How Far Can You Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value?

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I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I believe we don’t fully realize what an awesome program AAdvantage is. And let’s forget business and first class for a moment, shall we?

I’ve been researching Galapagos for another blog I write for, and I’m still in awe how freakishly easy it is to get there on an award ticket! Out of three airlines flying to Baltra, two are available to book on miles! Wow! But AA is still more amazing than anyone since in addition to a fair and balanced (LOL) award chart, they also have this unbelievable OffPeak discount. I don’t know how they can do it (or why), and I have all kinds of fears of what’s going to happen after October—by which time they’ll have fully completed their integration with US Airways. But hey: I’ve been wrong about them before, thank god!

Let me offer some visual aid here. This is an AA/UA OffPeak Chart. It’s different from the oneworld chart in that oneworld has no OffPeak dates for Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico, Central, and South America Region 1.

OffPeak Dates and Regions

How far can you stretch AAdvantage miles’ value? Here are a few examples.

Galapagos, Ecuador. South America Region 1

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Galapagos for 35,000 miles

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Galapagos for 35,000 miles

Roundtrip from the U.S.:

  • 35,000 AA miles
  • $1,000-1,100+

Value: 2.5-3+ pennies for mile

LAN Ecuador is a OneWorld member. It flies to Baltra and San Cristobal from Quito and Guayaquil. LAN doesn’t show on AA.com, so you will have to call AA, although they’ll waive the $25 phone fee.

You can search your flights on BA.com, which displays a good availability between Miami and Baltra with a layover in Quito. I haven’t found any availability from New York via Guayaquil or any availability to San Cristobal. Not to say it doesn’t exist, as I haven’t tried too hard.

OffPeak? Nah. The oneworld chart doesn’t offer a discount to South America Region 1. Besides the discount is pretty small. You can fly on AA to Quito and then use 7,500 BA Avios to Galapagos, but I don’t know why you’d want to do that unless you want a stopover in Quito.

Machu Picchu, Peru. South America Region 1

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Machi Picchu for 35,000 miles

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Machi Picchu for 35,000 miles

Roundtrip from the U.S.:

  • 35,000 AA miles
  • $1,000-1,100+

Value: 2.3-3.5 pennies for mile

OffPeak? Maybe, if you want to hack it a little, but the savings are negligible.

Here is what I mean. If you’re only flying to Cuzco (gateway to Machu Picchu), your best bet is LAN Peru all the way in. New aircraft, better seats and food, individual entertainment systems—LAN is a much better flight experience than old American, as long as they don’t lose your bag.

But if you want to explore Peru, you can tough it up on American and save 2,500 miles, provided you’re flying during their OffPeak period. Spend some time in Lima (fantastic food), then explore the Amazon (Iquitos), Machu Piicchu (Cuzco), and Lake Titicaca (Juliaka). Here is the tally.

  • U.S.-LIM: 15,000 AA miles
  • LIM-IQT: 4,500 Avios
  • IQT-CUZ: 9,000 Avios
  • CUZ-JUL: 4,500 Avios
  • JUL-U.S.: 17,500 Avios

For only 32,500 AA miles and 35,500 Avios, this is an incredible value. Go ahead and try to price this route in cash.

3. Brazil (and elsewhere in South America). South America Region 2.

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Brazil and South America for 40,000 miles

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Brazil and South America for 40,000 miles

For Southern South America you will pay 40,000 miles instead of 60,000 regardless who you fly on. This is a fantastic deal, although finding availability on TAM is hard, and you would have to call anyway. I haven’t flown TAM for a long time, but when I did, I don’t remember it being any better than AA, for what it’s worth.

The good news is, AA flies to quite a few cities in Brazi from/via Miamil:

  • Belo Horizonte
  • Curitiba
  • Manaus
  • Porto Alegre
  • Recife
  • Rio De Janeiro
  • Salvador da Bahia
  • Sao Paulo (GRU and VCP)

Here is another piece of good news:

South America

Sure, for short, direct flights, Avios can’t be beat. But for longer and more complex itineraries, 10,000 miles to fly anywhere in South America is unbelievable! Imagine flying all the way down from Manaus to Ushuaia for 10,000 miles!

MAO-USH

But yes, you will have to call.

Europe for 40,000 miles OffPeak

Here is the thing. For AA, the Canary Islands is Europe. And the whole Russia is Europe, too.

Not that there is anything wrong with it, but other programs see it differently. United believes the Canaries are in North Africa and Delta thinks that East Russia is in North Asia. The AA chart, however, allows you to fly to the Canaries via Continental Europe or to Vladivostok via Moscow for 20,000 miles one-way.

And it allows you to fly between the Canaries or any other part of Europe, say—I don’t know—Iceland, to Vladivostok for 10,000 miles one-way.

That’s over 7,000 miles one way. That’s not even crazy. That’s certifiably insane!

Around-the-World for 70,000 miles

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Russian Far East for 20,000 miles Vladivostok Golden Horn

How Far You Can Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value: Russian Far East for 20,000 miles
Vladivostok Golden Horn

Of course, one might wonder why you would want to fly 5-7,000 miles (and in economy for that matter) to go to Vladivostok. Well, I don’t know. Maybe, because Vladivostok and the Russian Far East are so worth exploring! Or for the change of scenery. Or perhaps you’ve already seen everything else. Or simply because you can. The fact that it costs 10,000 miles from anywhere in Europe and 20,000 from anywhere in the States to fly almost to the edge of Asia should count for something. And this is not going to stay this way forever, or for very long.

Or, maybe you just have a thing for the Trans-Siberian Express. Because Vladivostok is where the journey starts or ends, depending how your look at it.

I have to say, though, there is no way I would recommend to go to this far-away Russian city and skip Moscow and Saint Petersburg, unless you are in it for the Transsib that’ll take you back to Moscow anyway. So I would certainly make at least a week-long pit stop to see these two crown jewels of Russia, even though that’ll cost you an extra 10,000 miles.

S7, the Russian airline and a oneworld partner doesn’t show on AA.com, so you’ll have to call to book.

Is there a way to pimp it up  a little?

Yes. Let’s think creatively. Where can we go from Vladivostok without breaking a sweat?

VVO Map

S7 does fly to  Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo from VVO, but it won’t do much for you. These 2-3 hour flights are between Europe and Asia, and they’re going to cost you 35,000 miles one-way.

The same is true for United, only it is worse. A flight to Seoul on Asiana will cost you 45,000 miles one way.

Delta, however, treats Russia as the part of North Asia. Which means, you can fly between VVO and other cities in North Asia for 15,000 miles.

Korean can fly you to Seoul.

Aeroflot can fly you to Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, and some other Chinese cities. So your side trip VVO-Asia-VVO will cost you 30,000 Sky Pesos.

How you’re getting back is totally up to you. You can make your way back for another 20,000 miles (and if you do take the Transsib back to Moscow, this is a solid choice), or you could go in the opposite direction. If you decide to spend this part of your trip in Korea or Japan, you could return from Seoul or Tokyo to the U.S. over the Pacific for 25,000 AA miles, because…

OffPeak dates almost completely overlap for these regions:

MileSAAver Off Peak Dates

  • Europe: October 15 – May 15;
  • Japan and South Korea: October 1 – April 30

Have you enjoyed our armchair Round-the-World trip? This is not a bad trip at all!

  • U.S. to Saint Petersburg for 20,000 miles, then a short train ride to Moscow.
  • Moscow to Vladivostok for 10,000 AA miles.
  • Vladivostok to Seoul/Tokyo for 15,000 Delta miles.
  • Seoul/Tokyo to the U.S. for 25,000 AA miles.

And if you choose Japan and have some more time to explore it, AA charges 7,500 miles for a one-way flight within Japan. Although, in most cases, you’d be better off with ANA miles or Avios.

I have to stop here, but we have just scratched the surface. I’ll go back to the amazing AA chart redemptions some other time.

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12 Responses to How Far Can You Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value?

  1. John says:

    Great Post, Andy!!!! I love AA miles…although being older than you coach that far is hard, I love the off peak BC AA awards ;). However, if I had to I would rather than not travel

  2. Thanks very much, Andy, for this thought-provoking essay!

  3. Andy Shuman says:

    Thanks for reading guys!

  4. […] good post about stretching the value of your American Airlines miles by Lazy Traveler. I feel a bloodbath announcement coming in late 2015, hope I am […]

  5. PedroNY says:

    Great post, thank you for sharing!

    Cheers,

    PedroNY

  6. mintcilantro says:

    thanks for the enlightenment post.. i’ve only redeemed on etihad so far (and over a million miles total)

  7. […] How Far Can You Stretch Your AAdvantage Miles Value? (The Lazy Traveler’s Handbook). I have nearly a million AA miles and rarely find a way to use them. AA Platinum waives the close-in award ticketing fee but not change/redeposit and almost everything I do for me or family needs flexibility or I get stun later. […]

  8. Becky says:

    Brilliant summarization. Thanks for sharing!

  9. JOHN says:

    Good post, very interesting! I’m curious about the number of miles needed to upgrade the longer trips. Three to 4 hours is my tolerance time in steerage.

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