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American Airlines Mileage Program

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Well, I finally got on board (so to speak) and signed up for the American Airlines mileage program. I have a few flights to my credit and got the AA Citibank card as well, which I use for everything I can and pay off weekly (so no interest). I now have about 50,000 miles to my credit in less than 3 months.

Now the question - (boy do I feel stupid-I have an MBA but can't figure out how this stuff works!).

I have read over the literature they sent me about how to redeem the miles but I am still confused. I am unsure about how to use the miles if I book online - and how to know if I am even allowed to use the miles. When I signed up for the program (knowing nothing) I was naive enough to think that my miles could be used to get me a ticket on any flight, but now I think I understand that the seats available to mileage users are limited to certain flights (based on posts I have seen here) - and that there are a finite number of seats available to purchase with miles - once they are gone, they are gone??

I would appreciate a simple "how to" on the following:

1. While searching flights on the AA internet site, how do I know if there are any seats available on the flight to use my mileage on?

2. Is there some "trick" to getting available mileage seats before they are gone - some webpage I can look at that would tell me what seats are available for what flights as soon as they are announced?

3. Am I better off to just call AA and have them explain it to me rather than trying to figure it out (ie-Is it too complicated a process for you to explain it to me?)

Thanks for your help.

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