Next Month American Will Start Offering 150,000 Mile One-Way Coach Awards

American flies to two destinations in the ‘South Pacific’ — Sydney and Auckland — and award seats on those flights are tough to get. American has made AAnytime awards much more expensive over the past couple of years, and they’re tweaking the ‘extra miles award’ price of these specific flights higher again.

Back in March American increased the ‘level 1’ and ‘level 2’ AAnytime award prices for South Pacific business and first class award flights.

Then in the fall they raised them again so high I actually had to check to see whether the prices were really roundtrip and not one way.

  • Business class can go up to 375,000 miles one way on highest AAnytime dates
  • First class can go up to 420,000 miles one way on highest AAnytime dates

Now American is raising the price of last seat availability, peak of peak dates, in economy as well. A spokesperson shared,

In February we’ll be adding additional reward levels to our AAnytime fares in the South Pacific. The levels will apply to the main cabin on flights to and from Sydney or Auckland. As you’ll remember in September we introduced higher levels in the premium cabins in the South Pacific. There will be no changes to MileSAAver.

I followed up to learn the exact pricing and learned that “AAnytime levels could be up to 150k and will only be impacting a small number of dates.” That is up from a maximum economy one-way award price of 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles one-way for economy.

That price won’t prevail most of the time, and it’s not the saver price either. But it’s also much more expensive than their competitors max out at for similar awards.

United’s ‘standard award’ which offers last seat availability to elites and co-brand credit card holders (and most seats to general members without their card) costs 85,000 miles one-way.

When Delta last published an award chart, their most expensive ‘level 5 award’ was 95,000 miles one-way for last seat availability.

Looking out at the end of the schedule, it turns out Delta has raised the price of their most expensive economy award between the US and Australia to 115,000 miles one-way. (You can of course force a price by including awards at multiple levels for different segments or including partner flights beyond Sydney.)

Notably American appears to price one-way economy at its top (currently 120,000 mile) level far more often than Delta does:

It’s unlikely that I’ll use these awards. I do appreciate that though United’s standard awards are more expensive than they used to be, especially in premium cabins, that they only have 2 pricing levels compared to 4 at American and 5 at Delta.

However I miss the days of knowing that award tickets were always reasonably priced enough that I could get on pretty much any airline, any flight, if I needed to. I remember when United’s extra miles award to Australia was 150,000 miles roundtrip in business class. Now American can charge that much for one-way in economy.

At the same time, in theory an AAnytime award is reasonably likely to trade off with a paying customer. So they’re expensive to offer.

Whether there’s more demand (and thus higher cost) for AAnytime awards on peak dates than expected, or a belief that the market will bear the higher prices, it’s still shocking to see when up through April 8, 2014 on all except the Seoul route American offered last seat availability for simply double the saver price.

When searching for award space, before you resort to this sort of extortionate pricing, don’t forget that you can book Air Pacific via Fiji, Air Tahiti Nui via Papeete, and even Air New Zealand with an Air Tahiti Nui codeshare to New Zealand.

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. Its only a matter of time before American starts requiring miles to be purchased round trip similar to how US Airway flight could only be booked

  2. Both DL and AA are doing their very best to ensure that the highest AAnytime / Level 5 awards approach $0.01/mile value, if not worse. For that I applaud UA for still having a solid line for Standard Awards that aren’t crazy sky high (relative to these 150,000 mile BS).

    A FF program is only good if both elite benefits and *attainable* awards are balanced.

  3. At this point, AA should just save us all some grief and eliminate the “saaver” level. I can’t remember AA miles ever being more worthless.

    Gary, are you going to try for EXP again this year – or have you left for greener pastures? My wife and I are seriously contemplating matching to UA (we’re both PLT on AA). Any thoughts?

  4. @Stu I expect to earn American’s Executive Platinum again this year for 2018. (1) They offer better service from my home airport than United or Delta, and (2) I don’t necessarily see the grass as greener at Delta or United.

  5. For “Legacy” carriers, loyalty is now all but dead — if it wasn’t already.

    When you can get 2 miles per spend dollar on Capital 1, and those miles are redeemable at a flat rate of 1 cent per mile, there is little reason to accumulate “Legacy” carrier miles that often redeem at a rate of less than one cent per mile.

    And when you can get 2 cents cash back per spend dollar on any number of cards out there, and then use your cash back to buy what you want, when you want, the time and energy we spend playing these airlines’ one-sided “Heads I win/Tails you lose” frequent flyer game seems to be largely a waste.

  6. AA is worse than even DL now. And since AA miles for TATL trips more or less require fuel surcharge scam fees on BA since AA is so miserly with releasing space of the historically most common award sort, AA miles are the worst of the AA, DL and UA lot for me. How far has AA fallen.

    And if you wanted to redeem miles for economy class international travel between the US and Europe or Asia, then the value of the AA miles is horrible

  7. Doug Parker can “ask” for 150,000 miles to sit in the back of the plane from LAX to Sydney, but it looks like a ridiculous situation to me.

    You can fly United from SFO to Auckland in FIRST for 80,000 miles if you plan way in advance.

  8. Hahahahahaha, I cannot burn these crappy miles fast enough.
    Makes my decision to send my loyalty to Delta look smarter every day(and it takes a lot to make me look smart).
    AA is trash

  9. For this reason I’ve been referring to AA currency as LirAA. Bring back the Italian Lira with AAmerican miles! Woohoo!
    Want a cup of coffee, that will be 9,000 LirAA. A flight to Australia, 150,000 LirAA. At its demise, the Lira was pegged to the Euro at about 1900:1. That may be American’s new goal.

  10. Dont get their CITI cards-in fact call Citi and cancel your cards and tell them exactly why!
    dumping these american miles anyways now.

  11. The best awards to Australia are using Virgin America points to book on Virgin Australia. A ROUNDTRIP in coach is 40,000 Virgin America Elevate Points. Roundtrip Premium Economy is 60,000 points, and first is 80,000 points. My whole family and I redeemed 240,000 Virgin America Elevate points last year for four premium economy roundtrips from LAX to Sydney. There is no reason to use these outrageous awards. Just use Virgin America and its partner Virgin Australia instead, at least while Virgin America is still around and this partnership is still alive.

  12. I think a class action may be in order. AA is going beyond run-of-the mill corporate greed – they’re literally robbing us of value, some of which took years or even decades to accumulate – and all under an understanding of reward for loyalty that American is cynically breaching. Only because they think we can’t or won’t do anything about it.

    I know all of the fine print arguments – but I don’t believe they would do well before a jury.

  13. Hey Gary, unless you have a great name for AA miles yourself (akin to SkyPesos basically), I think it might draw a lot of traffic if you ran a contest looking for a good name.

  14. @steve – American’t FTW!

    @bob but nowadays the only availability on VA is within a week of departure. No?

  15. @italdesign: That hasn’t been my experience. We booked coach tickets using Virgin Elevate points months before we left. I then upgraded to premium economy (also using points) outbound about a month before we left. Admittedly, I the premium economy return didn’t open up until the day before our flight (we still had our coach seats), but in general I’ve found that they have availability at least a few months in advance. Of course, the higher the class of service, the less availability and more likely that you’ll have to roll the dice to get something on very short notice.

  16. Wow, the AAdvantage redemption chart has really gone into the toilet in less than a year. Prior to AA’s March 2016 award chart devaluation, you could fly First Class on a Qantas A380 between the U.S. and Sydney for 72,500 miles each way. And that included the amazing Qantas First Class lounge at Sydney airport on the flight back (to the U.S.). Of course, finding available seats was a challenge, but was worth the hunt.

    So now, it takes more miles than that just to fly international Economy on AA? That’s nuts, man, absolutely nuts. Who says inflation is dead?

  17. Screw American. Period! This is what happens when after all the deregulation and the mergers of the past. And government bailouts of post 911. An arrogant, Texas-sized myopic policy. American does not care about its membership or the general flying public. And why is that……..THEY DON’T HAVE TOO!!! So grow up. Big babies. It’s the bottom dollar. No
    thing else. Sheeple. Wake up!!!

  18. @Bob – ha, it never occurred to me to consider Y to Aussie 😀 Was the upgrade using Elevate miles?

  19. @italdesign: I redeemed Virgin America Elevate points for coach roundtrip tickets. Then when the premium economy seats became available, I cashed in the difference between what I originally paid for the coach tickets v. the cost of the premium economy to get the premium economy seats. Basically Virgin refunded the points and re-ticketed me in premium economy. It was a superb deal, although you’re at the mercy of whether premium economy will open up. For me, the outbound was easy, but the return didn’t show up until the day before the flight.

  20. Couldn’t you do Hawaiian, too?

    Personally, if I was flying to Australia or New Zealand I’d do a paid airfare as I would want all those miles. I don’t think spending 300,000 miles for economy or whatever the top-end costs is worth it, when you can find paid business-class airfares for under $3,000.

  21. @italdesign: I’m Virgin America Gold, so there was no fee to redeposit the points and no change fee. Virgin just refunded the points and I redeemed a larger amount for the premium economy award.

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