American Airlines has some of the best award options for flights around the world. With the American Airline AAdvantage award program, you can fly practically anywhere in the world using miles that you earn from credit card bonuses and flying on American Airline flights. By learning some basics about the program you will be a pro at booking your next award flight.
In a series of posts, we’ll discuss the different ways American Airlines miles can be used to maximize your award trips.
Part 1 – Introduction to Using American Airlines Miles and the Partner Airlines
Part 2 – Comparing American Airline’s 3 Award Charts
Part 3 – Taxes and fees and How to Book Awards (online vs. phone)
Part 4 – Stopovers and Open Jaw tickets American Airlines
Part 5 – How to Maximize American Airlines Explorer, oneworld and Other Airline Award Charts
Part 6 – How to Maximize AA MileSAAver Awards (includes off-peak)
Part 7 – Planning an International Award
Part 8 – Maximizing AA Miles to South America
Part 9 – Maximizing AA Miles to Asia
Part 10 – Maximizing AA Miles to Europe
Part 11 – Maximizing AA Miles to Africa
Part 12 – Maximizing AA Miles to Middle East
Part 13 – Maximizing AA Miles in the US and Hawaii
Booking American Airline AA MileSAAver awards is an easy way to use the least amount of points to destinations. Like the name suggests, you can save miles when booking MileSAAver awards vs. Anytime awards. On top of that, you can book discounted MileSAAver awards to some destinations during off-peak seasons.
There are two different levels of MileSAAver awards: peak and off-peak. Both will save you points, but the cheapest option is to book off-peak awards at a significantly discounted price.
MileSAAver off-peak awards are only available on economy class awards, so if you’re planning to use your miles on a business or first class award, off-peak prices are not an option.
Off-peak awards can be booked for one-way, multi-city and round trip on oneworld partner airlines.
For example, instead of redeeming 22,000 miles for a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu with MileSAAver peak awards, an off-peak ticket would only cost 17,000. That is 5,000 miles cheaper than the normal MileSAAver peak price and 28,000 miles less than an AAnytime award in which the same flight would cost 45,000 points!
The difference between these award prices is the time of year that you are flying. Off-peak awards have specific times that allow you to fly at a discounted price.
Depending on the zone, the discount between off-peak and AAnytime might be as significant as 50% off the award.
American Airlines separates its destinations for MileSAAver off-peak awards by zones. The key to maximizing AA MileSAAver Awards is to have a clear understanding of when each zone has its off-peak dates. Note that the dates vary from zone to zone.
Think of off-peak as another word for “low” season, so a great perk about traveling during this time is that not only will you be saving points, but there will also be less tourists. Meaning accommodations will be cheaper and there will be less crowds.
Off-Peak Dates by Zone
March 1 to May 31 & Aug. 16 to Nov. 30 (Available for 5 months)
Central America & South America Zone 1: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
South America Zone 2: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uruguay
Oct. to April 30 (Available for 7 months)
Asia Zone 1: Japan, Korea, Mongolia
Oct. 15 to May 15 (Available for 8 months)
Jan. 12 to March 16 & Aug. 22 to Dec. 15 (Available for 7 months)
Off-Peak Awards are not available for Asia Zone 2, the Middle East or the South Pacific.
For a better comparison of the different American Airline awards, you can view the award chart here.
Off-peak award prices based on zones:
Within and Between the Continental U.S./Canada/Mexico/Caribbean: 12,500 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 17,500 miles)
Hawaii: 17,500 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 22,500 miles)
Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Venezuela: 15,000 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 17,500)
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile or Uruguay: 20,000 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 30,000 miles)
Europe: 20,000 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 30,000 miles)
Japan: 25,000 miles during off-peak (MileSAAver price is 32,000 miles)
Whenever possible, a stopover can also be used to visit another North American destination. This can even add more value to an off-peak award.
American Airline allows stopovers on international awards, but not on domestic awards.
You can only have a stopover if you’re destination is international and your stopover can only be made in a North American International Gateway City.
For example, you are flying from LAX to Paris and enroute you would like to make a stopover in Toronto. This is possible because Toronto is considered a North American International Gateway.
You could fly to Paris during Europe’s off-peak season and have a stopover in Toronto for only 20,000 miles each way! Remember, stopovers are free. AAnytime awards to Europe cost 60,000 miles so you would be saving 40,000 miles and receiving a free stopover.
20,000 miles to Europe is a ridiculously great deal and lowest prices among other airlines, but finding the award seat may not be the easiest task. To help you find award seat availability you should start searching for off-peak MileSAAver awards as soon as you are considering a trip.
When off-peak isn’t available for your destination, then the next best option would be to book a MileSAAver Peak award. For one, the price of an award is still significantly less than an Anytime Award and two, you can book awards on Business class which you wouldn’t be able to do on an off-peak award.
The cost of a MileSAAver award ticket on business class costs almost as much as an AAnytime Economy award. Sometimes it could even be less. For example, an economy AAnytime award from the US to South America costs 35,000 miles each way and a business class MileSAAver award only costs 30,000 miles each way.
ExpertFlyer is great way to find out when airlines make award seats available, but it is a site that you have to register for. They offer a basic membership for $4.99 or pro membership $9.99 per month. There is a free version as well, but it doesn’t offer alerts for award seat availability.
Another option is to refer to American Airline’s Hot Spots page which gives you options that have more MileSAAver award seatings available based on certain destinations.
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