Single Best Use of 50,000 AAdvantage Miles: First Class Suites — Twice!

by Chris Dong

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.

American has both Oneworld and non-Oneworld 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.

Etihad's first class suites on the 787.

Etihad’s first class suites on the 787.

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.

Connect in any of these countries enroute to Japan or Korea

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. 😉

EY Published Fare AUH-TYO

Etihad has a published fare between Abu Dhabi and Tokyo.

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.

Note “GuestSeat” availability.

You can even spend almost 24 hours in Singapore before going onwards.

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.

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).

The Upshot

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.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

26 comments
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26 comments

Eric October 17, 2018 - 6:24 pm

Just out of curiously, you were able to book Etihad First by calling the US number for AA.? Did they fix the system so US reservations agents could finally see Etihad First? This would be very useful for me, as I live in Bahrain. Thanks.

Reply
Chris Dong October 18, 2018 - 10:43 am

Yes, booked directly through the US call center. I believe the majority of AA’s issues with seeing Etihad first has been with itineraries that include the US. In that case, your best bet would be to call the Australia call center.

Reply
Joel October 17, 2018 - 9:51 pm

I managed to do that exact routing in the past with an AAdvantage award ticket. AUH-SIN-KUL-NRT. Unfortunately back then in 2016 MH was using the angled flat J on their A330s to NRT, and not the upgraded A350s…

But as a data point, I can confirm that this routing is valid.

Reply
Tig23 October 18, 2018 - 5:19 am

Wow, didn’t know 50K AA pts can do that much!! Thanks for the piece, Chris! Never had any AA miles but am looking to accrue that next! Question: If I’m looking to fly to Malaysia, what’s the best way to go from JFK to AUH (and use 50K for AUH–SIN–KUL–NRT)? And since AA doesn’t allow stopovers anymore (?), that means I need to book separate fly from NRT–KUL–JFK (on way back)?

Reply
Chris Dong October 18, 2018 - 10:53 am

Unfortunately, with Malaysia as your final destination, this routing isn’t the most ideal. If it’s specifically Malaysia’s new A350 you’re looking to try out, I’d recommend flying JFK to Tokyo on Japan Airlines’ awesome first class and then Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur in the A350 suite. That would be 110,000 AAdvantage miles.

Reply
AI October 18, 2018 - 9:40 am

How can we utilize “plus one optional segment within the Middle East region or Asia Region 1” ?
Can you give an example ? Can I do from NRT back to AUH ? Any examples? Thanks!

Reply
Chris Dong October 18, 2018 - 11:09 am

AAdvantage limits you to 4 total segments with one award so the addition of a segment at the beginning or end of this itinerary is technically possible, granted it falls within the other rules. For example, you can add on Amman to Abu Dhabi on Etihad or Royal Jordanian (a Oneworld partner) before continuing onwards. And yes, you can start in either Asia Region 1 or the Middle East! That part doesn’t matter.

Reply
AI October 18, 2018 - 1:31 pm

Great Points ! So I can start from let’s say either Tokyo NRT or from Middle East Region.

Where can I check the availability for Amman to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Royal Jordanian ? Thank you!

Reply
Chris Dong October 18, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Check British Airways’ website for Royal Jordanian availability!

Reply
Mark March 14, 2019 - 9:35 am

Would this not violate the maximum MPM?

Reply
Chris Dong March 14, 2019 - 12:37 pm

Nope, it fell perfectly within the limit!

Mark March 14, 2019 - 1:01 pm

Adding an additional segment to the AUH-NRT itinerary that is.

Tig23 October 18, 2018 - 1:20 pm

Thanks for the explanation Chris! Not sure if Malaysia Air is on top of our list to try as far a premium cabins are concerned. We have tried BR in J so far and looking to try Turkish & Swiss next. Any recommendations in J or F from JFK to Malaysia? Thanks!

Reply
Avoid London surcharges, more first class for 50K, freeing yourself for what matters October 20, 2018 - 6:13 pm

[…] Single Best Use of 50,000 AAdvantage Miles: First Class Suites — Twice! […]

Reply
T. October 20, 2018 - 7:50 pm

Does that MPM affect the following routing – US to Doha to Johannesburg? Or is it still one award of 70,000 miles in business?

Reply
Chris Dong October 22, 2018 - 10:38 pm

I’ve never come across any issues routing through Doha enroute to South Africa on one award (70,000 miles in business.)

Reply
asdfasdf October 20, 2018 - 11:41 pm

just don’t piss off a local or a royal. don’t think you cant get chopped up like they do in Saudi. You are 2nd or 3rd class as a foreigner throughout the Gulf

Reply
Bill March 14, 2019 - 2:48 pm

Chris…what do you think of a redemption between Asia Region 1 (NRT on JAL) thru Asia Region 2 (KUL) onwards to somewhere in the South Pacific (AKL on MH)? This would give you a longer segment up front (KUL-AKL) albeit at a slightly higher cost.

Reply
Chris Dong March 14, 2019 - 2:57 pm

That’s definitely possible! If you wanted to maximize your segments and not violate MPM, you could probably route through HKG too (and use the awesome lounges there). TYO-HKG-KUL-AKL.

Reply
Rodge March 14, 2019 - 5:35 pm

Maybe TYO-KUL-HKG-AKL for JAL and Cathay First Class? And could also throw in another segment at the beginning or end, correct?

Reply
Chris Dong March 14, 2019 - 9:35 pm

That might not be allowed because of backtracking and I don’t believe JL operates the first class for that route.

Reply
Roger Johnson April 4, 2019 - 2:02 pm

Chris…can you do an article like this for other programs? You seem to be the only blogger than knows wtf you’re talking about with truly finding the best sweet spot. Would be interested if you knew of any other niche redemptions like this that don’t involve any US cities.

Reply
Chris Dong April 5, 2019 - 8:05 am

Thanks Roger! I’ll update this post soon to reflect Etihad and Malaysian’s new routes, and then start working on other niche redemption posts — stay tuned.

Reply
Roger May 8, 2019 - 1:39 pm

Can’t wait. You should also write about the single best use of United’s Excursionist Perk. I’m sure you can cook something up really good.

Reply
Frank December 3, 2019 - 10:02 am

Bump

Reply
Frank Bishop November 22, 2019 - 8:51 am

bump

Reply

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