You can now purchase seats with miles on every American Airlines flight

Jul 28, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

American Airlines is busy using the downtime due to the coronavirus pandemic to make adjustments to boarding times, award change and redeposit fees, elite status and more.

One new feature that the Fort Worth-based carrier launched in May was the ability to redeem miles for seat assignments. At the time, the functionality was limited to routes departing from select cities.

Well, AA was clearly pleased with the results of the pilot. As of July 28, 2020, American is expanding the functionality to every flight.

According to American,

Effective July 28, AAdvantage members now have the ability to redeem miles for seat selection on aa.com for existing reservations in Basic Economy or Main Cabin. We received a positive response from members who participated in our test cities and we’re proud to give members more opportunity to leverage the value of the program.

American confirmed that the feature is available on all existing reservations with a U.S. point of sale (including international flights.)

When purchasing a standard coach ticket, there’s a limited selection of seats available free of charge. The rest are reserved as Preferred or extra legroom Main Cabin Extra seats. Unless you have AAdvantage elite status that includes complimentary access to these seats, you’re going to need to pay for them.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter!

Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

The cost varies by length of flight, location within the aircraft and other factors, but the splurge could be worth it if you’re looking for some added comfort without paying for first class.

And now, with the ability to purchase seats with miles, you’ll be able to save cash when upgrading to these seats. However, it isn’t necessarily a great value.

I took a look at an upcoming flight from Denver (DEN) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and found that the airline is valuing miles at roughly 1.1 cents each towards a seat assignment. (During the pilot period, AA was charging 1 cent each toward a seat assignment.)

TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents each, so this redemption is hardly rewarding. Personally, I’d much prefer saving my AA miles for more aspirational redemptions down the line.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

This could represent a good use of miles if you’ve got a few orphaned in your account that you can’t otherwise use. It’s also possible that AA sweetens the redemption value later on, but for now, it appears pegged at 1 cent per mile.

The ability to purchase seats with miles isn’t available while purchasing your flight. You can only access the feature when managing an existing reservation through the website (the app doesn’t support this new feature). Additionally, you can’t use a mixture of cash and miles — it’s one or the other.

Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines

One nifty feature is that you don’t have to use miles from the AAdvantage account of the ticketed traveler. I was able to login to my account and redeem my miles for seats on my friend’s flight.

Related: A beginner’s guide to choosing seats on American Airlines

It’ll be interesting to see if it’s expanded to other buy-ups like day-of-departure upgrades or excess baggage fees.

Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines

Of the major U.S. carriers, Delta’s the best at letting you use your miles for such charges. The Atlanta-based carrier has long offered the Pay with Miles feature for airfare for those with a cobranded Delta credit card, as well as the ability to use miles for a range of ancillary charges, including premium cocktails in the SkyClub.

As travel begins to slowly rebound, adding more options for redeeming miles is certainly a welcome development. Though the value proposition isn’t great, it could make sense for those with just a few miles in their account.

Along with the changes to the award fee structure, this feature points to the fact that AA’s beginning to think of its miles as a dynamic currency pegged at a certain valuation. In my mind, it’s only a matter of time before we see AA remove its award charts.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.