Finding low award availability on AA – Part 1

After our post about stopovers, our example stopover, and our continued use of American Airlines, we have received lots of questions about finding low award availability with AA.

This post is a bit lengthy but I’ll try to take you step by step through a process that works for me many times when low awards can’t be found.

The Dilemma

I need to book a flight from Hawaii to Miami but when I search the AA site it’s only finding medium level awards, which price out at 45,000 per ticket as opposed to the low level award which runs 22,500 per person.  It’s a big difference in miles and even bigger when you consider flying a family of 4.


In these screen shots you will see my search for HNL-MIA on July 21st and subsequently the fact that low award availability isn’t available.  Only 45K is showing up.

Booking AA 1


Interactive Route Map

Before I get to how to find further availability I must introduce you to the American Airlines Interactive Route Map. This map will allow you to see the routes that AA flies from any airport including partners and even connections.  In this case we only want to see direct flight from a specific airport (HNL) without seeing connections.  In addition to this, I will also mention that most airlines have an interactive route map.

The Strategy

What we are basically trying to do is find routes that the automated booking system would not have automatically found in order to get from HNL to MIA.  To achieve this we will find a combination of one-way segments that could potentially create a connection from HNL to MIA.

Strategy in Action

First, using the Interactive Route Map above, we look up which cities American flies to directly from HNL.

Booking AA Interactive Route Map


Using this map we see that American flies to San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas.

So, what we then do is perform  a one way search from HNL to each of those cities for flights on July 21st which is the date we need to fly.  Remember, we are looking for low award availability.  Once we find it, we will do the same route map search from that connecting city to other cities in the US and again until we find one that flies to Miami and has low award availability.

Here you will see that I was able to find low availability from HNL to Chicago-ORD.  We are also able to see that the flight number with the low award availability is flight number 72 which departs HNL at 5:35PM arriving in ORD at 6:45AM.  Write this flight number and details down as we will need this in a subsequent step.

Booking AA HNL-ORD Flight Booking AA HNL-ORD

So I found availability to Chicago-ORD.  When I search the interactice route map for flights originating from ORD, Miami comes up as a direct destination.  I then searched ORD-MIA and low and behold I found low award availability from ORD to MIA as you will see below.  Remember to write down the flight number and details.  In this case there are 3 flight from ORD to MIA, so pick the one you prefer.

Booking AA ORD-MIA Booking AA ORD-MIA Flights

Next step is to call an American Airlines rep, tell them that you found this alternate routing from HNL-MIA via ORD with low award availability and they will be able to put it together for you as one flight at a rate of 22,500 AAdvantage miles.  Additionally, you can tell the agent to put it on hold for you and you can then go pay for it with points online without needing to pay the fee for using the agent booking service.

So to recap, below you will find our original options and our alternate option piecing our flight together.

Original Findings Alternate Routing
•No MileSAAver award for 7/21

•Option was AAnytime @ 45K

•Departing HNL 9:40PM on 21st
•Arriving MIA 2:25PM on 22nd
•MileSAAver award totaling 22,500
•Departing HNL 5:30PM
•Arriving MIA 8:30PM
•With a 9 hour layover

If you notice, this example shows that you will end up with a 9 hour layover in Chicago.  As Ernest Hemingway said “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”  Find yourself something exciting to do in Chicago. Maybe take a ride to one of the many great pizza restaurants that make the famous Chicago Deep Dish!  Alternatively maybe you’ll be able to catch the Cubs playing in town.

In tomorrow’s post, we will add a stopover to this itinerary and show you how you can turn this 22,500 mile ticket into a 30,000 mile ticket, but with a stopover in Miami for up to 11 months and then continue on to Rome, Italy at a later point!

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15 Responses to Finding low award availability on AA – Part 1

  1. Grant Pingel says:

    That is a great idea,I never new they would count the points as one trip ,I thought they would add the 2 flights together for a total of 35000 points. Thanks ,I will be sure to use this method. P.S : I love the Hemingway quote.

    • travelguys says:

      Grant, pretty clever huh? The extra work definitely pays off. One of the most important things is to also have the rep just place it on hold so you don’t incur the telephone booking fee, and then you go online and book it yourself.
      We love the quotes too. It makes you put things in perspective in life.

      • bababooey says:

        Clever? Looking up each let separately is clever? OMG this is amateur (noob) stuff? Leave the content to MMS.
        ” We started our site in October 2012 in an effort to help all our family and friends with this wonderful hobby. ” stop the BS right there please.
        Travelbloggerbuzz where are you?

        • travelguys says:

          Bababooey, MMS is a great source of information and he’s one of the best at what he does, and we certainly recommend you continue to read him. We’re sorry our site isn’t for you, but thank you for visiting and for your comments.

          • ich says:

            Speaking as a mostly “noob” I am most grateful for the bloggers who do acknowledge and actually try to help those of us who need some of the basics clarified. I have been pulling my hair out trying to book a minimally complicated family trip to Europe with miles/points and yes, I did know about searching different legs, but, I was feeling so stupid for not knowing how to put it all together as one reward. Knowing that I can call it in and have it held is a huge help! Thank you!

            One question: If I do this same thing with UA, will they hold the itinerary for me even if I don’t have all the miles in my acct. yet? I would need to transfer them, but since they are MR points, I have to figure out how to do that first!

            Thank you again, very happy to have found your blog via MMS.

          • travelguys says:

            ich, thanks for your great comments. On the UA hold, did you mean UR points and not MR? MR (Amex) do not transfer to United, but UR (Ultimate Reward points from Chase) do. That being said, you will generally need to have the miles available on your account, but MileValue has a really good summary detailing how to navigate around their system to hopefully put an award on hold while you get the miles, although we have never tried it. You can check it out here:

  2. Wandering Aramean says:

    The HNL-OAK/SJC flights are operated by Alaska Airlines, not American. Not really an issue at they are partners, but probably worth noting. And if you’re going to include AS flights in the options there are actually far more points on the west coast where connections can be made to AA metal to complete the trip.

  3. Jorge Caballero says:

    Any idea if it works for Delta?

    • travelguys says:

      In concept, finding the flights one leg at a time works with Delta as well. Only thing with Delta is that you should book roundtrip as they price one way flights at the same point value as the round trip. Additionally finding the low level awards with Delta is tougher.

  4. Michelle says:

    Hi! Thanks for this info! I am happy to read that you are able to place the hold & pay with miles online for no extra fee–I did not think that was possible. Also, I had the understanding that you couldn’t have more than a 4 hr layover? Will some AA reps let this slide & others won’t? Thank you again!

    • travelguys says:

      Michelle, that’s correct. In this case the rep let us do it since we would try to make the best out of the Chicago stop. I could have just easily picked a shorter layover had I gotten push back from the rep.

  5. Sarah says:

    Wow, this is great! I can’t wait to read part two, this sounds like a fantastic way to get more out of your miles.

    • travelguys says:

      Sarah, second post will be up tomorrow. Check it out and let us know what you think. Thanks for reading us!

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