American Airlines has two types of award tickets
You can read more about it in this post. The point is, you probably only want to book a ticket with AAdvantage miles if there is availability at the lower level (also known as MileSAAver). If you plan to book an American Airlines flight with miles in a partner program, there must be availability at the MileSAAver level to be able to use the partner to book the AA ticket. It is important to know how to search for American Airlines award space at the saver level.
Tip: American Airlines lets you put an award itinerary on hold for 5 days if you’re using AAdvantage miles to book!
If you have American Airlines AAdvantage miles, there are some great ways to redeem them. But every single good option to redeem your AAdvantage miles for AA flights is only a good value if you can find MileSAAver space. If you cannot find saver space, you can look for availability with their partners. If you have luck finding partner availability, you can use your AAdvantage miles to book those flights.
Almost all partner airlines of American Airlines now show up in the online search on AA.com, but you still have to call AAdvantage for a few partners. For those partners, there are other ways to check for availability online before calling to book. Most OneWorld alliance partners that you can book with AA miles should show up on British Airways’ site. You will have to create a free BA Executive Club account to search.
Anyway, if there is no saver award space on AA and if you cannot find availability on partner airlines, you’re better off saving your miles than using twice as many for an AAnytime ticket.
Even if you have AAdvantage miles, another airline’s loyalty program may result in a lower redemption cost. Both of my favorite currencies, Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, have partner airlines that you can use to book flights operated by American Airlines. In order to use these partners, a milesAAver ticket must be available.
Here are a few reasons you may want to use another airline’s loyalty program to book a flight on American Airlines
- American Airlines is not a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards. If you want to book an American Airlines flight with these points, you will need to transfer your UR or MR to OneWorld alliance carriers or other carriers that partner with American Airlines. For example, you can transfer points to OneWorld partner British Airways and then use Avios to book an AA flight.
- You may get a better deal by using a partner program. Every airline loyalty program has its own chart and rules. Some routes cost less if you book with a partner airline program.
You can always refer to the transfer partner and airline partner list if you want to see other partners.
How to search for award ticket availability on American Airlines
Important update about partner availability: you can still use AA.com to search, but the search engine now looks different and it is sometimes tough to distinguish MilesAAver tickets from other types of AA tickets. The best way to search for AA availability to book with partner miles such as Etihad or British Airways is now with Qantas. I suggest searching Qantas (but don’t pay attention to pricing) to find space rather than trying to figure out what’s a saver ticket and what isn’t on AA. Click here for instructions.
I will use DFW to Sao Paulo, Brazil for this example. You can search for round-trip flights but I find it easier to search one-way at a time.
Update: Click ‘advanced search’ under the search button and type in your itinerary, dates, and nubmer of passengers on that screen to view availability as shown below. If you search from the screen shown above, the search results will look different.
The date I chose is available at the MileSAAver level
Once these MileSAAver award tickets get booked, only the AAnytime tickets will be left. Let’s look at the cost
Again, I do not suggest booking an AAnytime ticket. I cannot think of any instance when it would be a good value, but you can always calculate the value you’re getting with points as opposed to paying with cash.
As long as the MileSAAver ticket is available for your date, you should be able to book this ticket on AA’s partner airlines
In other words, you can use British Airways Avios or others.
If using British Airways, it is 25,750 Avios each way. Remember that British airways has a distance-based chart and their award tickets are priced based on the distance of each segment of your flight. The nonstop flight from DFW to GRU prices at 25,750 Avios each way. You can still book an AA itinerary with a connecting flight with British Airways, but it will require more Avios.
Tip: Iberia is usually the better partner if a connection is involved. For more info about British Airways vs. Iberia to book AA, read this post.
- For example, let’s say there is no availability on the direct flight from DFW-GRU but there is a flight that is DFW-MIA-GRU
- If you book with British Airways you would be required to redeem Avios for the DFW-MIA segment plus the MIA-GRU segment.
- This prices at 32,750 Avios per ticket each way in economy
- DFW-MIA is 7,500* Avios and MIA-GRU is 25,750 Avios
*DFW to MIA nonstop is actuallly 9,000, but when booked as a connecting flight, it still prices at 7500
This is still not a terrible option, especially if you have lots of Ultimate Rewards points. Remember that Ultimate Rewards transfer to British Airways at a 1:1 ratio.
I love when I find a route that makes sense to use British Airways Avios. If you look at the earning side of the equation, this is a great deal with Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards points. Remember that if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Membership Rewards earning card, it is very easy to earn more than one point per dollar with bonus categories (and shopping portals).
How to search for nonstop flights (either for convenience or because you’re trying to book with British Airways):
To search for nonstop flights all you have to do is select Non-stop only from the drop down menu on the left side.
Here is a look at milesAAver availability in business class
The same rules apply for business class tickets. In order to book flights operated by American Airlines in business class with a partner airline, there must be MileSAAver availability.
Yeah, not much availability at all. But you can redeem 110k AAdvantage miles each way! Please do not do this.
If you cannot find any sAAver space for your dates and/or destination, you still have options if you have transferrable points. This is why I highly recommend credit cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards rather than airline miles. For example, you could check to see if United has availability at their saver level. If so, you could transfer points from either of those 2 programs to Singapore Airlines. You could then use Singapore Airlines to book the United flight.
Let me know if you have any questions!