7,500 Miles to Europe and Negative 7,500 Miles to South America

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Reader question:

I’ve got to book a one way flight from Los Angeles to Newark with American miles next month. Is there any way to get extra value from the award?

Answer:

Sure. How about adding a one way flight to anywhere in Europe for 7,500 miles!

It’s all about perspective, and this question gave me a new perspective on free oneways. Hopefully everyone reading this has already read about adding Free Oneways to American Airlines awards. It’s a great way to add value to American Airlines international awards, and I’m using the trick to visit my mom for free next month for her birthday.

Normally I look at free oneways on American awards like this:

I’ve got an international trip coming up. Can I add a free oneway domestically?

But this reader has the opposite trip:

I’ve got a domestic trip coming up. Can I add anything to it?

And the rules–The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards–are the same either way you think about your trip. If the reader adds an international flight from New York, he can take a free stopover in Newark and Los Angeles to Newark becomes free. Or if the reader thinks about Los Angeles to Newark costing 12,500 miles, then New York to Europe costs 7,500 miles more.

Let’s give some specific cities to make it clear. Imagine if the reader wanted to join me at Oktoberfest in Munich.

To do a multicity award search on aa.com, select Flights under Plan Travel on the front page.

To search for Los Angeles to Newark next month on a Sunday, then New York to Munich in September, first go to the AAdvantage Award tab, then select Milti-City.

It’s important to note that flying into Newark and out of JFK is not an open jaw. Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK are considered co-terminal airports by American and the its competitors. That means flying into one and out of another is allowed on award tickets and paid tickets if you don’t mind the ground transport. Of course, on this itinerary, the reader would fly into Newark seven months before flying out of JFK, so there is no ground transport issue.

(In fact, a oneway award can never have an open jaw. If you think it can, you are confused about what an open jaw is. Don’t worry; it’s the most common confusion I get by email. See What is an Open Jaw? How Can an Itinerary Have Two Open Jaws?)

The search results look like this:

I’ve selected “Non-stop only” for LAX-EWR because American has a direct flight on that route. American and its partners don’t fly directly from New York to Munich, so I left that dropdown as is. Note that the top half doesn’t have prices because American’s computer knows to price LAX-EWR on this itinerary as a free oneway.

Note also that JFK to Munich is displaying as 20k miles. You would probably expect it to cost 30k miles, since that is the oneway price to Europe with American miles during peak times. But I uncovered last month that you can fly to Europe all year round for 20k American miles by using one simple trick that this itinerary naturally uses.

There is plenty of space on the LAX-EWR direct flight next month in economy. And there is plenty of space from JFK to Munich flying airberlin and connecting in Dusseldorf or Berlin. (This shouldn’t surprise you at all if you read Book Now to Europe for Next Summer: Economy.)

My hand drawn notes are there to draw attention to the fact that LAX-EWR would be 12,500 miles and $2.50 if booked separately. Adding on the flights to have a separate trip to Oktoberfest only adds 7,500 miles and $15.40 to the price!

Book alone for 12,500 miles, or add Europe during the summer for 7,500 miles more.

This itinerary:

Los Angeles to Newark

New York to Munich

will always cost 20,000 American miles as long as Los Angeles to Newark is flown between October 15 and May 15. If you’re going to book New York to Munich either way, LAX to Newark is a free oneway. If you’re going to book LAX to Newark either way–like my reader way–New York to Munich is only 7,500 miles more.

Other Applications

Any time you want to fly an award from somewhere in the US (including Alaska and Hawaii) or Canada to your home airport, and your home airport is a North American International Gateway City, you can add on a steeply discounted international trip for after your domestic trip. Equivalently if you want to fly an award from your home airport to somewhere in the US and Canada, and your home airport is a North American International Gateway City, you can add on a steeply discounted international award to your home airport before the domestic trip.

Examples:

Los Angeles to Newark in first for 25k. You can add on New York to Istanbul in business for 25k more.

San Francisco to Washington in first for 25k. You can add Hong Kong to San Francisco in Cathay business for 30k more.

Miami to Chicago in economy for 12.5k. You can add Chicago to Shanghai for 12.5k more.

And my personal favorite:

Honolulu to New York is 37.5k one way in business class. You can add New York to Lima for -7.5k. Yes, that’s negative 7,500 miles to add on a flight from New York to Lima, which brings the total award down to 30,000 miles.

This also works to other cities with direct service to Lima on American or LAN: New York, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

This also works in economy, but the discount is from 22,500 miles to 17,500 miles. That means it’s “only” negative 5,000 miles to Lima in economy.

(This leads to the odd scenario that if you live in one of the cities that serves Central America or Northern South America, and you want a first class return from Hawaii, you’re better off adding on a leg to Central America to decrease the price even if you’ll never fly it. It’s kind of like how I saved 200k US Airways miles by adding dummy legs I won’t be flying to this award.)

Getting American Miles

The best current offer for American Airlines credit cards is to get two at the same time for 100k total miles. You can apply for the Citi American Airlines Visa and Citi American Airlines American Express within minutes with different browsers. In my experience, my brother’s experience, my girlfriend’s experience, and the experience of hundreds of FlyerTalkers, you can get approved for both.

Application Link: Citi American Airlines Visa

Application Link: Citi American Airlines American Express

The offer on both the cards linked is the same. Spend $2,500 within 4 months and receive 50k miles and two Admirals Club passes. So that’s $5,000 total spending in 4 months for 100k total bonus AA miles and four Admirals Club passes–an incredible haul.

There’s one hiccup. The offer page doesn’t mention that deal, and the offer page may be expired. But if you can pull up the page, the deal is probably still on–certainly the deal has worked for hundreds before you. But your mileage may vary.

Here’s the FlyerTalk thread bible on Citi AA offers, including information on the two-browser trick, new offers as they appear, and recent data points about whether offers are still working.

For even more AA miles, check out the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card that comes with 25k Starpoints after $5,000 in spending in the first 6 months. Starpoints can be transferred 1:1 to AA miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20k points transferred. Or you might get even more value (2.5+ cents) from Starwood Cash & Points stays.

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Recap

We’re all familiar with free oneways on American Airlines awards. Looking at the exact same type of award from the perspective of booking a domestic award, leads to some incredibly cheap international add ons like 7,500 miles to Europe or negative 7,500 miles to Peru!

For more great posts like this, follow me on Twitter or Facebook. If you’re in Los Angeles, Tampa, or Baltimore, let’s grab dinner.

57 Responses to 7,500 Miles to Europe and Negative 7,500 Miles to South America

  1. I dont understand, say im headed back from lih-jfk on a 1 way business for 37.5k miles feb 3 ( which i am) are you saying if i added lima it would refuce the mileage? All as a 1 way? I tried that but it seemed to block out flights id normally see in business going to jfk.

    • Yes, you could save 7,500 miles by adding NYC-LIM. BUT it has to be the direct JFK-LIM on AA or LAN. The good news is it can be in business or economy. Changing your destination with the award already booked will incur a change fee of $150 though.

  2. This is an amazing post!

  3. Scott, Does it work on a NA trip with a stop in a NA gateway city but obviously you dont have a over water international segment. Say for example HNL-SEA-JFK or a HNL-SEA-SJD with a stopover in SEA? Will AA show non stop flights from SEA in that itinerary to JFK or SJD or will it block them out? Thanks.

  4. Hey Scott, question about your Citi card links to triple-check before I apply. I see that the Visa offer that you describe for 50k miles after $2.5k spend in 4 months is straight from offer #2 on the first post of the Flyertalk bible. For the Amex version, though, none of the offers listed on Flyertalk have the terms you describe above. Different minimum spends, different amounts of miles, but not exactly 50k for $2.5k in 4 months. Did your Amex link come from another, non-Flyertalk source? Thanks in advance.

  5. Any luck with the international stop being in Brazil or Argentina?

    • David, if you mean the stopover – the city in which you will spend several days / weeks / months before continuing your one way trip – then the answer is no. The stopover needs to be in the North American gateway city.

      • I was thinking instead of Brazil/Argentina instead of Lima for that leg.

        • That would raise the price of the award from 37.5k miles to 50k miles, because Argentina and Brazil are in South America Zone 2. The business class price from North America to South America Zone 1 (incl. Peru), on the other hand, is 30k.

        • Yes, this is possible if you live in a city with direct flights to Brazil and Argentina on oneworld carriers. The total price of the award would be 20k or 30k in economy depending on the dates or 50k in business each way.

  6. Thanks for an interesting and potentially very useful post. I have some AA miles that I’m pondering what I should use them for in the next year or so. The free oneway might end up being very useful since I’m not far from several of the gateways. I live in Maryland so getting to NY, IAD, etc. isn’t that bad or costly most of the time.

    Thanks

  7. Great post. My mind is exploding with possibilities. :-)
    Unfortunately, This doesn’t seem to be possible (or any valuable) from SEA as gateway city. Only airline listed for SEA as gateway city is British which has heavy taxes. I am not able to find any good place (in South America, Europe, or Asia) where American flies directly from SEA. I have a domestic flight coming up, so this will be interesting opportunity to explore.
    Any ideas?

  8. You say “adding dummy legs I won’t be flying”. How concerned are you that if you do that often enough the airline will crack down on you? Or does that only occur on extreme situations? I’ve got 3 itineraries in 4 months on AA each of which has dummy legs. Should I be concerned?

    • That’s more than I can see myself ever having, so I am not concerned at all about my dummy legs. My guess is you’re pushing acceptability, but you’ll be fine. But I really have no idea.

  9. On your HNL-LAX-MIA-LIM example I can get that to price as one award as well as thru DFW, but if I use (HNL to)(SFO or LAX as layover gateway cities) (then SFO or LAX to Lim) it prices both legs. Is there any way to use SJC,LAX,SFO as layover cities before going to South america as I live in the Bay Area.
    Thank you.

    • Yes, there is. But remember that the stopover city has to be the international gateway city: the city you leave the country directly from. So for LAX and SFO to LIM that means the direct LAX-LIM and SFO-LIM flights operated by LAN. LAN availability doesn’t display on aa.com, try qantas.com.au or ba.com. You have to call AA at 800-882-8880 to book LAN space.

  10. Is it possible to use HNL to SFO or LAX as gate way cities for stoppover before going SFO or LAX-LIM as I live in the Bay Area. When I try the above set up it prices both legs at 52k. I can get it to price HNL-DFW-LIM or HNL-MIA-LIM 30k but that does not make the best travel plans.

    • Yes, there is. But remember that the stopover city has to be the international gateway city: the city you leave the country directly from. So for LAX and SFO to LIM that means the direct LAX-LIM and SFO-LIM flights operated by LAN. LAN availability doesn’t display on aa.com, try qantas.com.au or ba.com. You have to call AA at 800-882-8880 to book LAN space.

  11. frequent churner

    The Oneworld Explorer award is worth looking into for those who plan to do multiple trips in one year. You can fly 50k miles and multiple segments/stopovers in biz class for 220k AA miles.

    I played around with the mileage on gcmap and looks like it should be possible to visit at least 3 continents and each time return back to US. You just can’t “stopover” in the same US city multiple times, but that’s easy to fix with cheap domestic flights.

  12. Hi, I tried searching for hawaii to Jfk to lima to proof the theory. Unfortunately regardless of how I tried, the AA system always price out these two legs separately (not recognizing Hawaii->jfk as free stopover).

    I tried searching:
    OGG->JFK FEB 28, 2013
    JFK->LIM Dec 7, 2013

    Priced out at total 35K for economy saver, charging each leg at 17.5K.

    After I changed LIMA to say RIO, it correctly priced the free way and the who trip was 20K in econ saver.

    Does this mean that JFK is not recognized as a gateway city for Lima (weird as it does have a direct flight).

  13. Thanks for the great info. Can this be done with united as well? JFK to sfo, then sfo to hkg a few months later?

  14. Hello Scott,

    I’m planing a trip to S. America (multiple countries) with AA miles. I live in Cincinnati and thus cannot take advantage of the free one ways? However, you mentioned the almost free one ways in this post. How do I take advantage of this? This will be my first AA booking and I would love to stretch my miles to the fullest.

    Thanks for your help!

  15. @wolfgang. It’s called hidden city ticketing, and I think we know what the airlines think about that. If they find out, they won’t be calling you to congratulate you on your ingenuity. To me, saving a few thousand miles isn’t worth the risk of violating the program’s rules, and doing it repeatedly just increases the risks of getting caught.

    @frequent churner. Definitely a great idea. I’ve always conceived of the Oneworld Explorer as something to do when I have an extended period of time in one block, but your alternative approach is definitely something to look into. It would definitely be cheap to use Avios to connect from my home airport into different segments of such a trip, and make three good international trips as you describe it for a lot fewer miles than pricing each trip separately.

  16. Pingback: Add One-Ways to Europe or South America on American Airlines - Street Smart Traveler

  17. Please help, i am booking bos to nrt on japan airways with AA miles,
    But i am unable to add free one way without the award price going up, i tried miami, lax and ord. Also for the one way to work, do i have to take the domestic leg first? For example mia-bos-nrt or do i book this way and able to change the date of the first leg mia to bos after bos- nrt?

  18. Last Sept I booked the following award on United Business class: ORD to LHR; CDG-ORD-SFO. I already flew the Europe portion back in Sept.

    My free one way is the ORD-SFO segment in business which is scheduled for July. I would like to change that free one way to HI instead of SFO.

    Can this be done after the trip was booked and a portion has already been flown for the extra 7,500 miles?

  19. I’m trying to plug in your MIA-ORD, ORD-PVG in economy example but the system prices it at 35K instead of 25K. Not sure if it matters, but both flights are nonstop. What am I doing wrong?

  20. Hi,
    Thanks for the info on this site. I have a question though. If I book a free stopover on AA from let’s say San Fran(SFO) to Newark(EWR) then from EWR to OTP (Bucharest, Romania) and for some reason I am unable to fly the SFO to EWR flight, will my EWR to OTP flight be canceled as well.
    I am based out of NJ but was thinking of adding in a segment from SFO to EWR but wanted to make sure that if I couldn’t take that segment (I can used United points to get to SFO), I wouldn’t lose my other flight.

    Thanks.

  21. Pingback: Anatomy of an Award: HNL-ASIA CHEAP ONEWAY | milevalue.com

  22. Pingback: Anatomy of an Award: 12,500 Miles to Asia in First Class | milevalue.com

  23. Can I add a free one-way that is more than a year from the original booking if I have Exec Platinum status?

    I am currently finishing up an Exec Platinum status challenge on AA. I am planning to book a trip to Chile/Argentina for Spring of 2014. I know I can add free one-ways to the outbound leg (JFK-SCL), but the return trip gives me much less flexibility due to the one-year rule on AA Award travel.

    Let’s say I book a single return leg EZE-JFK (direct). I know I can add JFK-SAN as long as it’s within 12 months of the original booking, but this is pretty restrictive since the initial trip is 11 months out anyway. If I call back at a later time will AA be able to reset the date by reissuing the entire ticket? My worry is that if there’s no availability on that EZE-JFK leg I’ll lose my seat when they reissue the ticket.

    Appreciate your thoughts on this.

    • For everyone, all award travel must be completed within one year of the ticket. As an EXP, you can cancel awards for free. So you can cancel the award and rebook for free resetting the clock. BUT if you cancel, there is no guarantee your former award space will reappear to be rebooked. It’s a risk. There is no guarantee that you can cancel and rebook without issue, so you have to weigh whether the risk is worth it.

      • Thanks for the response. I won’t risk it. Looks like I’ll have to take a weekend jaunt a month after the Argentina trip! Something like this:

        SAN-NYC (free one-way)
        JFK-EZE
        MDZ-JFK
        NYC-MIA (free one-way)

        Miami works because LAN publishes a MDZ-MIA fare… something like SJU or LAX would work too. I’ll use Avios to get around within Argentina (huge, huge value there due to the sky-high LAN fares for intra-South American travel).

  24. I seem to be hitting a snag on this.

    JFK-LAX in mid april and then
    LAX-PVR in mid august
    It’s pricing out as separate tickets 25k and 30k respectively for business. What gives?

  25. Hi, how could I add a free one way to a booking from MAN to ORD or STL (Manchester, UK to Chicago or St Louis)?

    Many thanks for the great website

  26. Nice trick! I’m trying to use it to do the exact same thing – HNL – LAX – MIA (stop over) – LIM. For some reason, it keeps splitting it up into separate awards (HNL – LAX for 17.5k and LAX-MIA-LIM for 15k). I’m using the multiple cities search.

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