NO NOTICE CHANGE: American’s New Variable Award Prices for New York – Los Angeles and San Francisco Flights

Up until April 8, 2014, American had two award levels.

  • Saver awards. These are the prices we usually talk about. And they aren’t available on every flight, every day.
  • “AAnytime awards.” This lets you book any available seat on any price for more miles.

AAnytime or Rulebuster-style awards used to cost double the price of a saver award. For twice the miles you could ‘buy out of’ capacity controls.

American Airlines Airbus A321T First Class

A little over two years ago American introduced multiple levels of prices for these higher-priced awards. Occasionally these cost 20% fewer miles, most of the time they cost a lot more miles.

The price did not vary by flight (how sold out it was, or how likely to sell out) but by date. So some days were more expensive than others. You could still book the last seat available on an almost sold out flight for the lowest extra miles cost if it fell on a lowest price date.

Last year they increased the very top price to 75,000 miles one way for coach domestic (higher for premium cabins).

At the time they reiterated:

  1. “AAnytime award levels vary by date” meaning American doesn’t actually manage the price of extra mileage awards based on inventory for a specific flight.

  2. “a few select dates require a higher number of miles” meaning that “Anytime 3” prices that aren’t specifically listed on the award chart would be dynamic, unpublished, and higher — but still applying to all flights on a given date, not some flights across dates.

American Airlines Airbus A321T Business Class

THIS NO LONGER HOLDS TRUE at least for New York JFK – Los Angeles and New York JFK – San Francisco.

WITHOUT NOTICE American changed how they manage awards on these flights on Monday August 15.

Here are business class AAnytime awards on the same day, New York JFK – Los Angeles:

You now see multiple prices on the same day, different prices for different flights. This is new. American tells me “we implemented additional levels (1,2,3,4) for JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO on Monday. What you see in your screenshots is correct.”

It’s only two routes at this point, but the technology is now there evidently to manage award inventory more closely — and it clearly means higher-priced awards (and if lower priced awards are in the future, it will only be for flights where paid ticket prices are so low you wouldn’t care about using miles anyway, or wouldn’t get much of a deal doing so).

After the no-notice changes in April 2014, there was a huge customer backlash and American went to great lengths to share in advance even the smallest changes to the program. With the departure of Suzanne Rubin at AAdvantage I hope that memory hasn’t been lost, and this doesn’t become a new way of doing things.

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. Unfortunately, we knew this was going to happen. It makes UA the only (currently) standardly priced major.

  2. Hmm. Don’t worry about giving attribution to for figuring this all out earlier today. Lots have retold the story but all have given attribution…

  3. AA once again lies about giving notice. When wii bloggers and frequent flyers learn. #hash tag #suckers

  4. So the “AAnytime Award” costs less than the devaluation of the “MilesAAver Award”? Good job, AA……the Delta and United execs in your boardroom who make these new AAdvantage decisions sure know their Puffin’Stuff!

  5. They just keep pushing me toward relying on my Lifetime Platinum status…. Why should I show any loyalty to them by throwing business travel exclusively to them? I always bring my wife along on a mileage ticket when traveling SFO-JFK or LAX-JFK. Now, they want to triple the cost. Nuts to that. My business travel will now go to the airline with the cheapest miles for my companion. I like the A321T’s, but so much for that if they charge like this.

  6. The most worthless miles in the game just got more worthless. If you can find a redemption worth a cent per mile book it while you still can.

  7. @Ivan

    If you can’t get more than a cent per mile on AA, you’re really, really bad at this game

  8. AA seems to be going downhill fast. I guess their saving grace is that most of their competitors are likewise neutering their programs. Too bad it’s monkey see, monkey do in the airline business.

  9. Just want to let any aa execs know: 8P (that’s me sticking my tongue out at you cause I took all my business elsewhere a year ago as I saw the continued devaluation of your miles). You sucked a year ago and you completely blow now.

  10. I know we have a legitimate gripe about the lack of notice, but AAnytime awards have always been for suckers. We can drum-up our faux outrage all we want, but in reality, we never would have booked these awards anyway.

  11. Happened on MIA-LAX too. Check out the Aug 30 flights, the AAnytime awards are priced differently per flight. Been like that since 2 weeks ago.

  12. Last year I began to be interested in American’s program after really only using Southwest and United miles before that. They offered good options. Then the devaulation hit, then award inventory evaporated, and now this. Airline award program changes are never good. Unless it’s Wyndham. Oh wait, that’s a hotel.

  13. Thanks for pointing this out. Terrible news for sure. AA doesn’t make sense for me to be loyal to. I don’t know where the frequent flyer marketing is going these days. Flying less with AA that is certain and crediting everything to AS is todays plan. However I am also purchasing more AA (and Delta ) business class tickets too instead while still spending less on airfare on a whole. But frustrated that my AA points are losing such value these days.

  14. @Eric I credit sources wherever I can, more than most, I hadn’t read that. Someone asked me what was going on, and I checked with AA.

  15. @Dave I see that’s your site but I had never heard of let alone read it. (Technically that’s not true — I heard of the URL in November 2010 when Seth Miller registered it while sitting in my office, I assume he let it go dormant after that if you’re using it.)

  16. OMAAT has a screen shot where this happened for LAX-MIA also. It appears to be more than just the 2 routes.

  17. What a shame. This was still a good program just 5 years ago. Now AA redemptions cost so much more whereas earning potential from flying and credit card spending/per dollar has stayed relatively flat. The value of earning AA miles is not there anymore relative to other airlines. There award chart has become a convulted & overinflated nightmare. Miles aren’t worth what they used to be, I suspect a comeback of cash back cards as miles become worth less & less so quickly.

  18. @Gary, yes he let it go dormant since it wasn’t being used. I’ve talked to Seth a few times since I started my blog. And no worries, at least now you’ve heard of a great new blog 😉

  19. I expect this will likely get worse in the near future. Clearly United is now the best program and United, if you are watching…this does not go unnoticed! Although operationally they may not be the best right now, Oscar really seems like he is working to turn this company around and it won’t be long before United becomes the best airline to remain loyal to.

  20. Gary you look a fool touting this “no notice” nonsense. Did you read the AAdvantage T&Cs you are bound by whenever you registered? The company can unilaterally impose whatever changes pursuant to the T&Cs.

    Notice was given when you priced the award…it clearly indicates the number of miles required for the sergeant, no? You come across as over-entitled and arrogant when you post things like this. Stick to hawking credit cards.

  21. @Josh G – you come off like a fool here, actually, since for anything more major than this the DOT Inspector General has spoken: changes to a frequent flyer program that do not allow a consumer to use their miles under existing rules before going into effect is an unfair and deceptive practice.

    I’m well aware of what the terms and conditions say.

    And also the extent to which those preclude a consumer from suing (but not DOT from acting)

    And in any case, what I suggest is that it hopefully doesn’t signal a retreat from the efforts that American has made over the past 2.5 years to give notice in advance of even the smallest changes after they believed failure to do so in April 2014 cost them too much trust.

  22. Cost much trust? Yet you are on here 18-waking hours a day promoting AA. Planes are full, company is making record profits. Sure the sell-side analysts and institutional investors are hung up on the revenue environment but the YOY comps will begin to look better, and the fundamentals remain strong.

    Seriously it’s not like you redeem for these anyway now do you? Why do you believe you need to be given ages of advance notice? Do other businesses do that? Nope. Fees and policies change on a dime. Get used to it, the program won’t be as lucrative as it was before. And I thought you have haven’t been flying much anymore on AA anyway.

    Seriously do you realize how much credibility you lose posting this? For a self-professed “thought leader” I expect better.

    If you’re such an expert why aren’t you at HDQ 2 working on AAdvantage?

  23. @Josh G – cost much trust, that comes from AA executives at the time and led to a shift in their behavior. Point here is whether or not that 2.5 year shift is changing again.

    A loyalty program is a trust proposition, earn now for the promise of redemption later, shifting terms of those redemptions is a big deal because miles are a proprietary currency, they are nothing like cash where you can spend them anywhere and on anything but rather only on the terms and products and at prices set by the issuer of the currency. I may ‘lose credibility’ with you, and your strawman arguments (not something I seek anyway), but DOT Inspector General agrees with me. And mine isn’t fundamentally a legal point but a loyalty marketing point.

    Why am I not working on the AAdvantage program? I have several jobs that I enjoy more and pay more.

    In any case, it’s sort of funny when you make a totally off-base criticism you ignore that original argument you made rather than even referencing my response (let alone admitting you were wrong), and simply move on to something else while repeating your insult. That’s sad.

  24. Never sure why you always stress “No Notice” when any of the airlines makes changes to the cost of an awards ticket; when retailers change prices, they don’t provide notice either.

  25. Not sure why “Rick” feels the need to identify themselves as a different person to appear more than one commenter feels this way.

    It’s pretty clear why the lack of notice matters, just see my comment immediately above. Miles aren’t cash, they’re an intertemporal promise. No notice changes are the worst thing any loyalty program can do.

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