American Airlines Dynamic Award Pricing is Here (Alongside Regular Awards)

When American Airlines launched their ‘web specials’ they were discounted awards, for less than the cost of a saver award. These awards allow no changes versus traditional awards which permit date changes free of charge and routing changes for a fee.

Now though these non-changeable web specials appear to be offering fully dynamic pricing. They aren’t just discounted awards compared to traditional saver, costing as little as 5000 miles one way when fares are cheap.

Instead they are priced all over the map — and more expensive than saver awards — but less than traditional ‘AAnytime’ awards which offer last seat availability and greater flexibility.

Here’s a look at New York – Vancouver awards in economy in June. There are very few dates with traditional saver space available, but where it’s offered it’s 12,500 miles one way.

Now here’s traditional AAnytime award availability. Prices vary because American has 5 different price levels for AAnytime awards.

Now let’s take a look at web specials. They are never offered at less than 12,500 miles (a discount to saver pricing, as we had been seeing in the past). Instead they’re offered at a discount to whatever the AAnytime price may be, available on most days. The low ‘web special’ price for each day ranges from 20,000 to 46,000 miles.

Now let’s drill down into one particular day, June 26. Instead of having a single price for the day matching what you see on the award calendar, you’ll see that each itinerary has a different price. In other words it’s being priced dynamically.

What’s interesting is that they’re doing this with web specials, which had previously been cheap awards, and therefore they’re doing it in the ‘old’ award calendar (since the new one doesn’t support web specials) rather than the new one which is where many have expected dynamic pricing to appear as a replacement for traditional saver space.

(HT: Charles S.)

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, 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. Note that AAnytime awards appear to have been increased quite a bit as well. Was looking at a PHL-YYZ flight in June and what was normally 20k-30k that week is now all 50k.

  2. Terrible.

    Days of reasonable domestic coach awards are over. The 5,000-7,500 awards soon will become mythical. I see DL customers and bloggers getting excited over DL’s award sales which doesn’t really offer lower award pricing for the most part over the traditional 7500/12500 fixed award rates.

  3. Gary — Have you noticed AA blocking it’s OWN award space? This morning I found saver awards on AA metal/AA flight number available through BA that are not available through AA. WTH?

  4. Thanks Gary

    Are these awards cancellable? Same fee structure for return of miles than traditional awards?

  5. Funny think about the 5000 mile award redemption >>> it doesn’t translate to the AA app, which wanted to charge me 12,500 miles for the same 1 way award. Be warned. Better double check before booking on the app.

    I know they say Web only but… I think the web and app should have the same info.

  6. Gary, This was happening on those rare 5,000 mile PHL-LAX and LAX-PHL fares a couple of weeks ago.

  7. This is very bad news. For all those miles the AA has been selling constantly now people will get much less in value – seems like AA wants to double the revenue from selling miles from the pockets of consumers by devaluing what was already purchased. Shame on AA!!
    I’ve been seeing those “dynamic” rates for 2 months now, but they were in line with various levels of AAnytime Awards – now your examples show that AA does not keep to it’s own chart… It’s gonna be a killer for their loyalty program. After they loose it – they will go bankrupt once more as flight operation does not bring any revenue for AA. Why are they killing the golden goose?? Are all CEOs there are idiots, or they think their loyalty members are idiots? If this country would have 2-3 more lowcosters like SW and JB, the big tree airlines will be out of business within a year. Corporate greed is suffocating USA.

  8. Noticed this a week or two ago at least. I routinely check awards for PHX–>BWI/DCA (flight schedules which got whacked by the MAX cancellations btw, lucky me in the 1%). PHX–>DCA, mileage costs are all over the place. J awards soon to follow? Or maybe they’ll just do away with those entirely.

  9. It’s getting ridiculous. Now all the direct flights are more expensive than the 12.5K domestic and 30k to Europe. We need to call them out, they cannot do this. If they want, they should at least change the terms and conditions of the AAdvantage program

  10. Further research shows:
    Those are Economy Web Special awards (can’t be cancelled/fee for miles reinstatement) that AA offering on certain routes. Price per mile is lower than 1cpm: $390 ticket = 44,000 miles; $484 = 50,000 and so on – so the value is really low.
    On same dates, the AAnytime awards are at a higher level (up to 50K each), making those “Specials” just a little bit cheaper in miles, but on some dates Business Saver awards are for 25K – making for a better redemption. So YMMV by date, time and route. Also looks like most of these awards are for last few tickets on the plane, hence the increased price in dollars and miles (so tickets that are in high demand)

    Overall it seems like it is an AA attempt to make more tickets available with miles awards. Which is what most AAdvantage members want, but not for with associated high price = American did it wrong again!
    One more thing to consider is the fact that various award level types are not marrying together in one itinirary, so this makes it even more confusing when searching by segment. Some awards can actually appear as valid altogether, only to be errored out in reservation process. And AA customer support agents don’t have ability to manually make up awards any longer.
    So bigger and madder mess from AA, as typical…

  11. @Gary — It was phantom AA space showing at BA (7 economy and 6 business Dec 19 MIA-GIG). I didn’t know this was a thing.

  12. I guess I no longer need to keep my AA Citi credit card. Why do people still buy AA miles?

  13. I’ve given up. No longer going to play the stupid crazy FF game. Cancelled my credit card two weeks ago.

  14. I do think AA executives think people are idiots . . . and honestly, I suspect they are right. As long as the flight attendants keep saying that a credit card bonus gives you enough miles to travel anywhere in the US and Caribbean (or whatever the current pitch is right now), enough people will believe it to keep the game going for the banks and AA. (Not that any bloggers would ever add to that impression with their own credit card “reviews”!)

    I’m very grateful that I’m able to budget in such a way that I can just pay cash for travel, both economy and business class when I need it. I am astonished how totally AA has gutted its program — or would be astonished if I hadn’t been top tier with US and then AA for the last ten years and watched the America West management team systematically undermine the customer experience step by step. I’m still executive platinum (hub captive or else I’d be long gone, ideally to B6) but I expect nothing good from AA at this point — that way I am occasionally surprised when my expectations are slightly exceeded. 🙂

  15. Economy Web Special awards are not necessarily more expensive than saver awards. Check out your JFK-YVR example for the next two days… on both 4/19 and 4/20, the Economy Web Special is 11k while the saver awards are 12.5k.

  16. Unfortunately old news for several AA markets where this has been the norm for 6 months or so. Makes AA miles much less valuable given that they have lost a lot of their optionality – and in an amount far more than any benefits to AA . . . a strategy filled with dead weight loss. Very stupid.

  17. I gave up trying to burn miles on domestic routes a long time ago.
    I think Gary once posted a stat that 86% of redemptions–or was it 86% of miles–are used for domestic travel.
    My UA account has 16k in it, AA is next. Delta is a joke: I have 150k I havent used in years. I might just get their credit card to pay the bill using points at 1 cent.

    It’s very true now that one can often just buy a class ticket for less than the miles are worth except for international first class.

  18. I’ve been hearing anger about stuff like this for years,,,,Everybody always saying they are quitting the cc game. But even with all the devaluation over the years with all the diff airlines it’s as popular as ever.

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