US Airways or American Airline Miles to North Asia?

One of my readers asked a good question the other day, “Should I use US Airways or American Airline miles to North Asia?” Many of you might have lots of miles in both programs or one or the other.  I wanted to list some key points on deciding which miles to use.

Since US Airways just joined the Oneworld alliance, you can now use US Airways miles to book Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines to North Asia.  These two airlines are the best Oneworld airlines to get to North Asia.

US to North Asia Using AA Miles

+ One way trips permissible for 35/55/67.5K miles for economy/business/first class.

+ Easy to Collect AA Miles through credit cards such as Citi AA Platinum, AA Executive, and transfers from AMEX SPG.

+ Free date changes as long as destination and departure remain the same.

– $150 change fee, $75 close-in booking fee within 21 days

– Now $35 phone booking fee.

– No stopovers allowed

US to North Asia Using US Airways Miles

+ Roundtrip tickets on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines for 60K/110K/120K.  First Class for 120,000 miles roundtrip is an amazing deal.  I’ve yet to try CX First Class, but Japan Airlines first class is really nice with its tempurpedic beds!

+ One stopover or one open jaw.  You can get great value by stopping over in another city on the outbound or inbound, especially if you stop in Europe (see next point).

+ Route through a third region, aka US to Asia via Europe.  You can stop in Europe on the way to Asia and spend a few days there.  AA does not allow you to do so.




+ No close-in booking fee.  Cathay Pacific releases a good amount of last minute availability, so might be good for a last minute trip or emergency.

– No changes to award ticket once travel has started.  If you have a long trip like 1-2 months and took the first leg already, you can’t change your return.  If there is some kind of emergency, you would have to buy a new ticket.  I dislike this rule a lot.

– Roundtrip tickets only.  Sometimes it’s tough to find availability on roundtrip for Oneworld partners.  I like to mix and match AA and United miles at times.

– $150 change fee for any change including date changes.

– $50 unavoidable phone booking fee.

– Harder to accumulate miles by spending, easy to earn them through buy and share miles promotions.

– US Airways phone reps can be inexperienced.

My answer for whether to use US Airways miles or AA miles to North Asia is… it depends.  I know that is a lame answer, but it really depends if you are absolutely sure on your dates and award availability.  If you tend to change your dates a lot, I would choose to use American Airlines for free date changes.  On the other hand, if you are absolutely certain about your dates I would choose to book with US Airways Miles.  Both mileage programs require you to call and book over the phone, but I’ve found AA agents to be much more knowledgeable.  I value AA miles more than US Airways miles so I would try using US Airways miles if possible because they are worth less (not worthless).  

In a nutshell, use US Airways miles first if you can find availability and are sure about your dates.  Use AA miles if you change your dates often or if you can only find one way availability. If I’m given the opportunity to liquidate hard to use miles, I will usually try for it.