Every airline loyalty program has routing rules for award travel. These rules define how you are allowed to travel from A to B. Follow those rules, and you can pay the price listed. If you deviate from those rules, you might need to pay more by piecing together two or more separate awards. New rules from American Airlines that permit travel to the Indian subcontinent via Hong Kong will make things much simpler when redeeming AAdvantage miles. (HT to MileValue)
For background, I’ve previously discussed award routing rules for several of the big U.S. carriers. For example, United Airlines has very flexible rules that allow a stopover, two open jaws, and travel to Asia via Europe. It’s so flexible that I’ve never actually run into an issue. Alaska Airlines doesn’t publish many rules at all, although they are picky about combining multiple carriers.
American Airlines is tricky. Two rules make it especially cumbersome.
First, the overwater carrier must publish a fare between your origin and destination (even if that carrier isn’t actually operating a flight to either city). This can be a problem for some small airports whether or not another of American’s partners provides service.
Second, American has specific rules for transiting a third region on your way to the destination. Whereas United (and to a lesser extent Alaska) have some exclusions, American disallows any third region transit unless explicitly permitted.
This had been a problem for travel to India. Previously you could only connect in Europe if coming from North America, but those who live on the West Coast might find it more convenient to travel via Asia. It’s not only potentially shorter but could also be a better value. British Airways provides the bulk of transatlantic award space and collects high surcharges. American doesn’t pass those on if you fly on on its own planes or with Cathay Pacific, which (in my opinion) also has better business and first class products. Even setting aside issues of quality and price, looser rules mean more options for utilizing available award space.
New rules from American Airlines now allow customers to transit Hong Kong when redeeming miles to travel from North America to the Indian subcontinent. This rule spells out a single city, so you can’t connect in other Asian cities that American and its partners serve, such as Shanghai or Tokyo. However, American does operate several flights to Hong Kong, and it’s the hub of Cathay Pacific, which reliably opens up award space one to three weeks before departure. Here’s the new list of permitted transit regions.
|North America||Asia Zone 2||Asia Zone 1|
|North America||Africa||Europe or Doha|
|North America||Indian Subcontinent||Europe or Hong Kong|
|North America||Middle East||Europe|
|Central and South America||Middle East, Africa, and India||Europe|
|Central and South America Zone 1||South Pacific||South America Zone 2|
|South America Zone 2||Africa||Doha|
|Europe||Asia Zone 1||Asia Zone 2 or Doha|
|Europe||Asia Zone 2||Doha|
|Europe||South Pacific||Asia Zone 1 or 2|
|India and Middle East||Asia Zone 1||Asia Zone 2|
|India and Middle East||South Pacific||Asia Zone 2|
|Africa||Asia Zone 1||Asia Zone 2 or Doha|
|Africa||Asia Zone 2||Doha|
|Asia Zone 1||South Pacific||Asia Zone 2|
American Airlines has one award category that includes travel to the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Note that you may not transit Hong Kong on the way to the Middle East; only the Indian subcontinent is affected by the new rule. These countries include:
- Sri Lanka
Travelers living near Cathay’s West Coast gateways in Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles will be able to connect on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines within the U.S., travel to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific or American, and then continue on Cathay or another oneworld carrier to the Indian subcontinent.
Note that these rules make it easier to use your AAdvantage miles if you have them, but it might still be cheaper to book with another loyalty program. My award chart comparison tool can help you find alternatives, and it’s no secret that Alaska Airlines is now a much cheaper option to book Cathay Pacific first class — but Alaska won’t let you mix your award with other oneworld carriers. So it depends a bit on where you want to go.