American Airlines and partner awards don’t allow ‘free’ stopovers (visiting an extra city along the way) except at the North American gateway city.
Many airlines will let you stop over, say, in Tokyo on the way to Hong Kong or Bangkok. American Airlines will charge extra miles for this. (Unless you are using one of their distance-based oneworld awards which require flying two oneworld airlines other than American, which permit no changes to routing after issuance, and which do not allow flying on non-oneworld airlines.)
The exception is that you can stopover in whatever North American city you leave the country from, or first return to.
If you live in New York, you can fly New York – Tokyo – Singapore on Japan Airlines, come back Singapore – Hong Kong – New York. And you might think you’re done! Except that you’re giving up an opportunity. Why not call New York your stopover on the return rather than the end of your trip?
You can tack on a flight, say, to Los Angeles at the end, for any time in the future. And American allows free date changes to awards. The only constraint is that your onward flight has to be completed within a year of the date of issue of your award.
I just booked an award ticket that begins in DC, travels first class to Asia, and returns to New York. There’s no award space back to DC. So rather than calling New York the end of my award trip, I grabbed a three-cabin first class flight out to the West Coast.
I may not use it. But I have a freebie flight (except for potentially some additional airport taxes of a few bucks) in American’s Flagship first class that I can use any time between the last flight of my award itinerary through one year from the date of issue of my ticket.
Almost forgot to do this! I set up the award on hold, called back to ticket, and while I was getting connected to an agent I remembered. There wasn’t even availability in first class on the first date I picked, I told them it was fine to stick me in business class (coach would have been fine too) since I know I’m going to change later. I just wanted the segment in there so that I could make the change without penalty at some point.
American allows a whopping 25% flying beyond the “Maximum Permitted Mileage” for a route, so flying to the East Coast from Asia and back to the West Coast is fully permitted within their award routing rules most of the time.
Flying back from Europe to Los Angeles, why not stopover in Los Angeles instead of terminating your award there? Then tack on a first class flight to Hawaii for alter, and change the date when you know when you’ll use it!
This tip is most useful for folks who live in American Airlines hub cities or cities where their partners offer international service, since you can finish your award “at home” and add on additional flights for later. But in circumstances like I faced on my recent award ticket, where you can only make it back on the award to a hub city and have to buy the short final segment separately, you might as well take advantage of it too!