Booking American Airline Awards: The RULES

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Booking American Airline Awards: The RULES

Booking American Airlines Awards:
1. Getting Started, Earning and The Chart
2. The RULES
3. Booking American Airlines and OneWorld Partners

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In our last post we discussed the award charts for booking with American Airline miles. In this post, we will look at some of the rules which govern these miles and those award charts.


  1. Published Routing
  2. Stop-overs
  3. Maximum Permitted Mileage
  4. Third Region Connection
  5. Most Direct Route
  6. FEES

American Airlines plane

So let’s go through each of these to figure out how we are able (or not able) to route our trip:

1. Published Routing

In order for an award ticket to be valid the airline that is flying you on the primary leg (between regions) must publish a fare from your starting city to your destination.  What this means is that in theory if you went on their website you would be able to buy a ticket from X to Y on 1 ticket.  One way I have found to search this is by going onto Kayak or a similar site and make the primary airlines my airline in the filter area.  For instance, for our upcoming trip if I would put in STL-ICN in Kayak for Japan Airlines it would price out a ticket (on AA and then JAL).  However, if I put in SPI-ICN (Springfield, IL to Seoul, South Korea) and select Japan Airlines then nothing prices out, so no published route.  If you want to know for sure if the routing is legal then you would have to call in to price out the ticket.


2. Stop-overs (or lack there of)

Unlike some other airlines there are NO stopovers allowed on award bookings.  All fully domestic connections must be under 4 hours and all international connections (even the domestic parts) must be under 24 hours.  However, with this long international connection time you are able to stay a night to make a connection if arriving late or explore a new city for part of a day.  For example, Joe and I will be exploring Tokyo for 12 hours during a connection in March.  As long as it is not longer than 23 hours and 59 minutes, you’re set.  Otherwise it will price as 2 separate awards.


american airlines ice cream first class

Dessert on our First Class flight to Hawaii

3. Maximum Permitted Mileage

This is the maximum mileage published by the airlines for a particular flight.  This not the exact mileage from city A to city B but some amount of mileage over the exact distance that the airlines have designated for that city connection.  You are able to see what MPM is on ExpertFlyer (this is a paid site but there is a free trial) if you are interested.

Some airlines only allow this mileage, some allow this plus a certain percentage. Then there’s AA who actually gives you this published mileage plus 25%.

4. Third Region Connection

For the most part you can NOT transit through a third region on the way to your destination.  For instance you can not fly from Los Angeles (North America) to Hong Kong (Asia 2) to the Maldives (Indian Subcontinent) on the same ticket, it must be broken into 2 awards because of the third region.

Although this is the general rule, there are actually many exceptions:

Asia 1 connection allowed for between:

  • North America and Asia 2
  • Europe and South Pacific

Asia 2 connections allowed for travel between:

  • Asia 1 and Indian Sub-Continent/Middle East
  • Asia 1 and Africa
  • Asia 1 and Europe
  • Asia 1 and South Pacific
  • Europe and South Pacific
  • Indian Sub-Continent and South Pacific

Europe connections allowed for travel between:

  • North America and Indian Sub-Continent/Middle East
  • North America and Africa
  • Central/South America 1 and Indian Sub-Continent/Middle East
  • Central/South America 1 and Africa
  • South America 2 and Indian Sub-Continent/Middle East
  • South America 2 and Africa

South America 2 connections allowed for travel between:

  • Central/South America 1 and South Pacific

Indian Sub-Continent/Middle East connections for (this connection is for flights only through Doha and only on Qatar) travel between:

  • North America and Africa
  • South America 2 and Africa
  • Africa and Asia 1
  • Africa and Asia 2
  • Europe and Asia 1
  • Europe and Asia 2

To go along with these regions there are also rules governing which ocean you need to cross when flying to different regions but the 2 region rule really makes this kind of a moot point.

New 3rd region exce[tion to Africa (use to only be Europe)

New 3rd region exception to Africa (use to only be Europe)

5. Most direct Route

What this rule means in general is that you can’t go egregiously out of the way when making your trip.  For example, if you are flying from to Hong Kong from Los Angeles you can’t make a route LAX-JFK-HKG…maybe.  It seems to be an override rule that the agent is able to split up your ticket into separate awards if you seem to be intentionally going out of the way.


Phone booking fee, applied if an award is booked over the phone (this is being eliminated for flights which can not be booked online on 2/16/15): $30 domestic and $40 international

Close in booking fees (within 21 days): $75

Cancellation and re-deposit fee:  This is a fee you have to pay if you cancel your award flight and want the miles deposited into your account: $150 for 1st passenger and $25 for each additional passenger

Change to your origin or destination, or downgrade cabin type: $150 for 1st passenger and $25 for each additional passenger

Upgrade award cabin type (example: Economy to business class): FREE (just the difference in miles)

Change to date or time of flight: FREE


As you can see there are several rules that govern American Airlines award flights.  If you do your booking on the American Airlines website then most of these rules are automatically enforced.  Where it becomes more important is when you have an international award using one of the MANY partners that American does not display on their site.

One good rule to keep in mind however when booking your flight is that you are able to change the TIME and DATE of your flights with no additional fee as long as Origin and Destination remain the same (and there is availability).  Also, you can upgrade your cabin by only paying the difference in miles with no fee (downgrade is a fee).

Therefore, lets say you are fairly flexible with the time/date that you are leaving for your vacation and you book an economy ticket to your destination.  If several months later a business or first class seat opens, even on a different flight that same day or another day, you can upgrade a cabin simply by paying the difference in miles.  This can come in handy if A) there are only economy seats available or B) you don’t have enough miles for a premium cabin but will in a few months.  Obviously there is no guarantee that an upgraded seat will open up, but it is a nice thought to keep in the back of your mind if ones does as your trip gets closer.

iberia business class

Iberia Business Class Seat (American Airlines’ Partner)

Our next installment will be LONG.  It is entitled Booking American Airlines and OneWorld Partners.  That post will explain all the ins and out of booking an award on the website and over the phone, as well as the step by step process I take to research my flights and piece them together .  It is a must read if you are interested in getting awesome American Airlines booking on some of their awesome partners!

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