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.