How to Book Cheap Flights on American Airlines With Other Miles

Sometimes, American Airlines partners let you book the same flights for fewer miles.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated

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If you usually fly American Airlines, you probably don’t pay too much attention to the loyalty programs of other airlines. After all, it can make sense to focus your efforts on earning American AAdvantage miles and redeeming them for flights on American.

However, you can sometimes get better value by booking the same American award flights through other airline loyalty programs. For example, you can transfer points to an American Airlines partner like British Airways and redeem much fewer points for the same award flight.

Here’s a look at some examples of how to save on American Airlines flights by redeeming other miles from partners.

American Airlines' partner airlines

Most of the airlines that partner with American let you use points from their loyalty program to fly American. This includes all members of the Oneworld alliance, plus other airlines that partner individually with American.

  • Alaska Airlines.

  • British Airways.

  • Cathay Pacific.

  • Finnair.

  • Iberia.

  • Japan Airlines.

  • Malaysia Airlines.

  • Qantas.

  • Qatar Airways.

  • Royal Air Maroc.

  • Royal Jordanian Airlines.

  • Sri Lankan Airlines.

  • Air Tahiti Nui.

  • Cape Air.

  • China Southern Airlines.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • Fiji Airways.

  • GOL Airlines.

  • Hawaiian Airlines.

  • IndiGo.

  • Silver Airways.

But, just because you can book an American flight with a partner doesn’t mean it’s a better deal. You need to compare the award charts for these programs to see where you'd get a better value than using AAdvantage miles.

Here's a look at three programs that can provide better value.

British Airways and Iberia Avios

Oneworld partners British Airways and Iberia can both provide ways to book American Airlines award flights for fewer miles. Both airlines use "Avios" as their mileage currency. And after a change to the Iberia award chart for American Airlines flights in May 2021, both use an identical award chart for American Airlines awards.

Here are four scenarios in which booking an American flight with British Airways or Iberia Avios can save you a lot of miles.

When you can save by booking with Avios

1. Short nonstop domestic flights

British Airways and Iberia can offer better mileage rates than American on redemptions for short nonstop flights. The key here is finding a nonstop flight with award availability. Keep in mind that both British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus price award seats per segment. That means a connecting flight will almost always cost more.

British Airways no longer publishes an award chart. However, we've found British Airways prices American awards at the same price as Iberia's published award chart. That means you can book through either program for the same mileage cost.

Mileage band

AAdvantage MileSAAver award rate (intra-U.S./Canada)

British Airways and Iberia award rate

1 - 500 miles

7,500 miles*.

7,500 miles*.

501 - 650 miles

12,500 miles.

7,500 miles*.

651 - 1,150 miles

12,500 miles.

9,000 miles*.

1,151 - 2,000 miles

12,500 miles.

11,000 miles*.

* requires nonstop flight

The sweetest of these sweet spots: Fly routes between 501-650 miles in distance for 7,500 Avios — instead of 12,500 AAdvantage miles. That's the price you'll find on routes like the 632-mile route from Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale.

However, there's a wrinkle to this sweet spot. American Airlines can offer Web Special awards at low award rates. Currently, we're finding some domestic AAdvantage awards pricing as low as 6,000 miles each way. That's cheaper than any Avios award option — and you aren't limited to nonstop flights either. So, it's worth checking American Airlines award options to make sure you're actually saving miles.

2. Flights to Mexico and the Caribbean

Another time that booking through British Airways or Iberia can make sense is for nonstop short-haul flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. American Airlines treats these as separate regions from the contiguous U.S., so mileage rates can be higher than domestic flights.

However, British Airways and Iberia only consider the distance of the flight when pricing awards. So, the same flight that might cost 15,000 AAdvantage miles could cost 7,500 Avios.

3. Flights from the West Coast to Hawaii

American flies from Los Angeles and Phoenix to Honolulu, Kahului, Kona and Lihue. A one-way economy award ticket to Hawaii booked through American costs 22,500 during standard dates or 20,000 during off-peak dates.

Booked through British Airways or Iberia, American Airlines flights under 3,000 miles cost 13,000 Avios. That's enough to cover all routes from Los Angeles or Phoenix to Hawaii.

4. Flights to Japan

The final example of booking cheaper awards through British Airways and Iberia is found on American Airlines' limited routes to Tokyo. The American Airlines award chart prices award flights to Asia Region 1 (Japan and Korea) at 35,000 miles each way in economy. That price drops to 32,500 miles one-way during off-peak dates.

You can book flights to Japan through British Airways or Iberia for as few as 25,750 Avios each way. However, there's a big downside to this option. Both airlines currently charge over $360 in taxes and fees on this award option compared with just $5.60 on AAdvantage awards.

So, although the mileage cost is less, you probably want to use AAdvantage miles instead for the much-lower out-of-pocket costs.

How to book award flights with British Airways Avios

  1. Log on to your British Airways account.

  2. On the British Airways homepage, hover over the "book" menu option. Then, select "book a flight with Avios."

3. Enter your:

  • Origin and destination airports.

  • Travel date(s).

  • Class of service.

  • Number of passengers.

  • Pick your flight and select "continue" to start the booking process.

How to book award flights with Iberia Avios

  1. Log on to your Iberia account.

  2. Browse to this specific Avios booking page. Booking through the Iberia homepage will error out when you try to search routes not operated by Iberia.

  3. Enter your:

    • Origin and destination airports.

    • Travel date(s).

    • Number of passengers.

    • Whether you want to book the lowest fare, a flexible fare or a premium cabin.

    • Then, select "search."

  4. Select your flight(s) and choose from the Avios & Money options.

  5. Continue through the payment process.

How to earn Avios

You can earn British Airways or Iberia Avios by flying American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia or other Oneworld partners. Or, earn Avios by signing up for or spending on one of their co-branded credit cards, issued through Chase.

You can also convert points from the following rewards programs into British Airways Avios or Iberia Avios.

  • American Express Membership Rewards — 1:1 transfer to British Airways or Iberia.

  • Capital One Miles — 1:1 transfer to British Airways only.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards® — 1:1 transfer to British Airways or Iberia.

  • Marriott Bonvoy — 3:1 transfer to British Airways or Iberia.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you can’t find a nonstop flight to your destination, you’re probably better off booking through American rather than Iberia or British Airways.

Qantas Frequent Flyer

Where British Airways and Iberia are good for booking nonstop award flights, Qantas Frequent Flyer can come in handy for booking short connecting American Airlines awards.

Like British Airways and Iberia, Qantas uses a distance-based award chart — instead of a region-based award chart like American Airlines. However, when pricing awards, Qantas considers the total distance flown, not the distance of each flight. Here's how Qantas prices partner awards:

Flight distance

Economy price

Business/domestic first class

0 - 600 miles

8,000 Qantas miles.

18,400 Qantas miles.

601 - 1,200 miles

12,000 Qantas miles.

27,600 Qantas miles.

1,201 - 2,400 miles

18,000 Qantas miles.

41,500 Qantas miles.

When you can save by booking via Qantas

1. Short connecting domestic flights

For cheaper-than-AAdvantage awards, you'll generally need to book flights under 1,200 miles in distance. That's not very far, but this sweet spot can come in handy in niche cases.

For example, you can fly short connecting flights like Richmond, Virginia, to Portland, Maine. for 8,000 Qantas points each way. Although a distance of under 600 miles, this journey would take over 10 hours to drive. That's going to make it worth flying, even if you have to connect in Philadelphia on the way.

2. Short flights to Mexico and the Caribbean

Another time that Qantas Frequent Flyer can be a better option is for short, connecting flights to other regions. For example, an award flight from Jacksonville, Florida, to Nassau, Bahamas, during standard season cost 15,000 AAdvantage miles.

However, since this route is less than 600 miles, you can book through Qantas Frequent Flyer for 8,000 Frequent Flyer points. And that price is available year-round.

How to book Qantas Frequent Flyer awards

To search for awards through Qantas, create a Frequent Flyer account and log into that account. Once logged in, you can start your award search right on the homepage. Just make sure to select the option to "Use points."

How to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points

Qantas Frequent Flyer points are easily accumulated through major transferable points programs. You can transfer points to Qantas at a 1:1 transfer rate from the following major transfer point programs:

Plus, you can top off your Qantas Frequent Flyer points with transfers from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 transfer ratio — with a 5,000-point bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Bonvoy points.

Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad publishes a chart showing exactly how many Etihad Guest Miles you’ll need for a flight on American Airlines. Long-time American Airlines fans might recognize this award chart — as it matches the American Airlines AAdvantage award chart prior to a March 22, 2016, devaluation.

Here are some examples where you might get a better deal using Etihad miles instead of American AAdvantage miles.

When you can save by booking via Etihad

1. Flying economy class internationally

Etihad Guest offers better values than AAdvantage on some international itineraries. Here are some examples.

Economy mileage cost from the U.S. to ...

AAdvantage MileSAAver award rate

Etihad Guest award rate

Europe (off-peak)

22,500 American miles.

20,000 Etihad miles.

South America Region 1

20,000 American miles.

17,500 Etihad miles.

South America Region 2

30,000 American miles on all dates.

20,000 Etihad miles on off-peak dates and 30,000 miles on standard dates.

Asia Region 1

32,500 American miles on off-peak dates and 35,000 miles on standard dates

25,000 Etihad miles on off-peak dates and 32,500 miles on standard dates.

South Pacific

40,000 American miles.

37,500 Etihad miles.

2. Flying international business or first class

Etihad miles can get you a lot of value on long-haul international flights in American front cabins compared with American AAdvantage rates. Here are some examples from the American and Etihad charts:

Business class mileage cost from the U.S. to ...

AAdvantage MileSAAver award rate

Etihad Guest award rate

Europe

57,500 American miles.

50,000 Etihad miles.

South America Region 1

30,000 American miles.

30,000 Etihad miles.

South America Region 2

57,500 American miles.

50,000 Etihad miles.

Asia Region 1

60,000 American miles.

50,000 Etihad miles.

Asia Region 2

70,000 American miles.

55,000 Etihad miles.

South Pacific

80,000 American miles.

62,500 Etihad miles.

First class mileage cost from the U.S. to ...

AAdvantage MileSAAver award rate

Etihad Guest award rate

Europe

85,000 American miles.

62,500 Etihad miles.

South America Region 2

85,000 American miles.

62,500 Etihad miles.

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

N/A.

90,000 Etihad miles.

Asia Region 1

80,000 American miles.

62,500 Etihad miles.

Asia Region 2

110,000 American miles.

67,500 Etihad miles.

South Pacific

110,000 American miles.

72,500 Etihad miles.

As you can see, the mileage savings can be significant if you book through Etihad Guest rather than using AAdvantage miles.

How to book award flights with Etihad Guest miles

The downside of the Etihad Guest sweet spots is that you can’t redeem American Airlines award flights on the Etihad website.

Instead, you will need to call Etihad’s U.S. phone number, 877-690-0767, to make an award booking on an American flight.

How to earn Etihad Guest miles

While Etihad doesn't offer any U.S.-based credit cards, you can still easily generate Etihad Guest miles by transferring points from most major transferable point programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards — 1:1 transfer rate.

  • Citi ThankYou Points — 1:1 transfer rate.

  • Capital One Miles — 1:1 transfer rate.

  • Marriott Bonvoy — 3:1 transfer rate.

As of March 1, MileSAAver and AAnytime fares are discontinued.

The bottom line

It's not uncommon to get a better deal by booking your American Airlines award flight with other airline programs, such as British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus, Qantas Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest.

Cross-checking award rates between American Airlines and these partner airlines won't take long, and the savings could be worth the extra effort.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
See more cards
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