*UPDATE: AS OF APRIL 8, 2014, AMERICAN HAS DISCOUNTINUED THE ONEWORLD EXPLORER AWARD.*
So I’m not an American Airlines flier but my parents are. With their credit card spend and domestic revenue flights, they have racked up over 300,000 miles between the both of them. Looking to finally spend those miles, my parents asked me to book an award trip for them to Australia with a stopover in Vietnam.
American Airlines has three different award charts. The first one is for award redemption on American Airlines flights only. This award chart is actually pretty cheap but it’s limited to markets that AA actually serves. Routes to South America or to London are great and won’t break your mileage bank but you won’t be able to get to Australia or the Middle East. The second chart is for award redemption on other oneworld alliance partner flights. It’s a tad bit pricier but gives you a whole range of other airlines to choose from such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
Since my parents were looking to travel to Australia, the award chart for AA metal only won’t work because AA doesn’t fly to Australia. The oneworld alliance award chart is a better option because both alliance partners Cathay Pacific and Qantas fly to Australia. However, AA award redemption rules won’t allow them to have an international stopover when booking an award flight. AA will only let you do a stopover at the US gateway city on an international award redemption. For example, you can fly from San Francisco to Los Angeles (stopover), and then continue on to Hong Kong. You cannot fly Los Angeles to Hong Kong (stopover) and then continue onto Sydney. Because they were looking to do a stopover in Vietnam first and then continuing on to Melbourne, this was not gonna work either.
OneWorld Explorer Award
But AA has a little hidden gem that most people don’t know about and it’s called the oneworld Explorer award. The oneworld Explorer award is a distance based award chart that lets you fly anywhere in the world on American Airlines or any of their oneworld alliance partners. The miles required is based on the total distance of air miles traveled on your trip. I love this chart because it’s simple. The more miles you want to fly, the more miles you’ll need. It’s simple and the miles required aren’t bad either. Take a look.
OneWorld Explorer Awards Chart Cont.
So as you can see, business class redemption in the middles zones aren’t bad and are pretty much in line with what the airlines are charging for regional based awards. The major benefit to using a oneworld Explorer award is that you can visit many more places and stay longer than you typically could on a standard award. This is one of the more generous award charts out there but there are some rules and restrictions including:
- You can only fly on American Airlines or any of their oneworld alliance partners. Non-alliance partners such as Alaska, El-Al or JetBlue flights are not eligible.
- You must use at least TWO different oneworld alliance partners such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas or Malaysia Airlines to qualify as an oneworld Explorer Award. American Airlines does not count.
- You have a maximum of 16 segments or 15 segments plus one open jaw. If you use an open jaw anywhere along your trip, then you can only have 15 segments total. For the purposes of this rule, arriving in one terminal and departing from a co-terminal does not count as an open jaw. For example, arriving in JFK and departing from La Guardia does not count as an open jaw and neither does arriving in Tokyo Narita and departing from Tokyo Haneda. However, the land distance between the two co-terminals will count as a segment for the purposes of counting segments. For example, LAX to Toky Narita to Hong Kong is two segments. However, LAX to Tokyo Narita but departing from Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong, is three segments.
- You have up to 365 days to complete your travel once your first segment is flown.
- You are allowed one stopover and two connections per city. In other words, one airport code can only appear up to three times per award trip.
- Only air miles are counted towards the total miles. Land segments in between co-terminals or open jaw points do not count towards your allotted miles.
- Once an oneworld Explorer award is booked, routes and airlines cannot be changed. You can only modify your dates.
- Fuel surcharges do apply on certain airlines, unfortunately.
- Lastly, you have to book an oneworld Explorer award with an American Airlines phone agent. You cannot book it online. But don’t worry, AA phone agents are much better than say. . . United phone agents.
Even with all those rules, the oneworld Explorer award is still pretty generous. Let’s take my folks for example. They want to fly from San Francisco – Hong Kong – Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) – Hong Kong – Sydney – Melbourne – Sydney – San Francisco. The total route is 21,651 miles in distance and will be in zone 7 of the award chart. If booked in business class, this trip will cost them 150k American Airlines AAdvantage miles and $548.00 in taxes, fees and fuel surcharges (per person).
If we were to book this trip using the standard AA oneworld alliance award chart, it would cost them 110k miles for business class from the US to Hong Kong and then another 70k miles from Hong Kong to Sydney (roundtrip). That’s a total of 180k miles, versus the 150k miles required using the oneworld Explorer award. And since zone 7 allows up to 25k miles of travel, my parents still have another 3349 miles of free travel. That’s easily a side trip to Malaysia or Bangkok if they wanted. They’re open to the idea and my dad is trying to figure out his work schedule before we finalize their plans.
So as you can see, there is great value in the American Airlines oneworld Explorer award chart. Obviously, the key is to be in the upper end of each zone and not to waste any free miles. However, each segment will add additional taxes, fees and fuel surcharges to your trip so keep those in mind.
To book an oneworld Explorer award, you have to call AA and book with an phone agent. There’s no way around it. But if you want to do some searching prior to calling an agent, you can search on ba.com. It’s not the most user friendly site but is the best site to search for oneworld alliance partner flights.
More information on the oneworld Explorer Award can be found on this Flyertalk thread here.
Good luck. Let me know if you guys have any questions or need help booking an award.