7 Highest Value AAdvantage Miles Redemptions (Using Math)

Browse most points and miles blogs and you’ll find endless posts about the best ways to redeem loyalty currencies. I’ve found these useful in the past, but I’ve also been disappointed that they don’t quantify the value of one redemption versus another. I accept that, on a personal level, value isn’t the best way to think about redemptions–both JAL and Etihad first class are amazing experiences, so who cares that JAL is technically a better value for my points?–but given I don’t know every reader’s preference, I think it’s a good framework for ranking the best ways to spend miles.

Ranking methodology 

I’m ranking the best uses of American AAdvantage Miles by calculating exactly how many cents per point (CPP) you’ll get out of each redemption. For example, if a flight that costs $1,000 can be booked for 10,000 miles, then the value for that redemption is 10 CPP ($1,000/10,000 miles) because each mile I use is essentially buying me $0.10 of the flight.

In order to come up with this list, I found the average price over the next six months of nearly 500 routes bookable with AAdvantage Miles and to minimize the effect of last-minute price hikes, I excluded the next 14 days of prices. I then divided the average price (minus taxes and fees) by the points cost of the flight to find a CPP value for each flight.

For the sake of variety, I haven’t repeated airlines here, even though some had multiple flights with phenomenal value. I also want this ranking to be actionable (i.e. readers should be able to go out and actually book the flights in this list) so I only included flights that have decent award availability (four or more seats) over the next six months.

A small caveat

Finally, keep in mind that this is not a ranking of the best flights you can redeem for AAdvantage points. This is a ranking of the best value flights you can book. Number three on our list, for example, is an American Airlines first class flight, which is an undeniably worse product than others on the list but ranks above them because the ticket is extremely expensive. That’s the drawback of a ranking system that measures value this way. Overall, though, I think that it gets things right more often than not.

Without further ado, enjoy my (somewhat) scientific ranking of the best value American AAdvantage Miles redemptions. 

1. Japan Airlines First Class New York to Tokyo (JFK-HND)

Average Cost: $15,412

Points Cost: 80,000

19.3 CPP

This is an insanely valuable redemption and a great way to get the most out of your points. By comparison, Chase, an American Airlines transfer partner, lets you redeem Ultimate Rewards points for one cent apiece, which means you could exchange 80,000 points for $800–about the cost of a bottle of the champagne that JAL serves in first class.

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2. Qatar Airlines Business Class Philadelphia to Doha (PHL-DOH)

Average Cost: $10,361

Points Cost: 70,000

14.8 CPP

I can’t think of many better ways to spend 70,000 AAdvantage Miles than for a twelve and half hour journey in Qsuites. Excellent privacy, phenomenal food, and top-notch service mean this business class product outclasses many first class products.

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3. American Airlines First Class Los Angeles to Sydney (LAX-SYD)

Average Cost: $13,020

Points Cost: 90,000

14.4 CPP

Though American Airlines’ first class is often fairly criticized as uncompetitive, it’s still a comfortable way to fly 15 and a half hours to Australia and a good opportunity to try out the product before AA permanently phases out its first class cabin.

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4. Etihad Airlines First Class Washington to Abu Dhabi (IAD-AUH)

Average Cost: $18,650

Points Cost: 130,000

14.3 CPP

130,000 AAdvantage miles is a hefty award price, but a relative steal compared to the eye-popping $18,650 average price tag of this 13-hour flight from Washington Dulles to Abu Dhabi. Though it’s operated by the 787 and not Etihad’s famous A380s, I took the flight in the opposite direction and it was sublime. It’s important to note that although AA’s site doesn’t show Etihad availability (notice that the screenshot below is from Air Canada’s site), Etihad award tickets are bookable over the phone.

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5. British Airways First Class London to Houston (LHR-IAH)

Average Cost: $11,271

Points Cost: 85,000

12.5 CPP

Historically, British Airways’ first class was not very good. That seems to be changing and it’s now a relatively salubrious way to cross the Atlantic. The highlight for me was British Airways’ first class lounge at Heathrow, the Concorde Room, which features excellent a la carte food and displays the nose cap of the last Concorde to ever fly. My calculations account for the extremely high taxes and fees—$687.55—associated with this flight but keep those in mind if you plan to book this.

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6. Qantas Business Class Sydney to Tokyo (SYD-HND)

Average Cost: $4,907

Points Cost: 40,000

12.1 CPP

AAdvantage redemption rates for flights between Asian and Oceanian destinations are excellent. Case in point: this 10-hour, widebody flight from Sydney to Tokyo in business class costs just 40,000 points, an extraordinary value.

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7. Finnair Business Class Dallas to Helsinki (DFW-HEL)

Average Cost: $5,911

Points Cost: 57,500

10.3 CPP

AAdvantage redemption rates for flights between Asian and Oceanian destinations are excellent. Case in point: this 10-hour, widebody flight from Sydney to Tokyo in business class costs just 40,000 points, an extraordinary value.

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Honorable mentions

Because I didn’t want to repeat airlines, a few great redemptions were left out. The three best tickets were all Qatar Airlines first class. In order of best value, they are:


Average Cost: $9,409

Points Cost: 100,000

9.4 CPP

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Average Cost: $3,770

Points Cost: 40,000

9.3 CPP

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Average Cost: $4,299

Points Cost: 50,000

8.5 CPP

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That caps my attempt at a systematic ranking of the highest value redemptions for AAdvantage Miles. At the end of the day, from Japan Airlines first class to Finnair business class, these are all great ways to spend miles and their value depends on your personal preferences–if you already have a vacation to Helsinki booked, then the Finnair flight is a better redemption for you, despite being technically lower value than others on the list. All this is to say that while this ranking is a good jumping-off point for figuring out how to spend points and miles, value is ultimately in the eye of the flier. De gustibus non est disputandum.

  1. When is the last time someone was actually able to find bookable availability in First on the JFK-HND route? In my experience that redemption is a unicorn – and I’ve looked frequently.

    1. If you’re willing to book last minute there’s lots out there. Right now I’m seeing availability from JFK to HND on 4/30, 4/28, 5/4, and 5/9. I’m seeing availability from JFK to NRT on 4/30, 5/1, 5/2, and 5/3. I also see 8 more flights from LAX and SFO to HND over the next 7 days.

  2. Did you price cash ticket one-way or half of round trip? Assuming the former, which would be somewhat misleading. Most airlines charge a premium for two one-way over round trip but magnitude of the premium varies widely between airlines. Finnair tends to be a much smaller one-way premium than say BA but BA round trip cash tickets are often relatively cheap.

    1. Your assumption is correct–the average prices I’m quoting are for one way tickets. I totally see your point and I thought about using round trip prices and splitting the average in half but ultimately decided that method would be more confusing and end up undervaluing points. Also, if I did go in that direction, even though PPC values would be lower, relative value (i.e. position within the ranking) wouldn’t change all that much (other than for Finnair redemptions, which would probably become relatively less valuable and move down the list).

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