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.