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American Airlines is in the process of updating its long-haul, widebody fleet with premium economy seating. Now that most of the fleet is completed (only the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner is yet to finish), the airline made it a priority to add the option to redeem miles for this upgraded economy class cabin.

This is a great option for those that don’t have enough miles for business class or prefer to splurge with miles on an enhanced economy experience rather than fly basic economy. Lie-flat beds? No. But improved dining and better recline in wider seats? Yes.

Be sure to pack your travel credit card since premium economy awards are now available for many international cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Tokyo, and Auckland, just to name a handful.

How much do award flights cost?

Awards cost 40,000 miles each way between the continental U.S. and either Europe or deep South America (cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile, for example). Awards between the continental U.S. and Asia go for 50,000 miles each. For comparison, business class awards for the former are 57,500 miles each way and 70,000 miles to Asia Region 2 (Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, for example) for the latter.

Economy class awards between the continental U.S. and Europe cost 30,000 miles each way most of the year, but dip to 22,500 during off-peak periods. This means that the cost seems to be almost in the middle of economy and business class awards. These are “saver” level prices and are not as easy to find as higher-priced awards.

Perks and Other Items to Watch Out For

For these prices, you get enhanced meals (similar to meals in domestic first class) served all on one tray with options from a printed menu. While they are served on proper ceramic dishes, drinks and servingware are usually plastic.

Other perks include a larger pillow and blanket from Casper, amenity kit, noise-reducing headphones, and of course, a wider seat with better recline. A large entertainment screen with power and USB outlets is conveniently available. Those booking premium economy awards can check two bags for free and take advantage of priority boarding. But they do not get free lounge access like business class passengers.

Keep in mind that premium economy seats are in a separate cabin from economy and offer more benefits than booking a Main Cabin Extra seat with more leg room. These awards can be booked online although you need to use the new award tool to find them.

If you go through the American home page (for now), it does not show premium economy awards. You can also use Expert Flyer, which seems more on the ball than AA when it comes to updating their website, to search for premium economy award space.


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