After United announced the elimination of their award charts and introduction of dynamic award pricing, following Delta’s footsteps, I asked American their plans and their statement seemed (to me, at least) to confirm that they too would move in a similar direction.
I pointed out that as well,
- American has been making award space available on a fare basis since at least late 2017. That is, they don’t price the awards dynamically but they seem to do dynamic availability, an award has a fare value to ‘buy’ the flight from revenue management. That’s the first piece to pricing awards dynamically and is effectively what American has been doing with connecting coach availability.
- American’s discounted web specials starting at 5000 miles book into a broader inventory than saver awards.
One Mile at a Time adds that the airline’s new award booking tool appears built for dynamic pricing. It doesn’t distinguish between saver and anytime awards when displaying prices. This is how they plan to display award costs going forward – this new tool is the only one that shows premium economy awards, they didn’t invest in displaying those via the old award calendar which is based on shopping for ‘types’ of awards.
Now JonNYC has weighed in, suggesting that dynamic award pricing is coming to American. His sourcing on these things is usually excellent, although he doesn’t give us detail just lets us know that his little birds are telling him this is going to happen.
I saw that both Gary and Ben in recent days have explored (and all but predicted) AA going in the direction of DL/UA w/ award pricing.
I hadn't followed along, but here's what I'm now getting.. pic.twitter.com/DwwCldMoyj
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) April 9, 2019
I believe that award charts are crucial to the value proposition of frequent flyer programs. At Delta the move to opaque pricing has also meant rapid inflation, especially for the best awards.
It’s worth pointing out though that for American in particular could solve at least four problems relative to how awards are handled today. Since I always want to explore ideas contrary to my own, it seems worth laying them out:
- Award availability on American’s flights has lagged competitors since the US Airways merger though it moved up a bit in 2018, according to data filed with the SEC. This will help availability, though it isn’t likely to provide members outsized value.
- I tend not to use American miles to fly American, but to travel on their partners. If partner awards continue to be based on a chart (as United promises), and if more seats are combinable with partner awards as a result of this change, it will actually make it easier to connect to awards. I’ve found myself having to buy American Airlines tickets to connect to partner awards because the domestic saver space hasn’t been there. This could save me hundreds of dollars on my international partner awards.
Have to Connect From My Home City to Fly the Etihad First Apartment
- It could also save a lot of hassle because if you do not sell the revenue ticket inside the award reservation you won’t be able to through-check luggage on American. Greater domestic availability could solve that.
Easier to Check Bags Connecting to Cathay Pacific
- Finally it could make changing awards much easier compared to the current married-segment approach to availability where a whole itinerary must be available rather than just a segment you’re looking to change, although whether this improves or not depends on the implementation.
An American in Paris
I’m not looking forward to this, but I’m hopeful that partner award prices don’t change for awhile and that perhaps American (and United) can be convinced to be transparent about partner pricing going forward even as they price their own flights dynamically.
That is of course where the best value lies today from both programs.