American Has Improved Its Award Rules: Now Allows Cathay Pacific Routings to Indian Subcontinent

Back in the fall I spoke with AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin and suggested that with their higher award pricing (since March 22), they could loosen their routing rules somewhat. She indicated they were looking at that.

And it appears they’ve started to because they now allow flying Cathay Pacific or American Airlines to Hong Kong, and travel beyond to India and the surrounding region on Cathay Pacific, as a single award — instead of requiring you to fly via the Atlantic.

American does not publish 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Since so much of the AAdvantage award rules are unpublished, I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

Award routing rules determine whether you can connect in Europe when flying from the US to Asia, or in Asia between the US and India. Liberal routing rules let you make the most of scarce award space. American’s rules are stringent. You have to follow the published routing rules of the primary overwater carrier on your itinerary and you cannot touch a third region when traveling between two regions unless there’s a specific exception in place.

And indeed they’ve just improved on one of their rules. You can now fly Cathay Pacific between the US and ‘Indian Subcontinent’ via Hong Kong as a single award.

Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted only via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is Transatlantic only.

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat

Cathay Pacific Business Class Seat

These awards used to have to go via the Atlantic. That meant available Cathay flights were off limits, making the awards harder to get. And it often meant more flying. From the West Coast of the US to India it can actually be slightly shorter to travel via the Pacific. American AAdvantage effectively forced you into a bit of extra flying.

You can now fly from North America to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American, and onward from Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific to:

  • India (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and assuming Dragonair is treated as Cathay Pacific under this rule Kolkata as well)
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh (again assuming Dragonair is treated as Cathay Pacific which it should be)
  • Male, Maldives

It’s somewhat strange that this exception precludes travel on American’s joint venture partner Japan Airlines.

American’s award pricing between the US and Indian Subcontinent is:

  • 40,000 miles each way for economy
  • 70,000 miles each way for economy
  • 115,000 miles each way for economy

Now American needs to loosen up travel between the US and Asia, allowing routings via the Atlantic — because East Coast to Southeast Asia via the Atlantic isn’t farther than flying via the Pacific but it would open up a lot of possibilities for award travel. Furthermore they need to eliminate the ‘third region rule’ which prevents you from connecting in a region other than your starting or ending region unless there’s a specific exception made.

American has had routing limitations in place but they are completely duplicative and draconian when AAdvantage also makes you fly only on published routings. That rule prevents ‘crazy’ or ‘circuitous’ journeys for the most part, and certainly prevents circuitous journeys that would be allowed on a paid ticket. There’s no real justification for also requiring travel via the Atlantic, or via the Pacific, when paid tickets have no such requirement and it serves only to limit the ability of members to secure award travel in the most efficient means possible. So it is very good to see American relaxing the routing requirements.

(HT: JT Genter)

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. Same question I asked on OMAAT. What about SFO-HKG on CX and HKG-CMB on Sri Lankan. Seems its prohibited based on the language, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  2. This is great! Gary — there’s another third-region exemption that you can add to your Ultimate Guide. You can now fly South Pacific Africa via the Middle East. At least via Doha on Qatar, but perhaps not with any other partners, just like some of the other Doha exemptions. I ticketed this a few months ago without issue.

  3. Now just let us connect in LIM to Deep South America, the most logical hub that we can’t use

  4. Might want to update this to include business & first!

    40,000 miles each way for economy
    70,000 miles each way for economy
    115,000 miles each way for economy

  5. Do you mean for economy, business and first?
    •40,000 miles each way for economy
    •70,000 miles each way for economy
    •115,000 miles each way for economy

  6. BLR and HYD are also served by Dragonair. And given that Dragonair is allowed on other routings, they should be alright

  7. The first thing they should fix is allowing LIM as a transit point for deeper South America routings. I think that is the most ridiculous routing rule they have given that LAN is a partner.

  8. Dragonair is specifically permitted by AA: “Use AAdvantage miles to book award travel on Cathay Pacific and Dragonair with oneworld and Other Airline Awards which allow you to travel to and from your desired destination using any combination of our airline participants.”

    Now the question above is interesting, whether you can fly LAX-HKG (CX), HKG-CMB (UL). The new rule says you fly “via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines.” Now, AA itself doesn’t fly HKG-XXX, so you could read that rule as requiring you only to fly TO Hong Kong on CX/AA and being able to fly onward on any other airline (such as UL), especially because the page to redeem on CX, quoted aboev, refers to “using any combination of our airline participants.” But I suspect that’s not what they had in mind and that the CX-UL routing wouldn’t be permitted.

  9. While I haven’t yet seen the internal document on this I do not expect onward travel on Sri Lankan to be permitted. Other similar excepts are for flying in and out of a connecting city on the designated carrier.

  10. CMB was previously considered Asia 2.

    If it still is, any combination of one world carriers can get you there on an AA award.

  11. Gary could you update your Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles please post . I am particularly interested to know if the South Pacific / Europe options are still viable as a single reward and if so the points required to do so post AAdvantage awards devaluation. Thanks

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