It already needs to be revised!
There are some real ‘quirks’ to the American program that make ‘routing rules’ — the flights you can combine and the way you can connect to your destination — unique and more restrictive than other programs is that you:
- Can only fly on published routings. There must be a published fare between your originating city and your destination in order for your booking to price as one award, and you have to follow restrictions on that fare.
- You cannot travel between two regions and connect in a third separate region along the way unless there is a specific published exception. For instance, you can fly from the US (North America) to Hong Kong (Asia 2) via Tokyo (Asia 1). There’s an exception that allows it. But you cannot fly from the US to the Middle East to Africa on partner Etihad, because the Middle East is not a valid third region exception for North America-Africa travel (unless you fly Qatar in and out of Doha – exception!).
This isn’t the single most restrictive set of routing rules that exist. Some programs like British Airways literally charge you separately for each flight segment! And Aegean Miles & Bonus only permits a single connection each way on an award (“An award ticket on Star Alliance flights may include one stopover with duration up to 24 hours”).
Nonetheless, few airlines have more complex or more restrictive routing rules than American does.
I outline the full rules — and their exceptions — here.
And it seems that JonNYC notices a new exception.
American has recently added an exception that allows you to transit Doha (Middle East/Indian Subcontinent) on awards between the US and Africa as long as you fly into and out of Doha on new oneworld airline Qatar. There are other, less relevant to most US passengers, exceptions involving Qatar as well.
Now they’ve added exceptions which recognize new oneworld entrant SriLankan Airlines.
Awards between these regions..
- North America and Indian Subcontinent/Middle East
- Central/South America Zone 1 and Indian Subcontinent/Middle East
- South America Zone 2 and Indian Subcontinent/Middle East
.. are permitted to connect in:
Europe & Afghanistan /Bangladesh /Bhutan /British Indian Ocean Territory India /Nepal /Pakistan /Maldives /Sri Lanka
the only thing that is new is the addition of Sri Lanka as a connecting point.
(The regions above could already connect in Europe, and the rest of the list other than Sri Lanka are in the Indian Subcontinent/Middle East region to begin with which means you can necessarily connect there as long as it’s not prohibited by the relevant fare rules.)
Sri Lanka is in ‘Asia 2.’
So the point here is that you can now connect in the Asia 2 region as long as that connection is in Sri Lanka when transiting between these regions.
The addition of Colombo as a connecting point for Maldives awards, for India awards, and for the rest of the region is moderately helpful.
In general I like the loosening of rules in terms of adding exceptions, it’s better than tightening rules! But the ‘third region’ prohibition and specific routing rules is something that needs to go away completely. It’s completely out of step with the industry, and it prohibits practices that are possible with most other frequent flyer programs.
Although there’s not been difficulty to date routing via Asia on an award between the US and Australia using United and Delta miles, American will not permit it (without charging you separately for awards between the US and Asia and between Asia and Australia). And now that distnace-based awards have been eliminated there’s no workaround. And since Qantas awards are near-impossible, especially in premium cabins, these rules make Australia awards a virtual impossibility for the AAdvantage program despite having Australia’s flagship airline as a partner.