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The American Airlines AAdvantage program doesn’t partner with any flexible bank rewards program, with the exception of Marriott Bonvoy points that transfer to the airline at a ratio of 3:1. This makes it that much more difficult to earn miles with the program.

However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use points and miles to book award tickets on American Airlines flights. You just have to know where to search for them.

American Airlines is part of the Oneworld airline alliance, which consists of 13 full members (with Alaska Airlines joining in March 2021). So, to book AA award flights with points, we must use the carrier’s partners’ award programs.

American Express Membership Rewards program is a transfer partner of British Airways and Iberia, which are Oneworld partners of American Airlines, as well as Etihad, which is a non-alliance partner. So, let’s take a look at how to utilize these valuable partners and their award charts to book flights operated by American Airlines.

Best Ways to Earn American Express Membership Rewards

The best cards to earn Membership Rewards points are Amex charge cards.

With the American Express Green Card, you’ll earn 3X points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1X point on all other purchases.

If you spend a lot on dining or U.S. supermarket purchases, you’ll earn 4X points per dollar spent in both of those categories with the American Express® Gold Card. You’ll earn 4x at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 in purchases per year, and then 1x per $1 after that.

Additionally, you’ll earn 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines and 1X point on everything else.

The premium The Platinum Card® from American Express will award you 5X points per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly from airlines, prepaid hotel bookings made with AmexTravel.com and 1X point in all other categories.

Keep in mind that American Express limits its welcome bonuses to once per lifetime. You can get all the different cards at some point in your life, but you can only get one bonus per card. For this reason, make sure to apply when the offers are at their highest.

British Airways Executive Club

One of the ways to book flights operated by American Airlines is by utilizing British Airways Executive Club’s distance-based loyalty program—the longer the flight is, the more miles, or Avios, you will need to redeem. One-way and round-trip awards are bookable through the Executive Club.

An important thing to remember here is because we’re dealing with a distance-based award chart, we have to be mindful that Avios are better used on short, expensive, nonstop flights. You will not see life-changing redemption rates on long-haul flights with layovers.

If you book an itinerary with layovers, the program will charge you for each segment separately instead of the total trip distance.

Below is an award chart for partner flights bookable with British Airways Avios.

Flight Distance

Economy

Premium Economy

Business

First

1 – 650 miles

6,000

9,000

12,500

24,000

651 – 1,150 miles

9,000

12,500

16,500

33,000

1,151 – 2,000 miles

11,000

16,500

22,000

44,000

2,001 – 3,000 miles

13,000

25,750

38,750

51,500

3,001 – 4,000 miles

20,750

41,250

62,000

82,500

4,001 – 5,500 miles

25,750

51,500

77,250

103,000

5,501 – 6,500 miles

31,000

62,000

92,750

123,750

6,501 – 7,000 miles

36,250

72,250

108,250

144,250

7,001+ miles

51,500

103,000

154,500

206,000

Let’s take a look at some examples of how exactly this chart works.

Here’s a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL), which clocks at 2,556 miles.

Image courtesy of GCMap.com

Booking it via the AAdvantage program will set you back 20,000 American Airlines miles in economy class. Not terrible, but we can do better.

Here’s how much it costs when you book it through the Executive Club program—13,000 Avios. The difference is astounding, isn’t it?

If anything, this roundabout way to book American Airlines reward flights is even better than redeeming American Airlines miles directly through the AAdvantage program. Just remember that this is a niche redemption for short-distance flights without layovers.

American Express Membership Rewards points transfer instantly at a ratio of 1:1.

Iberia Plus

Iberia is another Oneworld carrier whose rewards program can be used to book American Airlines flights. Just like with British Airways Executive Club, you have to know when to use it.

Iberia Plus is also a distance-based program, but the redemption rates are different. Let’s take a look at its award chart for partner flights.

Flight Distance

Economy

Blue Class

Full Fare Economy

Business

First

1 – 600 miles

11,000

19,250

22,000

33,000

601 – 1,000 miles

12,000

21,000

24,000

36,000

1,001 – 2,000 miles

17,000

29,750

34,000

51,000

2,001 – 4,000 miles

23,000

40,250

46,000

69,000

4,001 – 5,000 miles

28,000

53,000

64,000

96,000

5,001 – 8,000 miles

42,000

81,500

100,000

150,000

8,001 – 12,400 miles

65,000

123,750

150,000

225,000

12,401 – 14,000 miles

75,000

143,750

175,000

262,500

14,001 – 18,000 miles

100,000

200,000

250,000

375,000

18,001 – 25,000 miles

120,000

225,000

270,000

405,000

25,001 – 30,000 miles

132,000

244,000

290,000

435,000

30,001 – 35,000 miles

143,000

265,750

315,000

472,500

35,001 – 40,000 miles

166,000

299,500

350,000

525,000

40,001 – 50,000 miles

190,000

332,500

380,000

570,000

When redeeming Iberia Plus Avios for partner awards, remember that only round-trip flights can be booked. If you try to search for a one-way award, the search engine will produce an error. The chart above tells you how many Avios you need to redeem for the total distance of a round-trip itinerary.

One of the main differences of Iberia Plus and Executive Club is how the total number of Avios needed to book an award is calculated. With British Airways, you have to add up the number of segments, or flight legs, and then add up the miles each segment costs. With Iberia, the total number of Avios is calculated based on the total distance of the itinerary no matter how many segments you fly.

For this reason, Iberia Plus Avios are still best used on short-haul or medium-haul flights, but layovers don’t affect the final mileage cost.

Let’s see an example.

We have a round-trip flight from Dallas (DFW) to Phoenix (PHX) that requires 20,000 AAdvantage miles.

According to the Great Circle Mapper, the distance between these two U.S. cities is 868 miles long. Times that by 2 since you fly a round-trip, and you get to 1,736 miles there and back. Look at the corresponding chart and find that you need 17,000 Iberia Avios to book this flight.

The savings aren’t substantial, but they do exist. Imagine booking multiple passengers on the same itinerary and saving thousands of miles by using the right program.

Membership Rewards points transfer to Iberia Plus 1:1, but the process can take up to 48 hours.

Related: When to Use British Airways Avios and when to Use Iberia Avios

Etihad Guest

Etihad Airways isn’t part of Oneworld. In fact, it isn’t a member of any major airline alliance, but the Abu Dhabi-based carrier partners with American Airlines, and it’s possible to redeem Etihad Guest miles to book AA flights.

Although this isn’t the easiest method of booking American Airlines awards in terms of time and energy you have to put into it, it’s still a good way to book awards because they’re priced based on zones and not on how far or how close you’re flying.

Additionally, many of these beat the AAdvantage program’s own rates to the same regions.

The redemption rates are as follows.

Region

Economy

Off-Peak

Economy Peak

Business

First

Central / South America Zone 1

N/A

17,500

30,000

40,000

South America Zone 2

20,000

30,000

50,000

62,500

Europe

20,000

30,000

50,000

62,500

Middle East / Indian Subcontinent

N/A

45,000

67,500

90,000

Africa

N/A

37,500

75,000

100,000

Asia 1

25,000

32,500

50,000

62,500

Asia 2

N/A

35,000

55,000

67,500

South Pacific

N/A

37,500

62,500

72,500

For more award charts and region definitions, visit this page.

Let’s take a look at a flight from Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR). As you can see, this particular flight will set you back 30,000 AAdvantage miles if you fly economy and 66,000 miles if you choose to upgrade to business class.

Well, the same flight will cost you 50,000 miles in business class if you book it through the Etihad Guest program. It’s almost as if you dug up your DeLorean Time Machine, reached 88 mph and went back to 2015 to use the American Airlines’ old award chart.

Keep in mind that availability must be there for you to book partner flights, which isn’t always the case, and this is where you need to do some manual labor. Whether you’re ready to book or need to check available dates to plan out your trip, you’ll have to call Etihad Guest Service Center at 877-690-0767.

Don’t transfer your points until you’re absolutely sure the flights you want are bookable with miles. Once you make that transfer, it’s irreversible.

Membership Rewards transfer to Etihad Guest instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Yet another Oneworld member Cathay Pacific can be a good way to book your American Airlines flights.

The award chart is distance-based, which means your final cost in miles will depend on how far you’re going. There isn’t an official award chart per se, so you have to calculate the pricing based on a specific city pair.

For example, here’s how many miles you’ll need to fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong (HKG).

  • Economy: 40,000 miles
  • Business: 75,000 miles
  • First: 120,000 miles

American itself requires 70,000 AAdvantage miles for a business-class to Asia, but as mentioned above, AA miles aren’t easy to come by. You might not be able to locate that many AAdvantage miles in a pinch, but Asia Miles are accessible through the Membership Rewards program.

You can’t book these awards online. To book an American Airlines award, you have to fill out a Flight Award Request Form containing your preferred redemption type, class of service, travel dates and the operating airline. You can request a specific flight number if you want.

Wait for a reply and don’t transfer any points until you receive a confirmation that, indeed, the flight you want can be booked with Asia Miles.

Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Asia Miles. Points can take up to two days to transfer, but we’ve witnessed almost-instant transfers recently.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

If you pay enough attention to the transfer partner list on American Express, you’ll notice that one more Oneworld carrier partners with Membership Rewards: Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Although it can be used to book AA flights, the redemption rates are quite high. For this reason, we don’t recommend utilizing Qantas Frequent Flyer to book American Airlines awards. You’ll be better off by utilizing one of the loyalty programs listed above.

Final Thoughts

With so many American Express transfer programs that partner with American Airlines, you don’t need to collect AAdvantage miles to fly on AA. In fact, American Airlines miles are best used to fly its partner carriers, such as Qatar Airways, Etihad and Cathay Pacific.

Make sure you understand how these various programs work, where their miles get you the most value and decide which one is best to use in your particular situation.

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