My Predictions and Fears for American’s Coming New Award Chart

American will be the only North America carrier that doesn’t allow stopovers on its awards of any kind (unless they bring back stopovers later), and the only North America carrier to add fuel surcharges to US-originating itineraries on their primary partners.

While American hasn’t devalued its award chart in many years, it is already quite expensive to many regions so that it is more or less on part — for all except first class redemptions — with where the industry already is with last year’s round of devaluations.

There are a few regions where they’ve got headroom to increase award prices. And the fact that Delta doesn’t offer international first class awards, and their primary competitor United increased their so much, makes it thinkable that we could see first class increase a good bit. But I would be genuinely shocked to see them priced anything like what United has done.

Back when United announced its changes, I said that “American flyers should be nervous.”

I’ve put together a comparison of roundtrip award prices for American, Delta, and United along with “worst likely” prediction for what happens to the American award chart.

On the whole I would guess that we’ll see some increases when the programs combine although I very much hope they simply combine into the American chart or combine to take the higher of the two award prices between American and US Airways.

Note that:

  • Each airline has a slightly different definition of which countries are in which ‘zones’ but this is a pretty fair comparison of like-awards I think.
  • I exclude off-peak award discounts, which American offers at certain times of the year.
  • I’m using United’s partner award pricing for comparison because — while you can save miles sticking to United flights — the best availability is often on partners. The fact that United has a lower price for flights on its own aircraft will help, though, hold award chart increases in check because it will serve as a comparison point for members (regardless of relative availability at each price).

Awards that shouldn’t change much:

  • American adds fuel surcharges onto their primary transatlantic partner’s flights. That means their Europe awards are already more expensive than the industry norm, and there’s not a ton of rom to bump them up.o
  • Competitors have kept awards in the Americas relatively steady, so American will likely follow suit.
  • Competitors have kept awards in economy relatively steady , so American will likely follow suit.
  • American’s chart to Africa is already expensive, and British Airways awards to Africa doubly so with fuel surcharges, so I don’t see likelihood of an increase here.
  • American’s chart to Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent is already expensive, so I don’t see likelihood of an increase here.

By all means, some awards will go up. But there won’t be major upheaval the way we’ve seen especially with United.

Where I expect the biggest increases is North and Southeast Asia, and possibly Australia (especially if American alters is routing rules to allow transit via Asia now that they no longer offer distance-based awards).

I don’t think any new chart is going to be worse than this. You’ll be able to link back to this post (and presumably I will do so too) when news actually does come out. We’ll see how I did.

I hope when changes do happen that we get good advance notice and of course that they’re better than what I’m predicting above.

What are you expecting?

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. Hi Gary, I have a reservation hnl-ord-pek, stopover at ord. Since the stopover rule has changed, will I be able to change the ord-pek lag now while still take the benefit of stopover. Thanks!

  2. Very, very helpful – thanks. However, United South Asia Partner F is 260,000 miles – not 280,000 miles. (Not that it matters at that level…)

    Interestingly, if these predictions come true, United will offer competitive value for partner F award *for flyers who want to traverse Europe and Asia on a single ticket* – assuming UA’s routing rules do not change dramatically (and my hunch is they won’t). For instance, I recently flew 19,600 miles on NH F, TG F A380 (twice), and LH F 748 on a South Asia partner award with an overnight stay (or longer) in four cities (NRT, BKK, CDG, FRA). Between booking a similar itinerary again for 260,000 UA miles, or paying 175,000 AA miles for a South Asia partner F award, UA offers comparable – if not slightly superior – value for a leisure FF addict. If, on the other hand, I were planning to travel to the Mont Pelerin Society’s upcoming HKG meeting, booking with AA would probably make more sense.

  3. Interesting post Gary. I am sure you are probably correct and more in the know than I. This helps me develop a strategy for the plan to burn miles. I wouldn’t be surprised if AA changes the award chart without notice though.

    What about availability. Do you think we will see flights like DFW-LHR, or DFW-LAX have saver awards in business class for two again? I believe currently there is not a single day when either route has 2 seats.

    Surprised you think Asia will go up so much more as Asia is about the only routes where there is a couple of saver award seats available.

    Do you think partners are charging a whole lot more for redemptions?

  4. @Greg – I checked AA and UA close-in saver J award inventory for nonstop IAH/DFW-LHR flights between 4/15 and 4/19.

    On UA, for two persons, IAH-LHR nonstop J awards are available on two flights on 4/15 (UA4 and UA921) and one flight on 4/17 (UA921). Not great, but not terrible – especially given that UA4 is on the 787.

    On AA, for two persons, let alone one person, there are precisely zero nonstop DFW-LHR saver awards available over the coming week. This is despite the fact that AA shows I=7 (that is, at least 7 deep discount J seats theoretically available, but for close-in constraints) on many of its DFW-LHR flights scheduled for the coming week.

    Both UA and AA are currently charging $7000-$8000 for IAH/DFW-LHR roundtrip J tickets that depart and return over the coming seven days. Both airlines show comparable J inventory, more or less. Yet UA offers a modest, if unimpressive, number of close-in J saver awards; AA, by contrast, offers precisely zero J saver awards. Granted, UA charges 15,000 more miles for a roundtrip saver TATL J award than AA, but I have trouble accepting that this is the sole source of the disparity – especially given that UA is 100 percent lie-flat, unlike AA. Worse, UA has dramatically curtailed J awards across most routes over the past few months, to the point where SkyPesos are actually more usable than MP miles for quite a few domestic award routings.

    As someone who’s strongly considering ditching UA for the dAArkside, it’s looking more and more like frequent flyers are screwed insofar as most desirable awards are concerned. If the past few months are any indication, perhaps the intermittent J fire sale is as good as it gets…

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