Will American AAdvantage Eliminate Award Charts?

A former senior loyalty executive with extensive knowledge of United’s MileagePlus program told me that yesterday’s elimination of award charts was “the day United died.”

United has now followed Delta in ending transparent award pricing, leaving American and Alaska as the only major US carriers with award charts. (Southwest doesn’t have an award chart but does have transparent value since their points are worth a fixed amount of money; uninspiring but honest.)

Alaska still awards miles based on distance flown rather than fare paid. It seems unlikely they’d be next to eliminate transparent award chart pricing. However since both United and American have frequently followed Delta’s decision-making it’s logical to wonder whether American might follow — just as they followed Delta and then United into revenue-based mileage-earning.

Indeed, American has made some changes along the lines of Delta’s award pricing,

  • They make award space availability based, it seems, on fare value.

  • They offer discounted awards as low as 5000 miles one way, often when fares are cheapest, and they do so outside of ‘award inventory’

In fact what I worried about specifically with 5000 mile domestic awards when fares are low is the move towards ‘average value’ which is what we’ve seen with Delta and what United’s lower-priced domestic awards appear to do.

I put the question to American directly and they refused to offer any reassurance, instead coming back with what may be the worst statement ever if they aren’t going to eliminate award charts,

Our AAdvantage program is designed to provide travelers with value and rewards and we are always researching ways to enhance earn and redemption opportunities like discounted awards through web specials. We have no other changes to share about our program at this time.

They’re ‘always researching ways’ (like the topic I’m asking about, elimination of award charts) that will ‘enhance’ opportunities (frequent flyers have learned over the years that enhance = destroy). They have no changes to share but will only make that commitment “at this time” and not any future time – and by the way the statement was given to me yesterday, and it’s already now the future.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. They already have. They have award prices way above the published charts. And the lowest prices are rarely available. Sad how bad it is

  2. I am sure chopsticks the weasel will beg to differ…after all…nobody knows better than chopsticks and his boss drunkie parker

  3. Who needs award charts when one has no saver availability?

    I am so fed up with AA and award availability that I may wait and see if UA will occasionally price tix at or near current saver award levels. Its more likely than AA having meaningful saver award availability.

  4. Sure they will. This is like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man in the real GhostBusters. You think it, they do it.

  5. Looks like there’s a bit too much underlining in this post – even in the comments.

  6. Agree with Jason’s comment.

    Highest published economy award rate (AAnytime Level 2) to Hawaii is 50k (AAnytime Level 1 is 40k). Last November they were charging 90k (each way) for economy to Hawaii, which has never been published. That’s 180k round trip for a 5 hour flight in coach.

  7. The AA statement looks like it was written by a graduate of the Meyer Lansky School of Public Relations.

  8. Oh they definitely will – it’s only a matter of when, not if. Monkey see, monkey do.

  9. @ Y7he only reason they haven’t already is that Parker is too cheap to spend on the IT, just like when he ran UselessAirways.

  10. can only hope that aanytime awards get more reasonable since they don’t have to be double the base award for domestic.

  11. Dear AA: How about trying something different? I don’t know….like maybe—fielding a great product, delivering great service and a rewarding customers with a transparent/honest, easy-to-understand loyalty program? Who knows….maybe customers will reward you with more business because you’d be a “differentiated product.” It’s worth a try.

    Right now I can’t think of a single reason to fly one of the “Big 3” airlines over one another—(the reason why I choose Alaska whenever possible). It’s like choosing an electric company….is there any difference in electric service? (Nope.) When each choice is the same–terrible–what’s the reason to fly AA/Delta/United versus just shopping around based on price/time? (Answer: there isn’t one).

    Alaska Airlines—this is why we love you!

  12. How does this type of thing affect using partner programs to book flights on UA, AA? For ex, I’m able to book a UA flight to Hawaii using SQ miles for 17.5k miles when I see UA
    has it for 22.5k (or BA for 12.5 when AA has it for that much as well). If award charts are gone, will SQ and BA (and the others) keep the same price as long as “saver” awards are available?

  13. DL indeed doesn’t always price based on the non-published charts, and it’s been some years since DL always used to do so. Fortunately, the redemption of DL miles for partner airline flights still generally align with the non-published award charts. And some redemptions of DL miles for DL flights do still align with non-published award charts.

    I am betting that UA will be going the same way as DL, and that AA follows too. UA seems hell-bent to copy DL in this regard, and AA is another consumer-unfriendly lemming even as it’s yet another of the industry cartel kingpins.

    I don’t care to know how massive a balance of AA or UA or DL miles you keep on hand. But I do care to keep my possibly available mileage balances in these 3 airlines’ programs to under 250k miles each — and that’s because I trust them like I trusted the Venezuelan central bank to protect the value of their currency.

  14. @GUWonder – I have more United miles than I’d like at this point, there have just always been better currencies to spend though in hindsight… As for AA, well, my biggest airline balances were with American — and US Airways, by a lot. Then they merged. I’m still spending down Track-it-Back miles.

  15. My dislike for the US3 airline programs has been such that I’m not likely to hit more than another million mile mark with AA and DL and probably will never get there with UA since I try to avoid crediting flight activity and other activity to these programs and can fortunately often find alternative programs to credit and that are of greater use to me. While the changes which DL has done and which I expect UA and AA to do too (albeit AA is already way worse than UA for me) have negatively impacted my ability to get value out of “foreign” programs, I still have the partner redemptions as safety valve due to my roaming geographic positioning. The US3 programs’ redemptions for partner airline flights are less of a safety valve because the US3 are anything but as lazy as foreign airlines’ programs and come across as more sophisticated in cracking down on the value customers get out of redeeming miles for partner airline flights than the smaller airline programs with less sophisticated analytical and programming resources than the US3 airline industry cartel kingpins and some of their partners given way too many government waivers and favors in the form of anti-trust immunity.

  16. @DTG – AA charged me 125K miles each way to travel to HI last November. At these rates, will be burning through my AA miles PDQ.

  17. AA will undoubtedly follow DL and UA’s move because it makes good business sense to do so. Companies generally don’t like to give away stuff they can sell. Smart customers will respond by taking a more transactional approach to buying an airline ticket: go with the airline that offers the best price, service and travel time for any given trip. You should be doing that already anyway. Gamers who value getting high-value tickets for a “good deal” on points will lose. Other gamers who want more cheap award flights will win when they can use miles to pay for less expensive airfares. Most airline customers will barely notice the difference (if they understand it at all).

  18. Gary, I think the last gold goose left for US3 are sales of miles to CC. They did already killed loyalty before and it look like they are on the way way to kill any values of their CC offerings. Once they start to equate 1 mile to approximately $0.01 there will be no reasons so use their CCs except signup bonuses.

  19. The only reason I would have points with AA would be to book partner awards anyway.

    Surely they can’t devalue them the same way….. can they?

  20. I agree with others here. American has basically already done this. Most business class one-way flights to places like GRU, as an example, come in at 150K miles now.

  21. AA can and almost certainly will make award travel worse than it is already for consumers. With UA aiming to give customers DL-level sky-high award ticket prices with dirt low value for miles redeemed, AA won’t be left far behind trying to do the same as DL and UA.

    While redemptions on partner airlines may remain a safety valve for redemptions of miles, I expect that to be subject to a hack job too by the industry’s cartel kingpins as the cartel kingpins want their anti-consumer disease to infect their partner airlines too.

  22. AA is already trending that direction…started several years ago when they introduced multiple AAnytime Award tiers. Only a matter of time before AA eliminates its award chart. AA under Parker only copies the competition’s cutbacks.

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