Two months ago, thexfactor emailed me to tell me that he’d booked something online at aa.com that was against one of the rules I laid out in The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

His discovery greatly increases where you can take a free oneway when booking American Airlines awards online. I’ll break down what my research has uncovered about the new possibilities and give a little background on free oneways on AA flights.

Thexfactor emailed me to alert me to a question he’d posed on FlyerTalk:

JFK-LAX-LHR is 7931 mi.

The MPM for JFK-LHR is 5186mi (including the 25% allowance).

So it seems that’s an illegal routing, right?

If it is illegal, why is AA.com allowing a dummy booking?

Am I missing something?

Thexfactor’s question is very simple. Why is he being allowed to book an award from JFK to LAX to London on aa.com?

image from gcmap.com

You might be wondering why someone would want to route from New York to London via Los Angeles. The main reason would be if you live in Los Angeles. Then routing:

New York to Los Angeles (stop for a few months)

Los Angeles to London

would be a free oneway from New York to Los Angeles preceding the main award from Los Angeles to London.

While it’s exciting that thexfactor could price this award at 50k miles in business class, it’s also confusing. One of the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards is that the total distance of the routing as flown can only exceed Maximum Permitted Mileage, or MPM, by 25%.

MPM is a distance that a paid ticket can route between two city pairs. MPM + 25% is one of American’s award ticket routing rules. (Other airlines have different rules. Different miles, different rules.)

The MPM from New York, the start of this award from American’s perspective, to London, the end of the award is 4,149 miles. Since an American award can go MPM + 25%, the maximum distance of an American Airlines award from New York to London is 5,186 miles according to the rules I know.

New York to London via LAX is 7,931 miles, which means it should not be allowed under the MPM + 25% rule.

from gcmap.com

And yet aa.com will let you book New York to Los Angeles to London as one award for 20,000 miles and less than $10 in taxes. You don’t even have to make New York to Los Angeles direct (although Los Angeles to London must be direct.)

Hmmm…This shouldn’t be, but is, bookable.

I’ve played around on aa.com to try to see what’s bookable online. It looks like MPM is not a factor if all flights are on American Airlines planes. Here’s a free oneway from Raleigh to Los Angeles.

But using Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, or British Airways flights throws a wrench in the plan to book MPM-busting routings.

Boston to London via San Diego prices as two awards.
Honolulu to Sydney via Los Angeles prices as two awards.

I have no answer to why American Airlines flights booked online seem immune to the MPM + 25% rule, but they are immune to that rule in every case I’ve checked.

For one final example, let’s look at Miami to Rio de Janeiro, which has an MPM of 5,014 miles, meaning the maximum distance of an award between the two cities (MPM + 25%) is 6,268 miles.

MIA-GIG MPM

Miami to Dallas to Rio is slightly farther than 6,268 miles at 6,343 miles.

info from gcmap.com

And yet the award with a five month stopover in Dallas prices at 20,000 AA miles + $5. That’s a nice free oneway from Miami if you live in Dallas.

Miami to Rio via Dallas is fine.

I also called AA reservations at 800-882-8880 to price out a few awards by phone. The results:

  • 92.5k miles + $5 + $25 phone fee for Honolulu to JFK in Hawaiian First Class and JFK to Hong Kong in Cathay Business Class (priced as two awards, no free oneway possible)
  • 75k miles + $455.50 + $25 phone fee for Boston to Dallas to San Diego in AA First Class and San Diego to London in British Airways Business Class (priced as two awards, no free oneway possible)

Bottom Line

You seem to be able to ignore the MPM + 25% routing rule when booking an award with American Airlines miles on aa.com that flies all American Airlines flights. This means you can get free oneways to farther away from your home airport than previously thought.

Bonus

You can take free oneways to/from Hawaii on American Airlines awards to Asia that fly all American Airlines operated flights. I discovered while researching this post that AA’s MPMs for Hawaii to Asia flights are incredibly high.

Recap

Thexfactor emailed me about AA’s award booking engine not following the rules he expected–letting us get away with longer routings than normal. From my research:

  • You seem to be able to ignore the MPM + 25% routing rule when booking an award with American Airlines miles
  • on aa.com
  • that flies all American Airlines flights.

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