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Points, Miles & Credit Cards

How to Book Award Flights Through American AAdvantage

Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile

September 6, 2023

9 min read

Table of Contents

This guide has the information you need to book flights with points and miles through American AAdvantage, the airline loyalty program of American Airlines. 

What is American AAdvantage?

American AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. You can use AAdvantage miles to book award flights on American or their partners—that includes other oneworld airlines like British Airways, Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, and more; as well as special partners like Etihad.

How to book flights through American AAdvantage

Step 1: Go to American’s website and log in with your American AAdvantage account number.

If you don’t have an American AAdvantage account, get one by clicking the “Join” button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

For what it’s worth, you can still search for American flights and flights with their partners even when you’re not logged in. Once you try to book a flight, however, the site will prompt you to log in with your AAdvantage number.

Step 2: Go to the flight search engine and check the “Redeem miles” box.

Step 3: Enter your departure airport and your arrival airport, and pick your departure date.

Depending on your itinerary, you might have better luck finding award availability by searching for one-way flights and one passenger at a time. 

Once you find available flights for your desired departure and return, you can then try booking the flights as a roundtrip—or even as a multi-city trip—on one reservation. (Write down flight numbers and other details as you come across available flights, then use that info to make your complete booking.)

The same goes for the number of seats you need. When you search for multiple seats at once, American presents the points cost per person while showing availability. The total cost in miles for all passengers is shown when you review your shopping cart. 

Step 4: Browse through the flight options.

In the American AAdvantage award search tool, you can filter by number of stops, airlines, and which nearby airports you want to include in your search (e.g. Do you want to go to London-Heathrow only, or are you willing to look at flights to Gatwick?). You can also order the options by points cost within specific cabin prices (e.g. cheapest economy flights vs. cheapest business class flights, etc.).

To review the finer details of what’s included in your fare, click “Details” and a small window will appear with more information on your selected flight. On flights operated by American, you can also click on “Seats” and you’ll be shown the plane’s seat map.

To compare the points prices between different dates, you have two options: First, you have the five-day/weekly view, where you can compare the cheapest flight on one day against cheapest flight 1 and 2 days before and after your currently selected date. Second, there’s also a monthly calendar view, which you can access by clicking the “Calendar” drop-down button.

In the monthly view, you have the option to filter by number of stops and the class of service (this is especially helpful when you’re trying to book premium cabin awards.)

If you can’t see a ticket you like on one day but are flexible on the dates you’re flying, you can select another day—in both the monthly and weekly views—without having to re-enter your search requirements.

Step 5: Select the award flight you want to book and review the details. 

When you select the award flight you want to book, you’ll be presented with information about that flight—and the total cost, if you’re booking for more than one person—before moving on to the payment page.

Step 6: Finalize your booking.

Proceed with your booking as you normally would. Enter your passenger details and payment information, and complete your purchase. The points you selected to pay will be deducted from your account, and you’ll get a booking confirmation email in your inbox.

Why should I book award flights via American AAdvantage?

Among the Big 3 carriers in the United States (American, Delta, and United), American is beloved among points and miles enthusiasts for its partner award chart—that is, the points prices the airline puts on award bookings for travel on partner airlines. American charges attractive rates for business class and first class tickets on partners like Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific (provided you manage to find award availability), and booking through American AAdvantage will often cost you fewer points and miles than if you were to book directly with the likes of Qatar, Cathay, and the rest of American’s partners.

Some examples: A one-way flight from Chicago to the Maldives via Doha in business class on Qatar Airways will cost only 75,000 AAdvantage miles; that same award ticket booked through Qatar Airways Privilege Club would cost 95,000 Avios (that’s what their miles currency is called). A one-way flight between New York and Hong Kong in first class on Cathay Pacific would cost only 110,000 AAdvantage miles; through Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, that award ticket costs 125,000 miles, according to their distance-based award chart.

American AAdvantage is most useful for booking partner awards. (For more on how partner awards work, read this guide.) Of course, you can use AAdvantage miles to book travel on American Airlines itself. However, it’d be in your best interest to explore booking travel on American as a partner award because, again, it might be cheaper to book a flight on one airline through its partner instead.

Here’s one example: a one-way flight in economy on American from Dallas to Chicago, on August 17, booked through American AAdvantage could cost anywhere between 11,500 miles to 35,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees.

Traveling between that same city pair on a partner award booked through British Airways, one of American’s airline partners, would cost you only 9,000 Avios and $5.60 in taxes and fees. That’s cheaper than even the cheapest booking option through American.

This is possible because British prices their awards by distance, whereas American uses a region-based award chart. When booking through American, a flight within the contiguous United States will always be the same price—whether you’re flying from New York to Boston, or Los Angeles to Miami. But when booking through British, that New York to Boston flight will be cheaper because it’s a shorter flight; a transcontinental flight between Los Angeles and Miami will cost more because the distance between the two is greater. (This principle would also apply to travel within Europe, Asia—anywhere in the world.)

All that to say: Make a habit of comparing the points prices of award flights between airline partners. Different programs will come in handy in different situations. 

How can I earn American AAdvantage miles?

To earn American AAdvantage miles, you can fly with American, oneworld airlines, or any of American’s airline partners, then credit those flights to your AAdvantage account. 

Among the Big 3 US airlines (the other two being Delta and United), American is the only one that does not partner with any of the Big 4 credit card points currencies—Chase, American Express, Capital One, and Citibank—even though you can earn AAdvantage miles through a co-branded Citi credit card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.

What else should I know about American AAdvantage?

If you’re flying on American Airlines soon, check out our guides to what it’s like when you’re at the airport and on the plane:

Debating whether to book in business class or to splurge on first class? We’ll tell you the difference between business and first on most airlines in this guide.

Though finding award flights via airline loyalty programs can take some patience and practice, you’ll eventually get the hang of it. But if you want someone else to do the hard search work for you, we’ve got you covered. Sign up for an Elite membership today and we’ll alert you to the best deals on flights you can book with points and miles.

Matt Ortile

Matt Ortile


Matt Ortile writes the Going With Points newsletter at Going. He is the author of the essay collection The Groom Will Keep His Name, a columnist at Condé Nast Traveler, and working on a novel about a flight attendant. He lives in Brooklyn.

Published September 6, 2023

Last updated June 28, 2024

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