Note: Today’s post is aimed at #201 level travelers.

Miles are geographically specific.  If you live in Billings, MT for example you’re going to need to craft a plan based on starting and ending your flights in Billings, MT. Do not underestimate this in planning your award trips.  Sometimes everything falls into place from JFK but you live in Billings, MT.  Getting from BIL-JFK can be impossible.

Along those lines, Today I’ll explore the three best locations to live in the United States when you have AA miles and use them for international  travel.  The reason AA miles work so well from these three cities is that there are a lot of opportunities to use the free North American Stopover AA allows you.

#1 DFW-

Placing DFW at #1 might surprise some of you, but the reasons are simple. You’re uniquely located in the center of North America and South America. You’re roughly equal distance from Hawaii and Lima, Peru.  You’re in a unique situation to take advantage of AA’s liberal NA stopovers to visit multiple continents.  I’ve put together a map of oneworld routes that center around DFW:

Look at all these international Destinations. Leaving/Coming back to DFW from one of them allows you to use DFW as a N.A. Stopover for a free one way anywhere in North America. Circle is 1150 miles from DFW, a 7500 avios redemption.

Great examples of this are as follows:

CDG-DFW-OGG as low as 20k AA miles per person in Coach, and 50k AA miles per person in Business.

Start your trip in Paris, fly nonstop home to DFW, stop there for weeks/months/year Then continue to OGG for a week/month.

To return book: OGG-DFW-LIM, or OGG-LAX-DFW-LIM and if you’re adventurous try to see if AA will add LIM-CUZ. This whole flight prices less than just flying OGG-DFW, as low as 15k AA miles per person in coach or 30k AA miles per person in business. It doesn’t makes sense, but you actually save miles by booking this extra trip to South America.

Go home to DFW and stop for a few days/weeks/ months and continue onto Lima, or even as far as Cusco and onward to Macchu Picchu.

Photo taken by my wonderful wife. When you live in DFW you can end your Hawaii vacation with a free trip to Peru.
When you live in DFW you can end your Hawaii vacation with a better than free trip to Peru.

Free One ways can take you to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or anywhere in Mexico or Canada that connects from DFW.  The above example has you visiting Europe, South America, and Hawaii for 35,000 miles per person.  Even in coach, I’m confident this is at least a 7 cent per mile redemption.

DFW Strengths: everywhere; Asia, Australia, Europe, South America all reachable nonstop.  Allows for amazing N.A. one way opportunites.

DFW Weaknesses: I’m really struggling to come up with weaknesses.  Somewhat limited in routes to Asia?

#2 LAX

Sure I’m partial to my home airport, but it honestly is a great place to live and use AA miles.  LAX is an easy Gateway to Asia, and Europe but most importantly it is easy to get to/from Hawaii as well.

Nonstop international routes from LAX. Also many routes to/from Hawaii. The circle is 1150 miles @ LAX–the distance for a 7500 Avios redemption. Image from www.gcmap.com

To Get To Hawaii living in LAX you could fly LAX-OGG using Avios @12,500 in coach.  Returning you could book avios, or fly OGG-LAX-LHR (20k AA) and visit London, or OGG-LAX-LIM-CUZ (17.5k AA) as the above DFW example included.

Making South America Happen is a lot harder from LAX; the only flight you’re going to be able to use for a stopover in LAX is the LIM flight operated by LAN. DFW, by contrast, has an AA flight to LIM.  I’ve flown both, and LAN has a better everything, but the fact remains that seats are harder to get on the LAX-LIM route.

LAX Strengths: Many routes to Hawaii nonstop, great for stopovers. Can access Asia, Europe, Australia and a limited amount of South America. Incredibly well located for using the Hybrid system with these international flights.

LAX Weaknesses: Limited Options to S. America and long haul flights to Europe.

#3 NYC (JFK)

Absolutely a top 3 City to live in for Redeeming AA miles internationally is New York.  You’re able to redeem deep into South America, the Caribbean and Europe, Asia and the middle east. Using JFK as your stopover point you’ll be able to tack on Caribbean vacations, trips to Hawaii or flights anywhere else in North America.  Cancun would be a great use of the stopover, as would any west coast cities.

All maps courtesy of www.gcmap.com. Routes to/from JFK. Note: the circle is @ 1150 Miles, the limit of a 7500 mile avios flight. Image from www.gcmap.com

Examples of a great uses of Miles for JFK flyers can be found in the Oneworld tips, tricks, and tools post from last week.  We centered our flights around JFK in that post.

GRU-JFK-CUN

Fly from GRU to JFK for as little as 20k AA miles, stop there for days/weeks/months, then fly JFK-CUN and spend a week or two in Cancun for no additional miles.

GRU-JFK-CUN
Click for larger view. Seeing “–” is always a good sign on AA, it means the stopover priced correctly. One often overlooked benefit of JFK is that many stopovers can be booked directly on AA.com, avoiding a phone agent.

CUN-JFK-CDG for 20k AA miles. Fly to any Hawaii/Mexico/Caribbean location and then home to JFK stopping for weeks/months.   You could pair this with the above to make:

  • GRU-JFK Stop JFK-CUN Stop (20k AA Miles)
  • CUN-JFK Stop JFK-CDG (20k AA Miles)

Total for the trip would be 40k AA and about $125 per person.

JFK Strengths: Europe, South America, even Asia. The opportunities for stopovers in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean are endless.

JFK Weaknesses: Australia, Limited Long haul Asia Routes that come back through JFK–might make using stopovers tough to/from Asia.

Update @4:44PM: Wow, readers you guys are great.  Two readers, Joel via comments and Brad on twitter mentioned a JFK-LAX-SYD flight that is sold as continuing service.  I verified this works doing the following booking:

NYC is representing with real love for their hub.  But to borrow a phrase: "If I've got to choose a coast, I've got to choose the west--I live out there, so don't go there."
NYC is representing with real love for their hub. Thanks to the two readers who mentioned this flight.  Very cool to see a stopover allowed in JFK even though you leave the country from LAX!

What if I don’t live in one of these cities?

To be clear, you don’t need to live in DFW, LAX or NYC to get great value from your AA miles.  AA miles are almost always great for some form of international travel, which is why Milenomics recommends collecting them for international travel, and not for domestic award flights. Honorable mention should go to MIA and ORD as two more cities with plenty of international routes and lots of free one way potential.

Part of why I included those circles in the above maps are that those areas are within 7500 Avios of DFW, LAX or JFK.  As you can see in the title image 7500 avios covers most of the Continental US. Tomorrow I’ll go over more ideas how to get home when you don’t live in a major hub like the ones we looked at today.

Am I missing another great city to use for AA award flights? If so leave a comment here, or tweet @Milenomics and let me know which city you think should make the list.


Everything below this line is Automatically inserted into this post and is not necessarily endorsed by Milenomics:

– Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I’ll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.

23 thoughts on “The Three Best Places to Live When Using AA Miles

  1. I am missing part of the logic and feel dense to ask this but in your sample DFW itineraries I don’t see round trip plans. I live in Austin and suppose I could drive the 2.5 hours to DFW for a lucrative redemption trip.

    • jethro: It is a little difficult to start rethinking your travel like this. Basically you’re daisy chaining one ways. In the CDG-DFW-OGG-DFW-LIM example the first flight would either be a straight DFW-CDG or something more enticing, like picking up the end of your last trip anywhere in N.A. and make it the start of one of these daisy-chains. Really hard to conceptualize when paid tickets are so linear, but you’re basically always working on another trip. With AA you can change dates without penalty, so you can move the later parts without worry so they’ll fit your next trip.

      When you don’t live in a hub it gets a little bit sticky–as you’re not really going to be able to take advantage of these types of tricks without giving up something in return–in your case 2.5 hours of your life each way to DFW. :

    • Tomorrow I’ll use your exact example (AUS) for the next post in this series–be sure to keep an eye on it and give any feedback you might have.

  2. Milenomics,

    Tried OGG-LHR, how do I make sure i can stopover in LAX for a long period of time on a one -way award ticket?

    a multi-city search is not pricing right? Do i have to call to move the later part/segment?

    • calvin, you need the LAX-LHR to be nonstop, or at the very least the first city after leaving LAX has to be outside of N.A. Stay away from BA for the LAX-LHR, the fuel surcharges will kill the deal. You want the AA Flight LAX-LHR. Multi-city will work fine on aa.com. Make sure you put OGG-LAX with your dates and then LAX-LHR with the later dates. Another possible route is LAX-DUS-STN on airberlin to avoid the taxes as well.

  3. Very interesting read! I can’t fly AA because it doesn’t serve my home airport – AGS. It does fly out of CAE but just about every flight I would take would backtrack to DFW. Geographics makes me a very loyal US Airways flyer. 😉

    • You’re absolutely correct, updated the map with a really cool JFK-LAX-SYD and included an update with an example. Thank you!

    • Fixed. Also had a mysterious non-existant flight JFK-GRG. I must have fat fingered the JFK-GRU on that one when typing it in. 😉

  4. Air Tahiti Nui does direct from LAX to Paris. It is a partner airline, not one world. It’s just another option to Europe for direct flight. I’m not sure how it works as LAx as intl stop-over..

    • Good call Dave. Would be interesting to see where you could go (if anywhere) with stopovers based on that specific flight. TN is an interesting airline–it is a partner of AA and DL (Like AS). AA doesn’t charge YQ for TN, but DL Does. Good news is TN has 2-4 seats LAX-CDG on most flights–can look them up on EF.

  5. A close number 4 would have to be MIA. And with the fact that MIA tends to have IME far more award seats available than DFW or JFK, it may be #1 especially for families.

    • Kenny: I got a lot of people supporting MIA after that post went up. Interesting that you mention the number of seats out of MIA, would be a good angle for another post to do some hard numbers on seats from each Hub. Sometimes the big two (NYC, LAX) are tough to find seats from because everyone “gravitates” there. In that case MIA is a great option, especially if you live within 1000 miles or so.

      • I attempted to do that and it echoed what I have found in dummy and real bookings. Dates with seats to CDG next July and next October, all in coach on AA metal, for 2 and 4 passengers:
        July – MIA 2pax 15 days, MIA 4pax 14 days.
        July – DFW 2pax 1 day, DFW 4pax 1 day.
        July – ORD 2pax 5 days, ORD 4pax 5 days.
        July – JFK 2pax 26 days, JFK 4pax 21 days (JFK does have more flights than the others)
        There are no CDG-US seats on AA metal in July 2014 currently.
        Oct – MIA 2pax 12 days outbound, 1 day return.
        Oct – DFW 2pax 8 days outbound, 1 day return.
        Oct – ORD 2pax 12 days outbound, 1 day return.
        Oct – JFK 2pax 19 days outbound, 5 days return.

        Throw in IB and AB service to MIA, JFK and ORD; DFW is likely to be 4th or 5th among AA hubs in terms of saver award seats to Europe. South America may be a totally different story but I think MIA will win there too.
        I have found this mostly by trying to book creative routings using Avios to get home to SAT, and have come up empty. In fact we are almost always better off driving 3 hours to IAH and saving a connection or two since a typical ex-DFW route will be SAT-DFW-MSY-MIA-CDG or SAT-DFW-EWR,JFK-CDG. No joke 🙁

        • Great Analysis Kenny. I experienced the void of flights back from EU when I was putting the posts together this past weekend. I got around it with an open Jaw–would probably work in this example too. Pretty rare to visit only one city in Europe, so the OJ would likely come into play anyway.

          DFW’s ability to touch every continent (except Africa) + Hawaii are its biggest pluses. Biggest negatives…sound like that SAT-CDG routing. 3 flights and still in the US would drive me nuts.

          • We just got back from a trip to Europe that was booked back in March with AA miles. There were no good times/schedules through DFW to tack on a one-way, but we got IAH-JFK-CDG, ZRH-JFK-IAH which was perfect for us.

  6. Maybe tomorrow I will get around to reading this article….having a real tough time getting through that first paragraph of you bashing not only my home state but my home town. J/K
    Yes…I am jealous of a friend of mine who I have introduced into this hobby who recently got the SW companion pass. BUT…..I can’t really complain all that much since the wife and I did score 2 R/T tickets to NRT out of our little tiny airport via Alaska air using AA miles.
    Also will be going to Rome via United 6 weeks before the Japan trip so Billings although not a big city is not that bad.

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