Maximize AAdvantage Miles with American Airlines Off-Peak Dates

Redeem your AAdvantage miles for American Airlines off-peak dates when possible

In addition to the two tiers of awards tickets in the American Airlines AAdvantage program, there is another important element to consider.  American Airlines considers certain dates in certain regions off-peak.  Not every region has off-peak dates, but if you’re in the early phase of planning a trip, be sure to check the chart to see if your route has off-peak dates.  If you can plan your travel around American Airlines off-peak dates, you will save thousands of AAdvantage miles.

A few things to know about American Airlines off-peak awards:

  • Off-peak awards are only available for economy class
  • In order to get the off-peak pricing, the award ticket must be available at the MileSAAver level
  • With the exception of Europe, only American Airlines flights qualify for off-peak pricing.  In other words, if any segment of your flight involves a partner airline, you will be subject to the partner award chart pricing.
  • Most of these awards can be booked online.   Remember that you can put an award ticket on hold for 5 days.  If you need to transfer Starpoints to American Airlines, be sure to put the award ticket on hold before transferring the points.
  • If booking an off-peak ticket to Europe with a partner airline, you may have to search for availability on the British Airways website.  More on that below.

Fees that you may have to pay when redeeming AAdvantage miles:

  • Phone booking fee: $25-35, but if you are booking a ticket that cannot be booked online, this fee is waived.
  • $75 if you’re booking within 21 days of the travel date
  • Changing an award ticket: no fee as long as the origin, destination, and ticket type (economy, etc) remain the same
  • Canceling an award ticket: The charge to reinstate miles is $150 per account for the first award ticket.  Additional award tickets reinstated to the same account at the same time will have a $25 charge per ticket

How to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles

  • Signup bonuses from their co-branded credit cards.  There are two banks that issue AAdvantage earning credit cards.  Each bank has multiple options for these cards.
    • Citi
    • Barclaycard
    • Some American Airlines co-branded credit cards come with a benefit of 10% of your miles back on redemptions.  This is limited to 10% of 100,000 miles annually, but if you’re under that when you’re redeeming these awards, you save even more miles!
  • Everyday spending on these co-branded credit cards
  • AAdvantage shopping portals
  • AA miles can also be transferred from the Starwood Preferred Guest program at a 1:1 ratio (with a bonus 5,000 miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred)
  • Or you can earn them the old fashioned way which is actually flying on a paid ticket (also known as butt-in-seat miles)

AAdvantage award chart for flights operated by American Airlines

American Airlines AAdvantage award chart american airlines off-peak dates

AAdvantage award chart when booking partner airlines

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American Airlines off-peak flight options and dates:

It is important to point out that even though off-peak pricing is the lowest you will get with the AAdvantage program, there still may be better ways (as in you will pay less miles if you use other programs) to book certain flights.  When deciding whether or not you should use your AA miles, you should first look up the cash price of the ticket.  Next, calculate the value you’re getting with miles before deciding whether or not you should book with the miles.  You also may want to consider a few things:

  • Are American Airlines AAdvantage miles the only award currency you have?
    • If so, booking award tickets on American Airlines and/or their partners through AAdvantage is your only option.
  • Do you have points and miles in other airline programs?
    • Compare the amount of miles/points needed.  If it’s less than AA charges, consider how much you value your other miles.  If you value your other miles similar to AA miles, you would probably want to book with your other miles.
  • Do you have SPG Starpoints?
    • If so, decide whether it is worth transferring them to American Airlines to book your flights.
    • Remember that for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred to airline miles, you get a 5,000 mile bonus.
    • Check award ticket pricing on SPG’s other airline transfer partners.  Even after considering off-peak pricing, you may use less Starpoints if you transfer to and book your flight with another airline loyalty program.  Of course, this only applies if there is availability on the other airlines.  For example, see the Best Ways to Book Hawaii on Points and Miles post.
    • I value Starpoints more than I value American Airlines miles.
      • The main reason is that Starpoints are very flexible.  In addition to some great values when booking Starwood hotels with Starpoints, they have several great airline partners.
      • In order for me to transfer Starpoints to American Airlines to book an AAdvantage award ticket, the cash value of that plane ticket is going to have to give me a high cents-per-point value.

1. Flights between the continental US and Hawaii

mauna loa helicopter tours kauai, advantage off-peak

Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Off-peak dates:
  • To Hawaii:
    • December 29 – March 12,
    • August 11 – November 18
    • November 24 – December 10
  • From Hawaii:
    • January 7 – March 19
    • August 18 – November 27
    • December 3 – December 25
Off-peak cost:
  • 20,000 miles each way
MileSAAVer peak dates cost:
  • 22,500 miles each way on American Airlines operated flights and on partner flights

Save 5,000 miles round-trip on Hawaii tickets if you can book American Airlines off-peak awards!

Even with the off-peak pricing, American Airlines awards to Hawaii are pretty steep compared to other frequent flyer programs.  If you already have lots of AA miles, it still could make sense to book these tickets, but off-peak dates are going to be the best deal.

Other cheap options to Hawaii- again, check the Best Ways to Get to Hawaii post

  • OneWorld:British Airways from the west coast (12,500 each way)
  • SkyTeam: KLM/AirFrance FlyingBlue to book Delta (15,000 each way), Korean Air to book Delta (25,000 roundtrip. Korean Air only allows roundtrip awards)
  • Star Alliance: Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer to book United (17,500 each way)

2. Flights between the US and the Carribean, Mexico, or Central America

 

costa rica white water rafting, american airlines, westin playa conchal

White water rafting in Costa Rica

 

american airlines costa rica off-peak

Playa Conchal Beach in Costa Rica

 

Off-peak dates:
  • September 7 – November 14
  • April 27 – May 20
Off-peak cost:
  •  12,500 miles each way
MileSAAver peak cost:
  • 15,000 miles each way on American Airlines operated flights
  • 17,500 miles each way on partner airlines

I realize they are stingy with off-peak dates but if you’re able to plan your dates accordingly this can be a great deal.  You can save 5,000 miles on a roundtrip ticket to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean by redeeming for American Airlines off-peak dates.

Other cheap ways to get these flights-
  • British Airways Avios if your flight is a short distance (such as Miami-Caribbean or DFW-Mexico).  BA’s distance-based chart prices shorter distance flights such as these as low as 7500 Avios each way.  If your home airport is more northern such as Chicago or if you do not live in an American Airlines hub city and you have to connect, your flight or flights will be longer.  This means you will be charged more Avios.  In that case you may be better off using AA’s program since it is a fixed chart.  See Mexico with British Airways Avios post.
  • Southwest now has flights to several cities in these regions.  Southwest’s award tickets are priced based on the cost of a paid ticket.  This means that if Southwest is having a sale, award ticket prices also go down.

3. Flights between the US and Europe

american airlines aadvantage off-peak to paris

Paris is always a good idea

Off-peak dates:
  • January 10 – March 14
  • November 1 – December 14
Off-peak cost:
  • 22,500 miles each way
MileSAAver/peak dates cost:
  • 30,000 miles each way on American Airlines and partner flights
Unlike other regions, AAdvantage off-peak award pricing to Europe includes partner flights.  This includes airberlin, Finnair, Iberia, and British Airways.
  • American Airlines, airberlin, Finnair, and British Airways are searchable on AA.com
  • Iberia award space is searchable on British Airways.  Remember that you are only searching British Airways to confirm availability.  Do not pay attention to the Avios required because if you’re booking this award with AAdvantage, you’re subject to AA’s award pricing.
  • If you find space on Iberia, you will need to call American Airlines to book.  If you find space on the other carriers, you can book at AA.com
  • Keep in mind that award space from the US to Europe on British Airways flights is generally pretty good.  The problem is that they impose a fuel surcharge on award tickets and unfortunately this fuel charge is assessed even if you’re booking with American Airlines miles.  This charge can be anywhere between $400-over $1000 roundtrip per ticket depending on your route and class of service.  Iberia flights also come with a fuel surcharge but it tends to be much more reasonable than British Airways
  • If you’re looking for flights to Europe to book with AAdvantage miles, try to find flights on American Airlines or any partner other than British Airways.

If you can book an off-peak award to Europe, this is an excellent use of AA miles.  You will save 15,000 miles roundtrip by booking Europe tickets on American Airlines off-peak dates.  

4. Flights between the US and South America region 1

peru on points, machu picchu on points

Machu Picchu, Anyone? Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.com

For award ticket purposes, American Airlines divides South America into 2 zones. Note that as of publishing (May 2017), AAdvantage does not offer off-peak dates for South America region 2.

South America region 1 includes:

  • Bolivia
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Manaus (Brazil)
  • Peru
Off-peak dates:
  • January 16 – June 14
  • September 7 – November 14
Off-peak cost
  • 17,500 miles each way
MileSAAver/peak date cost:
  • 20,000 each way on American Airlines or partner flights

Even after the devaluation last year, US to South America Region 1 awards are still one of the best values AAdvantage offers for redeeming miles.  Save 5,000 miles roundtrip by booking American Airlines off-peak dates.

5. Flights between the US and Asia

Like South America, American Airlines separates Asia into 2 zones.  Each of these zones has off-peak dates for American Airlines operated flights.

Asia Region 1

  • Japan
  • Korea

Asia Region 2

  • China
  • Hong Kong
These are not the only Asian destinations for which you can redeem your AAdvantage miles, but they’re the only ones that offer off-peak dates.
Off Peak Dates:
  • Asia Region 1 (Japan):
    To Japan: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – November 30
    From Japan: January 16 – April 19, May 2 – 31, September 1 – December 31
  • Asia Region 1 (Korea):
    To Korea: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – November 30
    From Korea: January 16 – May 31, September 1 – December 31
  • Asia Region 2 (China & Hong Kong):
    To China/Hong Kong: January 1 – April 30, July 1 – September 30, October 11 – November 30
    From China/Hong Kong: February 1 – May 31, September 1 – 19, October 2 – December 31
Off-peak cost:
  • Any flight to or from Asia (both zones) during their respective off-peak dates are 32,500 each way
MileSAAver/peak date cost:
  • Zone 1:
    • 35,000 miles each way on American Airlines flights and on partner flights
  • Zone 2:
    • 35,000 miles each way on American Airlines flights
    • 37,500 miles each way on all partner flights

Save 5,000 miles on roundtrip flights to Asia by booking American Airlines off-peak dates. 65,000 miles roundtrip to Asia is a pretty good deal.  Of the three major US airlines, this is the lowest award ticket to Asia.  The lowest roundtrip prices on both Delta and United between the US and Asia is 70,000-80,000 miles..

Conclusion

Although American Airlines delivered a tough blow last year with their devaluation, there are still some good ways to redeem AAdvantage miles.  Some of the best values for redeeming your miles are going to be tickets booked for American Airlines off-peak dates.

 

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