Using Qantas frequent flyer points to book American Airlines flights

Using Qantas frequent flyer points to book American Airlines flights

With the world's largest fleet of aircraft and flights to more destinations worldwide than any other carrier, American Airlines isn't just Qantas' Stateside alliance partner, it's also an option to consider when it comes time to exchange your hard-earned Qantas Frequent Flyer points to book your next journey.

Better yet, the number of points needed to book AA flights is the same as for Qantas journeys of the same length, being Qantas Frequent Flyer's more favourable rates as opposed to the higher levels applied to bookings on British Airways, Cathay Pacific and the like.

With some American Airlines flights attracting fees and charges of just US$5.60 per sector when booking with points (e.g. Los Angeles-San Francisco), you're not being gouged by hefty fuel and carrier surcharges, either, so without further delay, here's how to turn your Qantas Points into an American Airlines flight.

Booking American Airlines flights with Qantas Points: key routes

To get your journey off to a flying start, American Airlines runs a daily flight return flight between Sydney and Los Angeles, and provides seasonal daily flights between Auckland and LA.

American doesn't fly to Melbourne or Brisbane, or to other points in New Zealand, but does serve Honolulu – geographically located between Australia and the continental United States – which opens the door to extending your Hawaiian holiday to places like Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix and Chicago.

That's a handy option to keep in mind if you don't have a huge number of points to spend, because you could consider purchasing a return ticket between Australia and Honolulu on Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines or Jetstar, and using your Qantas Points to book an onward return ticket from Honolulu to another point in the US.

Of course, AA's Los Angeles hub isn't to be overlooked, with a huge network of non-stop destinations spanning the US mainland, Canada, Central and South America, the UK – giving Sydneysiders an unconventional one-stop option to London – and, albeit less relevant for Aussie travellers, Asia.

Among your many options from LAX, non-stop flights to New York (JFK), San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage (seasonal), Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Mexico City, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Sao Paulo (Brazil), Washington, and many more we haven't mapped.

Finally, American Airlines has hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, so along with flying between many other US cities, if you find yourself in one of those hub locations on business, you may be able to use your Qantas Points to fly somewhere else with AA.

Booking American Airlines flights with Qantas Points: how many points you'll need

Given how many routes you can choose from with American Airlines, we won't show you all of them, but here's how many Qantas Points you'd need to book a number of the 'biggies'.

On flights within North America sold as a two-class service – that's economy, and something better – you'd use the 'business class' rates below, even if the better-than-economy cabin is branded "first class" on that flight.

However, on flights that feature both first class and business class service on the same plane, such as AA's transcontinental Airbus A321T routes like Los Angeles-New York, the higher 'first class' rate applies to book a first class seat, while the 'business class' rate applies for business class:

Route (one-way) First class (three-class only)
Business class Economy
Sydney-Los Angeles
Not offered 96,000 Qantas Points 45,000 Qantas Points
Auckland-Los Angeles
Los Angeles-Sao Paulo
Not offered 84,000 Qantas Points 40,000 Qantas Points
Los Angeles-New York
New York-London
75,000 Qantas Points 50,000 Qantas Points 22,500 Qantas Points
Honolulu-Los Angeles
Not offered 50,000 Qantas Points 22,500 Qantas Points
Los Angeles-San Francisco
Not offered 16,000 Qantas Points 8,000 Qantas Points

Again, the rates above reflect one-way flights when booked as a standalone journey, but if your American Airlines ticket involves a connecting flight – that is, where you arrive in one city and depart onward to your next destination within 24 hours – you may be able to save some points.

For instance, if you flew business class from Sydney to Los Angeles, spent a few days in the Home of Hollywood and later continued to New York, you'd part with 146,000 Qantas Points, being 96,000 points for the Sydney-LA leg and the additional 50,000 points from Los Angeles to New York.

Book that journey as a connection instead and you'd only need 128,000 Qantas Points, as Qantas takes into account the total distance flown when you connect, charging you for only one reward journey, rather than for two separate trips when the flights are separated.

For Sydney residents, here's how many points you'd need to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles with AA and connect onward to a third city as part of the same ticket and journey:

Sydney to X via LA, one-way First class
Business class Economy
New York
171,000 Qantas Points
(Business to LAX, First to JFK)
128,000 Qantas Points 60,000 Qantas Points
Boston
Anchorage
Sao Paulo
Not offered 128,000 Qantas Points 60,000 Qantas Points
San Francisco
San Diego
Las Vegas
Not offered 96,000 Qantas Points 45,000 Qantas Points
Chicago
Vancouver
Mexico City
Not offered 112,000 Qantas Points 55,000 Qantas Points

You may notice that the number of points needed for a connecting journey from Sydney to places like San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas via Los Angeles is no more than what you'd need to book Sydney-LA as a standalone flight.

That's because these cities aren't far from Los Angeles, and the total distance of your journey is within the same Qantas Frequent Flyer Zone as Sydney-LA (Zone 8, which covers trips of 7,001-8,400 miles), so if you're flying to LA anyway, your onward flight is essentially 'free'.

For flights on other routes, here's the full Qantas Classic Flight Reward table for how many points you'll need based on the distance of your journey, but note that American Airlines doesn't normally release premium economy seats (on flights with this as a separate cabin) for booking using Qantas Points:

Read: Frequent flyer tip – how to calculate the distance of your flight

Booking American Airlines flights with Qantas Points: making that booking

American Airlines reward flights can easily be booked via the Qantas website: to do so, start by keying in your preferred route and date you'd like to travel, in the same way that you would when booking a Qantas flight with points, by selecting the 'Use points...' option on the booking screen:

If your travel dates are flexible, you can also click into the date field and check the "flexible with dates" box to see more results over a one-month period, which could reveal options you may otherwise have missed.

Here, we're searching for a simple Sydney-Los Angeles flight with a fixed date, which takes us straight to a page of flight options – but because this search tool looks for all available reward flights, not only those operated by American Airlines, you may not immediately see AA, even if there are flights available. For example:

It's only when we scroll down that AA's non-stop flight can be seen, but there it is:

As is commonly the case for flights between Australia and the US, any available reward seats in business class can disappear quickly, or may never be offered on some flights due to strong demand from paying passengers – you can see that on the date we searched, only economy seats were open for booking using points.

But that doesn't mean it's impossible to book American Airlines business class using your Qantas Points. A quick check found at least one business class seat on the lucrative New York-Los Angeles route, albeit a 6am departure from JFK...

... and if you happen to spot any green boxes next to a flight number as opposed to the American Airlines logo when hunting for options, don't necessarily overlook them – it usually just means that the flight is operated by AA's regional arm, American Eagle, or one of its subsidiaries, not unlike the way that some Qantas flights are operated by QantasLink.

If you are going to book AA business class, there's just one thing to keep in mind: if you're travelling solely within North America – say, booking Los Angeles-San Francisco as a standalone leg – a business class boarding pass does not grant access to American Airlines' lounges.

For that, you'll need to be flying business class or first class on specific transcontinental flights (Los Angeles-New York and San Francisco-New York only), or have a same-day connecting flight to or from Australia, Central America, Mexico City, Europe, New Zealand, South America or Asia.

This is where having Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One or Chairman's Lounge status comes in handy, because you can use this for access to AA Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges (where available) even on domestic-only flights, while Qantas Club members can do the same for access to Admirals Club lounges.

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

3 comments

  • Nick  Sydney 348

    Nick Sydney 2

    7 Nov, 2018 01:48 pm

    Have tried the SYD LAX LHR route and its not too bad albeit longer than over Asia. Breaking things up at LAX at TBIT is painless.
    No member give thanks

  • Nazri Rahim

    Mokuni

    8 Nov, 2018 01:27 pm

    Good guide! Is there plans for another guide the other way around using AA to book Cathay, QF, JAL etc.?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    8 Nov, 2018 01:31 pm

    Hi Mokuni, not at this stage: Qantas Frequent Flyer is Australia's largest and most popular frequent flyer program, so it's a much bigger focus for us than AAdvantage.

    Those who are savvy enough to knowingly collect miles with AA instead of QFF will also most likely be savvy enough to know how to use those miles to book their flight, whereas these articles we're publishing on spending Qantas and Velocity points are aimed more for the 'average person'.
    Member who gave thanks

    Mokuni

Guest

19 Nov, 2018 10:31 am

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