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!