Update: American Airlines has extended this promotion to 4 January 2016
This week saw a massive devaluation to the American Airlines AAdvantage program and, with the changes to the award charts being as welcome as a bout of botulism, you may be wondering why I’m writing a post about purchasing AAdvantage Miles. Bear with me and I’ll explain why.
The majority of points buying opportunities you’ll find on offer are not good value for money. Most of the time, unless you’re buying a small number of miles to top off your account for an award, you’re overpaying for whatever points or miles you’re purchasing – and that’s exactly what the loyalty programs want you to do.
However, every now and again, there’s a points buying opportunity that pretty good value….if only for a subset of the traveling community (and, thanks to American’s award chart devaluation this week, only for a limited time). The current American Airlines AAdvantage points promotion is one such opportunity.
American Airlines recently came out with a Cyber Monday Sale (a bit early!) whereby you can purchase up to 200,000 AAdvantage miles for as little as 2 cents/mile. The promotion runs through 4 January 2016.
As has been the case for a lot of American’s recent points sales, the promotion is tiered – the more points you buy the greater the number of bonus points American Airlines will give you:
At the top level, where you purchase 125,000 miles and get a bonus of 75,000 miles the cost comes to $3,687.50 before tax….…..which comes to $3,994.06 after US tax and a $30 processing charge have been added on:
How To Get Value
I value American Airlines AAdvantage miles at around 1.8 cents/mile so logic would dictate that I declare this offer to be a bad idea – and for a lot of people it is – but, if you live in Europe (or if you’re in a position to start your travel in Europe), there’s a way to get some great value out this sale – as long as you’re able to book before 22 March 2016 (when the AAdvantage award charts change).
American Airlines uses a region-based award chart so awards between two regions cost the same number of miles irrespective of how long the flight is. E.g. An award flight between Los Angeles and London costs the same number of miles as an award flight between New York and London – despite the latter being a considerably shorter flight. Both are considered USA to Europe awards.
American Airlines has award charts for the whole world but the one I’m going to concentrate on is their current award chart for departures from Europe (which remains in effect until 22 March 2016):
If we take a look at the line for flights to the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent we can see that business class flights from Europe cost just 30,000 AAdvantage Miles (each way) and First Class flights cost just 40,000 miles (each way).
American defines the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent like this (click to enlarge):
So, for 30,000 AAdvantage miles you can fly in Business Class to any of those countries from any European country. Or, for 40,000 AAdvantage Miles, you could do it in First Class – that’s an amazing deal.
It’s easy to forget that American Airlines partners with airlines outside of the OneWorld alliance, but it’s by using your AAdvantage Miles on one such airline – Etihad – that you can really live it up.
Etihad has some of the best Business Class cabins in the sky…..
And their First Class cabins aren’t bad either!
If you can find award availability that works for you, these are some of the very best uses of AAdvantage Miles around.
Pricing It Out
So, back to the American Airlines Cyber Monday points promotion – let’s take a couple of possible example trips:
Europe – Maldives (Business Class) – 2 Passengers
The total number of AAdvantage miles needed for this trip would be 60,000 per person or 120,000 in total.
If you wanted to buy exactly the required number of miles it would cost you $2,360 before taxes and fees:
That’s $1,283.50 (£855/€1,205) + local taxes per person for a round-trip Business Class ticket in a fantastic cabin.
The worst case scenario would have you leaving from the UK, which has some of the highest departure taxes around, but even if you factor those in (around $300 per person) the round trip fare is still only $1,583.50 (£1,055/€1,487) per person.
Europe – Dubai (First Class) – 2 Passengers
If you feel like splashing out a little more and flying one of the best First Class products available, you’d need 80,000 AAdvantage Miles per person or 160,000 AAdvantage Miles in total (per the award chart above).
Which comes to $3,201.25 when all the extras are added in:
That would bring the cost of a round trip First Class ticket to around $1,600 (£1,066/€1,504) + local departure taxes.
Once again, if we take the UK as our worst case scenario, that would bring the ticket price up to around $1,900 (£1,357/€1,914).
It with examples like this where the cents/mile cost doesn’t really come in to play. Yes, the miles cost more than what I value my American AAdvantage miles at but the value you’re getting is fantastic.
To purchase an equivalent Business Class ticket on Etihad could easily cost in the high $3,000’s (per person) and yet, with this promotion, you could get one for $1,283 + local taxes.
This is only a good deal as long as you can find award availability for dates that work for you and as long as you can book before 22 March 2016 – after that the awards rocket up in price (85,000, miles for Business Class and 125,000 miles for First Class).
If this way of using AAdvantage miles appeals to you, head on over to Etihad.com and do a search for award availability between cities that work for you and for dates that work for you.
Note: To find Etihad awards that are available to book using AAdvantage Miles you need to look out for Etihad Guest availability (the first column in any results from an award search). Ignore the surcharges and the “miles” figures – those relate to redemptions though Etihad Guest.
Only when you’ve found something that you’re happy to book should you be purchasing the miles you need for the award. Otherwise you could be stuck with a lot of AAdvantage miles that are a lot less useful to you come 22 March 2016.
Personally I won’t be buying miles to do this as I’ve got a pretty healthy AAdvantage balance anyway…but I’m definitely considering burning 60,000 miles on one of these awards before the devaluation kicks in on 22 March 2016. An escape from the European winter with quick break to the sun sounds like a good last hurrah for a great value award redemption 🙂