Award seats on American Airlines became tougher to get after US Airways management took over. They went from 8% – 9% of seats on their planes being redeemed with miles down to 5% – 6%.
In the fall American promised that award availability would get better. And indeed observers say it has gotten better. It seems this improvement is focused predominantly on connecting itineraries in coach.
American says they’re on a path towards offering as much space as Delta and United make available. That misses the point of course. Matching Delta’s award space shouldn’t be the goal. Since their airline operation isn’t quite as good as Delta’s, their mileage program needs to be better (and indeed it used to be much better).
JonNYC notes that American has relaxed a rule that is causing more award space to show up.
Some had noticed that domestic AA awards seemed to be coming up with longer connections than traditional 4 hours.
The domestic connection time now appears to be 18 hours. If your connection is longer than 4 hours, the security fee will be double ($11.20 instead of $5.60)
— JonNYC (@xJonNYC) July 14, 2018
Back in May American AAdvantage changed this rule. Traditionally a connection on a domestic award ticket had to be under 4 hours, with longer connections ‘breaking the fare’ and causing an itinerary to price as two awards.
Now connections of up to 18 hours are permitted on domestic awards (international connections are allowed up to 24 hours between flights).
These Saver Awards Wouldn’t Have Shown Available in the Past
Prior to this change if a morning flight and an evening connection were available at the saver level, American wouldn’t let you book the combination for the saver price. They’d show nothing as available at the saver level (since it would require two saver awards to book the space). Now in this case they’ll show the flights at the saver level. The same is true for any connection with over 4 hours between flights (but less than 18 hours between flights).
- These are generally undesirable connections, most people most of the time don’t want connections greater than 4 hours and indeed up to 18 hours between flights.
- This change makes it appear that American’s award space is better, when most people won’t think that it is.
- On the other hand, why penalize someone by charging them extra miles for a super undesirable itinerary?
- And occasionally you may want a super long connection, go have lunch with a friend or do a brief visit in a connecting city without having to spend extra miles.
Ultimately I applaud this change since it allows more customers to claim more awards for fewer miles. However it’s a change that will make American’s award availability appear better than it is in practice.
Bear in mind though that a domestic itinerary with a connection greater than 4 hours is going to entail double the security tax. Instead of paying $5.60 one way it’ll be $11.20, on the theory that longer connections may mean passengers leave security and go do something and then return back through security before their next flight.
It’s too bad, though, that American Airlines doesn’t publish its award rules so members have to learn about changes by reading this blog or following JonNYC on twitter.