Tips on Maximizing your American Miles before the Merger

As noted in many travel blogosphere, US Airways and American Airlines are formally merging their operations on March 30, 2014. After this date, both companies will move forward to merge their award charts together and the combined airline will be a member of the Oneworld Alliance. As American was already a Oneworld partner, the change won't be as great as US Airways, but it's very likely that many of the "sweet spots" of American's award chart will be phased out after the merger's completion. Much like we advised to book award before United's devaluation date of January 31, I think it's a good idea to front-load future travel while deals are still out there under the existing American award chart. Here are some of the best miles deals that you should lock in if you have the miles to do it:

1. South Asia in First Class: 135,000 miles for a roundtrip first class redemption from the US to South Asia on Cathay Pacific is one of the best values out there right now. To compare, these seats routinely sell for $15,000+ retail although I fail to see why anyone would pay that ridiculous sum of money. However, with the new devaluation of United miles, a similar redemption on a Star Alliance partner would cost 280,000 United miles.

2. Off Peak Awards: American offers interesting deals to various locations around the world for a discount of 5,000 to 20,000 miles off of normal redemption prices during "off-peak" times. Unfortunately, these awards are only available for coach level redemptions, but 40,000 mile roundtrip awards to deep South America and all of Europe in the off season are inarguably slamming deals. Other destinations offered with the off-peak awards also include Japan, Korea, the Caribbean, and domestic flights as well. Check this page for the skinny: http://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/free-ticket-award-chart.jsp

In part two, I'll go into a few more awards that I think are on the chopping block after the merger and are a good idea to book now.