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The new American Airlines AAdvantage award chart goes live on March 22, 2016. And while changes like this are just a part of the points and miles life, they're still not fun. Not all of the award increases are that significant, but there are some awards you will want to book now.

Here's what you need to know.

American Airline Raises Award Prices Soon, What To Book Now

They say that the only sure things in life are death and taxes, but price increases for frequent flier awards can't be far behind. When airlines make changes to their frequent flier programs, they usually take the opportunity to raise the number of miles needed for an award flight, reducing the value of your miles.

Following its merger with US Airways, American Airlines is now the largest carrier in the world, and it already announced changes in its award chart that will take effect on March 22. So between now and March 21st, it's important to learn what these new changes are, and take the time to book the best awards before the price goes up.

Cathay Pacific First Class Redemptions are increasing
Cathay Pacific First Class Redemptions are increasing

What's going up?

International first class awards are experiencing the largest changes. These are the super-premium lie flat seats that are more luxurious than international business class. Among largest increases are:

  • First class awards to Asia 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia), increase by 17,500 miles each way (from 62,500 miles to 80,000 miles).
  • First class awards to Europe increase by 22,500 miles each way (from 62,500 to 85,000).
  • First class awards to the Middle East/Indian Sub-Continent go up by 25,000 miles each way (from 90,000 to 115,000).
  • First class awards to the Asia 2 zone, which includes China and much of Southeast Asia, increase by a whopping y 42,500 miles each way (from 67,500 to 110,000).
  • First class awards on three class, domestic transcontinental awards and flights to Hawaii also go up by 17,500 miles each way (from 32,500 to 50,000).
American Airlines New Award Chart from March 2016
American Airlines New Award Chart from March 2016

The increases in Business class international awards are significant, but less dramatic:

  • Business class awards to the Middle East and Indian subcontinent increase by only 2,500 miles each way (from 67,500 to 70,000).
  • Business class awards to Europe increase by 7,500 miles each way (from 50,000 to 57,500).
  • Business class awards to Asia 1 increase by 10,000 miles, each way (from 50,000 to 60,000).
  • Business class awards to Asia 2 increase by 15,000 miles each way (from 55,000 to 70,000).
  • Business class awards to Australia/South Pacific increase by a hefty 17,500 miles each way (from 62,500 to 80,000).

Thankfully, economy class awards experience only a few increases:

  • Awards to northern South America increase by 2,500 miles each way (from 17,500 to 20,000).
  • Awards to Asia 1 increase by 2,500 miles each way (from 32,500 to 35,000).
  • Awards to Australia/South Pacific also increase by 2,500 miles each way (from 37,500 to 40,000).

What's going down?

When airlines impose dramatic increases on their award charts, they often decrease award prices on a few select routes so that they can issue a press release claiming that they are merely making some “changes.” In keeping with this tradition, American has made just a few economy class awards cheaper:

  • Economy class awards to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America decline from 17,500 to 15,000 miles each way.
  • First class awards (or international business class, where available) to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America decline from 30,000 to 25,000 miles each way.

Finally, American is introducing a new category of domestic awards for trips under 500 miles that will now cost just 7,500 miles each way. Currently, all domestic flights in the lower 48 states cost 12,500 miles each way, no matter how short the flight is.

Don't forget that you can also redeem British Airways Avios for American Airline flights.

What stays the same?

Unchanged are domestic flights in economy class, which remain 12,500 miles each way, as well as first class (on two class aircraft) at 25,000 miles each way. Economy class awards to southern South America and Europe are also unchanged.

What you should do

In general, it's usually better to book award flights sooner rather than later. Most award seats are released 9 to 11 months in advance, and the best awards are often snatched up quickly. But, in this case, where an airline has given us advanced notice of award price increases, you should look very closely at the awards that are going up in price, being sure to book them before March 22d. Thankfully, American allows most changes to award flights for free, so long as the origin and destination remain the same. Therefore, you should have the opportunity to change the dates of your award after March 22d, and even some of the flights, without incurring a change fee or paying additional miles. If you would like professional help booking your award – we're here for you. 

Of particular interest should be any awards that are in international first class. American is partnered with carriers such as Japan Airlines (JAL), and Cathay Pacific that offer some of the most opulent service in the world, and the price of one of these flights to Asia will rise dramatically by 35,000 miles round trip (to the Asia 1 zone), and an incredible 85,000 miles round trip to the Asia 2 zone, which includes Cathay Pacific's hub in Hong Kong and Asian destinations requiring a change of planes there.

Japan Airlines First Class Suite
Japan Airlines First Class Suite

Just note that several Asian carriers that are American Airlines partners do not display award space at AA.com. These include JAL, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Sri Lankan. To book these awards, you have to call the American Airlines reservations number. And to have the maximum chance of finding one of these award seats, it helps to perform a search yourself using the British Airways web site. If awards are available to British Airways customers, then you should be able to book them with your American Airlines miles by calling American's AAdvantage award reservations phone number: 800-882-8880.

First class awards to Europe should also be a priority, but only when you can find seats on American Airlines flights, as British Airways is their only other partner carrier that offers an international first class cabin. And sadly, British Airways imposes massive fuel surcharges that can add up to over $1,000 per ticket, ruining the value of a so-called award flight. Here's our post on how you should redeem British Airways Avios. 

Business class awards to Asia and Australia/South Pacific should also be booked before the increase, as those are going up by a significant 20,000 – 35,000 miles round-trip, depending on your destination. And while many other awards are going up, the increases are often 2,500 to 5,000 miles each way, low enough that it probably won't make a huge difference to most travelers.

On the other hand, it's worth taking a look at the flights that are going down in price, including both economy and first class flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. If travel to one of those destinations is in your plans, just hold off another few days in order to save some miles on your award flight.

Conclusion

It's no fun when an airline increases the number of miles needed for its beset award flights, but its inevitable. By booking a trip now before the higher mileage levels apply, this may be your last chance to experience a premium class award flight at an affordable rate.

Other expert reward posts: 

Redeem Your American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Now
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Comments

  • Bob Cochran says:

    Regarding your article on American Airlines changing their amount of miles required to make purchases, I called them to book a date with the intention of changing the dates in the near future as your article suggested and they informed me that there is a $200.00 change the date fee per ticket, FYI “Thankfully, American allows most changes to award flights for free, so long as the origin and destination remain the same. Therefore, you should have the opportunity to change the dates of your award after March 22d, and even some of the flights, without incurring a change fee or paying additional miles. If you would like professional help booking your award”

  • Bob Cochran says:

    Once again your right! After your reply I called American Airlines back again at which time they confirmed what you stated. He even put a supervisor on who confirmed what he said. So because of your article I’ll be buying my business class ticket now and in a few months change the date for when I actually want to travel (April 2017). You saved me 7,500 miles, thank you.

  • joe4liberty says:

    Consider this; with gas prices at inflation adjusted historic lows, airlines are finally in the black – and in a BIG way. Yet, in spite for the aforementioned, American still devalues the miles. If this happened during times of high gas prices, or during labor strikes, it would make sense and understandable, but airlines are the most profitable now that they have EVER been in the history of commercial flight, which makes this simply insulting. Yet there is no mention of this on the news, so Thank-you for this article. Thankfully I don’t have many award miles left with American since switching most of my travel to Southwest.

  • Does this change apply to credit? I have a $200 credit for AA.

  • I was all set to use my miles to go SFO-OGG, but I see that 1st class to the Caribbean is going down?! So I guess I will hold onto my miles, because Puerto Rico is on my bucket list for 2017.
    Thanks for the info.

  • I have been trying to get upgrades for two from economy to business using miles for a round trip to Milan, Italy at the end of this month. Every time I call, AA says seats have not been released yet and the agent can’t/won’t tell me where I might be on the wait list. Made the economy reservations in October or November, 2015. Any suggestions on how to get the upgrades?

    • Award Wallet says:

      Unfortunately there will need to be open availability before you can upgrade. Sometimes they release award space close in, so best of luck!

  • I was wondering about this: “Currently all domestic flights in the lower 48 states cost 12,500 miles each way, no matter how short the flight is.”
    Was that only for flights on AA? because I booked a flight on HA, using AA miles, and it was only 5,000 AA miles (OGG-LIH)

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