Last fall I spoke with then-AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin and suggested that with their higher award pricing (since March 22), they could loosen their routing rules somewhat. She indicated they were looking at that.
And it appears they’ve started to because back in April they started to allow flying Cathay Pacific or American Airlines to Hong Kong, and travel beyond to India and the surrounding region on Cathay Pacific, as a single award — instead of requiring you to fly via the Atlantic.
Now they’ve loosened this further, allowing you to fly between North America and the Indian Subcontinent via the Pacific if you take American or Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then any of Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, or SriLankan beyond Hong Kong.
American does not publish its award routing rules. The value of a mileage redemption program is a combination of:
- The cost of an award (miles, money)
- Award routing rules (what flights can be combined together to construct an award).
Since so much of the AAdvantage award rules are unpublished, I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.
Award routing rules determine whether you can connect in Europe when flying from the US to Asia, or in Asia between the US and India. Liberal routing rules let you make the most of scarce award space. American’s rules are stringent. You have to follow the published routing rules of the primary overwater carrier on your itinerary and you cannot touch a third region when traveling between two regions unless there’s a specific exception in place.
And indeed this is an improvementon one of their rules.
Here’s the April language:
Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted only via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is Transatlantic only.
Here’s the new language:
Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted via Hong Kong only. Travel for the transpacific sector to Hong Kong is permitted only on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel from Hong Kong to the Indian Subcontinent permitted on Cathay Pacific, SriLankan and Jet Airways. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is transatlantic only.
Cathay Pacific First Class Seat
Cathay Pacific Business Class Seat
These awards used to have to go via the Atlantic. That meant available Cathay flights were off limits, making the awards harder to get. And it often meant more flying. From the West Coast of the US to India it can actually be slightly shorter to travel via the Pacific. American AAdvantage effectively forced you into a bit of extra flying.
With the addition of Cathay Pacific routes via Hong Kong in April, that opened up transpacific travel to:
- India (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and assuming Dragonair is treated as Cathay Pacific under this rule Kolkata as well)
- Kathmandu, Nepal
- Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Dhaka, Bangladesh (again assuming Dragonair is treated as Cathay Pacific which it should be)
- Male, Maldives
The addition of SriLankan and Jet Airways beyond Hong Kong doesn’t open new destinations, but allows you to fly to existing destinations on more flights. Jet Airways flies from Hong Kong to Delhi and Mumbia, and SriLankan flies to Colombo.
It’s somewhat strange that this exception precludes travel on American’s joint venture partner Japan Airlines. So you cannot fly JAL to Tokyo and on to Hong Kong and then Cathay, SriLankan, or Jet beyond. This is especially interesting in light of allowing Jet Airways routings — since Jet isn’t a part of the oneworld alliance, and is instead an Etihad Airways equity partner.
American’s award pricing between the US and Indian Subcontinent is:
- 40,000 miles each way for economy
- 70,000 miles each way for business
- 115,000 miles each way for first
Now American needs to:
- Loosen up travel between the US and Asia, allowing routings via the Atlantic — because East Coast to Southeast Asia via the Atlantic isn’t farther than flying via the Pacific but it would open up a lot of possibilities for award travel.
- Eliminate the ‘third region rule’ which prevents you from connecting in a region other than your starting or ending region unless there’s a specific exception made.
American’s routing limitations are completely duplicative and draconian when AAdvantage also makes you fly only on published routings. The published routing rule makes awards as restrictive as paid tickets. Layering on the third region rule and transatlantic/transpaciifc crossing rule makes awards far more restrictive than paid tickets, disallowing simple routings on points that would be permitted on paid travel.
All this does is limit the ability of members to secure award travel in the most efficient means possible. So it is very good to at least see American relaxing routing requirements ever so slightly.