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Using frequent flyer miles

I have a frequent flyer mileage credit card. I have accrued enough miles for a round trip flight to Europe. I don't want to squander the miles, so I was wondering if anyone has advice on the best way to get a flight with frequent flyer miles. Is there a good site that books flights, or do I use the airline booking, etc.? It is with American and I know they have a lot of partners.
I hope my question makes sense.

Posted by
7845 posts

Congrats on a free ticket!

Usually you go through the Airline's Website to book. Sign into your account, search for flights, and then choose the one that seems best to you. While I don't use American Airlines frequent flier miles (I use Alaska), they are in the same alliance and I do know that there are a few things to look out for.

British Airways- Look carefully at the fee associated with these flights. Often they can be quite high. Don't get surprised at the end. If you book the same flight as an American Airlines flight, it should be much cheaper.

If you choose any class upgrades, make sure that they are good for the entire trip.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks, but I don't know if I understand what you mean about British Airways, do you mean I could look, and book at their site, using my miles?

Posted by
36 posts

What Carol might mean is that you need to pay attention to the fees with British Airways for a "free ticket" with miles. I find them very expensive and won't use my miles for an award ticket on British Air through London. Not sure about other routes with BA. As an example I just did a pretend ticket with Alaska miles on American and BA to London, fees on BA are $198 and American are $19 each way.

Posted by
7845 posts

You need to look at the American Airlines website and this will make more sense to you. You would go through the American Airlines website, but it may offer you flights on other airlines in the alliance. You only use the American Airlines website. If this seems confusing, you can probably call in (at American Airlines) and get an agent to help you. There may be a small fee for this, I don’t know.

Posted by
6933 posts

We’ve got British Airways credit cards, and get lots of our Avios that way. We also do lots of flights directly from Denver to London as our gateway to Europe, although English airport fees can be pretty high, and that cost is passed on to the passenger.

Our flights last month from Denver, through Dallas/Fort Worth, then to Rome, were all on American Airlines, booked through the British Airways Website. If you book over the phone with a BA rep, they charge $25. Online, no extra cost.

In your case, use the American Website, and find the flight(s) you want, American or another One World partner. American might give you advice, without actually booking the flights, if you want to start with that. You could be on hold a long time if you call, but stick with it. Happy travels!

Posted by
2224 posts

Look at It will show flights for all the alliance members unless you select only to show American. You will see that for BA there is always a much higher fee with their flights. I have never had any problem booking flights with miles. Last week I booked using my Alaska Air miles to Seattle and my United Air miles to Miami. I have used American several times to Europe. Since I have excess Alaska miles, I use them for IcelandAir. I don’t save as much in this case because IcelandAir also has a bigger fee.

Although it is good that one’s spending builds up the ff mileage, the biggest bang comes from the signup bonuses.

I do find that sometimes the ff flights are restricted to not unclude ALL the flights the airline offers for cash customers.

ff miles can also vary considerably by date. One year I had enough miles to fly business class to Frankfurt on certain days. Other days for the same flight needed TWICE as many.

Posted by
942 posts

I have used AA points recently for a last-minute trip to London from Saint Louis to London with a connection. You will need to go to and login in. There is a check box on the first page (redeem miles) - you need to check that then it will show you the cost of the airline with points. There is also the option to open a calendar and check to see what days are the cheapest. Once you see the flights, you can filter by American Airlines (do not check All Airlines as this will bring up all the alliance options). As others have stated, flights with BA are more expensive with fees. (Like $200 more a ticket). So by selecting just AA you filter out these flights. AA does not always offer the best itinerary on fewer points, so you must look carefully at stops and connection times. However, depending on the time of year you are going, they may offer suitable itineraries. If you need to cancel an AA ticket bought with points, it is easy. You cancel and they will re-bank your points and give the fee back within minutes. It is a very easy process.

Posted by
25602 posts

In the past I've tried to use miles only when they were worth about 2 cents each. In other words, I'd get flights to and from Europe for about 60,000 miles (total) if the cash cost was close to $1200 or more. If the flights were going to cost a lot less, I'd choose to pay cash. My policy is different at the moment. Most of my miles are with United, and it now has a flexible policy about redepositing miles without charge up to about a month before a flight if you change your mind, or you can change the booking without any fee. (You may have to cough up more miles, though.) I have no idea what American's cancellation/change policies are for cash and mileage tickets.

The other thing to think about is whether it would make more sense to book two one-way mileage tickets rather than a single round-trip or multi-city ticket. United sets its mileage requirements separately for each direction, so you don't save any miles by booking a round-trip. (I don't know whether American works the same way.) I feel more comfortable with two separate bookings, because it means I can change either the outbound or the return flight if I need to but leave the other flight in place, retaining the (presumably low) cost in miles I got at the time of the original booking. If I needed to change half of a round-trip frequent-flier ticket, I'd be afraid the mileage required for both halves of the ticket would go up.

Posted by
4096 posts

Be warned that the taxes and other fees you pay when you fly out of England back to US are quite high and you have to pay those yourself.

Posted by
356 posts

Award seats are always limited. You need to grab award seats as soon as tickets for the desired date of travel are available, which is about 11 months out. So if you want to book with miles for sometime in October 2023, those award seats, as well as paid seats, can be booked, near the same date in November 2022. The AA calendar will make that obvious.
Our next trip is about 4 weeks, mid August 2023 through mid September 2023. I have our award seats to Europe booked but I can’t yet get the return flights - it will be about one more week before those seats are shown.
Depending on your destination, American loves to only give you options for British Airways, and as others have said, the fees can be quite stiff. Our next trip starts in Copenhagen. We splurge with our miles and fly business/first with the least miles for that, which is 57,500 each person, each way. To get to Copenhagen, AA wants to send us through Heathrow with fees for 2 around $1500! A bargain in some way when you look at the cost of a paid ticket but I’m not gonna do that. So we are flying into Madrid instead. We’ll stay the night at an airport hotel in Madrid then pay for flights (likely) on Iberia from Madrid to Copenhagen the next day. Could fly to Copenhagen the same day we arrive in Madrid but if we’re delayed, we’d likely miss that flight. Total cost of airport hotel and flights Madrid to Copenhagen will be much less than that $1500!

It can be challenging to get a “perfect” itinerary using miles. It depends on where you want to go, where you start and airports most convenient to you. We’ve snagged some great non stop flights before and we’ve also “suffered” with an extra connection when a paid ticket would have fewer. We’ve arrived or departed places that might not be our first choice but we make it work.

You may have better choices with economy seats than business/first. I haven’t explored those since we prefer the comfort of business/first.

Posted by
3972 posts

Go to American’s or partner’s website or app and book your trip with miles. This is what I did with my Delta miles and I am currently in Germany.

Posted by
14150 posts

I book using AA miles all the time. In fact. I'm flying to London tomorrow on miles.

You can only redeem AA miles on their website.

Go to book a flight, check "redeem miles" and available flights will show up. Fees will vary depending on the airline chosen.

It's really simple.

By the way, you don't have to book mileage flights 11 months out. I booked a flight yesterday for next week with miles.

Posted by
356 posts

Often the seats for the "best" routes are snapped up 11 months out. Not a must do to get them 11 months out but I've missed out on "best" routes by delaying. But, yes, award seats are available all the time.

Posted by
338 posts

American airlines has a code share with British airways among others. A code share allows the Airlines to partner with other airlines to offer more flights.
With American Airlines to Europe most flights go through London Heathrow which charges a hefty fee which cannot be paid with miles.
When you say round trip,without knowing how many miles and what class, (economy, premium economy or business) it's hard to project what you may be able to do.
An advantage of using miles is that you can book one way tickets even using miles on another airline such as United or Delta.
I will often book a one way early in my process and if a better deal or itinerary comes along,I will change. So far airlines will allow you to redeposit miles and rebook at no charge.
Advanced's not unusual for me to take the outbound to Europe using United airlines miles and the return with American airlines because, oddly, the fee for transiting through London Heathrow on a return to US is typically half or less compared to arriving in London.

Posted by
15118 posts

We use our British Airways Avios or our Alaska Airlines miles to fly to Europe (via London) on British Airways in business class. The supplemental fees are high, but we feel it is worth it to fly business class. I would never use miles to fly in Economy on BA; it is not a good value at all because of the high fees. I would consider Premium Economy for the daytime flight home (eastbound), but for the overnight.

Note the comment above about booking one way at a time. You can easily do that with miles, and we always do, in order to have more flexibility. I generally do book 11 months in advance, right when the seats are released, but I have also booked closer to the travel date when our plans changed. Then you have to look around a bit (trying different dates) to find award seats.

You will have to book on the American Airlines website if using AA miles. I have only done that once, when we were flying to Argentina. As I recall, AA offers award seats at 2 levels—-Saver (low number of miles) and Anytime or some other name, requiring lots more miles. The Saver award seats to international destinations are very limited and book up quickly, at least in business class. Maybe for Economy seats that is not the case.

Posted by
3956 posts

Some airlines now calculate the awards based on price rather than mileage and may offer bonuses or other enticements. It is the total in your account that matters.

Posted by
4362 posts

I’m currently up on the Amman Jordan to JFK using AA miles:

Some days a week will offer the Royal Jordanian nonstop @$90 fees. The other options are mostly via London but also Madrid. The fees for coach run $150 connecting in London with AA transatlantic, to $800 (just for the fees!) business class both legs on British Airways.

Posted by
123 posts

Thanks everyone, much appreciated. One time I used an agent from the airline, the fee was about $40, and it was a rip off, I would have done much better if I booked it myself. When I called the airline on it, they gave me 70,000 miles for $70. So that was worth it.