The Five Best Values on the American Airlines Chart


Yesterday’s post about the Coolest Thing to Do with 130k and 280k American Airlines Miles got me to look at the American Airlines’ chart again for value. I found what I think are the Five Best Values in premium cabins.

These values combine low miles, low taxes and fees, and the very best products from among American’s partners. How does First Class on Etihad or British Airways for 40k miles sound?

Here’s the American Airlines award chart with what I think are the best values in red boxes.

AA chart with the best values highlighted

The great values generally stem from very large regions. For instance, American lumps the Middle East together with India despite Tel Aviv being 3,000 miles from Bangalore. Marrakesh and Johannesburg are 4,600 miles apart, but are both in Africa. Distances like this mean usually mean that at least one side of these massive regions is a good deal for awards.

The other reason for great values: the inherent value in flying the best premium products like Etihad First Class suites (did you see that video above?), British Airways’ New First Class, or Qantas First Class on an A380.

1. Etihad First Class from Abu Dhabi to London for 40k Miles

One way awards between Europe and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent are only 20k/30k/40k miles in economy/business/first, meaning you can get 7hr40min in an Etihad suite for 40k miles.

If the YouTube video wasn’t enough, here is a picture-laden trip report of Etihad First from One Mile at a Time.

While the US to the Middle East is an astounding 90k miles each way in first class with American Airlines miles, Europe to the Middle East is a much more manageable 40,000 miles.

From Etihad’s hub in Abu Dhabi to London is 7hr40min of flying in one of the world’s nicest First Classes, about half the length of a flight to New York for less than half the price.

Etihad also has first class to/from Paris on a similar length flight. And just because most of us are Americans doesn’t mean we should dismiss these routes. I booked a client into Etihad First from Abu Dhabi to Paris as part of a roundtrip to the Maldives, where Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi.

In fact, these Etihad First Class flights for only 40,000 miles can be added very cheaply to awards using United or American miles to Europe, the Middle East, or the Maldives as I described in this Anatomy of an Award.

I priced out Abu Dhabi to London on February 10 in Etihad First, and it came in at 40k AA miles + $47 including an unavoidable $25 telephone booking fee.

Reversing the award and departing London would cost about $300 more in taxes, so splurge smart and head west.

You can also fly British Airways First Class on some of its routes to the Middle East, but you will pay about $300 in fuel surcharges booking British Airways longhaul with American Airlines miles.

BA First is a great option too except for the fuel surcharges.

Another great use of the Europe-to-Middle East/Indian-Subcontinent sweet spot would be flying Etihad to one of its many destinations on the subcontinent or the Maldives for 30k miles one way in business from Europe.

2. Qantas First Class from Sydney to Hong Kong for 45k Miles

One way awards between the South Pacific (includes Australia) and Asia 2 (includes Hong Kong) cost only 25k/35k/45k miles in economy/business/first.

Qantas flies from Sydney to Hong Kong with a 747-400 and space is wide open on the 9hr30min flight in First Class for only 45,000 miles.

SYD-HKG in Qantas First for 45k

For a first class flight that’s longer than the US east coast to Europe to price less than the US to Europe in business class, this is a fantastic deal.

Another way to take advantage of this sweet spot from Asia 2 to the South Pacific would be to fly flat bed business class on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Sydney or Melbourne for 35k miles. I priced out HKG-SYD on July 15 for 35k AA miles + $67.60 in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

3. British Airways First Class from Johannesburg to London for 50k

One way awards from Africa to Europe cost only 30k/37.5k/50k in economy/business/first. That means you can fly from South Africa to London on an 11 hour flight in British Airways First Class on a 747 for only 50k AA miles.

BA First for Very Few Miles if You Can Handle the Surcharge

The issue is that longhaul British Airways flights booked with AA miles have about a $300 per segment fuel surcharge. But if you want to get into British Airways First Class (and who wouldn’t? check out this Million Mile Secrets Trip Report),  this may be the best option. This site even notes that Johannesburg to London is being operated 100% of the time by planes that feature British Airways’ New First Class.

Business is a good deal too at 37,500 miles each way. Just avoid the economy award, which is 30k miles plus a big fuel surcharge.

4. Qantas or Etihad First Class from Australia to the Middle East for 60k Miles

The South Pacific and the Middle East are much farther apart, but cost less than the US to Europe on American’s chart at 30k/45k/60k each direction in economy/business/first.

Qantas flies an A380 from Sydney to Dubai. While Qantas’ A380s to the US have about three combined days in the next year with First Class award space, the Qantas A380 to Dubai has plenty of space.

Purple days have space in Qantas First on an A380.

You can get on board for 14hr30min for only 60k miles. The same length flight to the US goes for 72.5k miles in first, a 25% premium.

Or if you’d prefer to fly Etihad First, Etihad flies an A340 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. I priced out August 8 at 60k miles + $73.90 in First Class.

Between the two, I would probably choose Etihad First Class, but a plane geek couldn’t go wrong in Qantas First on an A380.

5. Etihad or Cathay Pacific Business Class from the Middle East to Asia for 30k Miles

Anywhere in the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent to anywhere else in Asia is only 22.5k/30k/45k miles in economy/business/first class on the American Airlines chart.

Two great business class options for only 30k miles are 10hr10min of flat bed business class on Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo or 7hr30min from Dubai to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.

Both options give you enough time to fully test products that get consistently top marks for comfort and service.

Which do you think is the best deal? I am torn between using my American miles for these deals and the Explorer Awards.

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  1. Couple to add

    1) Internal Aus/NZ for 10/17.5 K
    2) Flights to Europe (you circled the wrong box) for 45/60/80 each way. Especially the 60K product as you can include flat beds on Cathay or Qantas/Emirates all the way

    Especially for 2 I don’t see why you wouldn’t spend the extra 15/15/20 miles to go all the way to Europe instead of the Middle East and Europe is a much likely holiday destination

    • I like internal Aus/NZ sometimes at those prices. Sometimes I prefer Avios though, and sometimes I prefer cash tickets. I’m not afraid to fly Jetstar!

  2. I bought 60K American miles for my return from Europe recently to fly back in J. Considering prices are often around 2K on decent airlines for Y it’s not too bad value and I’m headed to Prague on Emirates points in F on the A380 which should be sick! I enjoyed your review of it immensely and it’s gotten me excited.

    For internal Aus there are some places such as Lord Howe Island or Broome that it makes sense to use miles as tickets are expensive. Also going to the snow fields in NZ during the busy season these can be good value as flights skyrocket. Avios are better for some of these though and Jetstar is fine and will price match Tiger. If you were flying business to Perth then buying miles makes sense most of the time too.

    For comparison Qantas’s chart to Europe is 128/256/384 plus fuel surcharges!

  3. Trying out Tokyo to Abu Dhabi gets a message saying no tickets available. Do you have to call in to price these and figures out availability, or can you use BA’s site? Thanks.

    • You have to call in. Etihad is not a partner of BA, so not on Etihad is a non-oneworld partner of American.

  4. I would like to fly to Morroco on Biz or First Class ,flying into Casablanca and leaving from Marakesh. Which is the best (wouldn’t mind adding a one way) and most effective awards redemption from LAX to Morroco. I have plenty of miles for AA, United , US airways and Delta to use. TIA

    • personally, i would fly oenworld to either MAD, BCN or somewhere in southern Spain and then hop on a RyanAir or similar low-cost for just a few $$. It’s not as scary as people say, they don’t make you stand during flight and you don’t have to pay for bathroom use. … everything else you have to pay for tho.

    • If you have miles in all those alliances, then whichever has space. I hope that doesn’t sound cheeky, but it’s my honest answer. The best product is probably Lufthansa First to Europe.

      I also like Lantean’s answer. If you just fly to Europe then fly a LCC to Morocco, you’ll save miles and get stops in Europe.

    • I don’t like to quote the 10% AA card discount as part of the price. If you do, though, consider everything in this post 10% cheaper.

  5. Always look forward to your analysis. One of the few who truly slices and dices to get the best deal. For the analytical mind, this is great. Keep it up. Thanks

  6. ” I am torn between using my American miles for these deals and the Explorer Awards.”

    I would say use these now and use Explorer awards when Qatar joins oneworld.

    And I would also like to know the answer to the question above about Morroco.

    • And earn more AA miles because the deals are sweet at the moment, and who knows what the chart will be post-merger.

  7. Love your site, and all its great information.

    Quick question, sorry its not completely related to this post.

    Can Ultimate Rewards points be transferred to anyone’s United Miles Account? As in can my parents give me there UR points into my United Mileage account?


    • Reports were that Chase start closing accounts that transferred to accounts other than your own or your spouses.

  8. Qantas flies their A380 between Sydney and Hong Kong four days a week meaning the mileage redemption is a lot better given than on the 747 as you’ll be flying in their premium First product.

    Additionally, EY’s SYD-AUH service is not eligible for AA mileage redemption.

  9. Quick question if anyone can help. Many of these deals seem to not be available for 2 people. So if I search for the “Sydney to Hong Kong for 45k Miles”, it is available almost every day for 1 person, but when I search for my wife and I there is nothing available. Does anyone know if it is common for them to only release 1 seat at a time, and if I booked for one is it likely that another seat would become available? Thanks!

  10. You cite intra-africa awards, but AFAICT you are not allowed to transit a 2nd region A-B-A. Therefore the following example isn’t useful (and neither is anything intra-africa): “Marrakesh and Johannesburg are 4,600 miles apart, but are both in Africa.” Were it possible to transit Europe or Middle East, this would be a boon.


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