BREAKING: American AAdvantage Reveals Their New Award Chart Effective March 22

American has come out with its award chart changes. These have been much anticipated, because we really haven’t seen changes to the saver award chart in a big way since the introduction of one-way awards in 2009.

While United and Delta were busy raising award pricing, American was focused on integration of two airlines. In some sense we had a couple of years where American AAdvantage was just more generous than their competitors. Now they’re making changes that narrow that gap.

  • Overall changes are what we’d expect — increases where American was underpriced, especially business class to Asia and the South Pacific and also international first class awards.

  • Still the changes are less bad than many paying attention to the industry might have expected.

  • And there are a few givebacks along the way.

Nonetheless I consider American miles to be worth less when these changes go into effect March 22. How much less depends on your tendency to book international first class (as I do), where the biggest increases in award prices are.

Four Months Notice of Award Chart Changes

Last year American eliminated distance-based awards and their limited free stopover benefit. They did it without notice. And since then they’ve made a point to give better notice of changes.

This time we get four months’ notice of award chart changes. And they’re really not as bad as feared. I went on the record a year and a half ago with my predictions for the AAdvantage award chart. Some folks thought I was being pollyanna-ish. But my predictions were pretty close. First class awards to Asia and to the Middle East increased a little more than I expected then (though less than I’ve feared recently).

Award Charts are Only Part of What Matters

Award charts are only part of the equation. The value of a redemption program is a function of:

  • Award pricing
  • Award availability
  • Award routing rules

American’s award pricing is what’s changing effective March 22. There are tweaks to economy and business class award prices, and fairly large increases in first class awards.

What isn’t changing is availability. American, and the oneworld alliance generally, isn’t as good here as Star Alliance with fewer airlines and fewer routes. Availability to Europe and Asia can be a challenge in comparison.

What also isn’t changing right now is routing rules or what flights can be combined together to build an award. No program that I can think of has the complicated rules that American AAdvantage does. In fact, recent modest tweaks makes them even worse. That’s why you need to bookmark my Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

    I asked American about this and was told that it’s one of the things they’re specifically looking at as a potential future change. That would be super positive if it came to pass.

Nonetheless I find that I wind up booking most of my awards with American miles, because I have a preference for first class. And they have more airlines with first class products that I want to fly and that ultimately have availability. Historically that’s meant Cathay Pacific. Recently that’s meant Etihad. Although I’ve also had good luck with what some would otherwise consider a unicorn, Qantas first class.

Qantas First Class Predeparture Champagne

Changes to AAdvantage Economy Awards – Minor Tweaks Both Up and Down

There’s no change to the basic 25,000 mile roundtrip domestic award pricing. But there’s a new lower-priced award for short flights, and modest tweaks to the rest of the chart for coach redemptions.

Here’s the new economy award chart for travel to or from the US Continental 48 States that goes into effect March 22:

They’re introducing a new 7500 mile each way award level for flights under 500 miles. US Airways had a huge short haul network, and better than 40% of the combined airline’s flights are under 500 miles. It was hard to justify spending 25,000 miles roundtrip for these flights, but it will be easier to spend 15,000 (of course you can spend 15,000 British Airways Avios roundtrip for American flights up to 1150 miles).

They’re also eliminating reduced off-peak awards when traveling on partners to Hawaii, South American 1, and Asia 1. That means the only partner off peak award prices are to Europe.

Other saver awards in most cases go up (or down) by 2500 miles each way. There’s only two cases where AAnytime awards — spending extra miles for last seat availability on the aircraft (on American flights only) — change.

I put the saver awards under the old chart and new chart next to each other. And for off-peak travel other than to Europe, the prices apply to American Airlines travel only.

These are the changes:

  • Canada/Alaska awards go up 2500 miles each way (so 30,000 roundtrip instead of 25,000)
  • Hawaii off-peak awards go up 2500 miles each way
  • Caribbean/Mexico drop 2500 miles each way
  • Central America drops 2500 miles each way for both off-peak and regular saver awards
  • South American 1 goes up 2500 miles each way for both off-peak and regular saver awards
  • Europe goes up 2500 miles each way for off-peak and the lower tier of AAnytime award
  • Asia 1 goes up 7500 miles each way for off-peak and 2500 miles for saver and the lower tier of AAnytime award.
  • American introduces a 32,500 mile each way (2500 mile discount) off peak award for Asia 2.
  • South Pacific awards go up 2500 miles each way at the saver level.

All in all, changes to economy awards — as we’ve seen with other airlines — have been relatively minor.

Business Class Gets More Expensive – Especially Asia and South Pacific

Here’s the variance between the current and March 22 one-way business class saver award chart:

One change not noted here is that international business class awards which include business class on a 3-cabin flight within North America will cost an additional 7500 miles. So if you’re flying American’s premium transcon service between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco, if you’re flying 3-cabin equipment Miami – Los Angeles, or you’re flying Cathay Pacific between Vancouver and New York JFK you’re going to pay 7500 miles more one way.

American Airlines Airbus A321T Business Class

Comparing the regions, we see modest changes to North America and Northern South America.

American isn’t increasing business class pricing to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by very much. They were already somewhat expensive here, on a go-forward basis I consider this to be a really good value especially with partners like Etihad and Qatar (not to mention Royal Jordanian and Gulf Air).

AAdvantage premium cabin awards between the US and Asia were massively underpriced compared to competitors. Now they’re still a very good deal, just less good of a deal than before.

The piece I find most interesting is that Europe awards go from 100,000 miles roundtrip to 115,000 miles roundtrip. That’s much cheaper than Delta. United charges 115,000 miles for flights on their own metal. Realistically, though, availability is usually on partners at 140,000 miles roundtrip.

I surmise that they recognize that many AAdvantage Europe awards are already very expensive since their primary transatlantic partner is British Airways, and BA awards incur fuel surcharges. So there’s a cash co-pay to many of their Europe awards on top of the 115,000 miles. That’s why we don’t see a bigger increase there.

The Biggest Increases are in International First Class Awards

This is where the big changes are. I’ve built a chart comparing current prices (starting or ending travel in the mainland US) with prices going into effect March 22.

Since we’re seeing big changes here, I added a column not just showing the increase amount for one-way awards, but also the percentage change. And I’ve highlighted the pieces that ‘matter’. Three-cabin first class isn’t super-relevant on a Hawaii award (unless you fly three-cabin first class on the domestic portion and two-cabin overwater). It’s similarly not relevant for South America or Central America.

American’s 3-cabin premium first class on their Airbus A321T aircraft that flies between New York JFK and Los Angeles/San Francisco goes up substantially. So does flying Cathay Pacific first class New York – Vancouver.

American Premium Transcon A321T First Class

Still, Asia 1 and Europe first class awards are reasonable though more expensive. It’s Africa, Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, and Asia 2 as well as South Pacific that gets super expensive (more than 200,000 miles roundtrip) in the new award chart. The biggest increases are where American was the most underpriced which isn’t surprising at all. I’ve been saying for quite some time that 135,000 mile Cathay Pacific first class roundtrips just aren’t going to last. And they aren’t.

Cathay Pacific First Class

I asked AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin why international first class awards increase so much more than other awards. She described a “combination of factors” that they “studied closely the competitive pricing, demand and also product investment and enhancements that have been made.”

I take this to mean, first class is very good and people will pay more for it — and look, our pricing isn’t quite as bad as United’s and look at what British Airways did to first class awards..!

We Get to Keep Award Charts and We Have Enough Notice of Changes to Do Something About It

We get advance notice of changes, and we get a published reference point for what our miles should be worth. We can know what our mileage goals need to be. That’s super important making an intertemporal ‘deal’ with a loyalty program — you earn miles now to redeem in the future — and it’s something that Delta no longer provides (they also refuse to give advance notice of changes, implementing new award pricing either prior to or concomitant with making an announcement).

On the whole, an AAdvantage mile will be worth less March 22 than it is worth today. Pricing is still in line with or somewhat better than competitors, which it needs to be since AAdvantage doesn’t offer the best availability or most flexible routing rules for many destinations.

For me these changes will be yuge — my Southeast Asia awards will cost me 85,000 miles more per person roundtrip. The Qantas first class awards I booked a few weeks ago to visit my family in Sydney would be 75,000 miles more per person roundtrip. There’s no question business class starts to look relatively more attractive than first class under this new chart.

If you’ve got awards to book through the beginning of February 2017, and they’re awards that will get more expensive under the new chart, you’re going to want to do it before March 22 to lock in current pricing.

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. @gary
    tks gary
    are the changes in effect for flights departin after march 22 or for bookings that are made after march 22?
    if i book now for june will it be under the old chart?

  2. Gary,

    I can live with the South Pacific increases if AA actually releases saver inventory on their own metal on the new routes to OZ and NZ. Right now, getting those tickets is too much of a lottery, as you well know.

    I also have to wonder if some of these increases are going to be “overcome by events”. For example, if CX actually bothers to restrict partner award inventory in F, there goes one of the main ways of flying F to Asia 2. As others have noted, CX F is tough to come by in advance anyway. Do you think that the stiff increase in F was done in some way to placate CX? It wouldn’t surprise me.

    By and large, I can live with these increases.

  3. @gary
    gary one more question, since I am based in YVR I understand going to the US is now more expensive to me, but do the charts change for canada as origin, to central america/caribbean/mexico/south america or does Canada fall into north america for the purpose of those destinations?
    If so it seems we will be making more trips south of the border to BLI and SEA….

  4. Gary – I love your blog and have defended you from haters but your inability to criticize American has lost me. AA’s changes are awful.

    DL has a better operation than AA.
    UA has better award availability across *A than AA does with OW.

    It’s game over for arrogant AA. I’ll use my status next year and then be a free agent.

  5. @Dan – I suspect the pricing was more about the rest of the world pricing first class awards higher, American was a crazy good value in comparison, and those sorts of values aren’t necessary to maintain. Delta doesn’t offer international first class, and American’s prices are still lower than United’s. I haven’t seen Cathay restricting partner inventory, they restrict it enough to their own members as it is! I doubt Cathay is the driver here, American doesn’t even have a joint venture with Cathay (so they aren’t one of American’s closer partners).

  6. Okay, how does it make sense that it will take more miles to fly Seattle to Vancouver than Seattle to Miami? Last I heard, tickets to Canada also were treated as domestic for lounge access purposes.

  7. AnonCHI I agree these changes are awful! And I even wrote a recent post why I would almost consider Delta because of them, since AAdvantage isn’t offering the crazy good value to compensate. But I also walked through why Delta doesn’t work for me even still.

  8. If the trade-off is better MileSAAver availability, I’m all for this change. But I’m skeptical we’ll actually see that happen.

  9. Thanks, Gary. Too bad to see some of these, but a few bright spots. Being DCA-based, I appreciate the new short-hop tier, as it will give me more options alongside using avios.

    For long-haul, I’m just going to have to tell myself that J is the new F – and with some of the nicer new J products, there’s at least some truth to that…

  10. When you figure in the 10% mileage rebate from AA Citi and Barclay credit cards, the mileage amounts required in business and 1st class are still better (mostly) than with United or Delta. I’m not sure why people never discuss this benefit when comparing program award charts.

  11. @RKToledo – It’s capped at 10k/year. Not that it’s nothing, but it still doesn’t reduce everything by 10%. And you have to have one of those credit cards (and pay annual fee) which many users don’t.

  12. This only confirms that Mr. Anderson is running all US airlines and not only Delta. AA and United are mere copycats and do whatever Delta tells them to do. Not even to devaluate their program AA could be innovative. At least now people won’t laugh about me being a Delta hostage. You feel my pain and at least I get the best planes and on time schedule from all US airlines. 🙂

  13. I don’t often redeem for premium cabins so this isn’t much of an impact to me, though I understand it is for some.

    What matters as well is availability which hasn’t been good recently. AA could have the cheapest redemption rates in the world but if there’s scarce availability what difference does it make.

    In some cases the difference between Peak and Off-peak is pretty minimal, to the point of being almost irrelevant.

    Even where AA is still cheaper than UA, the better availability and much better routing rules with UA redemptions kind of make UA a better choice in many ways.

  14. I know your blog focuses on premium travel, but there are 2 changes that adversely affect regular travelers without zillions of miles who are just looking for transportation at a low price.

    The first is the European off-peak award. I can’t tell you how many times people I know how availed themselves of 20K tickets to Europe with the generous off-peak period. At least at 22.5K, this award is still good (obviously better from the USA west than the USA east).

    The award that budget travelers will miss the most is 20K to deep South America. Off-peak to Argentina and Chile seems to disappear entirely. 20K was a steal for these flights (Patagonia for 20K), and there’s really nothing comparable in the other programs.

  15. The definition of “off peak” has changed. I know that Oct. 15 has been the first day of the off-peak period to Europe; now it will be Nov. 1. I don’t know if the dates on the other end have changed.

  16. One sweet spot: although it’s not any cheaper you can now have a free stopover in Asia 1 traveling to Asia 2. First to Asia 1 plus business to Asia 2 is the same as first to Asia 2. So if you have the time why not add a stop in Japan or Korea.

  17. At first look, it seems to me that this makes United the top of the heap (of the big three) as far as value of miles is concerned. The horrific routing rules, worse redemptions to Canada, utter lack of availability on AA metal adds up to AA miles bring barely worth more than sky pesos. Perhaps DDosadvantage miles will be the new style.

  18. Gary, any idea whether it will be possible to earn 10,000 EQMs on both the Citi and Barclay’s card? In the email announcement today it was hard to tell: ”

    Also, as a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive card or AAdvantage® AviatorTM Silver MasterCard® credit cardmember, you’ll still earn 10,000 EQMs after you reach your qualifying spend for the year when you use your eligible AAdvantage® credit card. “

  19. Gary, you are way too soft on these bastards. Yes, give perspective and say it follows the awful trend, but call it what it is: a massive gutting of the award chart on the same scale as the UA devaluation. Stop being an AApologist.

  20. Let’s not put the lipstick on the pig. The AA devaluation makes it much worse than UA or the much hated DL.

    US-Europe in business is 70K on AA which has very poor options when comparing to UA, not to mention the routing rules.

    DL while it does not give you a chart, you could often find 62,5K either on DL or on VS, especially within 3 months to departure even in the height of Summer. Try that with AA…

    Thanks to the flood of the 100K a pop Citicard – it is inevitable we see this coming. Worse is to see the bloggers still try to justify the devaluation after constantly hawking the Citicards.

  21. @Elena – You are correct about the redefinition of “off-peak.” While the 2500 mile increase isn’t THAT bad, the narrowing of the travel window is quite bad. It’s basically now just limited to winter (Xmas excluded). No early fall travel, no spring break. So it’s now not terribly valuable, and similar to the promos that are frequently offered by other airlines for winter travel.

    A bad day for budget travelers for sure.

  22. Real disappointment. Do we know if we can book a ticket at the old level and do a date change (which is currently free) after March 22 so we can extend the lower pricing another year?

    What will Alaska do now?

  23. The bloggers and its readers have been asking for devaluation from AA for sometime and now you got it. You have been saying” if AA gives us advance notice, you were all for any devaluation”. Well they gave you advance notice and they destroyed the aadvantage program so be happy from April 2015.

    AA is now one of the worst reward program after doing away with stop over and now this award devaluation.

    Time for bloggers to quit and time to use cash back cards cos the gov rarely ever devalues currency.

    Love my 2% back on everything everyday card.

    will be canceling my AA cards just like i have done with UA cards cos we all know these programs are a SCAM!

  24. @Jim — The program is not a scam, it’s just not as lucrative. And while everyone obsesses about award charts, the real “crime” is availability. AA’s is much worse than UA’s. That’s a big problem for “normal” travelers.

    The devaluation also highlights the fact that you’re probably better off collecting Avios points than AAdvantage points — even if you intend for most of your award travel to be on AA. I’m sure BA will gut the earnings on AA flights, but who really cares: it’s REDEMPTIONS that really matter these days (with points generated through credit cards). Without good off-peak coach awards and worse premium travel charts, why focus on collecting AA miles? Wouldn’t a stash of Avios miles be more valuable for most travelers?

  25. @Gary Any idea how this will work for upgrades to awards booked before March 22 but upgraded after that date? I have a CX HKG-JFK award booked in business for next October and plan to upgrade to first when it opens up, likely a few days before departure. Will I get to upgrade at the old price of 12,500 more miles or will I now owe an additional 55,000 miles to upgrade that award ticket?

  26. You are way to cozy with AA… When United posed a similar award chart you used words liked “gutted their award chart” and “mileagePoo”

    Odd you aren’t as harsh with american

  27. What makes things far worse is the devalued earnings. For a Platinum, you will only earn 8 times the pre-tax airfare. So, my trip to London last month that earned 21,000 miles in my AAdvantage account will earn about 5,500 miles under the new program. So, while you are looking at the award devaluation, consider how much harder it will be to earn miles toward an award in the first place.

  28. @jay American did this because United set the new standard. It’s been clear for a long time that they were going to do this. I posted my own projected award chart 18 months ago. The outrage piece of it isn’t new. And with United we had the reasonable claim that they were so much worse than the competition with their changes. That’s not exactly true anymore although it makes some foreign programs more attractive.

  29. @Matt – you’re looking at the American Airlines award chart (it doesn’t include Middle East/India because they do not fly to the region). You need to look at the partner chart.

  30. @farnorthtrader There is a new 7,500 mile award for sub-500 mile flights, including those between the U.S. and Canada. So thankfully Seattle to Vancouver will be less miles than Seattle to Miami.

  31. I’m trying to book some AA flights to europe, there’s tons of availability when I am looking Sept/Oct next year, but there seems to be only 1 seat per day. And there are 2 of us. Any tricks about this? Book on adjacent days and then try to change it later?

    Also, if 2 US legs are AA and 2 are BA, I would love to use my BA miles up, but the same flights aren’t coming up on the BA site. Can I get any AA availability from BA if I call them directly? Or is their availability through BA points different than you get booking with AA? I’m kind of confused about that, obviously.

  32. @Gary — “(of course you can spend 15,000 British Airways Avios roundtrip for American flights up to 650 miles).”

    Gary, while true, as you know, you also spend 15,000 BA Avios round trip for flight that are up to 1,151 miles, each way.

    The above statistic places the AA “give-back” in a better perspective — although welcome for those who only have AA has a rewards currency, the less than 500 miles each way for 7,500 AA miles, pales in comparison to the 1,151 miles distance that 7,500 BA avios purchases, and that also comes with no close in booking fees or cancel fees.

  33. I don’t understand how people can be so upset, of course this was going to happen. The airlines intended for international first class awards to be something a client saves a couple years for.

    Inflation, the Internet, the amount of ways to earn bonus points outside of flying/credit cards and the ever increasing card sign up bonuses means that someone can easily rack up enough points to fly around the world in first class several times a.year.

    This just restores the balance.

  34. On another note, with business class sales getting cheaper and awards getting more expensive I think they will need to drop the price of purchased points (or increase the bonus back to 100%) or they’re going to see that particular revenue steam annihilated.

  35. I’m with tk. TBH, since I fly like two domestic revenue trips per year, I just roll with the punches.

    Do I *like* devals? Oh hell no. The real litmus test is whether or not the rug gets pulled out from under neath me. And I find most f products a bit over rated… Flat bed j is just fine.

  36. I’ll add to the chorus – United now has the best award program of the 3, and by a wide margin. There is always a saver award to be had on them or their partners if you’re even a little flexible. Whereas I’ve been redeeming almost entirely Aanytime awards on AA metal since that change.
    So, I’m now done making revenue bookings on AA, except perhaps to credit to AS.
    And as for status, it looks like that ship has sailed. I may switch to an EU or Asian *A program if my reimbursable travel picks up in 2016, but if I’m still flying largely on my own dime, I’ll be buying discounted J or domestic F. Which means Delta is likely to get all or most of my domestic business, if prices stay roughly where they’ve been.
    I hope AA gets creamed by DL next year.

  37. This devaluation essentially makes luxury travel for a couple impossible. You would have to take twice the time to plan even if you both get the same credit cards because most people cant spend double the money to make the bonuses. After doing a little research yesterday, it almost seems like Singapore might have the best award chart now since you can stack cards from Amex, Citi and Chase and transfer in plus get the 15% discount. Seems to make it much more attainable for two people. At the very least AA is only going to be good for one way awards for two people and worry about the miles home elsewhere.

  38. Gary, I seem to remember the narrative against UA being much more critical, for doing basically the same things. So what if Delta and UA did it first, the narrative against AA should contain the same vitriol and capital letters that the previous outcries did.

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