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Reader Tom commented: “Aadv miles are pretty much worthless. Got a million I can never use” on a recent post about using airline miles for hotel stays (SEE: Should you use airline miles for hotel stays?). While redeeming miles in this fashion is something I would *never* suggest, it may seem tempting given the utter dearth of American SAAver Award space these days.

But how did you get so many miles?

Whenever I hear of someone having huge numbers of miles I think a few things. First, there is “wow, I wish I had a stash like that!” Followed by, “you obviously don’t redeem miles often enough”. Finally, I wonder “what could I possibly do with XX miles…”

Even though AA award availability is downright AAbysmal, there are still some great options out there for redeeming their disAAdvantaged miles. They just typically don’t involve AA! Here are 10 great options for redeeming a million AA miles:

Take 4 romantic getaways to Europe in business class

With a million AA miles, you have enough for 4 round-trips vacations to Europe for you and your significant other. Finding transatlantic award space on AA’s own metal is pretty hard, and the fees on British Airways are obscene. But consider AirBerlin or Finnair!

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Award space is typically fairly good on both these carriers. Checking some dates from U.S. gateways, there is even a decent amount of space this summer. The trick will be to get yourself to said gateway (which can be a bit frustrating as AA often doesn’t have enough domestic award space).

7 round-trips to the Middle East in business class

You have three great options here: Royal Jordanian business class, Etihad’s business class, or Qatar’s legendary product. And you have enough miles to figure out which one is your favorite! You might even consider splurging for first, although that would cut you down to only 4 round-trips. Do be aware of the current political issues if flying to Qatar.

Another thing to note is that Royal Jordanian is also one of the few (two?) Middle Eastern carriers that fly to Israel. They only have North American gateways at ORD, DTW, YUL, and JFK. Again, given American’s lack of even domestic award space, getting to a gateway could be tricky.

Fly your family of 6 to Southeast Asia in Cathay Pacific’s premium cabins

While Cathay first class costs a pretty penny using AA miles (a steep 110,000 each way), if you have 1,000,000 AA miles sitting around, why not! Their business class is relatively affordable at 70,000 miles each way. Overall, Alaska miles are still the way to go here, but we’ll work with what you’ve got.

a kitchen with a counter and a couple of people in the background

And what you’ve got is enough for 2 round-trips in Cathay first and 4 in business. If you can find the availability, take your family of 6 to Hong Kong or another destination in Southeast Asia. A mere 20,000 more miles, and you can head to India. Or say hello to the Maldives?

Book an around the world extravaganza for 2 people

Granted, I will freely admit that you’ll be wasting miles on this one. But if you can manage to stockpile such a massive pile of miles, you gotta burn them on something! Here’s a potential itinerary:

US-Japan-Australia-New Zealand-Hong Kong-Qatar-South Africa-UAE-Germany-England-Spain-Peru-US

All in business. All booked as separate one ways, stopping in each country. Enjoy.

Take a group of 25 to visit Peru

Ok…have fun figuring out the award space on this one. But it’s an idea!! And if you have people starting in different cities or arriving on different days, it could work.

At 40,000 miles per round-trip in economy, this makes for a pretty good redemption. Consider a family reunion in a foreign country (just don’t ask me to take on the logistics).

stone buildings on a hillside with Machu Picchu in the background

Just make sure you know about the new restrictions on visiting Machu Picchu (SEE: Peru making it harder to visit Machu Picchu).

12 one-ways in Japan Airlines’ amazing first class

While JAL business class is impressive enough, first is truly over the top. Sharon recently took a trip to Japan and reviewed both their business and first class products:

(SEE: JAL first class SFO Haneda)

(SEE: JAL business class Haneda SFO)

I believe she used Alaska miles for this experience but American miles will work well enough. You’ll need 60,000 for business or 80,000 for first each way. This hardly puts a dent in a stash of a million miles.

a tray of food on a table

Hop around the South Pacific for months

At only 15,000 miles per one-way ticket in economy, you could hop around the South Pacific forever. American’s definition of the South Pacific is broad, so this covers anything from Sydney-Auckland to Tahiti-Perth. With Qantas service covering essentially the whole region, you have a ton of options.

Sydney Opera House with a bridge in the background

Additionally, service wholly within Australia is 10,000 miles each way. Island hopping within Fiji on Fiji Airways (another partner) is even better at only 5,000 AA miles per one-way. Even if you are spending 15,000 miles on every one-way, you can visit roughly 60 destinations. Take a year off and do it. You may never go back to work.

Hire an award booker

Seriously. If you can’t find the space to book an award flight, yet you have the means to accrue 1,000,000 AA miles, you can probably afford to hire someone to hunt for the award you want! Just call me. I’m itching to burn those miles for you!


I know my collection of ideas are pretty zany, but I hope it just illustrates there there are still quite a few ways to use AA miles. They just *don’t* involve the pain of searching futilely for AA SAAver space. Forget awful American Airlines. Fly any one of their great partners (i.e. pretty much all of them minus BA).

Obviously, this is a major issue if you want to spend your million miles domestically. But consider expanding your horizons a bit. You’ll see that there are plenty of options out there.

My final comment to the reader is: if you *really* can’t think of a use for the miles, I’d happily take them off your hands. 🙂

Sydney Opera House photo courtesy of Hai Linh Truong under CC 2.0 license

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