Finding Saver Awards With American AAdvantage Miles

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

A few months ago I shared that I thought American Airlines AAdvantage miles had overall become worse than Delta SkyMiles, which is to say they had fallen to the bottom spot of the major US based airline loyalty programs. My dissatisfaction with American AAdvantage was based largely on the reality that saver awards, even just for pretty ordinary domestic hops, were simply not available…or were very, very barely available, and then only on non-logical itineraries where it took three flights at odd hours just to fly a thousand or so miles.

 

This reality hasn’t changed too much since I wrote that post (heck, View From the Wing just highlighted the same phenomenon out of Austin), but yet in recent weeks I have successfully used my AAdvantage miles at the saver level multiple times. Not only have I used them, but I have used them on awards that I expected to be pretty difficult to nab. The secret? Well other than luck, my success has come from booking as soon as the schedule opens roughly eleven months in advance.

Counting down to next spring break already...

Counting down to next spring break already…

This is hardly a new “secret” in the miles and points world of course, but I’m having much better than average luck getting things well timed flights into Vail during a peak winter ski weekend, flights to Grand Cayman on a peak Spring Break travel date, and while I haven’t yet pulled the trigger on booking a trip to St. Kitts, there were plenty of well-timed flights to pick from on winter weekends.

St. Kitts Availability.jpg

All of these were available from Houston with connections in American hub cities at the saver award level. This meant not only did the Houston – Dallas/Miami/Charlotte/Phoenix flight have to be available at the saver level, but also the one from the hub city to our final destination.

Sure, they were economy seats, but who cares for a few hours of flying?!  

Can't wait to head back to Colorado next ski season!

Can’t wait to head back to Colorado on miles next ski season!

It is also worth highlighting that none of these are solo trips, and they were all for anywhere from two to four people. That small but important detail is actually huge because finding one award seat can be simple enough, but four can be a whole other situation. I was seriously floored when I found four saver award seats using AAdvantage miles to Grand Cayman for Spring Break to pair with our SPG award reservation at the Westin! I still need to find the return flights, but I’ve got a couple of ideas for that.

AAdvantage Improvements.jpg

All of these redemptions are for flights that otherwise would be pretty expensive on dollars since they are to peak destinations at peak times, largely on school holidays.

I’ve now had a good enough run of success with AAdvantage that I wouldn’t mind racking up a few more American miles if the opportunity presented itself. I know they certainly aren’t going to get me everywhere we want to be at the saver level, but it I start looking far enough in with at least a little bit of flexibility they seem to be doing okay for us in recent weeks.

Have you adjusted your strategy with AAdvantage miles at all to eek out some saver award success stories?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. AAdvantage saver availability is just terrible. I cannot find anything and when I do it requires 3 flights! Are you kidding me?
    American Airlines screwed up their Aadvantage program.

  2. I’m having the opposite experience to you. I’m finding availability for just one seat in premium class to be awful. Even the old fall back of over priced fuel surcharged British Airways, it’s impossible to get a seat at the saver level. The only use I can see for AA miles is if we head to Asia as usually Cathay and Japan Airlines release something. My current plan is to deplete my AA balance as I can and cancel the credit card. There is zero motivation for me to accumulate points in this program where its becoming impossible to find seats on routes that interest me.

  3. MY wife and I are also going to Grand Cayman in January, out of Milwaukee. Plenty of saver awards, but ALL JUNK! Best one is 12 hours with 2 connections, the remainder are all overnight connections. Will probably go with Delta, 35,000 RT and good flight times. Have trashed all our Citi AA cards, will do the same with our Barclays Aviator as soon as we can find a good use for our AA miles.

  4. Notice on your screen shot the Business/First saver is grayed out. I searched for 10 months from DTW to PHX and it was grayed out the entire 10 months. Have been searching for DTW to Aruba the day they free up award flights and not one decent economy of business saver award for months. AA is absolutely ridiculous. Don’t even know why the include the Business/First saver icon.

  5. I have a lot of AA miles but can’t use them to Europe next Feb/Mar. I’ve tweeted/complained and AA says keep trying. Right. But they also said to call. Then spoke with an ExPlat yesterday who agreed- nothing online but when he calls he has sometimes found Saver space in premium cabin. But he thought generally, even as an ExPlat he can’t get seats. I plan on ridding myself of AA miles and focus on other programs.

    • Hey 100k, I was also trying to use AA miles to get to Europe. I couldn’t find anything in the saber level. I then checked out Iberia, and they had lots of availability for 30k AA miles each way (coach) during the peak December traveling season. They also had availability in business. I booked the flights with Iberia.

  6. Hahahahahahaha, AA is trash. Tore up all my AA affiliated cards. I’m tired of trying to catch lightning in a bottle/unicorn saver level fares with these craptastic miles. More like inches or feet than ‘Miles’.
    Searching to Europe is now just plain embarrassing given BA’s extortionate cx.
    On AA metal the prices double or triple.
    A simple domestic route often involves two stops AND an overnight.
    The Caribbean needs an overnight in SJU or looooooooong layover in MIA.
    The only outsized use of this dumpster fill might be to or thru DOH on Qatar. But come on, this is a niche use for advanced travelers with tons of flexible time(namely Lucky etc…).
    No, I’m seriously not bitter:) I just use my horde of MR’s and SkyMiles on Delta and, believe it or not, I can usually make it work. And on a better carrier.

  7. I got lucky last year and was able to get Saver Fares on AA for 2 RT Business Class to London from the west coast. While I was happy with the cost, I really did not like the experience at all. It was stressful and very disappointing. Never again.

    Instead of trying to fly AA on points, next time I will just buy a RT economy class ticket for a direct flight on British Airways. Much simpler and far less stressful, with a far reduced chance of something going wrong due to a missed connection or missed luggage.

    I will use my remaining AA miles to fly to Asia, whose airlines and service are VASTLY superior to AA. AA truly is a shameless airline that provides terrible service and by choice chooses to fly its customers using old, obsolete, worn out, and dirty planes.

  8. I used my US Airlines miles to go to Italy in 2014 and it was seamless. In 2016 my only option was a convoluted route through Heathrow. AND a big layover. Added 9 hours to my trip. I’m going to use up my miles and ditch them too. Delta does a better job than AA. AA has ruined what used to keep me loyal to US Air.

  9. I travel primarily domestically and to Europe (with relatively few trips to Asia and South America). Here’s how I approach the situation.

    -I still feel AA miles are more valuable than DL. I value DL at a penny or less; AA at 1.1 cents/mile; UA and WN at 1.5 cents/mile.

    -I seldom find AA Saver availability (and, when I do, I often book using AS miles, because of the stopover, no close-in booking fee, free cancellation more than 60 days out, and lower cost for many partner awards).

    -But I do find AA’s “Aanytime” off-peak awards are sometimes decent values (20,000 miles domestic; 47,500 miles to Europe; no fee to change dates).

    -By contrast, Delta offers fewer good values – and their draconian change/cancellation fees and policies are worse than the competition.

    -My accumulation strategy now focuses on Chase UR points, for use on UA, WN, opportunistic BA short-haul awards, and Hyatt; and on maintaining SPG Platinum status. I don’t anticipate needing more AA or DL miles in the forseeable future.

  10. I had no trouble LAX to Belize in December. I have over a million AA miles, my wife too.
    We don’t use them as much as we used to – yes, due to lack of award space or the routing is just ridiculous. I used to fly only AA in the 1990s and early 2000s, but now I have choices.

    I’m sure I’ll get use out of these miles at some point and they cost me very little …
    I also have the Southwest companion pass and so I use them for all local flying – they even fly to Belize.

  11. Newbie on the blog here. I’ve used AA points quite successfully but there were 2 long layovers from Ecuador to Seattle and was able to find saver miles for my wife and I. I haven’t tried using points domestically so it might be a different story. Also versus Delta I still feel like it’s been easier to book. I’m also now based in Asia so Delta hasn’t been as straight forward for flights to non-US destinations. I’m currently trying to get from Manila to Morocco and am not doing very well. Thanks for your post!
    Cheers,
    Mark-Anthony

    • I believe from asia region 2, routing through a third region is only allowed through Doha via Qatar or Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific? you have to use British Airways or Qantas to search for availability and piece together legs.

      hope this was helpful.

  12. When did AA start flying into Hobby? I grew up in Houston/Tomball but fam sent me away for college in NY in 2007. Hobby was my discount airport if I needed 2-check-ins for JetBlue or Southwest otherwise I’d try to fly U.S. Airways cuz Bush was so much closer. Just curious.

    HOU is in the reduced mileage award chart for May btw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *