially for international Business and First Class, and we’ve verified you won’t have to pay big fuel surcharges to book them.

Here’s the rundown of where each is strong…

Booking an American award with Qantas miles

Qantas has a distance-based redemption scheme, and it’s not a good one. The Qantas distance-based chart for American is pretty steep: 45,000 miles for the round-trip flight in economy between New York and Los Angeles, 56,000 between New York and London, or 90,000 between LA and Sydney. And if these numbers don’t look too bad for you (although they should, except London), don’t forget the hefty fees you’ll be paying in fuel surcharges for flights across the Atlantic and Pacific.

Verdict: Not recommended

Booking an American award with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

The Cathay Pacific award chart is also distance-based, and it’s more reasonable than Qantas. One issue with Cathay Pacific is that it charges more than half the price of a roundtrip for a one-way flight, but other than that, the prices aren’t bad, especially if the flight you want will be expensive in cash.

Best for: Long flights in Business Class, which you can get on just about any American Airlines route for 80,000 – 145,000 miles or less roundtrip.

Here are some AA redemption values you’ll get with Cathay’s Asia Miles. All values are round-trip, and some of them are not bad considering the recent AAdvantage devaluation. There are no fuel surcharges on these flights, which is another plus.

  • JFK–LAX: 30,000 in economy, 50,000 in business, 70,000 in first.
  • JFK–LHR: 45,000 in economy, 80,000 in business, 120,000 in first. (basically anywhere east of the Rockies to Europe gets this rate)
  • DFW–HKG: 45,000 in economy, 80,000 in business, 145,000 in first.

The Asia Miles award chart is below.

Asia Miles calculates the distance by adding up the distance of each flight, so if you fly for example Baltimore to Los Angeles via Chicago, it will add up the distance of the Baltimore to Chicago and Chicago to Los Angeles flights to determine your Award Zone. Unless you’re going really out of your way with a connection, it will be pretty close to the nonstop distance between the cities you want.

But the easiest thing to do is use the AsiaMiles Award Finder to estimate what your trip will cost and call Asia Miles on 1-866-892-2598 to confirm the space.

In the example below a search for Los Angeles to New York flights reveals a price of 50,000 Asia Miles roundtrip, a pretty solid deal for a coast to coast flight.

Asia Miles lets you hold an award for up to one week, but only if you already have at least 70% of the miles required for the award in your account. We wouldn’t recommend transferring a bunch of points over to Asia Miles in advance to take advantage of this. Better to confirm the space on the phone, do the transfer, and then book. Transfers from Citi ThankYou® Rewards to Asia Miles generally happen the same day.

Booking an American award with Etihad Guest miles

Etihad is not a member of the oneworld Alliance, but it’s an American Airlines partner. Booking an AA flight with Etihad can make perfect sense, since the Etihad award chart for American Airlines is almost identical to the American AAdvantage award chart. And for now, Etihad is still charging the award prices American charged before March 22, when many Business and First Class awards increased in price.

You can book a one-way economy flight anywhere in the U.S. and Canada (except Hawaii) for 12,500 miles, to Europe or South America Zone 2 for 30,000 miles, to Asia Zone 2 for 35,000 miles, and in Business Class to Europe for 50,000 miles one way.

Here’s the award chart for flights departing North America (values are one way). ‘EO’ means ‘Economy Off Peak’ and ‘EP’ means ‘Economy Peak’ which correspond to the Off Peak awards American AAdvantage offers when you use its own miles.

Best for: International First Class flights, on the few routes on American that still have a First Class cabin, and off peak Economy Class flights to Europe, South America, and Asia.

If you lack AAdvantage miles, but want to mimic their redemption levels as closely as possible, Etihad Guest is the way to go, and in fact some flights are cheaper than what American AAdvantage charges using its own miles, because the Etihad chart is an exact copy of the American AAdvantage award chart from before American’s prices changed on March 22nd.

They also don’t levy fuel surcharges on American Airlines flights.

There are two problems though: Transfers from Citi ThankYou® Rewards to Etihad can take several days, and Etihad won’t hold award space while you wait for the transfer, so the space you want might dry up by the time the transfer is complete.

And Etihad agents aren’t consistently trained, so they often won’t see award space that’s actually available.

You can reach Etihad Guest on (877) 690-0767.

Booking an American award with Qatar Privilege Club miles

Just like Qantas and Cathay, Qatar has a distance-based chart, and it’s much worse than both of them. Here are a few round-trip examples.

  • JFK–LAX/LHR: 70,000 in economy, 140,000 in business, 210,000 in first.
  • DFW–GRU: 120,000 in economy, 240,000 in business, 360,000 in first.
  • JFK–DOH: 150,000 in economy, 300,000 in business, 450,000 in first.

Verdict: Not Recommended

Booking an American award with Malaysia Enrich miles

Malaysia Enrich uses yet another distance based award chart, and using Malaysia Enrich miles to book an AA flight can be a decent deal for some longer flights, but it’s less exciting for shorter flights.

Best for: International Business Class flights of 2,401 – 7,200 miles one way, which are available for 96,000 -132,000 points roundtrip with no fuel surcharges.

Here are some examples…

  • JFK–LAX: 54,000 in economy, 96,000 in business, 132,000 in first.
  • JFK–LHR: 54,000 in economy, 96,000 in business, 132,000 in first.
  • DFW–GRU: 72,000 in economy, 132,000 in business, 192,000 in first.
  • LAX–PVG: 72,000 in economy, 132,000 in business, 192,000 in first.

In the above examples, an award flight between New York and Los Angeles is not a good deal, but a business class flight between New York and London is OK. A business class roundtrip between LAX and PVG is also a good deal in economy and business.

Some good things about Malaysia Enrich…

  • They don’t pass along big fuel surcharges on American Airlines flights, even to Europe, so you just pay the usual airport taxes.
  • They will hold awards for up to one week while you wait for points to transfer over. Just call them on +603 7843 3000 to reserve (use Skype or Whatsapp to avoid charges).

Booking an American flight on the Citi ThankYou® Rewards website

With Citi ThankYou® Rewards, you can buy American Airlines flights with your points on the Citi ThankYou® Rewards website like you’re using cash.

If you have a Citi Premier℠ Card, booking a ticket on the Citi ThankYou® Rewards website will often get you a great value since your points are worth 1.25 cents each. So, tickets that are cheap in cash will be really cheap in points using this option, and tickets that are really expensive in cash will be very expensive with points.

A few things to keep in mind

  • ThankYou® Rewards rates will fluctuate along with the revenue fares.
  • Booking with ThankYou® points is much faster and easier than redeeming miles from the partners’ programs.
  • No nasty surprises like fuel surcharges.
  • You will still earn AAdvantage miles.

If you have a Citi Premier℠ Card, redeeming points for AA flights can be a great and easy way to get good value for basic Economy Class flights.

But you’ll want to double check to see that the price you pay via the ThankYou® Rewards website is less than other options like transferring to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles or Etihad Guest.

More often than not, for basic domestic flights, using ThankYou® points directly will be a better deal, but for long international flights, especially in Business or First Class, using a transfer partner will be a much better deal.

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