Redeem AAdvantage Miles for Flights to Cuba
On Tuesday, the first American Airlines flights to Cuba went on sale. While you weren't able to redeem AAdvantage miles for these flights at the time, just a couple of days later, American Airlines has opened award bookings for these flights.
That said, the process is currently both new and quite complicated. We worked with a few American Airlines Reservations AAgents to get the scoop. Now, we're here to break down the steps to help you book an award flight to Cuba.
First of all, you're likely going to have to exercise some patience as the AAgents learn the process. After gathering basic information in the first two calls, our final reservation phone call still required working with the AAgent for nearly 55 minutes to finally put an award reservation on hold.
Limitations on Award Travel to Cuba
Before you start, you need to know what's not allowed and what's required:
- One-way award tickets aren't allowed.
- You can't begin an award ticket in Cuba.
- Your trip must be less than 90 days.
- You're required to book your award ticket by phone. Despite this, the AAgent still tried to charge the phone booking fee, but waived it when I pointed out this requirement.
- You must provide a telephone number for your destination in Cuba.
- During the reservation, you'll be asked for the reason for your trip. Make sure to state one of the 12 approved categories, or your ticket will be cancelled "upon review."
- You'll need to sign an affidavit in "the gateway city" (currently: Miami) to validate the reason for your travel. The Reservation AAgents are being asked to make sure you leave enough connecting time for this. It seems that you'll have to sign the affidavit at the gate if you're transferring from a connecting flight.
- Speaking of connecting flights, the minimum connection time in Miami is 1.5 hours for flights to Cuba. This means your scheduled arrival time in Miami must be at least 1.5 hours before your scheduled flight departure from Miami.
American Airlines is including Cuba in the Caribbean region for award flights. This is great news, as award flights to the Caribbean are one of the very few regions that decreased both in economy and first class effective March 22.
If you're able to find MileSAAver availability, flights will cost 30,000 AAdvantage miles round-trip in economy and 50,000 miles round-trip in first class. However, AAnytime award flights will set you back 55,000 AAdvantage miles in economy and a whopping 100,000 miles in first class.
Despite the requirement to book these tickets over the phone, we were hopeful that the American Airlines website would show availability. Unfortunately, you'll currently get an error if you try to do so. However, you can get access to the dates and routes with availability through ExpertFlyer. That way you can figure out what's available before calling AAdvantage Reservations.
As of publishing, none of the routes have any MileSAAver availability until Friday, September 16. Unfortunately, this means that you won't be able to book cheap awards for the inaugural flights for any of the five routes starting between September 7-11.
While there are some MileSAAver dates on the outbound to Cuba in September, I was unable to find any MileSAAver availability on return segments from Cuba. I originally suspected that the ExpertFlyer results were blocking availability, due to the limitation on award flights originating in Cuba. However, my reservation AAgent was unable to find any dates with MileSAAver availability either. She suspected that the award availability just hasn't been loaded into the system yet.
Off Peak and Reduced Mileage Awards
September 7 is both the date of inaugural flights to Cuba and also the first date of American Airlines' Off Peak dates for flights to the Caribbean region. The first AAgent I worked with was able to find Off Peak flights for 12,500 miles each way, but the AAgent who booked my award flights couldn't find any dates or routes at this reduced rate. Hopefully this is just a glitch in the system rather than a special policy toward Cuba flights.
Since Austin (AUS) is on the Reduced Mileage Awards airport list for September, I also inquired if I could save 7,500 round-trip using the Reduced Mileage Awards code. Unfortunately, the AAgent wasn't able to apply this code to the reservation.
Use Avios to Fly to Cuba from Miami
We also looked into the possibility of using British Airways Avios to fly the nonstop routes from Miami to Cuba. While the British Airways website currently will not let you search or book these routes, you can call the British Airways reservation center (1-800-247-9297) to book award flights using Avios.
As with the American Airlines AAgents, the British Airways agents I spoke with were unfamiliar with the process. But, an agent was able to find award availability and price out a one-way award from Miami (MIA) to Cienfuegos (CFG). Unlike the American Airlines award booking process, there was no questions about the reason for travel or a requirement to book a round-trip. It was remarkably easy.
Best of all, the rate for these flights is just 4,500 Avios each way! British Airways eliminated the 4,500-Avios chart for US flights back in February, but — for some reason — these routes are pricing out at the lower rate. If you're interested, you might want to act quickly, as this might be something that ends up being "fixed" soon.
We're thrilled to see American Airlines add the option of booking award tickets for flights to Cuba. However, there seem to be a few bugs — and the carrier needs to complete plenty of agent training before this process is painless. Considering that paid fares are currently rather expensive, though, hopefully you can use these tips to get valuable award redemptions to Cuba.