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Earlier this week, American Airlines announced some big changes to its mileage program including the fact that you can no longer book round-the-world Explorer Awards. TPG reader Matthew had been planning on booking two of these for himself and his wife and wants to know whether he can still put his American miles to use. Here’s the question he tweeted to me:
“@thepointsguy My wife and I have 600 K of miles we were going to use on AA’s RTW ticket. As of today they’re absolutely useless now, right?”
Explorer Awards were American’s awards where you could use miles to route yourself around the world on American and its Oneworld partners where you redeemed a certain amount of mileage based on how far you flew. Overnight, American just got rid of them with no advanced notice, so flyers like Matthew who had been planning on booking them were just plain out of luck.
However, Matthew’s miles are far from worthless. Though the changes American made have dropped the value of their miles in my own estimation since I think we’re going to see a general increase in the level of awards and availability at the Saver level getting tighter, the airline did not actually change its Saver award redemption levels (which are the levels you can book partners like BA and Qantas with anyway), so you can still score some great values.
Though you can’t redeem a single round-the-world award ticket now, you can still route yourself around the world by just booking one-way awards using your American miles. You probably won’t get the same distance for the same amount of miles you would have while RTW awards were still an option, but this also opens you up to using a combination of American miles and those of other airlines like United and Delta so you have more options. And within Oneworld itself, you can use British Airways Avios to book some of those shorter segments since BA’s awards are distance-based and you can get tremendous values from your Avios by redeeming them for expensive short-haul flights.
The other thing you might want to consider is using US Airways miles because of their flexible routing rules. For instance, they’ll let you route through Europe to Asia with a stopover – so you’re getting a stopover in Europe and a final destination in Asia, or vice versa, and you basically make a roundtrip award into a round-the-world ticket. Whereas before you’d want to make North Asia (including Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) your final destination since business class was just 90,000 miles instead of 100,000 to Europe, now that North Asia is 110,000 miles, you will probably want to book your ticket so that Europe is the destination and the stopover is in Asia. You can really get creative!
So though American’s announcement this week was bad news, you still have plenty of other options out there and ways to get around the world using your American miles.