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In one of the least surprising moves in aviation, American Airlines recently eliminated its Saver and Award charts. In turn, AA has shifted its awards to a dynamic pricing model. While many recent devaluations were a sudden surprise, that is not the case here. AA gave its members a heads-up late last year. So, while the news is disheartening, it was expected.
Here's what you should know about these changes.
What Are the New Changes?
The main change is how AA prices and names its awards. Here's a summary:
- Historically, AA had four price bands for each award: MileSAAver Off Peak, MileSAAver, AAnytime Level 1, and AAnytime Level 2. These tiers are consigned to the aviation dustbin of history, replaced with a single award price.
- AA used to offer dynamically priced awards called “Web Special” awards. Although the “Web Special” name has been retired, these are now the standard awards on American Airlines.
- When you search for an award on a given day, you only have one pricing option.
How the new Flight Award price is calculated is unclear and likely includes various factors. In a nutshell, AA has shifted entirely to dynamic award pricing on its own aircraft.
The big question now is whether AA miles will maintain their worth. Perhaps AA will follow Delta's lead, stripping the value from its mileage program one devaluation at a time. Or perhaps this is just a change in name only and Flight Awards will continue to provide modest value.
AA New Flight Awards Chart with Dynamic Pricing
AA launched a new award chart to accompany the new Flight Awards. However, since AA is moving to dynamic pricing, the new chart only lists a starting price. How often we see these starting prices will vary considerably. They may end up being a rarity.
|Region||Main Cabin Starting Price||Premium Economy Starting Price||Business / First Starting Price|
|Contiguous U.S. and Canada||7,500||-||15,000|
|Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America||10,000||-||20,000|
|South America — Short-Haul||15,000||-||30,000|
|Hawaii and Alaska||20,000||40,000||60,000|
|South America — Long-Haul||30,000||60,000||90,000|
|Asia, Middle East, and South Pacific||35,000||60,000||95,000|
When comparing the old and new award charts, the changes don't seem overly negative. However, some routes have taken a massive hit, including:
- Flights between the U.S. and Europe now start at 25,000 miles one way in economy — instead of 22,500 for off-peak awards.
- Business and first class flights between the U.S. and Europe now start at 75,000 miles — up from the previous 57,500.
- U.S. to South America Region 2 starts at 90,000 miles in business and first class — a huge increase from 57,500.
- U.S. to Mexico and the Caribbean in business and first now starts at 20,000 miles — a 20% decrease from the previous price of 25,000.
While some changes are positive, the overwhelming majority are negative. However, keep in mind that these new prices are a “starting from” price. Will we see these prices, or will the actual prices be much higher? Only time will tell.
Partner Awards Are Safe — For Now
While the American Airlines award chart changes eliminate one of AA's better sweet spots, all is not lost. For now, AA partner award pricing isn't going dynamic. You can still leverage your miles for some great redemptions, including these one-way options:
- U.S. to the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East for 70,000 miles plus taxes and fees in Qatar Airways' awesome QSuite.
- U.S. to Japan and South Korea for 60,000 miles in business or 80,000 miles in first class — both on Japan Airlines (JAL).
- Domestic Australian flights for 10,000 miles in economy and 20,000 miles in business/first class with Qantas.
You can check out our comprehensive guide to the best uses of AA miles to get the best value from your miles.
The truth is that “dynamic pricing” is code for a devaluation — with AA or anyone else. Plus, as we've seen with other programs, eliminating award charts often leads to an ongoing and constant devaluation.
The catch here is that American Airlines had already effectively switched to dynamic pricing through its “Web Special” awards. Rarely did travelers actually pay the award rates published in AA's now-eliminated award chart.
The good news is that — for now — you can still get excellent value using your AA miles for awards on partner airlines. Hopefully that won't change anytime soon.
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