American Airlines AAdvantage miles are some of the most valuable out there, so when AAdvantage miles go on sale, the astute points-collectors take note and consider buying them to redeem for Business or First Class flights.
While the act of redeeming them isn’t actually too hard, understanding the routing and ticket rules, and performing the research required to find flights can take time.
This post covers which airlines, routes, rules and costs apply to American Airlines AAdvantage tickets between Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
This article was last updated after the AAdvantage award chart changes in March 2016, so all AAdvantage pricing referenced should be up to date.
I don’t touch on how to find award availability on American Airlines and oneworld partners in this piece – have a read of my methodology for award flight research with a real-world example here, and I might do another post on this soon too.
Further reading about buying points
I’ve written heaps about buying points for cheap Business and First Class flights. These guides are where to start:
Pricing AAdvantage miles awards between South Pacific and Europe
The South Pacific region in the AAdvantage award chart covers Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other South Pacific islands, and prices flights without stopovers, one way, as follows:
- Economy: 60,000 AAdvantage miles
- Business Class: 85,000 AAdvantage miles
- First Class: 115,000 AAdvantage miles
Stopovers in Asia or the Middle East require two awards and are therefore more expensive – you’ll need to pay for flights between Australia and the stopover region (Asia 1, Asia 2 or Middle East) and then another onward flight to Europe.
You can find the total price by summing the cost of two flights on the AAdvantage award chart.
In terms of taxes, American usually only pass on the airport and airline taxes on a ticket and not the fuel surcharges, meaning they are much cheaper than comparable award flights with Qantas Frequent Flyer or Krisflyer.
The exception to this is with British Airways, whose flights are more expensive as American Airlines passes these fuel surcharges on to the traveller.
Airline and routing options using AAdvantage miles between Australia, NZ and Europe
American Airlines partners with the following airlines which fly between the two regions in a number of different route combinations:
- British Airways (via Singapore and many other possible cities in Asia)
- Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong)
- Japan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Malaysia Airlines
- Etihad Airways
- Fiji Airways
What follows are the full list of routes to research for availability for each airline.
Qantas of course fly direct to London from Melbourne and Sydney, via Dubai. You won’t be able to redeem AAdvantage miles on Qantas codeshares with Emirates.
Also consider flying with Qantas up to Asia and connecting onto another carrier to get you to Europe. Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, Tokyo and Shanghai would all be options.
British Airways fly directly to Sydney from London, via Singapore. You can also look for award seat availability from useful connecting cities in Asia – including Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Delhi.
BA also have options in the Middle East, such as Dubai and Doha – except that you can’t transit to a non-Qatar flight in Doha, so they aren’t much use unless you are happy to pay for a stopover.
Cathay Pacific fly to Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Cathay Pacific’s Auckland flight could also be an option.
Connecting onward to Europe, Cathay Pacific fly to Frankfurt, Rome, Paris, London, Milan, Manchester, Amsterdam and Zurich.
The last three cities are known for having better than average award seat availability, so could be worth a look if finding availability is tough.
Japan Airlines fly to Tokyo (Narita) from Sydney, and connect onward into Europe to Frankfurt, London, Paris.
Qatar Airways fly direct from Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide (from May 2016) and Perth to Doha, connecting to a multitude of European cities – Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Larnaca, London, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Sofia, Stockholm, Venice, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb and Zurich. Phew.
Malaysia Airlines fly from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Perth and Auckland to Kuala Lumpur, connecting onto London, Paris and Amsterdam.
Finnair fly to their Helsinki hub from Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Delhi, Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo Narita, Seoul, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Bangkok. They then operate into many Northern European cities from Helsinki.
Some of those destinations are seasonal according to Wikipedia but Finnair could still be worth looking into – if they are offering any award availability in Business Class, which is hard to come by.
Etihad are a unique partner – however in order to use AAdvantage miles to get to Europe from Australia, you will have to book two awards.
For some reason American Airlines don’t allow you to transit with Etihad in Abu Dhabi on a single award, so the price will logically increase. As a result, you could consider having a stopover – given you’ll have to pay for one anyway.
This would cost 80,000 AAdvantage miles for Business / 100,000 for First for Australia to/from Abu Dhabi, and then 42,500 AAdvantage miles for Business / 62,500 miles for First for Abu Dhabi to/from Europe. This dramatically increased with the award chart changes of 2016 somewhat making the costs untenable from purchased miles alone.
Etihad flies out of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth to Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Larnaca, London, Madrid, Manchester, Vienna and Zurich.
As a notable mention, airberlin are a oneworld airline which are partially owned by Etihad – and fly into Abu Dhabi from Berlin. They could work as an onward connection if you can’t find availability into Europe with Etihad.
Fiji Airways – Tack on a free flight to/from Fiji?
While the focus of this article is on Australia and New Zealand origination flights, it’s worth noting that Fiji is also a possible starting point for awards – meaning that you could take on a one way flight to Fiji at the beginning or end of your trip.
If you do this, your flight to/from Fiji and Australia or New Zealand would be covered but would have to connect with your outbound long-haul flight within 24 hours, as stopovers aren’t allowed.
Award availability on Fiji Airways is also not wide open, so this will probably only work in a minority of cases.
Fiji Airways also fly Nadi – Hong Kong, so if you can find award seats, starting or ending your trip in Fiji via Hong Kong could also work.
Using connections to get an itinerary to work
AAdvantage awards will allow you to tack on an extra flight segment to your award if you need to, as long as it’s within the same region, within the permitted mileage for an award, and you are not actively avoiding a more direct option (this is at their discretion).
The key allowable transit zones for Europe to/from South Pacific awards are Asia Zone 1 (Japan, roughly North Asia), Asia Zone 2 (Hong Kong, Singapore, roughly SE Asia), and Doha on Qatar Airways.
As long as you keep your trip within those zones, you can connect within them.
Key Rule – Maximum Permitted Mileage of an award itinerary
One Mile at a Time covers the MPM rules that apply to AAdvantage awards quite succinctly:
Airlines publish maximum permitted mileage (MPM) amounts between city pairs, meaning those are the most number of miles you can fly between those cities.
For those of you that have no clue what MPM is, for many international fares airlines publish the maximum permitted mileage between a city pair, which is often roughly 10% over the direct distance, accounting for the fact that connections are often necessary. On partner awards American lets you exceed that by an additional 25%, which is incredibly generous.
In a nutshell, you can usually get a routing allowed between two cities in Australia / New Zealand and Europe that’s up to around by at least 25% more than the actual usual flight distance between those two cities, which means that tacking on additional flights in order to find award seat availability is possible.
The simplest way to check the MPM is probably to ask AAdvantage directly if a routing will be allowed. You can check city pair distances in third party tools such as Expertflyer but that’s a paid tool, and this is a little outside the scope of this post.
Domestic connections in Australia & New Zealand using Qantas
If you can’t find an flight to/from your home city in Australia or NZ, consider searching for other cities in your immediate vicinity.
You can then tack on a connecting flight with Qantas, if there’s award seat availability, and you are within the MPM.
Mid-itinerary connections – use Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines or Malaysia Airlines to connect between hubs if you have to
As I mentioned above, the allowable transit zones for Europe to/from South Pacific awards are Asia Zone 1 (Japan, roughly North Asia), Asia Zone 2 (Hong Kong, Singapore, roughly SE Asia), and Doha on Qatar Airways.
You could conceivably fly Sydney – Singapore – Doha (Qatar Airways) – London (Qatar Airways) if that’s the only route you can find availability on. Remember you can’t stopover in those cities fore more than 24 hours without increasing the price.
You could also look to connect in Hong Kong onto a Dragonair service to Shanghai, then onward to Europe on British Airways.
There are many options available – so long as you are within the maximum permitted mileage, and are not seeking to fly indirectly when direct options are available (this is decided at American Airlines discretion).
Summing up – American Airlines AAdvantage awards between Australia, New Zealand and Europe
AAdvantage is an incredibly valuable program for those who can accrue AAdvantage miles – from credit card spend in Australia, this is best done through Membership Rewards transfers to Starwood Preferred Guest, and then onward to American Airlines
Alternatively, you can jump on an AAdvantage miles purchase bonus promo which come around every few months to buy enough miles to redeem for an award flight outright.
Either way, thinking through the different airline and routing options is key to making use of your AAdvantage miles, so be prepared to get geographically creative as you seek out those award seats.
All images courtesy gcmap.com