Now that American-US Airways Has Consolidated into a Single Frequent Flyer Program It’s Time for AAdvantage to Update Its Award Rules

US Airways Dividend Miles was pretty much ‘anything goes’ as far as award routings go — the combination of flights you were allowed to use when booking an award to get from your origin to destination.

There was no auto-validation of routings and no auto-pricing.

Whatever region an agent thought you were traveling to determined the price they would enter. So you could ‘guide them’ (“I’d like to book a North Asia award, we’ll connect in Hong Kong in North Asia on the way to Bangkok. And now to wrap up this North Asia award let’s connect back through Tokyo and…”)

I really do think American needs to liberalize their routing rules.

American requires that:

  • You fly published routings (obey the routing rules published by the most significant carrier on the itinerary)
  • The most significant carrier on your itinerary has to publish a fare between your origin and destination in order to book the ticket as a single award, otherwise you pay more miles.
  • You fly directly between your region of origin and region of destination unless there’s a specific exception allowing a connection in a third region. You cannot connect in Europe between the US and Asia (Europe is an impermissible third region). You cannot connect in the Middle East between the US and Africa (although you can if you arrive and depart Doha on Qatar, as that’s a published exception).

American AAdvantage is the only program I can think of which strictly requires flying published routings on an award ticket. Awards are usually more flexible because you have to hunt and peck for available seats and may have to fly more circuitously than you would like in order to piece together your travel.

It makes no logical sense to have a published routing requirement and a prohibition on connecting in a third region when flying between two regions. If the third region is allowed as a connecting point in a published routing, American should allow it. As it is, American is substantially stricter when constructing award tickets than they are with paid tickets.


American is pretty much the only ones who prohibit US-Asia via the Atlantic. They prohibit US-India via the Pacific. Both of those may be shorter routings depending on where you are starting from in the US.

More importantly perhaps the lack of third region connections on US-Australia awards [both United and Delta allow Asia connections] make Australia a virtual impossibility using American miles, except for:

  • Qantas economy
  • the odd Los Angeles – Brisbane business class seat on Qantas
  • some Hawaiian Airlines connections through Honolulu (in premium cabins this is more like domestic first than international business)

Here’s a calendar of award availability for passengers in business class, Los Angeles – Sydney and Los Angeles – Brisbane for June (which is low season):

Literally nothing. American would require you to book two separate awards US – Asia and Asia – Australia if you want to fly business class to Australia, something both United and Delta allow on a single award ticket.

You used to be able to fly via Asia on a distance-based oneworld award, but that option was eliminated last April.

American should eliminate the third region routing prohibition. Their rules will still be far stricter than any ever enforced by Dividend Miles. And members will be able to construct awards based on space availability that would be permitted by United, Delta, Alaska and also by other oneworld frequent flyer programs.

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. Note that June is a HIGH SEASON in Australia (mid summer) – awards are thin on the ground, even for Qantas Elites.

  2. 100% agree. The biggest offenders are the inability to connect in Lima to “SA2” except the 1-2 through flights, and Asia connections.

  3. @Gary – have you passed your suggestions (which are excellent) to Suzanne and your contacts at AA? If so, what have they said in response?

  4. @Gary — it’s high-season for anything north of Brisbane, where weather is best May – October. I ran into a lot of European and US tourists on summer breaks in Queensland and Northern Territory.

    Considering how few flights even go between US – Australia, there’s probably almost no low season for flying.

  5. Gary, now that AA has an award routing exception via Colombo since they started partnering with UL… is JFH-AUH-CMB-MLE routing legal? or will it price as two awards?

  6. @Lantean there is a published exception for Sri Lanka routings between the US and Indian Subcontinent. I’d have to check actual fares to determine if EY routing rules permit this [I am guessing not though I have not tried it]. EY is your most significant carrier and their fare rules may require travel on their own non-stop for AUH-MLE segment.

    What’s more likely to be permissible is JFK-LHR-CMB-MLE.

  7. Sprry -That should have been “mid summer in the northern hemisphere”.

    Many people head out of Australia that time of year to escape the cold.

    Air fares are near their peak out of oz in June and award seats are scarce.

  8. I did SLC-DFW-AUH-CMB-MLE just last month (I know it’s making me dizzy just thinking about it). As always YMMV.

  9. 100% agree.

    Plus, redemptions RULES SHOULD BE PUBLISHED FOR ALL TO SEE. Why/how the DOT hasn’t clamped down on this patently unfair practice (keeping the rules hidden from customers) is a mystery.

  10. @Gary – They need to :

    1 – allow one stopover on a roundtrip ticket

    2 – allow routing via japan from Europe to HNL.

  11. If it offers any solace, flying to Australia on miles never made much sense to me. Australia is far away, so you can earn a boatload of miles on a paid ticket (which usually doesn’t cost much more money than a relatively short hop to Europe). Yes, you spend a lot of time in coach, but it builds character.

  12. They will probably do away with the routing rules after making awards more expensive soon. It’s ridiculous that you can only use BA to fly to Africa on one award but not Qatar and Etihad…

  13. @Ryan – exactly, I note this. “although you can if you arrive and depart Doha on Qatar, as that’s a published exception”

  14. @Pat, some of us detest flying coach, period, especially for long flights such as Australia. A business or first class award is a good use of miles, in my view.

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