Everyone talks about the amazing trips you can take by redeeming frequent flyer miles, but just how much value do they really provide? This article takes a closer look at ten great ways to redeem miles through the AAdvantage program operated by American Airlines.
Many resources suggest that American AAdvantage miles are worth between 1.7 and 2 cents per mile (CPM) on average, including cheap domestic flights. But you don’t want average. The aspirational awards presented here provide between two and six times more value. Of course, you might not actually be in a position to pay over $20,000 for a first class ticket that includes a private cabin and in-flight shower. These ideas may still provide you with a sense of just how rewarding frequent flyer miles can be.
We looked at real flights at least six months in the future (to avoid the higher prices you might find just a few weeks before departure) and compared them to the number of miles required to book the same itinerary. You can likely originate in a different city within North America without redeeming any more miles, adding connecting flights on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines.
Note: All sample itineraries were found using the Matrix search engine, a free service of ITA Software.
1. Japan Airlines First Class — San Francisco to Tokyo
American Airlines charges 160,000 miles for a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Japan. Many travelers fly into the larger Narita airport, but Haneda is much closer to the urban center. Japan Airlines offers an excellent first class product in a 1-2-1 configuration for $19,934.96 on this route, representing a value of 12.46 CPM.
2. Etihad Apartments — New York to Maldives
Currently, one of the best first class experiences in the air is the first class apartment offered by Etihad Airways (available only on the Airbus A380). This fully enclosed suite includes a large seat and a separate bench that turns into a bed at night. Wake up from your rest to enjoy an in-flight shower, and join your companion at the lounge separating the first and business class cabins. American AAdvantage charges the same 230,000 miles whether you terminate in Abu Dhabi or continue elsewhere in the Middle East or India. Total price: $21,764.56 or 9.46 CPM.
3. Cathay Pacific First Class — Los Angeles to Bali
Cathay Pacific remains one of the best options for traveling throughout Southeast Asia via its hub in Hong Kong. Wake up from your overnight flight and relax in one of Cathay’s newly renovated lounges before continuing onward. How about Bali? It’s not as cheap as it once was, you can still snag this award for 220,000 miles round-trip instead of paying $15,704.86, a value of 7.14 CPM.
Cathay Pacific award space consistently opens up 1-3 weeks before departure in case you’re having difficulty finding it. Business class is more plentiful and also a good value at 140,000 miles instead of paying $6,404.86 (4.57 CPM).
4. American Airlines Business Class – North America to Europe
Europe is usually the first destination most people think of when asked about aspirational travel. Fortunately it continues to offer some great value for redeeming miles — if you use them wisely.
Remember that American Airlines will collect extra carrier surcharges for flights operated by British Airways and Iberia. It’s best if you look for flights on American’s own planes to keep the cost down. This sample itinerary from New York to Paris is $6,897.56 or 115,000 miles, for a value of 6.00 CPM.
5. LAN Business Class — Miami to Lima
American Airlines and the rest of the oneworld Alliance operate flights throughout South America. One of American’s partners, LAN, offers an outstanding lie-flat business class product. Try flying from Miami to Lima for just 60,000 miles instead of paying $3,520.90. For 5.87 CPM, that represents a great value.
6. Cathay Pacific First Class – New York to Vancouver
Did you know that one of the best ways to fly between the West Coast and New York isn’t with a major North American carrier but rather on Cathay Pacific? The airline operates what’s known as a “Fifth Freedom” route between New York and Vancouver, which means they’re flying between two countries other than its home as part of a longer, continuing journey. It still features the same great first and business class as on Cathay Pacific’s longer international routes.
First class will cost only 110,000 miles instead of $4,651.96 (4.23 CPM), but for a relatively short, six-hour flight you will still find business class to be a step above the competition for just 65,000 miles or $2,948.86 (4.54 CPM).
7. American Airlines Business Class — Los Angeles to New Zealand
Although not as amazing as some of the other offers presented here, finding non-stop flights to New Zealand isn’t always easy. American Airlines just began a new route from Los Angeles to Auckland (and also Los Angeles to Sydney) operated by its new Boing 787. Fares start at $5,898.96 round-trip, or you can redeem 160,000 miles for a value of 3.69 CPM.
8. Air Tahiti Nui Business Class — Los Angeles to Tahiti
One unusual award that’s available with AAdvantage miles is non-stop travel to French Polynesia from the continental United States. Air Tahiti Nui operates daily service from Los Angeles to Papeete, on the island of Fiji. This offers a prime opportunity to visit this remote destination. Business class seats normally cost $4,211.96 or 160,000 miles round-trip, providing a redemption value of 2.63 CPM.
9. American Airlines MileSAAver to Europe
American Airlines continues to offer discounted MileSAAver awards for off-peak travel, but they are only available on its own flights and for travel in economy class. Still, they can be a great opportunity to travel half way around the world for the same price as some domestic tickets.
This first example is from Dallas to London. Europe in the late fall and early winter can be a great time to visit when crowds are limited and Christmas markets fill public squares. Some even make a point of forsaking Thanksgiving feasts in America. This ticket for $1,124.06 costs only 45,000 miles when booked as an award, about 2.50 CPM.
MileSAAver awards between the U.S. and Europe are available for travel from November 1 to December 14 and from January 10 to March 14.
10. American Airlines MilesSAAver to South America
To give just one more example, MileSAAver awards are also available to several countries in South America, including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. The city of Manaus in Brazil is also included (but not other regions of the country). This sample itinerary form Chicago to Lima is ordinarily $988.50 and can be booked instead for 35,000 miles (2.82 CPM). That’s less than the normal cost of an award ticket to Hawaii!
MileSAAver awards between the U.S. and South America are available for travel from September 7 to November 14 and from January 16 to June 14.