American AAdvantage Revises Its Award Routing Rules with New Exceptions

Last month I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Constructing an International Award Ticket Using American AAdvantage Miles.

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.

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. I suppose this may make ticketing easier, but Colombo-Male was already an available routing using a pittance in Avios.

    Indeed, mightn’t it be best to go North America – Colombo on Aadvantage miles to Asia 2 and then add on Colombo-Male with 4500 Avios?

  2. @viewfromthewing
    is MLE asia 2?
    through which regions can i route to MLE from the USA please?

  3. Gary, I will triple your award fee if you can get me a ticket with a connection or stopover in “British Indian Ocean Territory,” Diego Garcia is one of the near holy grails for ‘country’ collectors.

  4. Gary,

    From an editorial standpoint, you certainly know how to bury the lede. I love your blog, but this certainly could have used a one-sentence executive summary at the top: I/ME connections now allowed in Sri Lanka!

  5. IIRC, Sri Lanka was originally in Indian Subcontinent, but got moved to Asia 2 because, at the time, the only way you could get to Sri Lanka on an AA partner was via HKG on Cathay Pacific.

  6. Gary,
    I live in DC and have found award fares on AA from DC to LAX and separate fares LAX – SYD, but can’t find published fares DC-SYD. Is it possible that calling AA they could book DC-LAX-SYD if I fed them the exact flights all for 62.5k?

  7. @Gary

    So just to confirm… One still can’t go LAX-HKG-MLE on CX on one award, but can go LAX-HKG-CMB on CX and then CMB-MLE on UL all one one award?

  8. As an ex-EU flier I am still waiting for a EU-Middle East-Africa exception. This would allow one to use EY to go to SEZ or MRU, which are otherwise close to impossible.

  9. The dumbest is still the inability to transit SA1 on an SA2 itinerary. You know, because LIM isn’t the single most important transit hub for OW in South America or anythingt

  10. Wow, the oz situation really sucks, guess I should try to find a way there sooner rather than later! With Virgin Australia space drying up it’s getting even tougher to get there (if that were even possible)

  11. @Rapid Travel Chai – from the pics I’ve seen of DG, you’re not missing much. Although beautiful, it’s a super tiny island with hardly anything on it. It looks like you could probably see the entire thing in under an hour. My dad was stationed there 4 months on, 4 off when we were stationed in the Philippines in the late 80s. Definitely understand the allure of checking it off your list though ☺

  12. The dumbest is American charging 20K for HKG-NRT round trip in Y. Even BOS-HNL is 17.5K one way in Y. There should be an exception for all of the Hong Kong to Japan routes or visa-versa. It’s only 3400 Miles RT.

    Been complaining that for a decade….no one gave a damn. Back in the day, it was 20K Round Trip.


  13. When it comes to this change, the bottom line for travelers using AA miles for travel between (a) NA/CA/SA airports AND (b) Subcontinent/ME zone airports: connecting via CMB will no longer result in AA requiring, by default, two awards for even a one-way journey between such airports.

    Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as before.

  14. Gary/others-

    Can we get to Seychelles (SEZ) thru Sri Lanka (CMB) now on a oneworld ticket (US Airways British Airways or American miles)?

    If so, which is the optimal way to book it?

  15. @cody – i don’t think sri lankan flies to SEZ…? I do see a twice-weekly codeshare operated by Mihin Lanka, a low fare Sri Lankan airline with ~ 3 aircraft. But you can’t use US/BA/AA miles to redeem with them AFAIK.

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