American Airlines Partners Have Gutted The Ability To Redeem AAdvantage Miles

While American Airlines hasn’t made changes to its partner award pricing – yet, they’re warning they will! – those awards, which are the best part of the AAdvantage program, have become far less valuable. Almost across the board their partners have been restricting the ability of AAdvantage members to redeem their miles.

American Airlines has vowed to shake up partner award pricing which hasn’t been changed since October 2016. It’s precisely because we haven’t seen changes to partner awards in over 7 years that this has remained the sweet spot of value for AAdvantage.

The airline has eliminated Saver and AAnytime pricing for its own flights and along with that has come a stealth devaluation – so much so that if you want to travel on American Airlines, it’s cheaper to redeem miles in a partner airline’s program to do so, rather than American’s own miles.

  • Avios programs release plenty of award seats, but are now reserving those for their own members. British Airways – American’s primary partner! – was first to begin restricting availability of award seats to AAdvantage (and to Alaska Airlines). They make seats available when flight schedules are released but those are now only for redemption of Avios from BA or another Avios airline.

    British Airways Business Class

  • This has been spreading. Qatar Airways is an Avios program and can book those BA seats. Now we’re seeing awards released on Qatar that are only booking with Avios, like Qatar’s new Miami flight. I’d expect then that with Finnair’s adoption of Avios and commitment of award seats we’ll see the same thing.

    Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge

  • No more Etihad premium cabin awards over 30 days in advance. Etihad now restricts partner award availability to within 30 days of flight for business and first class redemptions.

    Etihad First Apartment Cabin, Airbus A380

  • Qantas now restricts awards to its own members. A post-pandemic phenomenon seems to be extensive award availability that’s frequently only for members using Qantas Frequent Flyer points and not partner points. Qantas long haul business class awards were always hard to get. Now they’re even harder to get with American’s miles than before, despite their joint venture with American.

    Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney

  • Other partners have gotten tougher for award space. Japan Airlines no longer releases seats as reliably on schedule. Cathey Pacific releases far less space than it used to.

    Cathay Pacific First Class

And as partner awards have gotten harder to book, even as pricing hasn’t changed, American’s own best awards have become frequently unreasonably exorbitant. For instance, I surveyed American’s Los Angeles – Sydney flight and found that business class awards from April through end of schedule were never pricing below 391,500 miles one way (from my home city of Austin the lowest was 450,000 miles). Just a few weeks ago there were still some dates where 100,000 mile awards were possible.

I was considering a date change to an existing American Airlines Australia roundtrip for my family of three, but that’s clearly not going to be possible.

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. AA has had JL award seats interAsia posting with consistency. Even in F. J is available virtually everyday at the window for 30k. Just booked HND-BKK in F for 40k. Doesn’t take much effort.

  2. This is Vasu the visionary’s handiwork without a doubt. He’s led the devaluation charge for quite some time and a lot of his fruits have died on the vine repeatedly. It’s amAAzing he still has a job.

  3. AAdvantage remaining sweet spots remain economy awards on partners or in combination with partners — Iberia and JAL flights, or AA flights with Iberia or JAL segments, are still plentiful and have so far remained at good values in economy. For example, economy awards to/from Europe with at least one Iberia segment off-season to/from the US for 22,500 miles, or economy awards to/from Asia with at least one JAL segment off-season to/from the US for 37,500 miles.

  4. If AA increasing prices 25% or more is going to get us real partner award availability again just rip the Bandaid off and get it over with.

  5. It’s been a disaster for the last 3 months booking award travel to/from Europe.
    We have a group of 9 traveling in fall and find long layovers at LHR (6-10 hours to get to from multiple destinations/departures in Central Europe. The online award booking function has been down for weeks and the few coach seats available are often 57k o/w coach as soon as the 30k bucket is out or never existed for prime time/day departures. Switching to United/Lufthansa has been ok but again at a 50% premium (44k o/w) to award flight costs of 8 months ago.
    In some cases we are taking award flights to LHR then using paid tickets for furtherance to get a decent layover time. It seems BA by pricing cash prime time tickets at a $50 premium to the lowest price of the off peak fares is causing the issue or they are blocking AA award flyers from even booking most of their flights.(disagreement on revenue share?)
    It was a bad time to be sending a book club to Europe when they were depending on typical AA award availability which is NO MORE.

    I am finally out of the 2 million+ AA award miles that I had accumulated and used over 20 years! I no longer recommend accumulating any award miles if you travel to Europe. Cash fares are cheap, taxes of $150+ fuel surcharges are included and flight duration is reasonable.

  6. In the age of dynamic award pricing, more and more airlines are reducing their saver award inventories that are made available to their partners’ programs. Airlines in the other two alliances (besides OW) are even worse in that regard. Award pricing in Avios programs may not be as attractive but Avios are much easier to generate than AA (or AS) miles. FWIW, I still find more attractive redemption opportunities with AA miles than with almost all other mileage currencies. Hopefully, there won’t be a significant devaluation in the program.

  7. Agree it’s been abysmal for a long time now. To the point that I don’t bother searching too hard. Agree with poster above that as far as US-Europe is concerned, the best remaining value is in coach. And even that is sparse in summer.

  8. What’s AA did with changes and devaluation is obscene. Hundreds of thousands to fly bus or the few remaining first class flights internationally and no way to earn those miles back through purchases. Not even close to proportionate. They get away with it and is shameful. Delta even worse and United just as bad. We’re all little sheep and have no choice. Disgrace. Millions of carefully stored miles go in one shot.

  9. So basically they are turning AAdvantage into SkyMiles but with a far worse onboard product.

    Premium transcon J on AA tends to price out at 100k one way for most days, even when cash fares are under $1,000 (so you’re getting less than 1 cent/mile redemption). I couldn’t believe DL was offering BOS-LAX for 68,000 miles when on AA it was 100,000 miles… for a flight pricing at $849.

  10. To add insult to injury, when you use partner miles to book on AA metal you lose your elite benefits

  11. I find that, post-pandemic, I’m again traveling more for business, and am more able to travel for leisure now that my youngest is almost 12. When I fly domestically and must fly Delta, I usually pay for first and always credit the points to Flying Blue. Does the community think that flying domestic on American in first and crediting the points to BA or another Avios program is worthwhile, or do fuel and other surcharges too frequently negate the value of booking business-class reward tickets with those Avios airlines?

    To be frank, I try to avoid long-haul international business class travel on the U.S. Big Three because the hard and soft products are so abysmal, and it seems to keep getting harder to find good “store of value” programs of international airlines to which to credit flights on the U.S. carriers. (Yes, I work hard to maximize points-earning via my credit cards, but would like to optimize the durable value of points earned from cash fares on U.S. airlines.) Thanks.

  12. A simple math question that even an airline executive might be able to solve if they took their sock off.
    If your award program becomes worthless how much is it’s value as collateral?
    Oops better not go too far or you are bankrupt. Anyone want to buy some other AA assets?

  13. I value the points at 1 cent each, I think that’s too high given my main use is LAX-JFK transcons. The only way to get more is to book a crap 2 connection flight and wait for the schedule change.

  14. It’s not like American is releasing SWU space either. Overall, well said. AA’s frequent flyer strength has always been premium awards on their partners. Now that’s becoming a thing of the past.

  15. @johhhny That’s not true. You just need to put your AA number in (or whatever number has status). Granted, this is sometimes difficult, but there’s always a way. When in doubt, GFGI.

  16. @ Johnny — What John said is 100% true. Just pick up the phone. I’ve never had an agent question any change in FF number. That is a myth.

  17. This devaluation stuff with AA went into overdrive part and parcel of the US Government granting so many waivers and favorite to the TATL-flying legacy majors they can collude intra-alliance with revenue-sharing JVs. Time for the US and the Europeans to break up these revenue-sharing joint-ventures.

  18. @ Gene, no need to even pick up the phone. Shoot the Twitter team a note and all will be good within an hour.

  19. My primary use for AA miles is short-haul and mid-haul economy class flights on AA metal when airfares are high at the time of booking.

    The annoying thing is that ABC-DEF-GHI can be much cheaper in miles than ABC-DEF when preferring to go just to DEF. Sometimes ABC-DEF-GHI+GHI-DEF is even less costly in miles than ABC-DEF.

  20. @ Brodie — That’s definitely faster than “we’ll call you back, when it’s your turn, when you are asleep at 3 AM or using the toilet in 20 minutes or whenever it is most convenient for AA.”

  21. Gene,

    I do at times, but not sure what AA’s tolerance will continue to be for throwaway ticketing on award tickets. 😀

  22. Gary is absolutely correct bringing to attention how obnoxious the airlines have become with their loyalty programs, especially if you want to have a family vacation in Europe, and use your miles to get business class tickets, instead of being packed like sardines in economy.
    Until a couple years ago, AA used to have a reasonable requirements for business class tickets on AA. But apparently with that new guy, who became responsible for AA loyalty program, AA decided to follow the suit and obnoxious and corrupt Delta in raising the business awards ticket to Europe to astronomical level.

    The example for almost 400K for a SINGLE, ONE WAY AWARD ticket that Gary cited in his post is exactly what Delta has been doing for the last 8-10 years… As Gary once noted that obviously Delta has not paid the price for the extortionist level of their award tickets, probably because the vast majority of the customers are flying domestically, and obviously don’t give a whit about international travel.

    United, on the hand, attempted to double their business award travel but obviously they got a serious push-back from their more internationally inclined customers so in short while, they had to roll back that increase to “only ” about 30 percent.

    The question is what the miles enthusiasts, and probably the flying public at large, can do with AA obnoxious increases in the business award travel? The most effective way, in my view, is to stop applying for AA co-branded cards, like those of Citi and Barklays, and those banks could certainly put a pretty substantial pressure on AA (and other banks–especially Chase– on other airlines ) to seriously moderate their greediness.

    I hope that the community here will also urge the other influential bloggers, like The Point Guy, Frequent Flyer, to join Gary in exposing those horrendous practices by those major airlines.

  23. Spot on Sam Says. If there was only some collective way we could make our universal outrage felt. In the workplace we’d form a union to fight outrageous management.

  24. United at least gives the top two elite tiers better “saver” premium award availability on its own metal. AA should do the same.

  25. It is business people. No airline owes you a cheap “free” ticket. Either pay cash or use transferable currencies to move miles to foreign carriers and book w them. I just got great value w Emirates and Iberia booking on their websites. Both transferred Amex miles (Iberia via BA since I moved a lot of points to BA last year when there was a 30% bonus).

    I have flown for 40 years and got around 8 million “butt in seat” miles. Lifetime elite on all 3 airlines. Accept things change and move along. Even today’s “sweet spots” are nothing compared to the 80s and 90s. In 10 years you will look back and think the current award levels were great compared to what is offered then. Award inflation (I refuse to use the word “devaluation” since it technically doesn’t apply from the airline perspective) will always happen and all airlines will restrict or end ways to make an end run around their award pricing.

    Also accept that all airlines make very well modeled decisions around how miles can be used. People that read these blogs and try to maximize miles are a very small percentage of their membership and frankly we won’t move the needle with respect to any decisions they make.

    Of course it is always easier to whine about the “good old days” than just accept things change and move on.

  26. Agree that AA is aping sky pesos. Like many I had SWU expire. Who wants to earn them when you can’t book AA Business using them. I am not willing to book economy in hopes of clearing SWU. No wonder AA IT promises SWU use on one world carriers is slow to arrive. If the credit card game is no longer appealing, maybe banks will buy fewer AA miles. That will wake up Isom & others.

  27. 1) I have found pretty good reliability on JAL business class via AA miles

    2) At the end of the day, I think this trend is right and fair over the long run – if and only if airlines would increase the availability and affordability of flights on their own metal with their own currency. Having one-off customers take the best award seats on your flights seems like a poor way to engender loyalty over the long run.

  28. I almost forgot that Isom / Parker removed 767, a330-200 and a330-300 during the pandemic. Sure 767 went into cargo service but not the 330’s. a300-200 were paid for and after removal a330-300 had lease payments that had to be made. How much money did AA lose when post pandemic travel picked up to Europe – perfect a330 destinations. Now 787s are late along with other Boeing aircraft.

  29. Thank you for confirming what I’ve been seeing.

    For months now, I’ve been trying to find west coast to central Europe tickets in Fall/Winter 2024 using AA or AS miles. BA availability is gone. Finnair is pretty much gone. I’m not doing a 2 change 29 hour long AA flight for only 100,000 in Y either. It’s a waiting game at this point.

  30. William Twombly,

    It took decades for the public to sufficiently abandon GreenStamps before it basically bit the dust and became a widely disregarded and mocked activity to collect them. Unfortunately, with airline loyalty programs, the airlines and credit card-issuers have a critical mass of “elite” tools + “better some kickback than no kickback” general public flyers to keep a lot of people on the hamster wheel even now. Add in the OPM dynamic, and the fleecing of airline loyalty program members is unfortunately going to keep on continuing.

  31. Thomas, since AA flies very little to Europe anymore you might do what we do. Fly their metal to an EU gateway using award travel (cheap taxes too) then buy the final leg on Ryan air or Easy jet.

    It’s similar on United we find more availability returning on Lufthansa to LAX then hop a cheap Southwest flight home. It’s nearly impossible to go from a west coast secondary market to Europe in less than 24 hours with the long layovers they schedule using BA.

    Riding AA to Madrid through DFW is bad because if the flight is late (often you misconnect with the few flights out of MAD to central Europe. Spending the night in MAD makes it a 36 hour day!
    AA’s ticket office at MAD is 2 agents in a pop up temp desk. Classy AA all the way.

    AA should be barred from serving Europe

  32. I’m using Avios points (with 50% discount from companion cert) to fly DFW-FCO and return on BA. The surcharges are criminal, But the points to fly J on AA were crazy high, as was the airfare. Supply and demand. When the next black swan event happens, take AAdvantage (ahem) of it any take the family to Europe. It’ll be empty and cheap. Agree that Y is cheap for mileage redemptions on AA, but I’m not going long haul in Y.

  33. @Paul. Solid suggestions. Interestingly enough, I have misconnected in MAD as well coming off an AA flight. And my wife just flew Condor (in J!) to FRA and we bought a cheap ticket to get her to where she really wanted to go.

    I guess I got lucky the past couple of years. Before AA gave up the SEA-LHR flight, it was easy to get 30k seats for 6 people. J was even available for 57.5k last summer.

    It’s just getting harder and harder to make this work with AA/AS. Lifemiles is the way to go to central Europe for now – I think that’s the lesson.

  34. When is someone going to call out that the emperor has no clothes and that foreign travel on AA miles is not worth the effort ? I have switched from AA miles to Chase points for the last 24 months:
    pay for my tickets (and fly when I want, where I want, non stop if available ) and enjoy free hotels through Chase portal. I just had a 3 week European vacation for the price of 2 business class tickets + free 4 star hotels throughout . I can easily get 5 point per dollar on Chase business cards and their Freedom Flex. Can’t get that with any AA cobranded card. And don’t get me started with their (lack of) insurance protection vs say Chase Sapphire.

  35. i dutifully submit all my AA miles traveled to Cathay Pacific for credit. In 4 years, I have not been credited a single mile. I reserve in American using my Cathay FF number because I get the free bag, free seat selection and priority boarding as a Cathay Gold and oneworld. American blames cathay for no transfer and Cathay blames American. All the rules are followed. Cathay responds by email if they accept or reject the submission. After I get an acceptance, no miles are transferred to my Cathay account. I get no miles on my American account because I use the Cathay number for the perks. Maybe you can explain??

  36. I recently booked some close in J AA seats to Europe for 57.5k- using AS miles. Those same seats were priced at 80-90k on AA.. There were various flights available, all much cheaper on AS than AA. Way to award loyalty.

  37. The only way you’ll get any value for a premium cabin ticket on AA Metal using miles is for super close in bookings. Like day before or day of. Which obviously has limited value to many people.

    Can’t wait to hear about the new “enhancements” to partner awards (sarcasm).

    Why do we even collect these increasingly worthless miles ?

  38. Those who praised AS are absolutely correct. At least occasionally, one can find there some AA flights from US to Europe (MAD, LIS especially) for just 57.5K AS miles. I just wonder how long that will last, with AA upcoming policies to revisit their award relationships with other partners. AS might be forced to raise their award level to those of AA (85-90K), or completely lose access to AA flights.

  39. BTW, Andrew is absolutely correct by saying, “…Why do we even collect these increasingly worthless miles ?…”. For example, to express my disgust with my so called, “home” airline, Delta (I live in the Atlanta area), I completely stopped of applying for any AMEX cards (even though I get all kinds of so called, “lucrative invitations”).

    Instead I’m getting as many AS cards as possible, for the reasons I stated in my previous post.
    I am pretty convinced that if more and more people to refuse getting Delta and AA co-branded cards, those banks will definitely force those airlines to change their obnoxious award requirements.

    Also, as community, we also have some power, as it was the case with United, especially if we urge some other influential bloggers, to actively support us.

  40. If given a choice of miles from UA/DL/AA for me it’s AA, and it’s not even close. The ability to find cheap one-way (domestic AND international) coach award tix for short-notice travel on AA for a fraction of the cost of UA/DL has been a game changer. In fact if I had to choose between say 2M DL or 1M AA I’d take the AA. I don’t understand the thinking of folks saying they can’t wait to permanently drain their AA accounts, personally I can’t get enough of them.

  41. “The airline has eliminated Saver and AAnytime pricing for its own flights and along with that has come a stealth devaluation – so much so that if you want to travel on American Airlines, it’s cheaper to redeem miles in a partner airline’s program to do so, rather than American’s own miles.”

    Not at all true at least for Domestic tkts, just did JFK-MEM R/T for 12K I think BA would have been apx 40K since it was 4 segments, JFK-MIA have flown numerous times this winter @ 9K on a 777 and Prem Econ for free, BA 11K

    OK its Y but for short hauls who needs anything but Y, even to the likes of LHR,CDG,MAD etc I would go in Y since by the time you finish eating at best youd get 3 hrs of sleep in , if that.

  42. If people haven’t figured this out yet, the airlines are moving to a mile is worth 1 cent. The credit cards buy them for a very secret amount much less than this, so to the airlines these seats are steeply discounted.

    My own strategy is anything over 2 cents in value I jump on.

  43. @Gary
    I’ve been watching the LAX to SYD flights closely for the last 6 months for availabity this coming summer. I never saw good award prices with just LAX-SYD, but adding on one or two domestic connections resulted in some really good deals. I think I saw 65K for business once and even 75 in first. I also saw dates with 5 business awards available. I ended up adding a qantas flight at the end of it, and got 4 for 80K. I really hope this is temporary, because 450K is ridculous.

  44. @Zarwell I find that hard to believe for that few of FF miles. From the midwest they are charging 500-900k RT. Which is a real screw job.
    I have read before that flights out of CLT are still 250k RT, but have not checked lately. Doubt they are now.

    Why should AA do anything different, they are making plenty of money flying all of the locals coming into the country on the Gov’t dime. No need for ID’s, reservations or nothing just tell the NGO’s where you want to go and presto your booked.

    Disgusting beyond compare

  45. As long as folks are dumb as clucks to redeem 900,000 miles round trip for AAs business class they will keep charging it.Next year 2 million round trip
    They will eventually get rid of all their bottom feeder customers and be done with them
    and hope the gouging ponzi scheme works
    My travel days are over if this keep up.Its been a great run!
    Feel sorry for the new generation getting screwed

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