Fly Qantas business class using American Airlines points

By Chris Chamberlin, July 21 2017
Fly Qantas business class using American Airlines points

Here's a tip that's going to make your business travel budget go a lot further – and ensure you continue to fly in style.

It's a way to fly Qantas business class from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo for only $2,000 return.

Also on the menu: a $2,000 business class round-trip from Sydney to Shanghai, Beijing or Bangkok.

This isn’t some shonky scam: it’s all above-board and well within the rules. It's just that you'll be taking advantage of a 'travel hack' by purchasing frequent flyer miles from American Airlines' AAdvantage scheme, then using those points to secure your business class seat.

The cost of purchasing the points you’d need to book a flight is roughly half the price of actually buying a ticket on the same flight.

Take Sydney-Hong Kong as an example.

Book a business class flight at retail cost and you’d be paying between $4,260 and $7,460 for a return trip in mid-October 2017 (depending on the specific dates you travel and the type of fare you select).

Or, you could book the same journey for 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles – which you can currently purchase for around A$2,370 (US$1,885) as part of AA’s latest ‘buying miles’ promotion, or when bought in larger quantities, can reduce the price per trip to just A$1,810!

You’ll be asked to pay a small amount when you redeem those miles to cover any taxes and other fees applicable to your journey, which vary from flight to flight, but commonly clock in at $50-$200 on these routes.

Assuming you’re hit with $200 in co-payments, that takes your total booking cost to A$2,570 if buying enough miles for one trip, or to $2,010 if buying points for multiple trips.

Compared to the commercial ticket prices above, that’s a saving of $1,690 to $5,450 compared to the normal asking price.

This trick also works for other Oneworld member airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Malaysia Airlines – and on other routes such as Australia to North America, the Middle East or Europe, but availability on these flights can be tough, so we’re sticking with Asia.

You can buy AA miles and use them to book Cathay Pacific flights too
You can buy AA miles and use them to book Cathay Pacific flights too

Before you dive in, here’s what you need to know about buying American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book discounted business class flights, and how to check whether you’ll be able to use those miles on any given flight before you buy them.

Buying AA miles for low-cost business class flights: the basics

Firstly, we should flag that to buy AAdvantage miles outright, you’ll need to have been an AA member for at least 30 days before making your purchase – and that AA’s current ‘buying miles’ offer ends on August 1 2017 (Sydney time).

That means if you’ve followed Australian Business Traveller’s previous advice and have already joined the AAdvantage program, you’re in pole position to take advantage of this deal: but if not, you’ll still benefit by joining AAdvantage for free now, as you’ll be ready to pounce when AA releases its next offer.

Assuming you’re eligible, AA’s current offer provides a fixed number of bonus points when buying specific numbers of miles, with a 10% discount on the usual purchase price thrown in as well.

For instance, you could fetch 80,000 AA miles – enough for one return business class jaunt to Asia – by purchasing 65,000 base miles, receiving 15,000 bonus miles on top and unlocking a discount of 10%, making the final purchase price US$1,885 (A$2,371) for 80,000 miles.

Or, for two return trips (being 160,000 miles), you could buy 115,000 base miles, receive 45,000 bonus miles on top and pay US$3,312 (A$4,175) overall, including the current 10% discount, lowering the cost per trip to A$2,088:

AA limits the number of base miles you can buy every year to 150,000, but also offers the best bonus when buying that full slog – so for three return trips (requiring 240,000 miles), the most economical option is to buy 250,000 miles instead: being 150,000 base miles + 100,000 bonus miles.

For that, you’d part with US$4,311 (A$5,432), taking your cost per return business class trip to just A$1,810!

Miles can be bought via the American Airlines website (and yes, they take AMEX), and will usually appear in your AAdvantage account within eight hours of purchase, ready to spend on flights at the pointy end.

Spending your AA miles to unlock low-cost business class flights

Given how cheap these return business class flights can be, there’s a catch – and a very important one at that.

Because you’re now using frequent flyer points to book your journey rather than purchasing a normal ticket, you’ll only be able to spend those points on flights which have frequent flyer rewards available.

That’s fine if you plan ahead or are flexible with your travel dates, but it’s an important distinction to make, because some flights may have no frequent flyer rewards available at all, or those which were released have already been snapped up by other travellers.

Fortunately, there’s a way to check whether any given flight has frequent flyer rewards available before you buy your miles – allowing you confirm whether you’ll be able to use those miles to secure a suitable flight.

Start by visiting the ‘find flights’ page on AAdvantage website, login to your mileage account if prompted, and then search for the flight you want to book.

We’ll search for Sydney-Hong Kong on April 18 2018 for one passenger – simple enough – switching the ‘class’ option from ‘main cabin’ to ‘business’ for business class, and swapping out ‘American Airlines’ for ‘all airlines’ at the bottom of the search page:

The next screen displays a week-by-week search. Dates which have ‘40K’ in the corresponding box have at least one business class reward option available (being 40,000 miles one-way), while those which have empty boxes or a lower number of miles (such as 30K) do not have business class rewards available:

We’ll stick with April 18, and can see that Qantas is offering reward bookings on both its QF127 (Boeing 747) and QF117 (Airbus A330) flights that day:

Clicking on our desired flight, we’re given another chance to confirm the details, and can also see that the cash amount payable in addition to the miles needed is US$71.50 (A$90.60).

This confirms that miles can be used to book this flight – and firms-up co-payment amount required – so from here, you could proceed to enter in the passenger details and complete the booking, or if you haven’t yet purchased miles, could now do so with the confidence that those miles can be spent.

The trick above works for checking availability on Qantas, British Airways, Airberlin, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia and Royal Jordanian, but for other AA partners like Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and JAL, you’d need to call to check availability (and to book).

Finally, as with most bookings made using frequent flyer points, you won’t earn points or status credits when taking these discounted business class flights: another notable difference to buying a regular business class ticket.

You can still attach your frequent flyer details to the reservation to enjoy any additional benefits of your frequent flyer status – such as Qantas First Lounge access for Qantas Platinum members booked to fly with a Oneworld airline – you just won’t earn status credits towards your membership.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 120

AA website quite often display "fanthom availability" that disappears once you select both legs of you trip.

If you see the flights you like, make sure you can make it all the way to the "trip price" screen that lists both miles and dollars you need to pay to book.
If you call AAdvantage they can keep the itinerary on hold for 5 days, which is enough to purchase enough miles to pay for it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Feb 2015

Total posts 111

This is very true, more often than not actually the flight you pick then becomes unavailable the further you continue with the process. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2017

Total posts 53

AA is full of QF phantom award seats, actually it is far harder to redeem AA on QF because it only opens 330 days ahead, way later than QFF (where most people would haves used their QFF points for the precious premium cabin reward seats)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2017

Total posts 13

Something that isn't mentioned is that you can add on a business class leg with qantas before the Asian flight and also a business class leg from Hong Kong with say cathay as long as your initial and last legs arrive and depart within 24 hours of your Asian flight. So for the same 40000 points  and only an extra $40 in taxes I have flown Broome Melbourne Hong Kong Tokyo all in business with a stopover of 17 hours in Melbourne  in Melbourne and a stopover of 20 hours  in Hong Kong for example. Plenty of time to enjoy both cities also

You can always check QF award availability on the JAL Mileage Bank website which is very reliable. 


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 68

Are these types of posts really beneficial? When you highlight to the masses these opportunities exist, it tends to end up as a points devaluation. 

These articles benefit no-one; anyone that reads it already knows, but you are publicising the ability to 'rort' the system.

21 Sep 2011

Total posts 65

I can see where you are coming from. UA and AV both recently significantly increased redemption rates for Aussie Star routes following similar articles on this site.


We're happy with our article for several reasons, and while we wouldn't normally respond in this detail, we feel it might be beneficial for both yourself and other readers who may have similar feelings to understand the process behind it.

Firstly, these promotions generate serious revenue for the frequent flyer programs that offer them, which is why they run them in the first place and email their members every time a new deal pops up, because they want people to buy points. (When we say 'serious revenue', we're talking millions to tens of millions of dollars per promotion, which comes at almost no immediate cost to the airline.)

Secondly, people can only use miles to book reward seats, and airlines generally only allow a seat to be booked using frequent flyer points where their best estimates show that a full-fare-paying passenger is unlikely to purchase that seat. So, rather than having a seat fly empty with zero revenue, AA 'buys' that seat from the airline at a negotiated price when the AAdvantage member redeems their points, which brings more revenue to the operating airline than would have otherwise been earned, and gives AA a margin (the price the traveller pays to buy the points less the cost of buying a seat with the points), which AAdvantage then books as profit.

(If an airline thinks a fare-paying customer will buy that seat, they won't offer it as a reward booking in the first place.)

Thirdly, airlines do revise their frequent flyer redemption rates from time to time, but this is a business decision for the airline to make - and as we've seen with both AA and United, the 'new' rates are still far more competitive than many Asia Pacific programs, including Qantas, Velocity and KrisFlyer (AA is 40,000 miles Australia-SE Asia in business class under the new rates and United will be 50,000, whereas Qantas and Velocity are around the 60/65k mark and KrisFlyer is 58k miles for the same thing: and none of these three programs sell miles in bulk, yet their rates are actually still higher).

Finally, the people who do this generally aren't the people who would have otherwise paid full price for a business class ticket - rather, they'd have paid much less for a discounted economy ticket (or perhaps premium economy), with a few exceptions. AusBT has discussed the 'buying miles' concept in an interview with United's Senior Vice President Worldwide Sales, and our understanding is that airlines are better off overall when people buy miles to redeem for travel (spending more than they otherwise would have for the same journey, and only occupying a seat in a premium cabin that would have otherwise flown empty, rather than a seat elsewhere on the aircraft for a lower price, which remains free to be sold to another paying customer).

We think that pretty much covers it! :)


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 68

Thank you for your comprehensive response. All fair points. 

And don't get me wrong; I love this site and your articles (almost religiously so). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jul 2012

Total posts 120

How is this 'rorting' the system?

Buying miles is perfectly legal and fully in line with T&Cs of American Airlines.
The fact that this devalues everybody else's pile of Qantas points is a problem created by AA, not by AusBT...


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 68

I used the term rort due to the article reference to it being a travel hack.

Clearly it's within the rules. I am not arguing that. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2013

Total posts 34

What happened to the original clickbait headline, why the change?

Kim: Adjusting headlines, text, featured images and story placement is a regular day-to-day task for all news websites, including AusBT.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2013

Total posts 34

What happened to the original clickbait headline, why the change?


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 May 2013

Total posts 34

I feel like that is a political way of saying:

people probably thought they could get an effortless $2000 return business class ticket to Asia until they read they had to buy points and hope for availability  (or hope for availability and buy points)

Not at all. We've explained how flights can be booked for that price in the story (inclusive of any taxes and other fees), and we're happy with both our old and new headlines.

If you have any further questions regarding the presentation of the article, you're welcome to email our editor at [email protected] - but in line with AusBT's comment policy, it's time to bring the discussion back to the content and topic of the article rather than the presentation of the article, which you can raise by email.


03 May 2013

Total posts 521

Chris this all looks and sounds great however in reality it's very difficult if not impossible as per recent experience to book a QF flight with AA to Asia. On QF FF site there was plenty of award availability but when checking exact same dates and flights the AA website kept saying "this flight is no longer available" VERY frustrating after trying a day or two. Ended up calling AA and they told me they are aware of this and are in process of removing QF awards. Ironically I couldn't see any CX options as these don't appear on line but there was plenty of availability with CX which was easily booked via telephone. All in all a complete mess trying to book QF metal using AA points!

20 Jul 2017

Total posts 2

Thanks Chris,
Called Qantas and apparently there are some Japanese regulations affecting domestic flights. Meaning that you can't book domestic flight with the future flight dates that exceed 2 months in advance. That's pretty interesting 'coz my MEL->NRT flights is already booked. Not sure if it's something that imposed only on Qantas reward booking process or something global due to Japanese domestic flights regulations.

13 Mar 2014

Total posts 12

Hi, Awesome inputs! Can you book Qatar flights (using American FFlyer points) on the American Airlines website or do you have to call AA's customer care to

view availability and book Qatar flights?

You'll need to call for Qatar (and you can book Etihad too over the phone).

13 Nov 2015

Total posts 51

You can see Qatar flights on AA's award search menu. At least that was the case last year I booked a FF award Qatar BKK-DOH-FRA  on AA's website.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

It is all cool, though it is almost impossible to secure Business seat on QF metal to Asia. And to rest of the Globe for this merit. Thankfully as least for now CX seats is significantly easier to get.

24 Jul 2017

Total posts 4

Chris really appreciate this post. Hoping that it is easier than some have mentioned in getting a seat with AA awards. Cheers! Lisa

It's certainly not impossible if you plan ahead - for instance, in the week we searched above for our screenshot (the one with the 40K boxes), five of the seven days had at least one Qantas business class reward seat available from Sydney to Hong Kong. You may also find good availability if you connect through another city, such as Sydney-Brisbane-Hong Kong which the AA website can suggest (pairing reward availability of a Sydney-Brisbane flight with a reward available on a Brisbane-Hong Kong flight, on a day where no Sydney-Hong Kong rewards might be available).

20 Jun 2014

Total posts 59

The availability of award seats with AA miles has been a sore point with CX Marco Polo members for years. 

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