American Airlines Award Travel Pricing Is Unfair To Many AAdvantage Members

American Airlines eliminated saver and anytime award travel in favor of dynamic pricing. And always and everywhere that airlines have done this, they’ve devalued their miles. I don’t think AAdvantage members realize how much their miles are devalued, though, if they live in an American Airlines hub and are trying to redeem for non-stop flights.

Here’s how it used to work. If a saver award seat was available, the price of the award was determined by the regions you were traveling between. A business class award between anywhere in North America and anywhere in Australia cost 80,000 miles each way.

  • For instance, whether you flew Los Angeles – Sydney or Philadelphia – Los Angeles – Sydney the price was 80,000 miles.

  • In fact, people often felt like they were getting a better deal flying Philadelphia – Los Angeles – Sydney for 80,000 miles because they got more premium cabin flying without having to spend extra miles. (Indeed some frequent flyer programs priced awards based on distance, so more travel cost more.)

  • American’s new award chart says business class from the U.S. to Australia ‘starts at’ 95,000 miles. So when the cheapest seats are available that’s the price you should expect it to cost – that’s literally what the airline tells you.

The cheapest I generally see American Airlines business class on their non-stop Los Angeles – Sydney flight is 223,000 miles one-way.

However if you’re connecting you’ll find it much cheaper. That includes your flight to Los Angeles and the very same flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Let’s have a look at December 5. American is offering business class one way from Charlotte to Australia starting at 60,000 miles.

But if you want to start that same business class trip in Los Angeles – taking the same overwater flight! – it’s 223,000 miles.

You might want to defend American Airlines here, and I’m open to hearing it. My first thought was, “it’s a revenue-based program now, and people might be willing to pay more for the non-stop flight” and argue that it’s therefore fair for American to charge a mileage premium for non-stop flights too? That might not get you to almost four times as many miles, but ok.

Here’s the cost of that non-stop flight if paying cash today:

It turns out that American Airlines connections from Charlotte are substantially more expensive when buying a ticket.

Put another way, American Airlines is charging LA-based members 73% more miles for a product that is actually 32% cheaper! Ennismore hotels calls its new offering a Dis-loyalty program. But isn’t that actually what AAdvantage has created, making your miles worth so much less?

This is only one of the many ways that AAdvantage has devalued. One-way awards for travel on American are now frequently much more half the cost of a roundtrip. Even those non-stop redemption prices that don’t match American’s award chart, have gotten more expensive. Last year Los Angeles – Sydney was generally available for 175,000 or 195,000 miles – 23,000 to 43,000 miles less than today.

American AAdvantage doesn’t have access to as many partner airlines as Star Alliance competitors like United and Air Canada, making their miles better-suited for premium cabin travel to far-flung reaches of the world. But AAdvantage is still a good program for booking awards on its partners. Those prices haven’t gone up. And that’s the advantage American has over Delta. But for American Airlines premium cabin travel I’m not sure members fully realize the SkyMiles-ization of AAdvantage that’s gone on.

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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Pingbacks

  1. […] Redemption price changes for partner awards. American eliminated their ‘saver’ and ‘anytime’ award charts this year for flights on their own aircraft. Basically that means all of their awards for travel solely on American are now dynamically prices, what used to be called web specials. They did publish an award chart showing ‘starting at’ pricing but actual prices don’t seem to be reflected by that chart at all. […]

Comments

  1. United sometimes charge less on connecting flights than nonstop for Business awards to Europe.

  2. I’ve just about given up on American and their reward travel. At one point, they were my main airline, and I even had one of their credit cards to add miles, but no more….what got me was the inane and insane routing when trying to get almost anywhere…..you know, Denver to Miami to JFK to points in Europe. or Denver to DFW to Miami and then onward. I did have a little luck booking award travel to Central and South America on a couple of trips, but that luck seems to have evaporated as well. Too bad, as AA can count me as one “former” semi-regular customer

  3. I continue to wonder/worry about the next step, as I’ve mentioned to Gary — when will dynamic pricing come to partner awards? I’m only holding out at this point to book some more business class “cheaply” via partners. But I feel like literally any day now it will happen, right? Because it’s already happened w most/all Delta/United partners?

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