It’s no lie that there’s some great ways to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles. But before you go to book that ticket you should know that American Airlines has some of the strictest award ticketing rules out there.

Some of these rules are easy and transparent, but others can be a bit tricky to fully understand.

Let’s take a deep dive into American Airlines AAdvantage routing rules so that you can know everything about the AAdvantage program before you book your next ticket.

What Itineraries Can You Book with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles?

Let’s start with the basics: the types of itineraries can you book with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles.

While you can book the obvious one way or round trip, you can also book a multi city itinerary.

Most people are familiar with a one way or a round trip, the idea of a multi city itinerary may be new to you.

A multi city itinerary is simply a trip where you have more than one destination. For example, let’s say you’re wanting to go exploring around Europe. You may book a flight from the US to London, where you’ll stay a few days. Then, you’ll grab a flight from London to Rome for another stop. Finally, you’ll return back to the US.

This multi-city itinerary is better thought of as 3 one-way tickets.

  • Flight 1: the flight from the US to London
  • Flight 2: the flight from London to Rome
  • Flight 3: the flight from Rome back to the US

With American Airlines, a multi city itinerary like this would be priced as 3 tickets, so you will pay more miles than you would with a standard round trip ticket. Before booking a multi city itinerary, be sure that AAdvantage Miles are actually the best way to book the extra leg of your trip. Other programs may offer a better value for your miles.

Sample MultiCity

American Airlines Stopover Rules

If you’re unfamiliar, a stopover is where you fly from your origin to your destination with a long stop in between. Often, people will book a few days in the city that would normally be just a layover. Award programs that allow stopovers can basically get you a two for one destination with just one award ticket because they don’t charge any more miles to book the stopover.

Unfortunately, American Airlines doesn’t permit stopovers on a single award ticket. You can book a multi city itinerary, but you will pay extra miles for the additional leg of the trip.

The official American Airlines rule is that you can’t have a layover longer than 24 hours. This is a pretty strict rule with no work around. That being said, 24 hours can be more than enough for a quick exploration of another city.

Many long-haul international flights are scheduled to arrive either early morning or in the evening. If you can find your departing flight close to 24 hours you can have a full extra day in your layover city. A day can be enough time to get out and see a museum, grab some food, maybe even stay the night in a great hotel.

If you do want to book a stay over 24 hours, you can, you will just have to book two separate award tickets which will increase the miles you need for your trip. To book this with one ticket, you’ll want to book a multi-city itinerary.

Stopovers

Mixing Partner Airlines On Award Tickets

American Airlines has no limit on the amount of partner airlines you can book on an award ticket. You could fly American Airlines, British Airways, and Qatar Airways all on one award ticket.

Some award programs won’t let you mix airlines that you can fly on a single award ticket, but American Airlines has no restrictions so long as you obey all of their other rules.

Maximum Segments Per Award

Now that we’ve dug through some of the broader rules, we’re going to start digging into the nitty gritty of the AAdvantage Award Program rules.

The first is the maximum segments per award ticket.

  • For a one-way domestic AAdvantage award ticket, you’re allowed 3 flight segments per ticket.
  • For a one-way international AAdvantage award ticket, you’re allowed 4 flight segments per ticket.

A segment is each flight from point A to point B, even if neither points are your origin or destination.

For example if you’re flying from Dallas (DFW) to New York (JFK) to London (LHR), that’s a total of 2 flight segments. Meanwhile, if you’re traveling from Little Rock (LIT) to Dallas (DFW) to Miami (MIA) to Aruba (AUA) that’s a total of 3 flight segments.

Segment Counts

Both of these itineraries would be permissible under American Airlines’ award rules.

You likely won’t book a ticket that has too many segments unless it is a long trip to an off the beaten path destination. For example, if you’re flying from Denver (DEN) to New York (JFK) to Qatar (DOH) to Bahrain (BAH) to Dubai (DXB) to Abu Dhabi (AUH). This would be a total of 5 flight segments and would not be allowed.

For those of you curious yes that is a route that is possible with American Airlines partners.

Violating this rule is going to be very difficult, I had to look up some weird flights to make a possible violation. I wouldn’t worry about this too much, but it is one to be aware of.

Restrictions on Traveling Between Regions

American Airlines’ routing rules for how you can fly between regions is the biggest need to know rule for booking an American Airlines AAdvantage award ticket.

In general, you must fly direct between two regions. You cannot transit through a third region.

The American Airline regions are pretty broad, and non-stop travel is available between most of the regions:

  • Contiguous 48 States and Canada
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • South America Region 1 (northern South America)
  • South America Region 2 (southern South America)
  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • Indian Subcontinent
  • Africa
  • Asia Region 1 (Japan & Korea)
  • Asia Region 2 (the rest of Asia, excluding Indian Subcontinent)
  • South Pacific

For example, you can’t fly to Europe from the US by flying through Asia. You are only allowed to fly directly between the US and Europe.

DirectRouting

However, it is simply impractical to fly between some regions. There are no non-stop flights between Australia (in the South Pacific region) and Europe. For now, there are no direct flights between the US and India on American Airlines or its partners. Without exceptions you would not be able to book a flight between these two regions.

Exceptions for Flights To or From the US

Since most of you are from the US, let’s break up these exceptions into two categories. First, we will look at the exceptions for flights to or from the US, since these will be the most important to you. Then we will look at exceptions between other regions.

You can travel between the US and the following regions via these third regions:

From

To

Via

North America

Middle East

Europe

North America

Africa

Europe

North America

Africa

Middle East

North America

Indian Sub-Continent

Europe

North America

Indian Sub-Continent

Middle East

North America

Indian Sub-Continent

Hong Kong (HKG)

North America

Asia 2

Asia 1 (Japan and Korea)

North America

South America 2

South America 1

These also work in reverse as well.

A few that are important to understand. First, travel to the Indian Sub-Continent. You can go either through the Middle East or through Asia via Hong Kong. Your airline choices are a bit limited in either direction.

Traveling through the Middle East you’ll be restricted to either Qatar Airways, Etihad Airlines, Royal Jordanian, or Sri Lankan Airlines. When traveling through Hong Kong you’ll only be able to fly on American or Cathay Pacific.

Additionally, American has recently announced a nonstop flight between Seattle (SEA) and Bangalore (BLR) that will begin in the next few months. Once this flight begins, it will be the only way to get to the Indian Subcontinent without routing through a third region. Routing through a third region will still be allowed to access the Indian Subcontinent.

Non-North America Exceptions

Most travelers won’t really need to know these. Occasionally, you may find yourself booking a trip between two regions outside of the US. This is especially true if you’re on a long trip and needing to fly from continent to continent. In that case, knowing these exceptions will be handy.

From

To

Via

Africa

South Pacific

Middle East

Asia 1

Middle East

Asia 2 or Indian Subcontinent

Asia 1

Indian Subcontinent

Asia 2

Asia 1

South Pacific

Asia 2

Asia 1

Africa

Asia 2 or Middle East

Asia 2

Middle East

Indian Subcontinent

Asia 2

Africa

Middle East

Carribean

South Pacific

South America 2

Central America

South Pacific

South America 2

Central America

Middle East

Europe

Central America

Indian Subcontinent

Europe or Middle East

Central America

Africa

Europe or Middle East

Europe

South Pacific

Asia 1, Asia 2, Middle East

Europe

Indian Subcontinent

Middle East

Europe

Africa

Middle East

Europe

Asia 2

Middle East or Indian Subcontinent

Europe

Asia 1

Middle East or Indian Subcontinent

Hawaii

Indian Subcontinent

Europe or Middle East

Indian Subcontinent

South Pacific

Asia 2

Indian Subcontinent

Africa

Middle East

Mexico

South Pacific

South America 2

Middle East

South Pacific

Asia 2 or Indian Subcontinent

South America 1

South Pacific

South America 2

South America 1

Middle East

Europe

South America 1

Indian Subcontinent

Europe or Middle East

South America 1

Africa

Europe or Middle East

South America 2

Middle East

Europe or Africa

South America 2

Africa

Europe or Middle East

South America 2

Indian Subcontinent

Europe or Middle East

Again, most of these won’t apply to most travelers, but if they do apply to you be sure you’re following the appropriate routing rules.

Published Route Requirement

The published route requirement is a bit of an odd one. It isn’t always enforced, but if you’re wondering why you aren’t seeing a flight the lack of a published route may be the reason.

What exactly is the published route requirement? Simply put, when booking a flight on AA or any of their partners, the flight must be able to be purchased in cash from the airline. If you couldn’t buy it with cash, AA won’t let you book it with miles.

This one is best illustrated using an example.

Let’s take a look at AA’s partner, Etihad. Say you are wanting to fly to the Maldives (MLE) from the US. If you’re flying out of New York, Etihad publishes the fare so you can book it with AA miles.

However, if you try to search from Beaumont (BPT) in Texas, it won’t let you select Beaumont. Even though American does fly to Beaumont.

Technically, AA wouldn’t let you book this routing to the Maldives. However, this isn’t always enforced. It is more likely that this may come up as a reason you couldn’t book a ticket rather than a true impediment to booking your trip.

By the way, to our readers from Beaumont, have no fear. This varies from airline to airline. Just because one airline doesn’t publish a route doesn’t mean another doesn’t. Both Qatar and British Airways publish a route between Beaumont and the Maldives, so you may not be able to fly on Etihad but there are still other options.

Maximum Permitted Mileage

Another odd routing rule is that your award ticket can’t exceed 125% of the maximum permitted mileage.

Maximum permitted mileage can be a bit confusing, and a bit tricky to figure out. Basically, it is the distance required to fly between two cities on the most direct route.

There’s an easy way to guesstimate the maximum permitted mileage. This won’t be exact, but is a decent enough way to figure it out.

First, go to Great Circle Mapper. When there, put in your origin and destination with no stops in between and click “distance.” You’ll need to know the airport codes your wanting to travel between. If you’re not familiar with them, simply google “[City Name] IATA code.” You’ll get a 3 letter code for the airport to plug in.

Here is Indianapolis (IND) to Hong Kong (HKG).

If you were to fly non-stop it would be 7,970 miles. You can use this as your guesstimate of the maximum permitted mileage.

American Airlines will let your total trip be up to 125% of this total, or 9,962 miles. As long as your total distance flown is less than this amount, you should be allowed to book the ticket.

This extra amount is given because there aren’t always direct flights between two city pairs. You can’t fly non-stop between Indianapolis and Hong Kong. Instead, you can fly Indianapolis (IND) to New York (JFK) to Hong Kong (HKG). This is a total distance of 8,737 miles and easily fits under 125% of the maximum permitted mileage.

Married Segment Rules

One of the newer rules implemented by American Airlines is married segment logic. Married segment logic applies only to American Airlines flights, and not to partners.

Married segment logic means that some award availability only becomes available when booked with another ticket. Just because you see availability on one flight does not mean that flight, by itself, has award availability.

For example, you may be trying to book a trip to London but you’re based in Oklahoma City. You may find award availability going from Oklahoma City (OKC) to Dallas (DFW) to New York (JFK) to London (LHR). While searching you may also find award availability from Dallas to London directly.

Naturally, you may think that you could piece together the Oklahoma City to Dallas flight, and the Dallas to London flight. However, the award availability from Oklahoma City to Dallas may be tied to booking through to New York. The Oklahoma City to Dallas award flight is “married” to the award flight from Dallas to New York, meaning that individually it isn’t available.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the various routing rules that you’ll face when booking an American Airlines award ticket is key to starting your search in the right direction.

While some rules may not be as strictly enforced as others, knowing what routes are available to book and why you may not see the same award availability across different routes is critical to moving your award search in the right direction.

If you need help finding the right award, feel free to take advantage of our award booking service. However, with a little bit of practice you’ll quickly find yourself an expert of all of the American Airlines AAdvantage Routing Rules.