Behind The Booking – Qatar & AA’s Rules Ruined My Perfect Award

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American Airlines   Airline tickets and cheap flights at AA.com

Introduction

AA Aadvantage is one of the most flexible and consumer friendly airline loyalty programs out there.  This is especially the case now that United and Delta have severely devalued their programs.  With that said, they do have certain weird restrictions on awards that can sometimes torpedo an otherwise great ticket.  Today that happened to me.

Five Rules

To start, lets recap the five rules of AA AAdvantage award bookings.

  • You can only stopover in a “North American Gateway City”. A stopover is more than four hours on a domestic flight or 24 hours on an international flight.
  • Your flight can not exceed American’s Maximum Permitted Mileage.
  • The airline that connects two award regions must publish a fare from the origin to the destination.
  • All travel must be completed within one year of booking.
  • You cannot transit through a 3rd region when going from one region to another with certain exceptions. (Ex. A to B via C).

MileValue has a more detailed explanation of the rules with examples.

Qatar_Airways_Boeing_777-300ER_A7-BAC

My Spoiled Itinerary

I am well aware of these rules and have had issues in the past with certain discrepancies with American’s policies, but for the most part I have learned how to avoid problems.  Today though, I had a wonderful itinerary all planned out.  I would fly on Qatar from Kochin, India to Doha and then to Abu Dhabi before flying on Etihad to Kathmandu, Nepal.  An award within the India/Middle region is 25,000 miles in Business Class.

This ticket would allow me to fly and review both the Qatar Airways and Etihad business class regional products as well as their respective home airport lounges.  I would then end in a culturally rich country that I have always wanted to visit. It sounded like a win to me!

Once I found space on the flights, I called into the friendly AA Platinum desk.  The first agent seemed annoyed that I was feeding her specific segments and the call mysteriously dropped.  After calling back to discover no record of my previous call, the second agent was friendly and priced out my award.  She said that it would cost 50,000 miles.

50,000 miles?  What?  I asked her to double check with her supervisor.  The first answer was that you cannot have a stopover outside of a North America Gateway City.  I said try again (my layovers are less than 24 hours so they comply with the rules) and this time she said they figured it out.  Qatar Airways doesn’t publish a fare from Kochin to Kathmandu. I verified on their site and she was right.

Even if you are flying within the same region, the carrier has to publish a fare from origin to destination.  Surprisingly, Qatar publishes fares from Kochin to cities around the globe, with the exception of the Middle East/India. (I don’t know why they are using Qatar and not Etihad’s routings, but it turns out that Etihad doesn’t publish a fare between the two city’s either.)

Conclusion

This is just another example of why it is important to know the rules and to be flexible with your time and miles.  In the end I decided that I will forego going to Nepal and instead spend a few more day in the United Arab Emirates with the option of taking the bus to Oman (another country high on my interest list) if I want to.  I just can’t justify spending the extra 25,000 miles for a couple of days in Nepal.

Have you ever had a perfect ticket killed by an airline’s obscure award booking rules?  Let me know in the comments!

 


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