American Airlines Award Routing Rules: Complete List of Allowable ‘Third Region Exceptions’

Four years ago I wrote the Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American AAdvantage Miles.

American has some of the most complex routing rules of any frequent flyer program. They do not publish those rules publicly. So it’s important to lay out what goes into determining how many miles an award costs, so you know what to expect (and how to save your miles).

You need to know about maximum permitted mileage, the most direct routing rule, and the prohibition on travel between two regions via a third region unless there’s an exception allowing you to do so.

For instance you aren’t permitted to fly between the US and Southeast Asia via Europe or the Middle East but you are permitted to fly to Southeast Asia via North Asia (‘Asia 1’ cities like Tokyo) because of the limited number of non-stop flights between the US and Southeast Asia.

From time to time American has added third region exceptions several times and also added new restrictions such as a limit to the number of segments you can have on a single award.

JonNYC has identified some additions to the list of ‘third region exceptions’ or instances where you are allowed to fly from one region, connect in another region, enroute to your final destination in a third region. And that means it’s time to update the overall list of known exceptions to the ‘no third region connection’ rule. (Any time you read American Airlines routing rules on a blog or forum, those originate with information from JonNYC.)

Here are the 3rd Region Exceptions to/from the “US48”:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
US48 / Alaska, x (But none for Alaska-Alaska trips)
Canada/ Hawaii, x
Alaska Mexico x
Caribbean x
Central America x
S. America 1 x
Europe x
Asia 1 x
South Pacific x
S. America 2 x S. America 1
Asia 2 x Asia 1
Middle East x Europe
Indian Subcontinent x Europe, or Mideast, or HKG (Cathay/AA only)
Africa x Europe or Mideast

Trips to/from Hawaii have fewer third region exceptions:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Hawaii Mexico x
Caribbean x
Central America x
S. America 1 x
Europe x
S. America 2 x S. America 1
Middle East x Europe
Indian Subcontinent x Europe, or Mideast
Africa x Europe or Mideast

Exceptions to/from Mexico:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Mexico Caribbean DFW or MIA
Central America DFW or MIA
S. America 1 DFW or MIA
S. America 2 DFW or MIA
Europe x
Asia 1 x
Asia 2 x Asia 1
Middle East x Europe
Indian Subcontinent x Europe, or Mideast, or HKG (CX/AA only)
Africa x Europe, or Mideast
South Pacific x South America 2

Caribbean exceptions vary slightly from Mexico exceptions:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Caribbean Bahamas <-> Bermuda MIA
Central America DFW or MIA
S. America 1 MIA
S. America 2 MIA S. America 1
Europe x
Asia 1 x
Asia 2 x Asia 1
Middle East x Europe
Indian Subcontinent x Europe, or Mideast, or HKG (CX/AA only)
Africa x Europe, or Mideast
South Pacific x South America 2

To/from Central America:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Central Europe x
America Middle East x Europe
Indian Subcontinent x Europe, or Mideast
Africa x Europe, or Mideast
South Pacific South America 2

South America 1 (cannot connect via US enroute to a third region):

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
S. America 1 Middle East Europe
Indian Subcontinent Europe, or Mideast
South Pacific South America 2

South America 2:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
S. America 2 Middle East Europe or Africa
Indian Subcontinent Europe, or Mideast

To/from Europe:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Europe Asia 1 Asia 2, or Mideast, or Indian Subcontinent
Asia 2 Mideast or Indian Subcontinent
Indian Subcontinent Mideast
Africa Mideast
South Pacific Asia 1 or Asia 2 or Mideast

To/From Asia 1:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Asia 1 Mideast Asia 2 or Indian Subcontinent
Indian Subcontinent Asia 2
South Pacific Asia 2
Africa Asia 2 or Mideast

To/From Asia 2:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Asia 2 Mideast Indian Subcontinent
Africa Mideast

Mideast:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Mideast South Pacific Asia 2, Indian Subcontinent

Indian Subcontinent:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Indian South Pacific Asia 2
Subcontinent Africa Mideast

Africa:

Via US48/ In addition
To/From To/From Canada via (only 1)
Africa South Pacific Mideast

There used to be several third region exceptions that allowed connecting in the Mideast — but required travel in and out of the region to be via Doha on Qatar Airways.  That’s no longer the case.  Mideast connections may now be on a variety of carriers (one way on BA, for instance, or on Royal Jordanian) as well as Etihad.

Etihad connections are now permitted:

  • North America <-> Africa via Abu Dhabi
  • Europe <-> Asia via Abu Dhabi
  • Europe <-> Australia via Abu Dhabi
  • Europe <-> Africa via Abu Dhabi
  • Africa <-> Asia via Abu Dhabi
  • Africa and Australia via Abu Dhabi

If you want to book award travel using AAdvantage miles on Etihad it’s important to know the call center trick and the reverse search trick.

American has given guidance on Mideast connections now allowing Etihad reducing the number of miles needed for an award and that certainly leads one to ask whether the rumor that American and Etihad would be ending their partnership with Etihad joining Star Alliance that has been live since at least last summer still has legs. These changes and guidance may have no bearing on those broader discussions, and one part of American may not talk to another of course.


Etihad A380 First Apartment

Changes went into effect April 2. One of the other notable items, to me, was that up until now Middle East and Indian Subcontinent were treated as a single region. The two regions were split up on the website three years ago but the change was described as purely cosmetic. I was afraid this would affect routing rules, but was assured that it would not. For three years it didn’t. Now, however, since they’re being treated as truly separate you cannot fly from the US to Indian Subcontinent via Europe and the Mideast on a single award since that would be connecting in two separate regions other than the region of origin and destination.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Give it to AA to originate ever more complex routing rule and pricing games for AA mileage tickets and to change that game time and again without published advance notice.

    Without help from the likes of this blog, FT and whatever JonNYC manages to have lifted from AA, this award travel planning and pricing game would be more of a guessing game or of learning from experience for more consumers than it need be.

  2. Does anyone know what happens with existing Etihad bookings, will AA refund the difference now that it doesn’t have to be counted as two separate awards?

  3. Call up and ask, or it’s unlikely to get refunded the difference.

    Even if they want to charge a fee for changing the ticketed booking, the fee may be worth it in some cases to get a refund of the difference in miles. Just make sure the award space is still there in the way you want.

  4. Kind of “inside baseball” unless you’re trying to put together a scarce premium award itinerary on a preferred carrier (instead of just trying to get to your destination efficiently). Routing rules matter a heck of a lot more when the frequent flyer program allows free stopovers, which AA does not.

  5. That which prompted this blog post was a simple attempt or two to book US-India travel in economy class and seeing the price jump up 25% in the course of less than 7 days. Nothing “inside baseball” about customers being subjected to AA changing the game and pricing without advance notice.

  6. I did not know that it was possible to go between Africa and Japan via Hong Kong or the Middle East, and also between the Middle East and Japan via Hong Kong.

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