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may 14 2009

Redeeming your miles just got easier

We're accustomed to hearing how airlines have yet again made it more difficult for loyalty members to redeem frequent flier miles. But American Airlines' recent revamping of its program did just the opposite, greatly increasing the chances you can get a reward ticket out of your miles.

American's new feature is called One-Way Flex Awards. The name pretty much says it all: You can now book one-way reward flights, with more flexibility than in the past. Most airlines—and American, too, until recently—typically only allow frequent fliers to trade in miles for full round trips. The airlines know very well that many travelers never reach the mileage level to get a round trip, so the policy in effect limits the number of reward seats they give away. But now, American AAdvantage program members can use miles to book one-way tickets, and only starting at 12,500 miles for domestic flights—half of what it takes to get a domestic round trip.

As for the flexibility part of the program, American lets customers use their miles in all sorts of booking scenarios. You can obviously use miles just for a one-way ticket. You can also book a rewards seat in first or business class for one part of your trip, and then in economy on the other leg. (Usually, reward flights must be booked in their entirety in the same class of service.)

What's more, American has made glancing over all of these permutations and scenarios easy with an improved reward flight calendar (shown at this demo). On one screen, you can eyeball different dates, availability in various classes of service, and the number of miles each option would cost you—which is much more handy than plugging in dates a pair at a time and crossing your fingers, hoping something's available.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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