Aspirational Award #2 – a.ka. How to Maximize American Airline AAdvantage Miles Using Unique Awards

Last month I booked two award tickets for my in-laws.  They have only been out of the country on a couple occasions, so this trip to 3 destinations in South America, and 1 Caribbean destination, in business class, would be an incredible experience for them.  The best part, it only cost 90,000 American AAdvantage Miles per person. Normally, a North America to Argentina award in business class on American costs 100,000 miles per person.  And you only get one stopover, which has to be the gateway north American city.  So compared to this my in-laws trip is a significantly better value

Here’s how:

  • American has the Oneworld Explorer Award.  It is an award that charges you points in proportion to how many miles you fly on American or their partners.  You have to use at least two of their partners to qualify for this award.  It is available as an open-jaw, round-trip, or one-way.  You can have up to 16 segments.
  • My in-laws live 1 hour from Tampa or Orlando airport, or 3 hours from Miami airport.  Doing Tampa, to Miami, to Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina and back is 8,888 miles.  Per the Oneworld Explorer award chart, trips of 9,001 miles to 10,000 miles (Zone 4) in length cost 90,000 American Airlines points in business class.
  • However, to use this, they would have to fly two partner carriers.  LAN and American serve South America from Miami, but no other Oneworld partner airlinesSo somehow I had to add another partner carrier to the trip, but wasn’t sure how.

Here in lies a well kept secret for Oneworld Explorer award bookings.

  •  British airways flies a few fifth-freedom flights in the Caribbean.  Head For Points does a great job examining these.  Two examples are Nassau to Grand Cayman Island, and Nassau to Turks & Caicos.  Basically the plane comes in from London to Nassau, stops, and then finishes the flight to one of these destinations.  This is an amazing tool to enable a Oneworld Explorer award where you only have 1 partner carrier and need a 2nd to qualify for all the rules!  Just add one of these British Airways fifth freedom flights to your trip.
  • If your Oneworld Explorer award is a one-way, you can potentially add one of these legs as an open-jaw at the end of your trip.  Or you can add a Carribbean vacation on the end of your Oneworld Explorer award.

In the case of my in-laws, the booking went like this:

  • Tampa – Miami – Lima (3 day stopover in Lima)
  • Lima – Santiago (3 day stopover in Santiago)
  • Santiago – Mendoza (5 day stopover in Mendoza)
  • Mendoza – Santiago – Miami (3 month stopover in Miami.  My in-laws would drive home 3 hours from Miami airport, and resume their lives as normal)
  • Nassau – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos (4 day stopover in Providenciales. Basically, I have made this ticket as an open jaw, where it goes from Tampa to Miami via South America, then has surface travel, and resumes again in Providenciales back to Tampa.  My in-laws have to buy Tampa/Orlando to Nassau ticket themselves, which are only $85 on BahamasAir.  The Nassau to Providenciales is on BritishAirways, making it become a valid Oneworld Explorer award)
  • Providenciales – Miami – Tampa (finish the trip)

To recap, they have a business class award ticket to Lima, Santiago, Mendoza, and Providenciales for only 90,000 American Airlines points as this trip comes in at 9,880 flown miles, just under the 9,999 limit.  They are only out of pocket the taxes/fees American charges, which was in this case $402 a ticket, and $85 to buy the one-way Tampa/Orlando to Nassau ticket).  What an amazing value!  Again, just Santiago or Mendoza alone from Tampa would be 100,000 miles with a stop-over only allowed in Miami.

Only 9,866 miles, thus 90,000 American AAdvantage miles per person to 4 destinations!

map2

I hope this will be a memorable award trip for my in-laws.  They will love LAN and AA international business class experience on the MIA – LIM, LIM – SCL, SCL – MIA, and NAS – PLS legs of this trip.