This is the sixteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Using United.com to Search for Awards Using United and US Airways Miles.
This post presents the basics of using aa.com for award bookings. It is not a comprehensive guide to booking American Airlines awards. For that, start at the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.
When to Use aa.com
Use aa.com when you are searching for award space on flights operated by American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, airberlin, Finnair, Qantas, or British Airways regardless of what type of miles you are redeeming.
The reason I recommend starting on aa.com to get on one of those airlines is that aa.com has an easy-to-use search tool with easy to visualize and manipulate results.
Starting on the home page, type in your departure and arrival cities. Put in your dates, number of travelers, and click the box that says Redeem Miles.
I’ve typed in Los Angeles to Honolulu from 5/1 to 5/8. After clicking Find Flights, the following screen comes up:
Along the top, color coded, are the possible redemption classes and rates; mine range from 22.5k per direction for Economy MileSAAver to 47.5k per direction for First MileSAAver.
The calendar below shows the lowest mileage cost per day. You can broaden the calendar from one week to one month by clicking Show Full Calendar. You can see availability for a different class of service by clicking on that class of service above the calendar.
When you select the date and class you want, you are taken to the screen where you choose itineraries.
On this screen, you can select an itinerary. If you don’t see one you like, you can toggle the dates or the cabin.
If there are more options than you want, you can remove whole airlines or airports from the results by unchecking their boxes on the left.
On the itinerary screen, itineraries are ordered by shortest duration. If you click the “+ Flight Details” button, you can see the class and aircraft for each leg.
You can use this information on seatguru, or you can click View Available Seats to see the seatmap.
After you’ve picked your itinerary, you can continue to book the award. The payment screen looks like this:
If you are using another carrier’s miles, say Hawaiian’s, now would be the time to go to their site, and search for the same flights you just found and book.
(If you are using Avios, you should have unchecked the Hawaiian Airlines box on the results screen since BA doesn’t partner with Hawaiian. They do partner with Alaska, but you have to call to book.)
The reason to start on American Airlines’ site if you want American Airlines flights but want to use Hawaiian miles or British Airways Avios is that aa.com has a more convenient, easier-to-use calendar that makes finding the perfect itinerary easy.
Again these are just the basics of using aa.com to find award space on American Airlines, Alaska, Hawaiian, Qantas, Finnair, airberlin, and British Airways flights. For more complex itineraries, you’ll need to learn more, perhaps from my Anatomy of an Award series, or you can hire a professional award booker like me.