Back in December, American Airlines shared that they planned to eliminated fixed-price awards in 2023, and make all award travel on American Airlines ‘web special’ variable pricing.
We now have a window into when this change will occur. American Airlines shared internally that these awards “will be sunset in multiple phases over the next several weeks.”
A spokesperson I reached out to emphasized that “several weeks” is key, and the changeover isn’t imminent. But this should give us a sense of timing for their current roll out plan.
Here’s the text of of the internal communication, which is about how agents handle AA20 employee and family discounts which apply both to revenue tickets and also to award redemption.
Sadly, eliminating fixed-priced redemptions is not good for members. Even if web savers are sometimes cheaper than saver awards, there has been no downside for the customer in keeping the saver level.
Back in December, American promised they’d still have an award chart but wouldn’t preview what that would look like, and promised that the last seat would always still be available on points at some price.
While we still don’t know what the award chart will look like, whether it shows a ‘starting at’ price or reports on recent costs of actual redemptions, it likely means eliminating a commitment to specific value for your miles.
It also means that when they raise prices they don’t need to ‘publish an updated chart’ which informs members. Whenever other airlines have eliminated fixed price redemption charts, the temptation to raise redemption prices has been irresistible.
In practice MileSAAver and AAnytime awards have been chipped away at for several years and were mostly already gone.
- American rarely published saver awards for long haul international business class on their own flights. The loss here probably won’t change how you should actually redeem your miles.
- The AAnytime award price was the cost you could always count on in a worst-case scenario. Although in truth, since April 2014 they’ve had multiple levels of AAnytime pricing, with the higher tiers unpublished anyway.
AAdvantage Managing Director Heather Samp confirmed to me in December that “at this point” partner awards will still price based on an award chart. That’s often what’s most important to those looking for the most value from their miles.
- We do not yet know yet, however, how variable pricing awards will work when combining an American Airlines flight and a partner flight (say, Austin – Los Angeles on American and Los Angeles – Tokyo on Japan Airlines).
- And we don’t know what inventory will be available for partner airlines redeeming their miles for travel on American, since that has historically booked into MileSAAver award inventory.
If you’re traveling internationally, you’re better off redeeming your AAdvantage miles for travel on partners like Iberia and Japan Airlines to get the best deal – not on American – nearly any time those airlines have award space available, if you’re looking to travel in business class to Europe or Asia. For as long as the partner award chart remains, and there’s a reasonable method for incorporating American’s flights into a larger itinerary, I’ll be happy enough.
In this scenario it is not very rational to expend currency of known value (e.g. dollars) to obtain currency of opaque / dynamic value (e.g. AAdvantage miles).
You would not march up to the Thomas Cook desk at Heathrow to trade dollars for sterling without knowing the exchange rate, or indeed what the pounds are actually worth until their value is revealed to you when you consider buying a belt at John Lewis — and that belt might cost more pounds next week, less next month.
This repositions airline miles as scratch-off lotto tickets, e.g. a game of chance.
I’d be ok with this if miles correlated to actual cost of the trip at any given time, AND they increased award stock. If you’re “paying” a market price in terms of award miles, why not actually have stock available to book? This has been a problem on American for a while.
It’s getting to the point where AA points will be as useless as Delta Sky-Pesos.
Accept it or quit traveling (or using affinity credit cards). Sorry but lamenting the changes doesn’t do any good. I’ve traveled heavily since the 80s and remember the “good old days” of 1000 mile minimums, 10,000 mile one way tickets practically anywhere in the US and promotions like triple miles. Those days are long gone. The new model is the devalue points and miles to fit the best business model that works for the travel companies. Do you actually feel the points and miles are a perk they give you? They are simply a marketing approach to gain “loyalty””. The definition of loyalty is changing and with the rapid growth in points and miles (due to credit card offers, blog posters shilling them, etc) it was inevitable there would be inflation and devaluation. Also, once one airline shows a model works (DL with lower value and DL/UA w dynamic pricing) the others would be stupid frankly to not follow their lead and provide more value than absolutely necessary.
You REALLY don’t have a vote or choice in it. As many people that say “I’ll never fly xxxx or stay at xxxx” on these blogs you don’t begin to move the needle. It is supply and demand and as long as planes are full and hotels have high average room rates there is NO incentive to give anything away. IMHO a similar thread is the one about hotels doing away with services. Of course they will since all these companies are BUSINESSES and focus first and foremost on the bottom line.
Again, you can whine about it but that won’t change anything. Accept the changes, work within their structure as much as possible and move along. You really don’t have a choice so just shut up.
And my loyalty will now lye with the one who can give me the most. It has been many years since my family and I have flown anything but American.
Big corporate always looking to satisfy its board members at whatever the cost. This cost has a choice and a memory.
Your first bullet point above about pricing with international partner awards is my biggest concern and the biggest way this whole thing could blow up. I mentioned at one point a while back on another post that my fiancé and I are flying in April to our honeymoon on Qatar Airways Qsuites to Maldives (to stay at the Conrad Maldives, incidentally, heh). We’re New York-based but they didn’t have JFK-DOH open in business on the outbound, so we have a positioning flight to Dallas, i.e. JFK-DFW-DOH-MLE. We’re in domestic economy on that positioning segment, because AA only had T (MilesAAver economy) available, it’d have to be U (MilesAAver business) to ticket together with Qatar Airways business.
I have a feeling this is how it’s going to work in practice, at least initially, and they’re going to get a flood of complaints for not taking the time to actually get dynamic pricing to work with partner awards in a meaningful way at launch. So many of their recent changes have clearly been sort of process-based changes just bolted on top of the existing IT. Case in point, the systemwide-upgrades-on-BA-connections feature that was recently introduced functions behind the scenes as AA effectively ticketing you into U (business award) inventory. Whatever the negotiated reimbursement rate for that award ticket, that’s probably what AA is paying BA in order to cash out that SWU.
Translation: the pricing of dAArk side awards is going dynamic.
I’m lucky to have my own business where I charge large expenses on my cards. AMEX plat with 35% back for premium tickets means I haven’t sat in the back in a while and I don’t have to be loyal. Just pick the most optimal flight in F and book. Slow down in travel is coming later this year. I expect deals by then.
Not a good move. While the Web Specials have availed a couple bargain redemptions for me, they are currently causing an unforeseen headache with a Qatar flight I booked for next month.
Last June I grabbed a pair of business class seats for DOH-DFW when I spotted it. The connecting flight to SAN, my actual destination, wasn’t available in any class at the time but I figured, 9 months out, it would eventually show up. No dice. Web Specials on various DFW-SAN nonstops have popped in and out, but Web Special awards, even though are usually lower than the once “standard” 12.5k domestic coach award, is not combinable with a standard award on a non-AA carrier. Unbelievably, one of the “Web Special” flights was priced 12.5k, and it still could not be added to my DOH-DFW flight.
Last week, a pair of seats finally opened up in coach, but requiring a 10-hour layover at DFW (I grabbed them so I had something in the books). The earlier flights that day appear wide open, 6 weeks out, but AA says the airline is probably holding back the AAdvantage seats because it’s spring break. Really annoying, and actually pretty stupid award management.
Dave touched on the exact kind of scenario that I was trying to highlight as well. (I think his explanation is a bit more clear than mine.) I have a feeling this is how it’s going to keep working, and it’s going to be a trainwreck when they flip the switch and zero-out T/U inventories across the board.
Any insight on how this will affect Business ExtrAA?
“All” flights will be “special” lol
Gary, has your estimate changed on when this will happen to AA partner awards as well? I remember you maybe thinking this will happen in 2024? The point it does is the point that I go to 2% cash back cards, now that I have lifetime AA/Marriott status.
@Dave and Luke Amen! It’s an absolute mess! Seemingly every redemption I’ve made over the past 12 months has required me to book independent/separate PNR positioning flights at web special pricing or with cash. It’s borderline impossible to find a redemption on QR/JL/IB that doesn’t force you to do this.
@Ron Lieber – all we know is that ‘for now’ partner awards remain fixed-price based on a chart, I do not have insight into if/when that will change. Certainly not this year!
Killing the golden goose it seems.
But how will the flight attendants be able to tell people they’ll get two tickets to anywhere in the continental US if they sign up for the Barclays Aviator Mastercard? /s
@Adam – I love this! Probably not the only one sitting on the plane when they say you can get 2 tickets to anywhere in the US, Canada or the Caribbean for the 50K or 60K sign up bonus (or 1 ticket to Europe or even Australia) that want to shout out – “hell no there isn’t any saver awards available at that level for 99% of the flights”. Almost feel bad for people that fall for this thinking they can get the tickets to where they want to go.
What do you think will happen to the ability to book awards on AA using Avios? How will this work without saver awards?
Between the inability to get upgraded on award redemptions below the exec PL level and the coming dynamic pricing, the Loyalty Points game is over for me.
I would have loved to foray into Oneword (from Star Alliance) and book an expensive domestic AA flight using Avios, but unfortunately American only had “Web Special” availability that wasn’t bookable with Avios. I recently read an article about using EY miles on AA flights, but that probably has the same issue. Considering no transferable points partner with AA, except Bilt which doesn’t have a signup bonus, I probably won’t be using their miles for business class redemptions anyways.
I’ve been sticker shocked with Domestic awards on AA metal over the past few years
Cash price one way $199 redeem on a web special 50 k in miles in coach
is that their so called dynamic model.WTF?
It’s bend over and take it model.AA is simply crashing and burning its once golden cash cow
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.AA has moved me into an equal opportunity player and I gave up my lounge membership when they shut down during the pandemic
Never rejoined.Most of the lounges are so crappy I don’t miss them at all.
I do hear they are working on improving them but have no interest as they implode their FF program and award value.Sad really. And what about International married segments freaking absurd.To get fair value now I have to fly from Dallas rather than the west coast or pay triple or quadruple?
Who comes up with this BS?
@ DW. I expect it is MBA types who only know how to extract measurables that that show up in a Kirby-style spreadsheet. It is going on across the board — my old hometown baseball team scalps its own tickets. The people in charge don’t know what they don’t know — how to get value from a loyalty program, achieve value-added from a guy on a horse logo or an apple with a bite taken out of it.
@ AC. fight back. Take the best deals on hotels. Utilize foreign loyalty programs. 90% of my travel is international & I can’t remember the last time I flew a US based carrier — although I do remember it was unpleasant.
I don’t get the beef here. The award chart has NEVER been the defacto price of the award – it was the price floor *if* there wasn’t a web special that was lower. I have booked round trip international business for under 100k miles round trip in the last few years. I have also seen the same one way segment with costs of hundreds of thousands of miles.
So the beef is the price is going to be variable now? It was never fixed….
talk about dynamic pricing..has anyone seens the taxes and fees that american wants for travel to europe when redeeming miles. i just looked for june travel. cheapest award requires 60K points and $330. wth?
It’s becoming much harder and more expensive to get Business seats or even economy at reasonable levels. United have doubled.
My experience with variable price award tickets at UA is that they truly suck if you need to change your itinerary. The contracted overseas airline spokesperson will simply remind you of the variable pricing, and try to extort hundreds of thousands of additionsl airline miles for any schedule changes.
Phone agent today started saver awards were eliminated as of March 1.
Phone agent is mistaken