There’s a New Award Availability Day for American AAdvantage

I mentioned off-hand this morning about really good premium cabin award availability on American flights on Wednesdays. That’s worth drawing out more explicitly.

Incidentally I find that American Airlines appears to be releasing business and first class awards for at least two passengers Dallas – Tokyo many days in February and then for both Dallas – Tokyo and also Los Angeles – Tokyo on Wednesdays across much of the calendar and indeed many days there are 4 or more award seats.

American’s revenue management has been notoriously stingy about releasing seats for premium cabin international travel over the past three years.

What’s more, because American doesn’t have as many partners as Star Alliance airlines do, that leaves few options especially to Europe and fewer still that don’t hit you with big surcharges as their primary European partner is British Airways. So when American releases premium cabin awards on their own flights, that’s notable.

At one point it even became absurd domestically, with only a handful of dates during the whole year where saver seats could be booked Dallas – Austin — a $49 flight at the time with 14-15 flights a day. Fortunately that extreme scenario didn’t last terribly long.

This hasn’t been too big a deal for me, I’ve long preferred to redeem on partners, but it’s been a real shortcoming for many members. Indeed when premium cabin international award space opens up on American’s own flights it’s been noteworthy.

One understands a new route, where they want to see how it sells before releasing seats (or they don’t want members to think awards are reliable as a substitute for paid tickets). But on the new Sydney route they weren’t ever releasing seats — a year in advance or even same day when the plane was mostly empty. They started loosening up the Sydney route. They loosened up London. They opened up China.

Reader nsx asked,

Gary, what do you think is causing these wild swings in availability?

American spokesperson Casey Norton tells me,

The changes you noted were test markets and there are more changes to come.

In short, we’ve done an overhaul on how we handle premium inventory. Not everyone route will have more availability, but there is a net increase across the system for C [business class upgrade] and U [business class award inventory]. Flights to Europe and trans-Pacific will be the most noticeable…

Sounds like you should be able to get a better view of the C/U inventory changes over the next few days and weeks.

It seems like they’re testing opening up award space. I know it’s an easy they’ve been working on since before last summer, and we’re starting to see results.

As of now on most routes I’m seeing that Wednesday is availability day. That’s not super-generous, but it’s a start, and we’ll see if things improve from there “over the next few days and weeks.”

How serious am I about Wednesday?

Dallas – Hong Kong for 2 passengers in business class:

Hong Kong – Dallas for 2 passengers in business:

Dallas – Hong Kong for 2 passengers in first class:

Hong Kong – Dallas for 2 passengers in first class:

Los Angeles – Tokyo for 2 passengers in business class:

Los Angeles – Tokyo for 2 passengers in first class:

Dallas – Tokyo is a Tuesday and Wednesday thing in business:

But in first on that route we’re back to Wednesday:

You won’t see this on every route, advance availability for London – Sydney remains tough even over the summer. But when you do see a couple seats it’s on.. Wednesday:

Some routes are much better. Dallas – Beijing is available almost every day.

Although Dallas – Shanghai is Wednesday-only for 2 in business:

So is Chicago – Beijing:

And Chicago – Shanghai in First:

Although Chicago – Shanghai is available almost every day in business:

When selecting routes, be aware of the aircraft you’re going to be flying. The new (4-across business class on the seat map) Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 787 seat is quite good. As is business class on the Boeing 777-300ER (“77W”).

New Business Class Seat, American Airlines 777-200

7-across business class on the Boeing 777-200 (ie unreconfigured) is angled and to be avoided when possible. I’m also not a huge fan of business class on the Boeing 767. It’s fully flat and all aisle access, but also quite narrow.

American Airlines 767 Business Class

Being able to find award space in advance across a variety of routes on Wednesdays isn’t ideal but it’s better than what we’ve seen. And it’s good to know that it’s consistent, and comes along with an intention to release more award seats than whwt we’ve seen before so isn’t just a glitch.

I admit I’m somewhat surprised. While I don’t believe the level of award inventory they had been opening was sustainable, and that they were ‘working on it’, I also pointed out that they didn’t promise more award inventory as part of their narrative for devaluing the award chart come March 22. In the past programs have used the promise of better availability at higher award prices as a way to make the devaluation pill go down more smoothly. So I thought the absence of such a narrative was telling. I’d love to be proven wrong!

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. AA seems to have gotten much more generous with Asia awards lately (perhaps thanks to your posts!) Lots of stuff from LAX to both Tokyo airports this spring including on weekends.

  2. I was booked to HKG in CX J for September. I’m glad that the DFW-HKG F space opened as now I have that locked in for only 12,500 miles more. The main reason for my excitement is locking in this rate now and hoping CX F opens up closer to my flight post devaluation.

  3. This is a timely article for me. It explains why I could not find availability other than on BA for flights to Italy (4 different airports) for September. Thanks for the info.

  4. Get them to open DOMESTIC space – even economy – to international gateways, and now THAT will be news. Most of my desired itineraries are broken by lack of the ability to get to a gateway with SAAver space, not by the long-haul legs: I can usually find those with a partner, no problem.

  5. @tyler – i am going to have a post soon on how to ticket an F award even when CX transpac is only available in J [so you can change dates later]

  6. It looked like American had been opening up last minute business class on the SYD-LAX route about 2 weeks out. I’ve been checking over the past few days because I want to travel that route (and then on to ATL) in early March. It hadn’t quite opened up for that date but every day that I checked it was creeping farther and farther into February. As of last night, they were up to February 11, with at least 2 saver level biz seats open every day.

    Then suddenly this morning…..POOF….gone. All of it. Nothing open on SYD-LAX past January 29th. I don’t know what changed but what had been looking promising suddenly went up this morning in a puff of smoke. I’ll keep looking and hoping, but at this point it seems I am stuck on my long route home through Tokyo and my 8 hour layover in Chicago. Sad face.

  7. @Gary – I will keep an eye out for your post. I am certainly interested in how AA will handle award changes post 3/22. Since I am booked on all AA metal to HKG, I hope they don’t give me a hard time about switching from AA to OW carriers post deval.

  8. @tyler – switching airlines will involve a reprice of the award [which is what i expected based on how their system works, and what i have been told]

  9. Looks like some to South America too. Had an award ticket booked in business from LAX to SCL, connecting in MIA (which meant an angled seat on the MIA-SCL leg). Been checking to see if they would open anything connecting in DFW, and was able to snag two seats today. Same origin and destination, so no change fee (I am a lowly platinum).

  10. I was able to get LAX-SYD in business class today Had to make some major compromises on the domestic connections, though… terrible availability there.

  11. Thanks for this very helpful and useful information. I appreciate you sharing this great information, its one reason I read your blog daily to keep up with the goings on.

  12. A few reasons this is happening:

    1) The Chinese marketplace is collapsing.
    2) The energy sector is collapsing.
    3) Global financial markets are reeling.
    4) Cost of capital is increasing in the US.
    5) Ergo, load factors are beginning to soften.

    In this environment, AA is less generous than realistic.

  13. For what it’s worth. I’ve noticed and experienced the DFW-HKG Wednesday issue for awhile now. I guess it makes sense on an ultra long haul as most business passengers would try to fly over say on a Sunday or Monday and back on a Friday or Saturday leaving Tu, We and Th.

    The biggest problem has been wild swings in TATL routes. For awhile all you could find was BA or Finnair and the Finnair space seemed to be inaccurate on the website so it wouldn’t let you book it.

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