The Outstanding Value of American Airlines oneworld Awards

This afternoon I had a conversation with an American Airlines agent, it was the second or third time that one of them commented that they ‘never see’ distance-based oneworld awards, that they do one or two a year at most.

So I thought it might be worth a post on the basics.

Most American Airlines awards are one-way awards, and they don’t permit stopovers except at the North American gateway city. That means if you fly from your home airport to Los Angeles, and then to Tokyo, you can stop over in Los Angeles. But not outside of North America.

That was the tradeoff when American went to one-way awards, they got rid of most stopovers.

But American also offers another award type that offers unlimited stopovers as long as you do not exceed 16 segments on the awards: oneworld awards.

The mileage cost of these awards is based on the total distance flown. And there are some special requirements and routing rules:

  • Can only connect twice per city
  • One stopover per city
  • One open jaw is permitted in the award
  • No changes to routing or airlines at all once ticketed. (But you can change date/time without fee.)
  • Can only fly on oneworld carriers, not other partners
  • Must fly on at least two airlines other than American

Today I reserved the following for two passengers:

Los Angeles – San Francisco, American Airlines First Class
San Francisco – Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Business Class

Hong Kong – Auckland, Cathay Pacific Business Class

Auckland – Sydney, Qantas Business Class

Sydney – Tokyo, Japan Airlines Business Class

Tokyo – Los Angeles, Japan Airlines Business Class

American’s standard one-way awards would have made this 215,000 miles per person.

But because it included three airlines besides American, we were eligible to use their distance-based award chart. And since the total flying was less than 25,000 miles (this clocked in at just over 24,500) the cost was 150,000 miles per person.

Not bad for trips to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan on a single ticket, all in business class.

These aren’t always useful, or less expensive, but certainly can be and are worth keeping in your quiver of tricks.

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. @John I find outstanding availability on Cathay (first class – San Francisco, first and business – Toronto) and the JAL space between Sydney and Tokyo is great. The JAL Haneda-San Francisco space is pretty good as well, other cities are decent but I wouldn’t say plentiful.

  2. Been doing this one world thing for three years. It’s wonderful. And as per @Nun’s request I will be quite.

  3. For the short period of time that Mexicana was in OW, this made for quite a nice amount of hopping around the US/North America on 4-9000 miles award at a cost of only 60,000 AA miles. While that may sound like a lot, you could make a LOT of stops all over the US + Toronto and Mexico by throwing in a JFK-YYZ on Lan and a Mexicana segment through CUN or MEX. Now you only have CX’s YVR-JFK flight to go with LAN, and that eats up a lot of the allowed miles…

  4. Of course, it was much better until last year, since they used to count only direct distance between stopovers, not flown miles. A 35000 mile award was enough for Uganda-London-Madrid-Santiago (stop)-Easter Island (stop)-SCL-ORD-NRT (stop)-BKK (stop)-SYD (stop)-AYQ (stop)-CNS (stop)-SYD-SFO under the old rules: now that was a great use of 180k in business!

  5. Gary, thanks for sharing this. Certainly something to look out for next time I am booking an AA award!

  6. Its no big secret. Otherwise, there would be a lots of bookings. The biggest problem is that it must be on 2 OW airlines other than AA. Most often you would end up wasting miles to meet that req. GRU-EZE on BA is another flight to keep in mind for OW award planning in S.AM. I am v.happy taking CX 88x JFK-YVR, YVR-JFK oneways in First Class for 32.5k as a NewYorker. Have 6 PJs for the priviledge.

  7. where were their stop overs? open jaws?
    how long in each city?

    just wondering in hopes of h=building my own dream itinerary after taking the bar in july 🙂

  8. @Eli, thought I made clear that the stopovers were in Hong Kong (3 days), Auckland (4 weeks), Sydney (3 days), Tokyo (5 days). There weren’t any open jaws though one is permitted.

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