How We Booked Flights with AA Miles

I don’t know what’s more complicated – being a tax lawyer, or trying to figure out how to book a round-the-world or multiple segment award ticket using miles. The hassle is worth it though, because you can save thousands of dollars. There are lots of award programs and ways to go about earning miles, but in this post we’ll tell you exactly what we did and how.

The Flights We Booked

After studying all the options, we decided to book our four longest flights with American Airlines (AA) miles, and book them all in business class. If you’re going to be on a flight for 10 hours, you might as well be comfortable. We could have booked more flights in economy, but decided to focus on the long haul flights. The shorter flights aren’t always worth the miles and you can buy cheap flights on budget airlines around the world.

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When you buy flights with miles, they’re not totally free because you have to pay taxes. The taxes on our flights totaled approximately $700 per person. In addition, we bought some miles, for about $990 per person. So the end result is, we paid about $1,690 per person for flights that normally would have cost about $25,500 per person.

Three Options

To book a round-the-world trip through American Airlines, you’ve got three main options:

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* Oneworld Explorer Award chart

Oneworld is a huge alliance of airlines that includes American Airlines. So if you book a flight using AA miles, you can book it on any one of Oneworld’s 12 international partner airlines or 30 regional airlines.

How We Earned Miles

The first thing we did was apply for credit cards. Not all at once, but we got 2 cards each – the Citi Select / AAdvantage American Express card and the Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage Visa Signature Card. We earned 50,000 miles from each card, just for signing up and spending $2,500 on each card within the first 4 months. (Keep in mind, these offers and terms change all the time, so this deal may no longer be current.)

Next, we started putting absolutely everything on the cards – work expenses, groceries, our phone and cable bill, even rent – to earn as many miles as possible.

We earned even more miles by shopping through the AA online shopping portal. (For example, right now you can earn 9 miles for every $1 you spend at Under Armour online.)

Finally, we earned 25,000 AA miles via the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, which offered a bonus of 5,000 AA miles if you transfer 25,000 Starpoints to AA.

Your Step-By-Step Plan to Book Your RTW Ticket

If you’re planning on booking a trip like this using AA miles, let me save you some hassle and tell you exactly what you need to book it.

  1. Decide where you want to go and put together a rough itinerary with dates (but know that the dates and places are going to change).
  2. Use the Oneworld “Plan and Book” online tool to figure out where Oneworld flys directly.
  3. Use Award Nexus – a special search engine for finding available award seats (award seats on each flight are limited). Award Nexus is not free, but trust me, it’s worth it.
  4. Decide and write down the exact flights you want, complete with dates, times and flight numbers, and have this ready before calling AA.
  5. Make sure you have at least an hour to spare and a beer in hand, and call AAdvantage Reservations at 1-800-882-8880.

One last tip. AA doesn’t let you book award flights more than 330 days in advance.  But the flights do start filling up 330 days ahead, and award seats are very limited, so the sooner you book the better chance you have of getting the best flights.

If you have any questions post them in the comments section below, we're happy to help.