How Can I Fly American Airlines Without AA Miles? Use Their Partners!

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American Airlines plane

How To Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

Have you ever been in this situation? You need to fly on American Airlines, the cash prices are extremely high and your AAdvantage account is registering a big fat zero. What do you do? Well it is possible to book American Airlines with partner awards. That is why I wanted to put together this how to guide on booking American Airlines tickets with other airlines’ miles.

RELATED: JetBlue and American Airlines Announce Strategic Partnership

Who Are American Airlines’ Partners?

If we’re going to book American Airlines with partner awards, we need to know who those partners are. American Airlines has 2 types of partners: airlines within the oneworld alliance and those who have individual agreements with American Airlines.

Use partners to book American Airlines award flights

From their list of partners, we see that American Airlines even tells us which partner awards can be booked online. That’s nice if you’re going that direction: using American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book onto their partners.

For our interest, we care about who those partners are, so we can use their awards programs to book American Airlines award flights. We want to book through some other program to fly on a flight with American Airlines.

Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

Which Partner Program Is Best For American Airlines Award Bookings?

That depends. I won’t say one program is always the best. However, I think we should eliminate some programs immediately using a few important criteria:

From the 13 partners that American Airlines has in oneworld, only 8 of them can receive points easily. Royal Air Maroc has no transfer partners and does not have a credit card that will offer me any of their points. The same applies for Royal Jordanian, S7, and Sri Lankan. LATAM only receives transfers from Marriott, which is almost always a bad deal when using Marriott points for airline bookings.

From the 9 partners who aren’t part of oneworld (remember that Alaska Airlines is joining oneworld in 2021), I’m cutting 6 of them for the reasons above. Goodbye Air Tahiti Rui, Cape Air, China Southern, Fiji, Internet, and Seaborne.

What’s left? Here are the 11 partners actually worth investigating for booking American Airlines partner awards:
  • Alaska Airlines – transfer from Marriott or their own credit cards

  • British Airways – transfer from Chase, American Express, Marriott, or their own credit card

  • Cathay Pacific – transfer from American Express, Citi, Capital One, or Marriott

  • Etihad – transfer from American Express, Citi, Barclays, Capital One, or Marriott

  • Finnair – transfer from Capital One or Marriott

  • Hawaiian Airlines – transfer from American Express, Marriott, or their own credit card

  • Iberia – transfer from Chase, American Express, Marriott, or their own credit card

  • Japan Airlines (JAL) – transfer from Barclays or Marriott

  • Malaysia Airlines – transfer from Citi or Barclays

  • Qantas – transfer from Citi, Barclays, Capital One, or Marriott

  • Qatar Airways – transfer from Citi, Capital One, or Marriott

Deciding Which Partner To Use

Now that we know which partners we CAN use, knowing which one to use for the flights I want is the hard part. A good place to start is AwardHacker.com which can give you an idea of options. It’s not perfect and doesn’t guarantee flights are available, but it helps us get started.

Use Award Hacker to find partner flight options for American Airlines award bookings

I’ve highlighted the “operated by” column. If we’re looking for flights operated by American Airlines, we want to look here for “AA” or even “oneworld”. Clicking on the down arrow will you show you some possible routes and who flies them.

Short, Domestic Flights

Now that we’ve seen options, start with the programs that need the least points. For this scenario on my economy flight from Miami to Charlotte, AsiaMiles from Cathay Pacific looks like my cheapest option.

Using AsiaMiles for AA flights MIA to CLT

However, when I go to AsiaMiles and start my search, it immediately tells me I’ll need 10,000 miles. By comparison, British Airways’ Flying Club only wants 9,000 Avios and $5.60 in taxes. This looks like a winner to me. (FYI, American Airlines would charge 12,500 miles for this same flight through its own program. Using British Airways here is better whether or not you have AAdvantage miles)

British Airways avios are the best for short domestic flights on American Airlines

Longer And International Flights

That was an easy one. What if you’re trying to book a more complicated itinerary? We can still use partners for American Airlines award flights, it will just take more work to narrow down from “possible” to “real”.

If you want to fly from Miami to Rio de Janeiro, American Airlines has this as a direct flight. Let’s try for business class on this overnight flight.

Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

Alaska Airlines, which has a great program and the easiest status to achieve, looks great at first. Unfortunately, none of the direct flights offer availability in business class. Choosing a date leads to alternate itineraries with 1 or 2 layovers.

Using Alaska Airlines for American Airlines flights in business class to Rio de Janeiro

Now the real work begins. We can keep going through our options from Award Hacker. Another option is trying for different dates. We can also fill out the “request form” from AsiaMiles and see what they come back with. Plus, we have the option of taking an itinerary with layovers.

It’s also important to note that using Etihad Guest to book flights on American Airlines won’t show up here. You’ll need to reference the partner award chart here. It has charts for how many miles you’ll need depending on where you’re flying. It also lists peak / off-peak seasons and the dates by region.

How Do I Get These Miles And Points?

Your AA account was shut down, you want to book some American Airlines award flights, and you’ve found decent options. How do we get the miles and points we need for this winning option? Here are some great cards to give you the points you need, depending on the program you’re booking with.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you’re booking with British Airways or Iberia, they accept transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can receive 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card. The annual fee is $95.

Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

British Airways Visa Signature Card

If you want to load up on Avios, this card from Chase has a welcome offer of 50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $95.

Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

The Platinum Card from American Express

Looking to rack up some Membership Rewards? The current welcome offer is 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. The annual fee is $550. See our full card review here. You can also look for higher offers, including up to 100,000 points.

Book American Airlines With Partner Awards

Alaska Airlines credit card

The personal and business versions of this card are issued by Bank of America. The cards offer 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months. The annual fee is $75. Targeted offers have extra spending tiers to earn up to 65,000 miles, as well.

Final Thoughts

Even if you have no AAdvantage miles, it is possible to fly on American Airlines flights. Knowing, understanding, and searching through their partners allows us to use these partners to book American Airlines award flights. Programs like British Airways Flying Club (which charges by distance) will be best for short flights. Programs like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Asia Miles from Cathay Pacific use regions & zones. This can be better for longer flights.

Using Award Hacker as a launching point, we can know what our options are. At the end of the day, it still comes down to plugging away on the various programs’ sites to see who has availability and what they’re charging for it. Knowing your options at least helps you not waste your time on options that are bad or don’t exist.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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9 COMMENTS

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Will they still honor your award flight even with an AAdvantage account that was shut down? I wouldn’t want to waste partner miles if that is the case.

  2. The best way to book AA flights after AA shutdown is by filing a DOT complaint and suing AA to get your miles back.

  3. Ryan, any updates on the whole AA shut down situation? With coronavirus dominating the news cycle I have not heard anything about the AA purge in many weeks.

    • Barclays was clueless (I had some articles about them). Citi says AA does whatever it wants and it has nothing to do with Citi blanketing the world with mailers. AA says it’s because Citi gave me cards. It’s always someone else’s fault!

  4. Ryan.
    I am not sure whether this makes you feel any better, but I have literally not used AA Miles on AA metal for over 4 years, and I am in an AA hub, so, AA is sometimes the only option. I still avoid them as much as possible, and the way they treated you and others damaged whatever little trust was left in me.
    Have had an AAdvantage account since 1987.

  5. Or better yet, avoid AA at all costs because of the horribly unprofessional, possibly illegal, way they’ve handled this entire situation. They sold miles to banks, got paid for them, then wiped the miles out of existence without any due process. What a scam! I hope they’re sued into oblivion.

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