American Airlines Introducing New 490,000 Mile One-Way Award

American Airlines has a new unpublished award chart level for flights between the U.S. and China, now charging as much as 490,000 miles one-way for a redemption This includes American Airlines flights to Hong Kong as well.

American AAdvantage says they’re planning to eliminate award charts. It’s the one thing left still separating the program from strong value and the abyss, which has already swallowed up the Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus programs.

The real value is in partner award charts. Partner awards are only available at the ‘saver’ or lowest award level. Even though Delta and United only offer that saver inventory to members, they devalue their partner pricing frequently without award charts. Opaque pricing means the destruction of member value.

For American’s own flights they often offer the lowest points prices at the revenue-based ‘web special’ level, which doesn’t allow changes. Those prices vary tremendously and get quite granular. However they still have a saver award chart, and an ‘Anytime’ chart where you can spend points even for the last available seat on the plane.

The US Airways takeover of American was the end of the double miles award where last seat availability cost twice the price of a saver redemption. That was part of the April 8th massAAcre.

The award chart for American Airlines flights now has multiple levels, though they only publish levels one and two and mention that “there are select dates that require a higher number of miles (in addition to Level 1 and 2 awards).” I’ve written about 5 anytime award price levels in the past.

For flights between the U.S. and China and Hong Kong, they’ve now introduced a new most-expensive 6th anytime award price level. As with other similar awards, employees get a 20% discount on these redemptions just as they’re eligible for ‘AA20’ pricing on revenue fares.

At level 6, American now charges as much as 490,000 miles one way according to an internatl reference document:

In practice, because of web saver awards, you’ll almost never see pricing reach exactly this level – but inflexible award pricing will come close:

American is, at least, modest in their representations of first class asking just 10,000 miles more than business class for a questionable product at best.

Still, at prices like these, you might as well swim.

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. I am so glad the new management team at Alaska Airlines decided on American Airlines as their “partner”. This is yet another reason why it is a failed decision. At a reception for FF we all made that abundantly clear to the team at a reception for us. No I fear the feeling about Alaska like that old chair my father had are gone.

  2. Time to close to Bask Bank account.
    We’re all going to wake up one morning, there will be a pill to treat the sorority version of Covid (Tri-Delt, –the joke is they are both easy to get) , and our ff accounts will be massively devalued.

  3. How are they going to sell miles to banks issuing credit cards, once their miles reach no value?
    A 490k award will cost you $44,545 in tickets if you are Executive Platinum, more if you have a lower tier.
    At what point will all the frequent flyers understand that there is no point in loyalty?
    Just buy the best ticket at the best price that fits your schedule, and put in jar the money you saved from not using AA: you will certainly end up with enough money to do DFW-HKG a few times over.

  4. Frequent flyer programs must be just about on their last leg. With massive devaluation, I doubt that most members of the flying public, even those that fly several times a year, can afford almost any award tickets (except the most basic “hop” from one city to another in the U.S., and only then once in awhile). And for flyers like me who were flying across the Pacific about every 6 to 8 weeks in the pre-pandemic days (and who will resume just as soon as international travel eases), and who purchase our international business/first tickets, well, I choose based on service and convenience. There are a LOT of carriers out there who offer the same products (getting me from point A to point B), but there sure are a lot of differences in service quality and pricing. And unfortunately for American, in their present state, they seem to lose on both (high price, at best a middle-of-the-road product). So earning 30,000 points/miles by flying American internationally (including to Hong Kong or China) is of little value, especially as they further and further devalue these awards (which I almost never use).

    It would be difficult to understand how they could do much better at shooting themselves in their own feet, but this new award pricing seems to have accomplished just that …

    EdSparks58

  5. AA ( etal but it seems especially relevant in their case): Give us tax payers money so we can afford to keep our staff on during lockdowns.
    AA: weve cancelled your flight today because we don’t have the staff.
    AA: Now pay us even more for flights while we move to hide pricing from you.

  6. Great deal! ;):)
    That’s a one way to Sydney in business class on AA metal
    Next year AA will ask 1 mil for the same award
    Runnnnnnnnnnnnn!
    Dougie and his cronies are smoking something in the office and its always greed first

  7. Parker and his crew did just fine at running a small regional airline. Unfortunately, he’s been stunningly inept at running a large legacy airline. The Board of Directors doesn’t come out smelling like a rose either because not only are they the ones who installed this out-of-his-depth nitwit, but they haven’t done a thing to rectify their mistake. Given that Hyatt is being extraordinarily well run, maybe AA could try to poach Tom Pritzker to become Chairman to bring some competence to the company.

  8. For all the whining about AA award levels (and I agree 490,000 one way is terrible although I have seen them sell a one-way DFW – Hong Kong first class seat for over $8000 so this would actually represent value in that case) I just booked a CLT-FRA business class seat for next March (to replace a canceled Sept trip) for 105,000 RT (web special) which to me is very reasonable. There are deals but you have to hunt for them.

  9. You couldn’t pay me 490,000 points to fly to China right now … or maybe ever. 🙂

  10. This is so sad. I’ve been doing everything to rack up American miles. We get a lot of Chase points from our Reserve card. The main reason is that American has much better partners. For the last two years I have had wonderful business class FF air booked on Qatar for our Africa trip- suite and all. Now we have cancelled for the second time because of COVID. I looked today and found that American has no business class airfare to Tanzania now or in the future. We’ve also enjoyed Cathay Pacific business class for a couple of Asia trips. It looks like there is no reason to keep spending on our American Airline cards. We might as well cancel them, it seems. Hello Ethiopian!

  11. @AC, hi Doug! 105k on that route is a rip off. Either you are a rookie with no experience or your elevator doesn’t go all the way up.

  12. Wow! Good for them . At first, I thought that my upcoming ATL-ATH business class wasn’t a great deal at 320,000 Delta Skymiles.. Now, such a deal! Fuck ’em all.

  13. This doesn’t surprise me at all and just seems a continuation of the trajectory the US airlines are on. Really what they have been saying is “pay us the cost of a small car to be an elite member with marginal benefits” and “your miles are dynamically worth whatever we think we can get away with to the point of absurdity”. The problem is if you can’t have a reliable and sane valuation for how many miles it takes to plan a trip say 6 to 9 months out there is no reason to care about miles. If you go free agent you can just hunt for the cheapest paid business class ticket on whatever airline is out there and get treated better than most elites will on their “home” airline, likely save money on trips were you try to get status, and have to travel less. Money is better than miles. And if you have to go the mileage route better to earn those points with Chase or Citi and transfer.over last minute to whatever program you can find tickets on. Don’t try to earn AA, UA or Delta points with one of their own cards. That makes no sense. This will hurt the airlines in the long run. But I don’t care as no longer really care about miles or what airline I fly just about the least expensive ticket I can find in the class of service desired.

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