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Fiji, Tokyo, Australia: Here’s where your American AAdvantage miles can take you now

Oct. 26, 2019
10 min read
American Airlines business class on an Airbus A321T
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If frequent flyer programs are your hobby, you have to stay alert to changes that come down the pike. Lately, we've see quite a lot of those -- and many have not been all that good.

For example, United is moving to a dynamic award chart on Nov. 15, and the airline has radically altered how travelers will attain elite status within its program.

With signs that American AAdvantage is also moving toward a dynamic award chart, I realized now might be the perfect time to start working down my AA balance. I began the process over the summer, when I took my extended family to Barbados. But then, I decided to lock in more aspirational awards before any additional program changes go into effect.

We normally use our AA miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class to Asia. We've also used them twice to visit French Polynesia in business class. The good news is, we can be fairly flexible about when we travel. The bad news is, we've gotten used to flying up front — so spending a long-haul flight in economy is simply a no-go for us. If we can't find business class awards for a flight of nine hours or more, the trip is off the table.

So, as I fired up Chrome and surfed over to AA.com, I wondered if it would be doom and gloom, or if I'd find some well-priced award flights in premium cabins that would fit our travel desires. Here's how it worked out.

French Polynesia

I started by seeing if we could head to French Polynesia for a third time. As I said, we've been there twice before, and both times our dates were pretty fixed. We must have lucked out because, on both occasions, I was able to book round-trip business class tickets using AAdvantage miles. But I was hesitant to start searching this time around. That's because TPG's Points Lab just released a report illustrating the difficulty of snagging awards to Papeete.

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa (Photo by Brian Biros / The Points Guy)
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa (Photo by Brian Biros / The Points Guy)

American Airlines partner Air Tahiti Nui flies a Boeing 787-9 to Papeete (PPT) from Los Angeles (LAX) one or two times per day. With 30 business class seats on the aircraft, I didn't think it would be that tough to find award seats. But the numbers in The Points Lab report tell a different story. In an experiment that included 126,881 data points over a two-month period, when looking at Air Tahiti Nui business class availability, only 2.95% of searches in that time span were successful.

Gulp.

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I wasn't able to find any available business class awards in either November or December. However, there were two dates in January. That trip would only be one week in length, though -- a little short for such a long flight -- so I kept looking. In April and May, there were a few dates that allowed for two-week-long trips. For example, we could depart Los Angeles on April 29 on TN111 and return May 12 on TN2.

Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy
Air Tahiti Nui's Poerava Business Class. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Two round-trip business class tickets to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui would cost 320,000 AAdvantage miles, plus an additional $111.30.

Australia

We've never been to Australia, and while I've heard horror stories about finding award availability in premium cabins, I thought, "Let's just see what's available."

The business class cabin of a Qantas 747. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

I had to sift through a few months, but managed to find availability in April. Departing April 16 from San Francisco (SFO) to Sydney (SYD) on QF74, and returning on April 28 on QF73, flying from Sydney to San Francisco and then connecting on AA1004 to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

Two round-trip business class tickets to Sydney on Qantas would cost 320,000 miles, plus an additional $235.70.

Fiji

As I thought more about places we'd like to travel, Fiji came to mind. Maybe we'd ditch Papeete in favor of Fiji? I'd always considered the South Pacific archipelago a couples destination, but there's actually a lot of things to do in Fiji with kids.

July seemed like a good time to visit, but I couldn't find any availability. Then, I checked August and September, and there were quite a few dates available in business class on Fiji Airways. There's a flight departing Aug. 30, for example, from Los Angeles to Nadi International (NAN). Travelers could return on FJ870 on Sept. 8 to San Francisco.

Note that Fiji Airways will soon take delivery of two new A350s and, by January 2020, the new plane will fly the Los Angeles route six times pre week.

Hilton Doubletree Fiji (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
Hilton Doubletree Fiji. (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

Again, two round-trip business class tickets would cost 320,000 miles and the cash payment for taxes and fees would be $245.30.

Japan

For the past few years, we've spent springtime visiting China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Borneo -- but it's been years since we've been to Japan. I looked for availability to Tokyo in April and came up empty, but I did find a nice route on March 22, flying Cathay Pacific from New York-JFK to Vancouver (YVR) and connecting on March 23 on Japan Airlines (JL17) from Vancouver to Tokyo Narita (NRT).

For the return trip, you'd fly back on April 1 out of Tokyo Haneda (HND) on JL2 to San Francisco, and continue on AA166 to New York-JFK.

Mt. Fuji and Tokyo skyline. (Photo by yongyuan/Getty Images)
Mt. Fuji and the Tokyo skyline. (Photo by yongyuan/Getty Images)

Two round-trip business class tickets priced out at 240,000 miles and a cool $122.70.

Disney

I know what you're thinking: It's easy to find award availability when you can be super flexible with your travel dates and you have enough miles to book business class. But how is American's award availability for the type of trips families might want to book? I checked into that, too.

First, I checked economy award flights for a family of four from Boston (BOS) to Orlando (MCO) for a trip to Disney World. The calendar was almost wide open, with one-way economy awards available for 12,500 miles per person. Finding a returning flight on a Saturday or Sunday doesn't look promising, but it's not totally impossible either.

A family of four, for example, could fly to Orlando on March 14 and return March 20 for 100,000 miles and just $44.80.

If your kids aren't yet in school and you have more flexibility, you could go to Disneyland in early January. (Say, from New York-JFK to Los Angeles leaving Jan. 11 on Alaska's nonstop AS1399, and returning Jan. 18 on Alaska's ASK468, which is also a nonstop flight.)

Disneyland (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Disneyland. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Four tickets in the economy cabin would ring up to 100,000 miles and an additional $44.80.

Here's what a Disneyland vacation will cost on three different budgets.

And if you're looking for a traditional spring break trip without the theme park magic, consider Cancun. I found availability for Easter week from Dallas/Fort Worth departing on April 11 and returning April 17. A family of four in economy would pay 120,000 miles plus $324.04.

Bottom line

Right now, there are definitely some good awards to be had using American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Can you go whenever you want whenever you want on whichever partner airline you prefer in whichever cabin you'd like?

No.

But, I was happily surprised by the availability I did find for some pretty aspirational redemptions.

Need a few more miles for that dream flight? You can boost your AAdvantage balance with a few cobranded credit cards:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card -- 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit after you spend $500 in purchases in the first three months
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® -- 50,000 American AAdvantage miles after spending $2,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® -- 50,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

I haven't locked in any new AAdvantage awards yet, but I will soon. Are you working down your AAdvantage balance now, or will you wait and hope whatever changes made to the award chart down the line aren't all that bad? Sound off in the comments below.

Featured image by Kevin Song
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023