Prior to AA’s March 2016 award devaluation, American miles were some of the best value miles on the planet. To some degree, they still are, but that largely depends on where and when you’re traveling.

In this post I’ll show you how to identify possible routes, find award space, and book your tickets. The process is a bit tricky, but once you’ve done it a few times it almost becomes second nature.

Identifying Possible Routes

The first step in your award booking process should take you to either Google Flights or AwardNexus. The objective here is to discover all of the possibilities for getting from point A to B. This will come in handy in the case you have to book your award segment by segment.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to attempt to find an itinerary from my home base of Philadelphia to Bali in February.

I typically start with AwardNexus’ Route Explorer feature first:

Next up is to input your origin, destination, and any limitations you might have. As you can see, I opted to exclude British Airways and London-Heathrow from my search.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 11.35.45 AM
Here are my results and as is demonstrated, you can click any of the segments to see which carrier operates the route. In this case, Qatar Airways flies from PHL to Bali (via Doha).

 

Find Award Space

Now that you’ve identified a couple of route possibilities, it’s time to search for your space. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways award space does not appear on AA.com so you’re going to have to search British Airways or Qantas.

I was able to find award space on Qatar business class operated by an Airbus A350 from PHL to Europe and then on the A330 from Doha to Denpasar for the roughly 10 hour flight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 11.47.03 AM

Booking Your Award

Since Qatar Airways is unable to be booked on AA.com, you’re going to have to call AA Reservations to get this setup. Phone number: 1-800-433-7300.

Here are the only oneWorld partner airlines that can be booked via AA.com:

  • airberlin
  • Alaska Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines

When you ring up American’s reservations team, all you need to do is spoon feed the agent the flights you found.

Here’s a sample script:

You: “Hi, I’d like to book an award trip. I have the exact flight numbers and dates to make it easy for you.”

Agent: “Okay, go ahead.”

Simple as that? Simple as that.

Phantom Space

Sometimes you’ll run into what people call “Phantom Space” which is essentially a hiccup between the reservation web interface (Qantas or BA.com) and the actual award inventory from the carrier operating the flight.

You might run into a situation where you call AA to book the space you found via Qantas and the agent just simply isn’t able to find it on her system.

If you’d rather double check before taking the time to call the airline, simply use another source to verify the award space. Since I found my space using Qantas, I’d go ahead and search British Airways for the same flights.

Bottom Line

I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve come across that have said they only tried to search AA.com for an award flight and then gave up when nothing appeared. One of the biggest misconceptions among travelers is that if the award space doesn’t show up, it’s not possible to book it. There is usually always another way!

As always, feel free to comment any upcoming trips you’re trying to take and I’d be happy to help you out as best as I can!

 

 

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Author’s Note: This post was originally published on August 13, 2016 and while the objective of the post is to demonstrate how to find and book partner award space, I realize the example I used violated AA’s routing rules. I’ve updated the example used as to not mislead any readers. I deeply apologize if you were, in fact, misled by my previous post.