American Award Space ‘Back to Normal’ (Cough)

I value my American miles for partner awards, but most members look to redeem American miles on American flights and that’s gotten very hard. It used to be exceptionally easy. Sometime in mid-2012 premium cabin awards to Europe really tightened up. About 18 months ago premium cabin awards to Asia tightened up, and awards to South America did as well.

Now even economy awards are hard. This is especially frustrating to Europe because American’s primary transatlantic partner is British Airways whose awards incur fuel surcharges. When booking economy that almost completely defeats the point of using miles since you wind up paying much of the cost of an economy ticket while facing availability constraints, spending miles, and not earning anything in the process.

About a week ago I wrote about American removing saver awards entirely from some domestic markets. Starting a month from now, there were only three days through the end of April where you could find a saver award flying Austin – Dallas. That’s a short, cheap one hour flight where American offers at least 14 flights a day.

It turns out that was temporary and things are back to ‘normal’. For the next month seats are available on this route every day:

Most months you’ll see seats most days.

Although I wouldn’t call availability ‘good’ by any means.

The point though is that the elimination of domestic saver awards on several routes was a temporary phenomenon that has passed. Now I would simply characterize award availability as poor rather than non-existent.

Similarly, I wrote about the complete and total elimination of saver awards from American’s Buenos Aires flights.

On June 21 I found:

From July 19 through end of schedule there is not a single saver award in any class of service on American flights.

Fortunately that is no longer the case. Now Buenos Aires award space is merely very poor but it does exist. Here’s Miami – Buenos Aires.

Indeed, during low season when planes are expected to be empty we again see reasonable availability.

There are more months without more than two or three days of availability than there are with 10 or more days of seats. But the idea of withdrawing an entire market from award redemption was short-lived. That’s been fixed.

Now we return to normal — which is that you really want to use American’s miles on partners rather than on American itself, both because many partners offer better inflight experiences and because partners offer better award availability.

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. I just checked four different routes and still do not see any award space.

  2. There still is ZERO award availability for business class from YVR-PHX or PHX-YVR. Entire schedule and zero availability

  3. @ Gary — But Delta is so horrible…why does AA get such an easy pass from you? Delta at least HAS seats, albeit at ahigh price.

  4. You know it’s said that Leprechauns actually do exist in some corners of Ireland. They just require a little bit of coaxing to come out of the shadows. Jameson does the trick.

  5. @Gene – easy pass? I’ve been hitting American award space pretty hard [and American does have seats at a high price, I’m criticizing saver availability only here]

  6. Ironic that Buenos Aires award availability is sparse, when that flight often goes under-filled and the whole point of award miles was to better take aadvantage of inventory.

  7. It’s great that space has returned to those routes you called out last time, but I’m still seeing only a single date on the entire calendar on the MIA-VVI (Bolivia) route and even it is only economy saver.

    There’s a point where you cross a line from “misleading” when advertising saver rates and move into the territory of “false and deceptive advertising.” I’m not sure whether AA has crossed that line, but IDK how a route completely lacking award space (I refer to your searches to Buenos Aires here, Gary, not my single date of availability) could make a legal argument that they were not being deceptive.

    I’m not saying they need an entire calendar chock full of space, but they need to have at least a token amount of seats available at some point in their schedules or it comes across as extremely disingenuous to have a published award chart with saver levels that don’t exist.

    I suspect this is a precursor to award rates significantly increasing, as it feels like they’re testing the waters of increased pricing. I hope I’m wrong and this is all a mistake.

  8. @Gary – you are giving American a pass when you don’t even allude to the reason all saver awards disappeared and then reappeared after your article.
    Was it a glitch, or deliberate or an attempt to see what the reaction might be. You have access to inside people, you most like know the answer, but choose not to touch this subject. Even if you were asked to not write about it, you could have said something about the reason. If it was truly a glitch, was there any reason to not allude to it?

  9. @Norita I wasn’t asked not to divulge anything, I think I’m being highly critical of American’s inventory practices here, hardly “giving them a pass”

  10. I’ve noticed too, in looking for Seattle to Orlando next Feb, that AA will make unavailable all the AA planes, forcing us to travel on US Air flights with less appealing itineraries.

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