7 Quick Takeaways From American Airlines Eliminating “Saver” Award Travel

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. “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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. No-notice devaluation is the perfect example of a “quick takeaway”.

  2. I canceled and rebooked a Web Special 2 weeks ago from Fresno to LHR via PHX. Overnight Business class from Fresno to LHR is now 65,000 miles and the return day flight in MCE (looks like it will be a whole middle row of 4 seats for the spouse and I on the LHR-PHX flight) back to Fresno is 30,000 miles for a total of 95,000 miles. This is for an Easter Sunday departure arriving at LHR on the 10th which is a legal holiday in the UK. My previous Web Special for 21 March departure was 102,500 miles. I canceled and rebooked the day before my scheduled departure because the 7 day weather forecast included 3 straight cold rainy days. The cancel and rebook option is nice for last second use; but, of course I was lucky to find a Web Special with lower total miles when the cash fares were about $100 higher at Easter compared to mid-late March.

  3. Let’s see, when other airlines went fully dynamic, it was all the uproar. This chart is useless…there will be prices below and above it. It’s a huge devAAluAAtion, Even less transparent than other airlines.

  4. Interesting to see that transcon LAX-JFK business class is now 100,000 for most weekday and many Saturday flights, where it used to be 52,000, 62,500 or 97,500. But I did find some at 32,500 for last flight out to LAX on weeknights.

  5. How do these changes affect Business Extra Awards? Right now you need T or U class to book a Plan Ahead Award. It’s frustrating when WebSaver Awards price at less miles than a T or U class.

  6. I think the biggest short-term impact is that, for those of who don’t live in AA hubs, award pricing for partner carriers will be even more difficult.

    Last June I ticketed LAX-DOH-Africa and Africa-DOH-DFW in business using Qatar for travel last month. The DFW-SAN segment for the final leg we needed was not available in saaver for 7 months, and I was checking about once a week. It finally opened up in coach, about 6 weeks ahead of travel, but with a 10-hour layover in DFW. A few days later an earlier DFW-SAN flight opened up, which I changed to. And then a few days later an earlier flight opened up, involving only a 3-hour layover. Even though we were in coach for that last leg, and even though it involved more than a dozen calls and hours of web research, I was content.

    With the new rules, if this silly scenario were to play out again, we’d have to cancel and rebook the DOH-DFW segment in order to add the DFW-SAN leg, and the chance of the Qatar inventory immediately loading back into the availability is unpredictable, at best.

    I’m a 29-year AAdvantage member, with 12 continuous years as Exec Plat. Partner awards are generally the only value I find in the miles these days. Take that away that value and I will no longer find myself tied to AA.

  7. Are you sure about adding a partner segment to web special? I they use married segment logic which always thwarted me in the past.

    For example could never book MCO- MIA along with IB MIA-MAD.

    But who needs a good frequent flyer program or good service or seatback entertainment -l when you have a schedule!

    (The schedule is the product, which is a crappy product from LAX, JFK, etc),

  8. I’m not sure when this happened, but I’ve been finding it useless to look for T award space so I can book AA awards with avios. Now, it seems like BA will be able to book AA flights if the mileage price is cheaper than 12.5k miles. It makes expert flyer kind of useless for me now, as that was my main use case for it.

  9. If UA executives go to jail when making changes bad for public, Scott Kirby and Luc Bonda would receive two life sentences already.

  10. I never fly on AA when traveling internationally, by preference. Who would want to fly on an airline with the style of Palastine Ohio theme airlines when you can fly on any international carrier?

  11. @Diego Dave, at least for now, there are two very different types of awards: all-AA awards and partner awards. All-AA awards use the new rules, no changes. But if there is a non-AA flight, even if there are also AA flights, it’s a partner award and the old rules apply.

  12. @Nate I’m not sure what you mean. To my understanding, booking AA flights using BA Avios requires T/U/Z inventory on the AA flight, no change there.

  13. @Nate I’m not sure what you mean. To my understanding, booking AA flights using BA Avios requires T/U/Z inventory on the AA flight, no change there.

  14. @Beachfan – that’s backwards actually. Add an American flight to a partner award because any award with a partner is priced as a partner awrd and subject to partner award rules.

  15. I will be curious about how the part re releasing the legacy award space buckets to partners plays out. I redeem Avios for domestic AA flights and it seemed like inventory was already reduced vs years ago due to the rollout of web specials. Wondering if this will dry up even more now.

  16. I think thr IT has not had time to reprice the awards
    Expect the 6k to go away very soon
    Same with the low prices that are there now by accident

    And partner awards at a low price? forget it
    AA has easily adapted BA fees. Soon they can add partner rates that are well above this

    Cathay – costs a lot less and charges much lower fees (except on cancels)
    So I book an AA award on BA and closer to time once my dates are fixed, make a similar booking oc CX miles and cancel my AA trip for free
    Saves me 500$ a pop leaving US for UK

    Same story with VS – I use AF with lower fees or at times DL when possible
    UA has great last minute availability at 24 hrs
    So I find myself canceling VS for 55$ and booking UA with 5$ fees to UK
    Spend 55 and save $700

  17. Gary, that’s what I couldn’t do because of married segment rules. Both segments available, AA at the saver rate.

  18. Devaluations are a mark of a “top” in the economy. I remember when IHG went to dynamic rewards right before covid, only to… offer rooms for insanely low points during covid.

    Prediction: there will be a recession, and dynamic rewards will work in the customer’s favor.

  19. Gary must be like a pretzel this morning with the amount of bending he’s doing to spin this as positive. If Delta did this, the article would have the complete opposite tone

  20. @305 – positive? this is not positive. It is recognition of a devaluation *that already happened* and I’ve been reporting on for years, with only minor changes (like the elimination of expanded award availability for Executive Platinums) at this time.

    I think American Airlines would be amused by the take that I am somehow a cheerleader for them.

  21. @Beachfan – hang up call back. Married segments can apply to saver logic (saver space only available on a married basis) but generally all dynamically-priced awards are ‘married’ while if individual segments are available saver you can swap them… but many agents do not realize that any longer, since almost all AA awards are now dynamically priced and they’ve been warned over swapping segments on those.

  22. Gary, visibility of AA award inventory by partners remains problematic. Could you please write an article that discusses 1) finding AA award inventory on partner platforms and 2) how to book it. For example, Alaska and Qantas might show award inventory on a particular date, flight, and cabin class but BA doesn’t. With partner award inventory discovered on (say) Alaska, how does one book it via (say) BA? Thanks for the consideration.

  23. Bask Bank better hope this isn’t a devaluation – a lot riding there with big deposits based on the integrity of the premium travel value of AAdvantage

  24. @305 – positive? this is not positive.

    @Gary — Considering the subject matter (dynamic award pricing !), the fact you did not thunder about how it would “no longer be possible to get great value for AA award miiles” or deplore the demise of the fixed award chart, makes this post seem like a commendation or praise by comparison to what you wrote when other programs “transitioned” …

    That’s the double standard that I have been pointing out, like, forever…

  25. This is a horrible devaluation. AA is getting worse and worse. They want 291k “disloyalty points” for a business class ticket to Europe. Crazy.

  26. @DCS – Wrong. Because you still get great value from AAdvantage exactly the same way you did before, flying on partners and not flying solely on American.

  27. LOL! LOL! LOL!

    @Gary — Good try but you ain’t fooling anyone. The double standard has nothing to do with whether the changes are good or bad. In fact, your twisting yourself into a pretzel to make those changes seem like nothing is a pointless and delusional exercise because no one knows what AA awards will cost once the dynamic scheme deploys fully. As commenter @ffi observed rather astutely earlier, the AA IT may not even have had the time to reprice the awards, which are likely to look more like in the new chart than remain at 6k.

    The double standard is about how you predicted doom every time a hotel or airline program transitioned to dynamic award pricing, with statements like dynamic pricing means no longer getting great value for points“, in addition to vociferously deploring the demise of the program’s award chart. Back then, there were no caveats. Your judgement was swift and harsh: “With its adoption of dynamic award pricing, program XYZ has been irremediably gutted. It’s no longer possible to get great value for points !” In fact, you wrote something exactly like that about Marriott Bonvoy just two weeks or so ago — a dogmatic claim that I debunked mathematically by demonstrating that, at least for Hilton Honors’ implementation of it, dynamic award pricing does not have to be synonymous with “no longer getting great value for points.”

    And, yet, here we are! Because the program that you actively patronize finally did what we all knew was only a matter of time and adopted dynamic pricing, the standards by which you judged other programs that transitioned to the scheme no longer apply. It’s like, “There’s nothing to see here. Move along…”

    Well, you got way ahead of yourself declaring that “you still get great value from AAdvantage exactly the same way you did before” because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In the meantime, I welcome that you saw the light on the way to Damascus and have just converted to a rational thinker who does not automatically equate dynamic award pricing with devaluation. That is itself a small miracle ! 😉

  28. Cry all you want if you think AA is bad, check out UNITED

    @Bill: A UA 1K and Million Miler here. I am afraid you must be referring to or thinking of Jeff $mi$ek’s UA post-UA/CO merger, which is no more. What is now alive and kicking is the ‘new’ Oscar Munoz/Scott Kirby United — a different beast altogether. It’s had dynamic award pricing for a good while now and I cannot say that it’s affected my redemption pattern much, if at all, as my use of UA miles has always been for redeming for *A partner awards, which remain reasonably priced. Throw in UA’s novel, highly imaginative and flexible PlusPoints cabin upgrade instrument that makes the SWU seem like a historical relic, and I suggest you look elsewhere to get relief from AA’s continuing race to the bottom, which began before dynamic award pricing. 😉

  29. This is really a big screw-you to flyers home airport is not a OneWorld hub- the AA connecting segment redemption to a hub for an international standard redemption is no longer going to be free.

    For example- prior to April, an CLT-ORD-NRT award would be 1 award pricing at 35K on a mixed-carrier award (both AA segment CLT-ORD and JL ORD-NRT segments would book to “T” inventory).

    Now that AA flights are no longer able to book into “T”, it’s no longer possible to include an AA segment when your redemption has a partner flight. In the example above- this means having to cough up an additional 12.5K AA miles for the CLT-ORD AA conection on top of the 35K AA miles pricing for the ORD-NRT JL segment.

    What is stupider is that AA continues to offer “T” award inventory on that same CLT-ORD segment for other Oneworld FFP members to book (although one could theoretically soften the blow by using BA Avios 7.5K miles instead of forking out 12.5K AA miles for the CLT-ORD AA segment).

    I understand the logic of wanting to ape DL for dynamic pricing but I fail to understand why dynamic pricing requires killing the “T” backend inventory needed for AA + OneWorld mix carrier redemptions 1 award pricing.

  30. @ultrasoul, T, U, and Z remain available (although as usual quite rare). You just can’t book them on an all-AA award. If you search for CLT-NRT and there happens to be T or U available CLT-ORD or CLT-DFW and JL availability ORD-TYO or DFW-TYO, the CLT-ORD or CLT-DFW will show up just as usual.

  31. I read through some of the crap AA tries to push on you…anything and everything they send out that starts with “in order to serve you better…” means you are about to get screwed.

    You are best off burning up all your miles as soon as you can because they aren’t gaining value. Of course, you will lose your elite status by not spending any money but what value is it anymore anyway????

  32. Book your award travel as ONE WAYS. So much easier to change and to cancel and rebook when a one way mileage redemption falls. I do it all the time. If it was a roundtrip I’d have to reprice the entire trip.

    Also, say what you will, DL has the WORST redemption rates. AA to Europe in off peak is 22,500 with partner/AA awards or 25,000 for AA. Check DL against any of these itineraries. I dare say you will NEVER find those rates on DL. (UA gets close) And, check close in to travel date. Be flexible.

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