American Makes Another Unannounced – and Strange – Tweak to its Award Rules

Who knew it was possible to fly Air New Zealand using American miles! Under a brand new rules change, for one specific flight at least, it now is.

American does not publish key portions of its award routing rules. The value of a mileage redemption program is a combination of:

  • The cost of an award (miles, money)

  • Availability

  • Award routing rules (what flights can be combined together to construct an award).

Since so much of the AAdvantage award rules are unpublished, I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

There’s been an interesting new rule change for American AAdvantage that allows you to book award seats on an Air New Zealand flight.

Air Tahiti Nui Flights operated by Air New Zealand in the PPT to/from AKL market are valid for redemption when booked as TN flight number.

Here’s what this means:

  • You can only fly Air New Zealand using American miles between Papeete (Tahiti) and Auckland, New Zealand.

  • You can only do it when there’s award space on the Air Tahiti Nui codeshare for that Air New Zealand flight.

Booking award tickets on codeshares is rare. It’s been possible in the past using Delta miles to book Air France codeshares on airlines that Delta doesn’t otherwise partner with. There are a handful of cases where you can book codeshare flights as awards using American AAdvantage miles. For instance,

  • Japan Transocean Air (NU), majority owned by Japan Airlines, can be booked as awards using their Japan Airlines codeshares.
  • Santiago-Sydney flights operated by Qantas can be booked as LAN codeshares (which is very strange, both LAN and Qantas are oneworld partners of American).

Nonetheless it’s rare and I cannot think of a case where an airline as distant from American as Air New Zealand could be booked as an award using the codeshare of an airline partner, especially one like Air Tahiti Nui that isn’t even an alliance of joint venture partner.

Air Tahiti Nui itself flies Papeete – Auckland three times a week, and you’ve long been able to use American AAdvantage miles for that flight. I did myself a decade ago.

Air New Zealand flies Papeete – Auckland three times a week, and as best I can tell Air Tahiti Nui only places its code on the flight two of those three days. It’s a roughly 6 hour flight on a Boeing 767.

    By Simon_sees from Australia (Air NZ 767), via Wikimedia Commons

This is a pretty limited change — a single flight twice a week that AAdvantage members now have access to between French Polynesia and New Zealand. But I never expected to be able to use American miles for travel on Star Alliance member Air New Zealand. It’s an oddball, for sure.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Great, but how in the world would you search for availability? Also, would the routing rules allow for a single award from North America?

  2. Very interesting!

    How does one check for availability and how many miles? Although if ANZ releases the same seats to all partners, and they aren’t ever available to United, then I guess they won’t be available to ATN.

  3. Oh Gary, I was hoping you would keep that one secret. I’ve been putting clients on this flight using their AA miles for more than three years now. Works on the LAX-CDG AF codeshare as well…

  4. Interesting, value added post. And, concise. When I started reading the post and saw the reference to DL, I was bracing myself for paragraph after paragraph of examples from 20 years ago. But, you recovered nicely and ended the post after making your point. Novel…and bravo.

  5. I’m with Mark. Thanks for being concise and skipping 20 minutes of background, telling us about things we used to be able to do but can’t anymore 😉

  6. About a year ago, I booked an Air Tahiti flight from LAX to AKL using AA miles. The leg from PPT to AKL was operated by Air New Zealand, so yes, this is possible. I called to booked that ticket though.

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