American Airlines Award Ticket Overview

By Cacinda Maloney

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American Airlines is again running their buy/share miles special until Jan 31, 2013.  Truly it is not a great deal to buy these miles unless you just need to top off your AA account to redeem for a specific award you have in mind.  Basically the sweet spot of buying AA miles is when you buy 40,ooo, which will yield 55,000 total miles for $1,217.50, (or 2.21 cents).  In general, the value of  AA miles at around 1.77 cents each.

Now that you have AA miles your your account, you need to know about how to use those AA miles.

Business or First Class To Europe for 50,000 AA miles:

There are five options when trying to fly between the US and Europe with American miles.

  • American
  • Air Berlin
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Iberia

For business class or first class, not many of these options are amazing, due to the fact that only a few of these airlines have fully,lie-flat seats.

American‘s own business or first class product is poorly rated.  American is rolling out its new 777-300 in a few weeks with fully-flat business seats. The problem is that there are not many of these planes, and that the business class space on them is almost non-existent until about October 15 of this year and the ones that are available is mostly for only ONE seat!

Air Berlin has no first class. Its business class features recliner seats.

British Airways:  They do have fully lie-flat seats, but with them you will pay almost $500 in taxes each way to use your miles, which makes their value questionable.

Finnair flies only one route to the US:   Helsinki <-> New York(JFK). It flies it with an A330 with fully flat beds. It even has decent availability.

Iberia has no first class, and its business class features angled, lie flat seats.

If you want a flat bed to Europe with American miles, you’ll have to make some sacrifices:

  • You can fly American Airlines First Class for 62,500 miles per direction (ouch!)
  • You can pay British Airways surcharges (ouch again)
  • You, alone, can fly Finnair business class from New York (ok!)
  • You can fly an angled lie flat seat (better than nothing!)

Some of the best uses of American Airlines award tickets from the USA:

  • LAN  – flat beds to South America
  • Qantas –  flat beds to Australia and New Zealand  -The quickest and most comfortable way to arrive is on a Qantas flight (try to get a seat on an A380).
  • Cathay Pacific – first class (To search for Cathay Pacific space, I recommend using or, then call American Airlines, tell them you are unable to search online and they usually will comp the $25 telephone surcharge.)


The coach class ticket is an amazing deal of only 20,000 miles (or 25,000) each way, but then again, you are sitting in a coach seat.

Although I prefer business or first class seats, I have flown many times on an off season coach class ticket to Europe, the key is in the strategy of picking your seat.  Make sure you pick a row, typically closer to the rear, that has no other passengers in the area.  I typically get a full row of 4 seats, where I can lie down, although is it uncomfortable.

American Airlines:  availability is usually pretty good.

 Air Berlin: in economy is AA secret weapon and the way to go:

Here’s a list of Air Berlin routes to/from the US:

New York (JFK) <-> Berlin (TXL)

New York (JFK) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Chicago (ORD) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

San Francisco (SFO) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Miami (MIA) <-> Berlin (TXL)

Miami (MIA) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Fort Myers (RSW) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

Las Vegas (LAS) <-> Dusseldorf (DUS)

So if you live in New York, Chicago, LA, Miami, San Fran, Fort Myers, or Las Vegas, you should have no trouble getting a round trip to Europe for 50k miles. If you live in other cities, you might have to pay 60,000 miles for the round trip, but you can still take advantage of the Air Berlin routes.

British Airways:  British Airways offers a lot of space in economy class to Europe. Unfortunately,  AA collects a surcharge of about $300 per person per direction to fly BA to Europe, this strips all the value from an economy award.

Finnair again, they fly only one route to the US:   Helsinki <-> New York(JFK). It flies it with an A330 and has good availability.

Iberia:  To find Iberia flights, use the Qantas website (free to get an account).  It is easier to use than the British Airways website and lets you see a 30-day calendar of award availability for American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia flights!  This makes it a bit easier when searching for awards to Europe.   The British Airways website tries to route you via London on a British Airways flight, whereas Qantas shows you the American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia options.

However, Iberia availability from the Qantas website doesn’t always 100% match up with what American Airline agents can see.  But you can always double check via the British Airways site.  And sometimes you just have to hang up and call back until the agent can book the Iberia flight.

Iberia Departure Cities

Iberia  flies to Madrid from the following North American cities:

  •  Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Juan

Iberia  flies to Barcelona from the following North American cities:

  • Miami, New York

How to find Iberia Award availability

Let’s say I want to find 1 seat from Phoenix, AZ to Madrid, Spain on October 12, 2013

Break up your flight into segments.  Look for award availability from:

  • The US departure city that Iberia flies out of (like LAX) to Madrid on Iberia using the Qantas website
  • Then the award from Phoenix to the US departure city of my Iberia  international flight (like LAX) on

Once you have found the flight you want, call American Airlines to make the booking(1-800-433-7300) and ask them to put on hold (for up to 5 days).  You’ll have to pay a $25 telephone booking fee, but it is totally worth that fee to get access to partner airlines.

I hope this wasn’t too complicated or long on trying to help explain American Airlines Award Tickets!





  1. Ozaer N. January 7, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Excellent write up Cindy!!

    • admin January 8, 2013 at 12:13 am

      why thanks Ozaer!

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