US Airways Dividend Miles was pretty much ‘anything goes’ as far as award routings go — the combination of flights you were allowed to use when booking an award to get from your origin to destination.
There was no auto-validation of routings and no auto-pricing.
Whatever region an agent thought you were traveling to determined the price they would enter. So you could ‘guide them’ (“I’d like to book a North Asia award, we’ll connect in Hong Kong in North Asia on the way to Bangkok. And now to wrap up this North Asia award let’s connect back through Tokyo and…”)
I really do think American needs to liberalize their routing rules.
American requires that:
- You fly published routings (obey the routing rules published by the most significant carrier on the itinerary)
- The most significant carrier on your itinerary has to publish a fare between your origin and destination in order to book the ticket as a single award, otherwise you pay more miles.
- You fly directly between your region of origin and region of destination unless there’s a specific exception allowing a connection in a third region. You cannot connect in Europe between the US and Asia (Europe is an impermissible third region). You cannot connect in the Middle East between the US and Africa (although you can if you arrive and depart Doha on Qatar, as that’s a published exception).
American AAdvantage is the only program I can think of which strictly requires flying published routings on an award ticket. Awards are usually more flexible because you have to hunt and peck for available seats and may have to fly more circuitously than you would like in order to piece together your travel.
It makes no logical sense to have a published routing requirement and a prohibition on connecting in a third region when flying between two regions. If the third region is allowed as a connecting point in a published routing, American should allow it. As it is, American is substantially stricter when constructing award tickets than they are with paid tickets.
- The Ultimate Guide to Constructing an Award Ticket with AAdvantage Miles
- New Third Region Routing Exceptions (July 2014)
American is pretty much the only ones who prohibit US-Asia via the Atlantic. They prohibit US-India via the Pacific. Both of those may be shorter routings depending on where you are starting from in the US.
More importantly perhaps the lack of third region connections on US-Australia awards [both United and Delta allow Asia connections] make Australia a virtual impossibility using American miles, except for:
- Qantas economy
- the odd Los Angeles – Brisbane business class seat on Qantas
- some Hawaiian Airlines connections through Honolulu (in premium cabins this is more like domestic first than international business)
Here’s a calendar of award availability for passengers in business class, Los Angeles – Sydney and Los Angeles – Brisbane for June (which is low season):
Literally nothing. American would require you to book two separate awards US – Asia and Asia – Australia if you want to fly business class to Australia, something both United and Delta allow on a single award ticket.
You used to be able to fly via Asia on a distance-based oneworld award, but that option was eliminated last April.
American should eliminate the third region routing prohibition. Their rules will still be far stricter than any ever enforced by Dividend Miles. And members will be able to construct awards based on space availability that would be permitted by United, Delta, Alaska and also by other oneworld frequent flyer programs.