This post is part of a four-part series. In Part 1, we looked at the mechanics of the AAdvantage program. In Part 2, we looked at the mechanics of a stopover, including how to use them to get free oneway trips within North America. In Part 3, we’ll value specific AAdvantage awards. In Part 4, I’ll put a number on one AAdvantage mile.
Now that we understand the AAdvantage program, and in particular its stopover rules, it’s time to value a few specific AAdvantage awards. This will give us a baseline value for an AAdvantage mile that we’ll adjust in Part 4. I’ll break down valuing specific AAdvantage awards step-by-step so you can do the same thing for your dream award.
1. Make a list of awards you’ve made and dream awards, listing all classes of service you would consider flying. My list is below. First class is F, Business class is B, and Economy class is E. I’ve put a B even when the award includes domestic first class on a two-cabin plane because those awards still price in business class. Stopovers are represented by a double slash. (//)
LAX-DFW-TPA//TPA-LGW, LHR-ORY (B)
LAX-MIA-MVD (E & B)
TPA-MIA-LAX//LAX-HKG-BKK (E & F)
LAX-CHO (r/t) (E)
2. Price the awards that fly only on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines on aa.com. Sign into your AAdvantage account, use the award search, and find the awards you’ve written down. Note how many miles and dollars in taxes and fees you would be charged to book that award. For me only two of my potential awards are flown completely on American. The LAX-CHO roundtrip in Economy class priced out to 25,000 miles and $10 roundtrip. The LAX-MVD priced out to 30,000 miles and $5 in Economy and 50,000 miles and $5 in Business.
3. Price the other awards by calling AA at 800-882-8880. Of course, this is also how you would go about buying the awards that aren’t flown completely by American or Alaska, and buying in this way incurs a $25 phone ticketing fee. For me the prices were:
LAX-DFW-TPA//TPA-LGW, LHR-ORY (B) 50,000 miles and $332
MEL-LAX//LAX-DFW-TPA (B) 62,500 miles and $113
TPA-MIA-LAX//LAX-HKG-BKK (E & F) 35,000 miles and $32.50 in Economy, 67,500 miles and $32.50 in First
HNL-LAX//LAX-LIM (B) 30,000 miles and $45
LAX-DFW-CUN//CUN-LGW (B) 50,000 miles and $407
4. Price all the itineraries on kayak.com. Search the same dates. Find the cheapest flight with a comparable routing regardless of airline. If the award itinerary includes a stopover as all of my international itineraries do, search as two different itineraries on kayak.com. Write down the prices of the itineraries and also your subjective value of the itineraries. As usual, we’ll be using the lesser of the price and your subjective value. (What am I talking about? “Subjective value”? See this post.) Below is the lesser of the price and subjective value for my itineraries. In all cases, my subjective value was lower than the price, which will essentially always be the case when I’m flying internationally in a premium cabin.
LAX-DFW-TPA//TPA-LGW, LHR-ORY (B) $1,200
MEL-LAX//LAX-DFW-TPA (B) $1,300
LAX-MIA-MVD (E & B) $700 in Economy, $950 in Business
TPA-MIA-LAX//LAX-HKG-BKK (E & F) $850 in Economy, $1,375 in First
HNL-LAX//LAX-LIM (B) $900
LAX-DFW-CUN//CUN-LGW (B) $1,200
LAX-CHO (r/t) (E) $350
5. Figure out how many miles you’re foregoing on gcmap.com. Use the Great Circle Mapper to figure out the distance of your routing. Add in any multiplier for the status you have on the American Airlines. This tells you how many miles you’re foregoing by using an award instead of cash for the ticket, and that’s a key component in figuring out the value of the award. I’ll skip listing this for my flights.
6. Plug the four values in the milevalue.com calculator! If you don’t quite understand how to use it, read this post.
7. Order your awards from greatest cents per mile to fewest. For me, the list looks like this:
- HNL-LAX//LAX-LIM (B) 2.33 cpm
- LAX-MIA-MVD (E) 1.89 cpm
- TPA-MIA-LAX//LAX-HKG-BKK (E) 1.78 cpm
- TPA-MIA-LAX//LAX-HKG-BKK (F) 1.71 cpm
- LAX-MIA-MVD (B) 1.66 cpm
- MEL-LAX//LAX-DFW-TPA (B) 1.64 cpm
- LAX-DFW-TPA//TPA-LGW, LHR-ORY (B) 1.53 cpm
- LAX-DFW-CUN//CUN-LGW (B) 1.39 cpm
- LAX-CHO (r/t) (E) 1.15 cpm
8. Put a single number on the value of an AAdvantage mile. To do this, we’ll have to use our list of award values from above and make adjustments based on the other characteristics of the AAdvantage program we talked about in Part 1. We’ll do that in Part 4, the final installment of the series.