If you’re willing to do a bit of advance planning of upcoming vacations, you can take advantage of American Airlines’ one-way awards and (limited) stopover options to really increase the value you’re getting out of awards if you live in one of their gateway cities. Let’s look at how this works:
We’re going to focus on American’s 40k mile off-peak coach awards from the US to southern South America (March 1 – May 31st; August 16 – November 30th) and from the US to Europe (October 15 – May 15th). This would also work with flights to Central America and to northern South America for 30k miles round trip (January 16 – June 14; September 7 – November 14th). Remember, American allows you to redeem one-way awards with a stopover, but the stopover must be in a gateway city. That means typically that you can stopover in New York or Miami for flights to Central & South America and in those cities and Chicago or flights to Europe.
Let’s say that you live in New York and want to do a trip in November to Buenos Aires, a trip to Hawaii in February and a trip to London in April. Instead of buying 3 round trips for a total of 125,000 miles, you would book the trip like this:
One-way award ticket JFK – Buenos Aires (20,000 miles)
One-way award ticket Buenos Aires – JFK – STOPOVER TIL FEBRUARY – Hawaii (20,000 miles) — the key here is that on awards from South America or Europe flights to Hawaii cost no more mileage than flights to the Continental U.S.. Also, even though it is an off-peak award for the South America – U.S., the connecting intra-US portion of the ticket DOES NOT need to be during off-peak time period.
One-way award ticket Hawaii – JFK – STOPOVER TIL APRIL – London (20,000 miles)
One-way award ticket London – JFK- STOPOVER – ANY DESTINATION IN US, CANADA, MEXICO OR CARIBBEAN for a future trip. (20,000 miles).
You’ve now spent only 80,000 miles PLUS you’ve gotten a one-way ticket to your next trip after your JFK stopover on the London return. Not too shabby. You can decide for yourself if you’d rather spend 100,000 miles for one roundtrip ticket in business class to South America, or if you’d rather use only 80k miles to fly to Buenos Aires, Hawaii and London.
Yes, this really only makes sense if you live in a gateway city (or can fly there cheaply), but it’s a pretty significant savings if you can book in advance. I’m happy to answer questions in the comments section.