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American Airlines has started rolling out a new way for AAdvantage members to redeem miles. As American Airlines confirmed to AwardWallet this afternoon, AAdvantage members can now use their miles to purchase seat reservations on select routes.
Here's what we were able to confirm with an American Airlines spokesperson:
- Starting May 19, 2020, AA customers can purchase seats using miles.
- This option is only available on AA.com when viewing a ticketed reservation in your AAdvantage account. This redemption option is not currently available during the booking process.
- This is currently only offered on tickets originating from these 10 airports: Atlanta (ATL), Austin (AUS), Nashville (BNA), Denver (DEN), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT), Raleigh/Durham (RDU), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Orange County (SNA)
- AAdvantage miles are redeemable for seat selection for both domestic and international itineraries.
This 10-airport rollout means that not all AAdvantage members are going to be able to utilize this option now. However, this is likely a small-scale test before a larger rollout.
Is this a Good Deal?
Whenever loyalty programs offer a new way to redeem miles, the first thing we want to know is: is it a good deal? Just because you can spend your miles this way doesn't necessarily mean that you should. The key detail is the conversion rate that American Airlines is using for these redemptions.
The folks at Milenomics made a dummy booking from one of the listed cities and found that AA is valuing miles at 1¢ each towards seat purchases. We don't have confirmation that all AAdvantage members will get 1¢ per mile for all seat selections. It's possible that this value could fluctuate for future reservations as AA continues to roll out this program.
Copy that. Went in and made a dummy booking to check. Looks like 1cpp. pic.twitter.com/aEKW3h6Mut
— Milenomics (@Milenomics) May 19, 2020
While my baseline value for AAdvantage miles is around 1.5¢ each, this could still be a useful option in some situations. If you only have a few thousand miles in your account, there aren’t many ways to turn them into something of value.
If you have a larger balance, the value of your American miles depends on how you use them, and how easily you can earn more. If you use miles for international business class or book last-minute flights, your savings on award tickets could easily be two or three cents per mile. In that situation, redeeming miles for one cent apiece on seat selection is a terrible idea.
But on the other hand, folks with a lot of miles (and limited date flexibility when they travel) might not have many opportunities to book the cheapest SAAver awards. If you often book higher-priced awards, the one-cent valuation could be just fine. As long as you make an informed choice about whether to use the new feature, having more options is always a good thing.
If you don't have elite status with American Airlines, seat selection can be a particularly stressful part of booking a flight. If you've just managed to find the best deal on airfare, the last thing you want to do is give up all your savings by paying for a seat reservation.
The ability to use a few thousand AA miles to snag a better seat is a great development. Increased flexibility when redeeming miles is always positive, but in this case, AA has also managed to offer something that could genuinely improve the customer experience.
Would you use AAdvantage miles to reserve a seat?
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