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I’m a huge fan of American Airlines and the AAdvantage program, and while I’ve written previously about using my miles for awards on oneworld partners like Japan Airlines, there are plenty of other options. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Nick Ewen explains which carriers you can lean on to earn miles and elite status outside of the alliance.
Airline alliances have been around since the 1990s, offering travelers streamlined travel experiences across multiple carriers. Many airlines also have agreements with partners outside of traditional alliances to offer passengers even greater flexibility when it comes to booking flights. However, these partnerships often have a variety of restrictions when it comes to earning and redeeming miles in your preferred frequent flyer program. In this post, I’ll kick off a new series analyzing non-alliance partners of the domestic legacy carriers, starting with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.
I’ll start with a chart that provides a high-level overview of the AAdvantage program’s non-alliance partner agreements, including the following aspects:
- Earning miles
- Earning elite-qualifying miles
- Redeeming miles
- Enjoying elite benefits
I’ll then go into detail for each one so you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time you want to book a revenue or award ticket on an American partner airline that doesn’t belong to the oneworld alliance.
American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld alliance, but the airline currently has 11 non-alliance partners:
|Air Tahiti Nui||No||N/A||Yes||No|
|Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cape Air||No||N/A||Yes (on select routes)||No|
|Etihad Airways||Yes||Yes (in certain situations)||Yes||No|
|Fiji Airways||Yes||Yes (for codeshare flights)||Yes||No|
|Gulf Air||Yes||Yes (for codeshare flights)||Yes||No|
|Hawaiian Airlines||Yes||Yes (for codeshare flights)||Yes (on certain routes)||No|
|Jet Airways||Yes (for certain fare classes)||Yes (for codeshare flights)||Yes (on certain routes)||No|
|Seaborne Airlines||Yes (on certain routes)||Yes (for codeshare flights)||Yes (on certain routes)||No|
|WestJet||Yes||Yes (for codeshare flights)||No||No|
As you can see, you have a wide variety of ways to earn and/or redeem AAdvantage miles on a number of airlines that don’t officially belong to oneworld. Many paid flights on these partners will also help you qualify for AAdvantage elite status. TPG gets a lot of value out of being a top-tier Executive Platinum member with American, so it’s great that you aren’t restricted to oneworld carriers when it comes to earning elite miles. You can also enjoy some elite benefits on select partners as well.
Here are some additional details for each partner:
American currently offers a redemption-only agreement with Air Tahiti Nui. You can redeem AAdvantage miles for travel between Tahiti and France, Japan, New Zealand and the US. These are presently the only destinations served by the carrier.
American’s agreement with Alaska Airlines (which includes Horizon Air) allows AAdvantage members to earn and redeem miles on all Alaska-operated flights. You’ll also earn elite-qualifying miles for these flights, whether they’re booked as codeshares (with an American flight number) or directly with Alaska. Even the lowest fare classes accrue 100% base miles, though they only accrue 0.5 elite-qualifying points.
In addition, American elite members enjoy a variety of benefits when traveling on Alaska Airlines, including priority check-in and boarding, preferred seating and waived checked bag fees. In addition, the carriers just announced an expanded elite agreement that allows Board Room members to access all Admirals Clubs systemwide when traveling on Alaska, American or US Airways. I certainly hope this is a sign of what’s to come!
Like Air Tahiti Nui, American has a redemption-only agreement with Cape Air for specific routes out of St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport. You can redeem AAdvantage miles for Cape Air flights to the following six destinations:
- Cape Girardeau, MO (CGI)
- Ft. Leonard Wood, MO (TBN)
- Kirksville, MO (IRK)
- Marion, IL (MWA)
- Quincy, IL (UIN)
- Owensboro, KY (OWB)
Though still listed online, American’s agreement with the flagship carrier of Israel was discontinued as of November 1, 2014. Some travelers may still have award reservations ticketed with EL AL using AAdvantage miles, but you can no longer earn and redeem miles for EL AL flights.
Etihad is among American’s most valuable non-alliance partners. You can earn and redeem AAdvantage miles on Etihad flights (including discounted fare classes like those from the Christmas Day mistake fare), and you’ll earn elite-qualifying miles when those flights are booked with an American flight number. As of this May, all Etihad flights from North America to Abu Dhabi will earn base miles even when booked directly with Etihad.
TPG recently redeemed AAdvantage miles for Etihad’s flight from Abu Dhabi to JFK, which will be operated by the incredibly luxurious A380 later this year (check out Zach Honig’s review of the first apartment for more info).
Another fairly valuable non-alliance partner of American is Fiji Airways; you can earn and redeem AAdvantage miles for all Fiji Airways-operated flights, though you’ll only earn 75% mileage for flights booked in discount economy (fare classes N and T). In addition, you can only earn elite-qualifying miles for flights booked as codeshares with an American flight number. Fiji Airways made Richard Kerr’s list of the Top 10 Ways to Redeem AAdvantage Miles, so it’s worth checking out.
A similar partnership exists between American and Gulf Air, allowing you to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles for these flights. Again, only codeshare flights booked with an American flight number will count toward elite status qualification.
American’s partnership with Hawaiian is a bit interesting. For starters, it’s changing as of September 1, 2015; from that date forward, you’ll no longer be able to use AAdvantage miles to book flights on Hawaiian from the continental US to Hawaii. However, you’ll still be able to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles for flights within the Hawaiian islands, as well as on flights between Hawaii and Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Tahiti and Taiwan. You can also redeem miles for flights between Hawaii and American Samoa (though these aren’t eligible for mileage accrual).
Like the above airlines, you must book a codeshare flight with an American flight number to earn elite-qualifying miles. In addition, K, L, O and Z fare classes are ineligible for mileage accrual.
American also allows you to earn and redeem miles on Jet Airways within and between India and Asia, Europe and the US. Unfortunately, many deeply discounted economy classes (B, H, K, V, O, G and W) will not earn you any miles, and discount economy (N, L, Q and S) will only earn you 50% of the miles you actually fly. Again, codeshare flights with an American flight number are the only ones that will count toward elite status qualification.
Seaborne Airlines operates in the Caribbean, and like the partnership with Cape Air, this one only applies to select routes. American AAdvantage members can earn and redeem miles on flights between San Juan (SJU) and the following destinations:
- Dominica (DOM)
- Fort de France, Martinique (FDF)
- Pointe a Pitre (PTP)
- Tortola, British Virgin Islands (EIS)
- St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands (STT)
- St. Croix, US Virgin Islands (STX)
- Anguilla, Anguilla (AXA)
While the page linked above doesn’t indicate it, I was able to find flight itineraries with Seaborne flights that had an American flight number, so you should (in theory) be able to count these flights toward elite status qualification.
The final non-alliance partner of American Airlines is WestJet; you can earn AAdvantage miles when flying on this Canadian carrier within Canada and between Canada and the Caribbean, Mexico and the US (Cuba flights are excluded). Unfortunately, you cannot redeem AAdvantage miles for these flights.
How to Find Award Inventory
Since most of these airlines allow you to redeem AAdvantage miles, I wanted to provide a quick overview of how to find award inventory. A couple of them actually appear on AA.com (Alaska and Hawaiian). A few others show up on ExpertFlyer as well:
- Air Tahiti Nui
- Alaska Airlines
- Fiji Airways
- Gulf Air
ExpertFlyer allows you to set alerts that will notify you when a specific award class opens up prior to a flight.
For the other non-alliance partners, you’ll need to call the AAdvantage service desk to search award inventory. Fortunately, American no longer charges a phone booking fee for award tickets that can’t be booked online.
As you can see, there are many options to earn and redeem miles on American Airlines outside of the oneworld alliance. Just be sure to read the links above so you know exactly what to expect when you have a paid (or award) flight on one of these non-alliance partners.
As you’ll see in later parts of this series, many of these partners actually cross over between two of the domestic legacy carriers (Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines and Jet Airways, to name a few). That means in some cases you’ll have even more earning and redemption options with these carriers based on which frequent flyer programs you use most often.
For more on earning and redeeming AAdvantage miles, check out these posts:
- How to Book Awards with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
- Choosing the Best Card for American Airlines Flyers
What experiences have you had earning and redeeming AAdvantage miles with these non-alliance carriers? Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 75,000 miles are worth $1,050. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.
Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 75,000 miles are worth $1,050. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you. Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.