What can you do with 50,000 American AAdvantage miles? While it’s not easy finding SAAver level awards on American’s own flights, thankfully, there are other options. (P.S. Can American also stop using the double “AA” in AAlmost everything?)
American might have miserly award availability, but I don’t really mind. That’s because my primary mileage redemptions are on Oneworld and partner airlines, a wise—and often only—choice. There’s one redemption I found recently that blew my mind, and it’s on two of American’s best partners.
These airline partners open the door to a myriad of international possibilities. While 50,000 AAdvantage miles can take you far in economy, let’s be honest—to fully maximize the value of frequent flyer miles, it’s lie-flat or bust. That takes us to an interesting niche redemption and in my opinion, the single best use of 50,000 AAdvantage miles.
The AAdvantage Sweet Spot
Experience not one, but two first class long-haul products when flying between the Middle East and Japan for just 50,000 miles.
In addition to two stellar first class suites for 14+ hours, this routing also includes a short-haul business class segment and an optional fourth segment. All of that for 50,000 AAdvantage miles with minimal taxes and fees (and no ridiculous fuel surcharges).
- Abu Dhabi to Singapore on Etihad’s 787 or 777 first class
- Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines’ 737 business class
- Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo on Malaysia Airlines’ A350 or A380 first class
- ...plus one optional segment within the Middle East region or Asia Region 1
The First Class Products
Etihad may have had recent service cuts, but its first class remains one of the most coveted experiences in the world. The spacious A380 Apartments do not serve the Singapore route, but the 787 suites are slightly newer. There’s a host of awesome amenities on the 787 like an inflight chef at your disposal and a personal chilled mini-bar.
Malaysia Airlines’ A350 was only introduced earlier this year and also includes sliding doors in first class. The seat itself is a modified (and lengthened) version of the Vantage XL business class seat, the same that Delta uses for its new suites product. Expect an exclusive four-seat cabin, top-notch Malaysian hospitality, and the airline’s famous skewered chicken satay.
The AAdvantage Award Chart
American has a published region-based award chart and strict routing rules about which areas you can fly through on a mileage ticket. The chart below shows the number of miles required to travel from the Middle East region in economy, business, and first class, respectively.
It costs just 50,000 AAdvantage miles to travel in first class between the Middle East and Asia Region 1, the latter of which encompasses Japan or Korea. That’s already a pretty decent redemption in and of itself—but of course, it can get even better.
The AAdvantage Rules
The stated mileage levels come with a certain set of rules to keep flyers with “creative” routings in check. The first of which is that you cannot transit through a second region in order to reach your destination. As an extreme example, flying from New York to Los Angeles with a connection in London is a clear no-no. That would require two separate awards.
However, the AAdvantage program also realizes that not every place on the planet has non-stop connectivity through its partners. Therefore, there’s a list of exceptions that allow you to transit a third region enroute to your destination. Why, yes, one of those exceptions happen to be between the Middle East and Asia Region 1—you are welcome to transit in Asia Region 2.
Another rule is that you cannot exceed 125-percent of the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) between your origin and final destination. What’s MPM? It’s a proprietary formula that the International Air Transport Association publishes between two cities that is accessible through paid services like ExpertFlyer.
For example, the MPM between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Tokyo (TYO) is 6,031 miles. AAdvantage allows routings up to 7,538 miles—or 25% more than the MPM. What about that crazy Abu Dhabi to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo routing? It perfectly falls right within that limit at 7,515 miles.
Finally, there must also be a published fare on the trans-oceanic carrier between the origin and destination. Again, published fares can be found on ExpertFlyer and on free tools such as ITA Matrix. Indeed, Etihad has a fare between Abu Dhabi and Tokyo. In fact, they fly this exact routing on a direct flight, but what’s the fun in that? We all know that two first class flights are better than one. 😉
Oh, and also AAdvantage’s most recent rule from 2017 is that only up to four connections are allowed on international routings. No stopovers longer than 24 hours either. Fair enough.
The Booking Process
To search for Malaysian availability, you can use British Airways website. For Etihad, you can search directly on their website. If there is “GuestSeat” space available, then American should be able to see it on their end too. I was easily able to put this itinerary on hold within minutes by calling the U.S. American Airlines reservations number.
Ways To Earn 50,000 AAdvantage Miles
Apply for one of Citi’s AAdvantage cards that have current bonus offers. Both $99 annual fees are waived the first year.
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard comes with 50,000 bonus miles after $2,500 in spend in the first 3 months of account opening.
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantagePlatinum Select World Mastercard comes with 70,000 bonus miles after $4,000 in spend in the first 4 months of account opening.
With cash prices upwards of $7,000 for these segments, it might even make sense to top-off your AAdvantage account by buying miles. Currently, American is offering a 40% bonus on purchased miles. Keep in mind, these do not credit as airline purchases (transacted by points.com).
I get it—this redemption won’t be for everyone. But for those that are looking to get from these two regions or have some flexibility and want to experience two incredible products, this is one heckuva deal.