American Airlines has eliminated its ‘saver’ and ‘anytime’ awards. Now when you’re using American’s miles to fly American Airlines, the only option is web special awards, which have been renamed Flight Awards. Nothing else changes at this time, though a number of things flow from this decision.
Most awards were already web specials. There’s a new award chart, but it doesn’t provide very much information. Overall I consider the change negative, but mostly just recognizing past devaluations rather than representing a new devaluation.
Here are 7 key things to understand about the change:
- Award prices will often be lower than what the award chart shows should be the case. They have published a “starting from” price that isn’t actually the lowest price. You can still book some domestic coach flights starting at 6,000 miles even though the chart says the lowest price is 7,500. The chart says domestic first class to Alaska starts at 60,000 miles one way when in fact you can book such flights starting at 30,000 miles.
That means the new award chart isn’t very helpful – it is neither the price you can expect to find, nor the lowest price. But they haven’t actually changed the dynamic award prices at all for American Airlines travel at this point. They’ve just renamed web special (most awards) to Flight Awards.
- Partner awards haven’t changed. Booking an AAdvantage award for travel on a partner (like Qatar Airways, Qantas, British Airways, etc.), or for travel on a partner and American Airlines, works the same way as before. Those award charts are still in place and haven’t changed. Award rules remain the same. Even the inventory ‘buckets’ (T, U, Z) remain in place.
- No changes to awards are permitted after booking. But there’s a way around this! American Airlines web specials didn’t allow changes. If you wanted to make a change you’d have to cancel the award and redeposit miles (which is free) and then start over. And current pricing may be higher!
Most American Airlines flight awards were booked as web specials which didn’t allow changes already. But there’s no longer an award type for all-American Airlines travel which allows changes at all. However changes are still permitted under the old rules for partner awards.
If you want an award traveling on American Airlines that allows for changes, such as changes to a specific flight time or to a routing, make sure to include a partner on the booking. If it’s a domestic award, include an Alaska Airlines or JetBlue segment. If it’s to London on America, add (say) a British Airways, Finnair or Iberia segment. If it’s to Qatar, add a short segment within the Mideast on Qatar Airways.
Sometimes (infrequently) saver awards are less expensive than web specials, now renamed Flight Awards, and this would allow you to get that lower price and also to retain things like changes to date and time or dropping a flight segment as long as your origin and destination remain in the same region.
- Booking award travel on American by partners like British Airways and Etihad hasn’t changed. American is still publishing the same ‘saver award inventory’ as before. They just aren’t letting AAdvantage members book those awards at saver pricing, since that chart is gone.
- “Extra award availability” for top elites has been eliminated. That was ‘extra saver award inventory’ and saver awards are no longer being booked. This is a change to an elite benefit without notice.
- Awards on American Airlines for travel between regions other than North American become more expensive. They are no longer maintaining special pricing for things like ‘Europe to Asia via North America’ or “Asia to South America via North America.” Where there are two long haul flights involved, those are priced as two awards – the chart involves travel to and from North America. Asia to Europe via North America would be Asia to North America plus North America to Europe.
- Upgrade awards haven’t changed at all. The only change is the elimination of saver and anytime awards, and the things that go with those. Upgrades work the same as before – either using miles and a cash co-pay (and no change in the number of miles required) or an upgrade instrument like a systemwide upgrade certificate.
I still expect more devaluation in the future, both American Airlines redemption prices to drift upward and the other shoe to drop on partner awards.
The new award chart shows prices for travel on American Airlines as being much higher than travel on partner airlines. For instance a business class flight to Tokyo on American Airlines appears to ‘start at’ 95,000 miles while a business class flight to Tokyo on Japan Airlines actually costs just 60,000 miles. That doesn’t seem sustainable.