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A Consolidated List of American’s Surprise Policy Changes (And It Ain’t Pretty)

by on April 8, 2014 · 103 comments

in American Airlines, US Airways

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This morning I woke up to a flurry of emails and phone calls about American’s new award chart changes. What was presented to me by AA was that AAnytime awards would be changing (basically going up) and some low tier elite levels would go from getting two free checked bags to one. With some other minor changes, overall the news wasn’t great, but it was far from the bloodbath that we’ve seen in other devaluations.

Well, sadly American left a lot of information out of their press release and most of it is bad for consumers. I spoke with Suzanne Rubin, President of AAdvantage this morning and was able to get some clarity on what is actually going on and I relayed my dissatisfaction with the poor communication and big program changes without any advance notice or detail.

I understand that they don’t want to overload a press release with minute changes, but omitting the discontinuation of a certain award type that one of your loyal members may have been trying to save up for, is bad business in my opinion. I find it disingenuous for AAdvantage to send an email with bolded headlines of “Redeem for Less / No Blackout Dates! and Checked Baggage Policy”, without mentioning any of the other negative changes. In fact, I’ve had to dig to find information on a lot of these changes, so I feel like they’re trying to withhold information. In any case, here are the key changes that happened today and if I missed any, please comment and I’ll add. Bottom line: the merger promised shareholders huge savings and you’ll see in most of these changes fees are going up and mileage needed for awards as well.

1) Starting immediately you can no longer build in stopovers over 24 hours on international awards at the gateway city, which I had just written about in detail yesterday (and many times before). This was one of my favorite features of the program and it really allowed you to maximize your awards- especially if you lived in a gateway city.

The sudden loss of the Oneworld Explorer award is a huge blow to the program

The sudden loss of the Oneworld Explorer award is a huge blow to the program

2) Oneworld Explorer awards are no longer bookable. These were American’s version of a Round The World award and were very valuable if you knew how to maximize them. Check out this post for more info. Source: AAdvantage FAQ:
Q: Can I continue to book oneworld explorer awards?
A: oneworld Explorer Awards are no longer available for award booking. We will continue to honor any award tickets issued on / before April 7, 2014. Please visit our oneworld and Other Airline Award Chart for more information on flight awards for oneworld and other participating airlines.

3) American Gold and US Airways Platinum and Gold elite members who currently receive two free checked bags, will only get one free. For flights operated by American, these changes take place for tickets issued starting today. For flights operated by US Airways, these changes take place for tickets issued starting April 23. If you have a Citi or Barclays card with free checked bags and are one of these lower tier elites, you can use that benefit to count for a second bag.

5 "Exciting" Award Levels

5 “Exciting” Award Levels

3) AAnytime awards are going up in price. (Link to new award chart) For travel after June 1, 2014 AAnytime awards will have three levels, with level one being below current AANytime (2x saver) levels, but levels two and three will be exponentially more expensive. Level 3 awards are so expensive, they’re not even listed on the award chart! For example

4) US Airways is getting rid of blackout dates, but you’ll need to shell out serious miles to book flights- most of the awards on the old blackout dates will be at level 2 or 3 AANytime awards. For reference, here are US Airways blackout dates, for example North America dates are:

City Month Day
To Augusta, GA April 8 – 11
From Augusta, GA April 13, 14
From Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, NY; Bangor, ME; Boston, MA; Burlington, VT; Hartford and New Haven, CT; Manchester, NH; Portland, ME; Providence, RI April 17 – 20
To Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, NY; Bangor, ME; Boston, MA; Burlington, VT; Hartford and New Haven, CT; Manchester, NH; Portland, ME; Providence, RI April 25 – 27
To Lexington and Louisville, KY May 1, 2
From Lexington and Louisville, KY May 4
From New Orleans, LA May 4, 5

5) US Airways will begin offering first class meals on flights 1,000 miles (~2.75 hours) or longer, which is a solid improvement from their current policy of only meals on flight 3.5 hours or longer.

6) The unaccompanied minor fee is increasing from $100 to $150 one way (plus tax).

7) The free checked bag between the US and Mexico/Caribbean/Central America is going away and it will now cost $25 for the first bag, $40 for the second, $150 for the third and $200 for any additional pieces

8) On flights to/from Brazil the second bag fee is being removed. 

9) Starting April 30, customers who have the US Airways MasterCard® with an annual fee of at least $79 will receive one free checked bag

10) US Airways increased the amount of miles for a business class saver award from the US to North Asia from 90,000 to 110,000. I’m still going to maximize the 100% Share Miles promotion because even at 110,000 miles, I think paying ~$1,300 for a roundtrip business class ticket to North Asia via Europe is a phenomenal deal.

This is only the beginning of many more changes to come and I’m curious to see how they integrate the loyalty programs. Whatever they do, I hope they communicate in a much more clear and transparent way. I also think it would be beneficial to give more time to digest huge policy changes instead of implementing them overnight and springing them on their most loyal customers.

What are your thoughts on these changes?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Eurovisionacts

    Average joe not going to be hurt by changes. AAsaver chart untouched. No average joe uses a RTW explorer award. Only bad thing would be the 24 hour stopover, but most average joes use it to connect to their destination upon arrival anyway.

    Only minus I see for non travel hackers: $10 fee to book and $25 north american international bag fee.

    Still best FF program by far for one way F redemptions for casual users getting points via credit card.

  • Goat Rodeo

    going to be lots of butthurt lifetime golds.

  • http://thehustleblog.com/ The #hustle Blog

    I believe the “average joe” WILL be hurt by AAnytime changes. Sometimes they are not as savvy to search for Saver awards or they don’t care to be flexible enough to change their travel patterns just to redeem for a saver award.

  • Nicolás Cerrini

    I recently bought a lot of miles to reedem a trip with stopovers on international gateways. I bought them just for that, but still haven’t issued my tickets.
    Now I need 75% more miles for the same trip. It’s really lame to do such changes without advance notice. I’m really angry.

  • Alex

    hello Alaksa mvp gold :)

  • smith

    Alaska MVP looses out on 2 free bags, MVP Gold and and 75 still have it

  • dean

    Now we know why AA offered unprecedented high mileage CC offers. B/c the coming devaluation made it a so-so offer ;)

  • Disappointed

    What a bummer. I was planning on doing a OneWorld Explorer Award this fall! :(

  • ROb

    Losing the free checked bags is all about pushing co-branded credit cards….

  • Justin

    Such a disappointment. Just finished two CC offers for American and now they are incredibly devalued. I have 5-6 flights booked to add onto these points, and now they won’t get me what I had planned previously and the chnage/cancel fees would be RIDICULOUS. So disappointed. sAAver trips are greatly diminished as well. A few I have been looking at for a while disappeared and are now in level 2 AAnytime options only. What a joke.

    I’m on the West Coast so I will be moving to Virgin America program soon. Any tips?

  • bryanhenry

    So was I

  • kevin

    so pissed. was literally about to book a international flight to maximize the gateway city benefit and couldn’t figure out why it was pricing the mileage differently. can’t believe they didn’t give notice. same bucket as Delta to me now…. might as well keep my miles and loyalty there

  • DBest

    On Point 10, with First Class only 10k more it would make no sense to book biz instead.

  • AKA

    I guess I got lucky. Just last week I used most of my AA miles (I had saved from the $75k CC offer) to book AAnytime flight for 2015 New Years trip. I booked real early to ensure I get the seats I wanted. If I had not done so I don’t think I could have afforded my NYE trip!

  • Travis Sherry

    Was just working on my Explorer Award today. The fact that they pulled this with no notice is a complete and utter shock.

    Is the no stopover rule in affect for roundtrip tickets as well?

  • Justin

    I’m almost willing to go back to UA…almost!

  • pcg

    Was just trying to work some summer flights into Europe with a NA gateway stopover yesterday and kept getting strange (zero miles) search results. Seems obvious why now.

    I was hoping one of these days to be able to put together a dream RTW explorer award. I’m not an average joe, but I’m not exactly a pro at this, and this is quite disappointing. The fact that there was no warning whatsoever is their right, of course, but it’s just so much salt in the wound.

    But I guess that’s the way the game is played (these days anyway).

  • nsfw

    Looks like AA hates their best customers. But that’s the world we live in. Mergers leave more flexibility for the big guys to strip incentives. Just look at the cable/internet industry in the united states. Absolutely the worst service with the highest prices and zero competition.
    Looking forward to the day when someone like Elon Musk comes in and puts these dinosaurs to bed.

  • avgeek

    TPG – To be clear the Oneworld Explorer issue is for award ticket redemption only?

  • Darth Chocolate

    Delta ain’t looking so bad now.

  • Patrick Folger

    I’ll add that Non Rev’s ( retired benefits for family ) went from 24 RT’s a year to 8. The damage this merger has caused is across the board now

  • Allen

    A lot of this should be blamed on bloggers who encourage people to abuse the system. AA can read too.
    I have a method where I consistently get 5 points per dollar spent. However, I tell no one my secret method because I don’t want to lose a great system. I spend about 50k per year on cc purchases and get about 250k points. My wife and I fly 1st class to Europe every year. But if I let everyone know, my system would disappear in no time.

  • mhenner

    I feel cheated.
    I was going to book a London – free stop in New York – then on to Oregon for September. Now I can’t

  • Apple

    What the heck!? I am so mad about this – I was just about to book an international ticket with a stopover, now there’s no way. There wasn’t even any notice? Ugh.

  • nsfw

    #AAdvantageMAAsacre Great hashtag trending now.

  • bkoehler

    As was I

  • SeaBee3

    This is definitely not the last of it. Still waiting for the other shoe to drop sometime later this year. Unchanged redemption amounts for partner premium redemptions? Yeah, they aren’t done yet.

  • Matthew Mansfield

    I made comments via Twitter and their FB page, but I doubt if anything will change unless more involve themselves in creating a bad PR problem for them.

    I’m not naive to imagine they’ll reverse anything, but they may backslide and provide a temporary window for items like the RTW ticket. I hold no hope, but we won’t lose anything by kvetching about their changes.

  • http://www.discoverbuenosaires.com/ DaVe

    Number (8) should be on flights to South America, the second bag fee is being removed. It is not just to Brazil.

  • wwittman

    silly question, but if one has a branded credit card with a free checked bag or other perk, how does one make the airline AWARE of it, if the ticket isn’t paid for with that card?

  • mpeterson78

    You’d probably have to buy the ticket with the card. For award tickets, pay for the taxes/fees with the card.

  • FDV

    I would agree with you. I also get the 5 points per dollar spent max 250k per year. I would like to keep it going a few more years..

  • Steve

    I would email/call them and let them know what you did and how the changes affected you. You never know unless you ask

  • Steve

    So you were going to use their loophole to book a free award ticket tacked on to another one and you feel cheated because they changed it? Not to pick on you alone but why do people forget the world doesn’t owe us anything. I got screwed wtih planning for a delta trip, sold my miles after a devaluation, picked up a citi Exec card and used the money to cover the trip. Just adapt and keep your head up.

  • Steve

    I don’t think Musk would ever get in the airline business. Impossible to make money AND have satisfied customers.

  • Eurovisionacts

    All Partner awards are saver awards. As long as you fly internationally, by default your award search will be saver only.

  • Rene

    I guess I got lucky. Last week, I held a SJU-DFW-MAD with a 5 month stopover in DFW. I called today to finish the reservation before I read this and they allowed the ticketing. This change really stinks though.

  • HoustonRobert

    Not a silly question, but you lose the free bag benefit if you don’t use the co-branded card.

  • NguyenVanFalk

    Make sure you slide the card at the automated kiosk at check-in. You don’t have to purchase the ticket with the card.

  • NguyenVanFalk

    Dude, I can’t stand when people act as if these “loopholes” were flying under the radar of the airline this whole time. I’ve worked in advertising for major airlines and trust me, they have entire legal teams that make sure every freakin’ millimeter of copy ensures no “loopholes” exist. This was a perk of the AAdvantage program, nothing more nothing less. And to snatch it away from loyal customers with no notice is poor business practice at best — it certainly won’t engender loyalty or trust on my part.

  • Kliff

    so was I

  • Stacy

    I find AA’s changes without advance warning are the definition of poor customer service!!! I had saved enough miles for 2 oneworld explorer awards to South America for next year, and was just waiting for the 330 days rule to pass so I could book the return flights. Once again, I’ve been screwed by American, and will definitely be using United in the future. I may not like their recent FF rule changes, but at least they had the decency to advise long-time customers in advance about those changes.

  • jbatt

    Okay, it takes at least double points as it did before. So American and Citi needs to up their bonus miles for their credit cards. Example: Offer
    200,000 bonus for the Executive card which requires $10,000 in purchases in 3 months. Now, the 60,000 bonus miles looks really lame!

  • LAKnight

    Does anyone plan to cancel your Citi AAdvantage/US Airway credit card based on the news this morning? I mean… AA gave me an excuse to cancel the World Elite Mastercard from Citi.

  • Anon

    The reason the North Asia award price increase is going up is because you talk about it too much. Shush for once.

  • RDMWorldTravel

    I am feeling soooo much better that I booked last month my first class tickets (LAX-NRT) on AA to fly JAL in January 2015!! I said it 18 months ago, it was a matter of time before we pay more. Yes we have been abusive. Now it’s time to rethink how to earn more miles and keep moving forward. We will all adapt.

  • BobChi

    This is awful stuff. I have a credit card coming due in a month, and the decision to cancel just became very easy for me.

  • BobChi

    Both.

  • Bob

    Your “secret” method is the chase bold ink card spent at office supply stores?

  • jose

    the free one way at gateway stopped definitely bloggers fault regardless you agree or not. It’s good that bloggers sharing any good tips or tricks however you want to call it but they just want to push card sales, and advertise these tricks like there is no tomorrow including the owner of this site, every week you see them mentioning the same trick again just to push sales, and of course these are not to the benefit of the airlines since more and more people are doing it.

  • saml

    My understanding is as long as the AAdvantage number of the cardholder is on the reservation, you get the free bag. Maybe someone can confirm?

  • FDV

    Never said it was my “secret” Just hope it continues..

  • Vee

    I have a trip going to Costa Rica soon and was going to check a bag. Is fee effective immediately for all flights or only for those who purchase a ticket after today?

  • Drew

    I think the level 1 anytime are lower than the original anytime only for domestic coach it looks as if almost all premium anytime are more than 2x saaver.

  • J

    Uhh, WRONG. Southwest: consistently profitable and high customer satisfaction numbers. The corporate terrorists would like us to believe this propaganda. Open note to the multinational corporate terrorists in all industries: don’t go out of your way to F*CK your customers and you can make A LOT of money. Rather, provide and honest service/product at an honest price =$$$$. DUH. See: costco, southwest, vanguard funds, starbucks…. It ain’t that difficult.

  • J

    “and” s/b “AN”. Oh, and, Rubin. It’s really that hard to not completely sell your soul?? Wow, after such a short time, too. Parker. Utter f-ing crook.

  • Wandering Sheppard

    I’ve noticed that trend… anytime you see the CC pumping points into the system, get ready for devaluation. I guess economics does work.

  • levander

    No kidding Steve. These giant corporations always cry poor every time anything happens that could affect their typical ways of making money. Even if there’s the possibility of them making even more money with a new system. They just cry poor because they like the way things are and don’t want to have to change anything…

    I’m more talking about govt regulations in that example, but either way, these giant companies have the money 90% of the time. They just want to make more money.

    And while Americans trying to figure out how to make more money, they’ve devastated my vacation plans for later this year… And note they announced these changes *after* the justice department dropped their suit preventing the merger.

    You’re playing the fool believing that nonsense about “we have to do this to make money!” It’s just executives trying to figure out how to make the value of the stock they were granted go up even higher in value.

  • Pointie

    Don’t forget certain AA Citi cardholders get a 10% rebate off miles, up to 10,000 miles in a calendar year. I just did a redemption (going to start to get rid of my miles for premium classes) and I was immediately credited back 10,000 miles – takes the sting out of some of the AA unfriendliness

  • shay peleg

    Not so secret lol

  • Joey

    I was hoping to take my wife on one after the kids graduated high school… And maybe the kids too :-(

  • Rusty Longwood

    Only a matter of time until they have an AADollars minimum for elite status just like the others.

  • kelly

    I’m glad I booked my thailand 1st class cathay pacific w aa miles on march 31st fearing this. i figured even booking a dec 30th trip was worth the risk even not knowing my plans and might lose $150.00 if i cancelled..I noticed they don’t even list south asia? just china and hong kong unless I read it wrong?

  • kelly

    And thank you for your advice a couple years ago using jal.com. it can take a bit but that’s how I found availability :)

  • T Silva

    You just confirmed bob’s question. Should have just said nothing.

  • T Silva

    What you’re doing really isn’t a “secret”. Getting 5x/$1 is something that is public knowledge and anyone who is points/miles savvy can pick up on it.

    Airlines create these rewards programs to reel people in. They already know people will abuse the system and plan their devaluations months/years ahead of people picking up on these “secrets”.

    Could some bloggers who encourage abusing the system speed up these policy changes…maybe, but It’s hard to tell. We will never know

  • Rusty Longwood

    I’ll probably cancel when the annual fee rolls around next year on my AA Exec. Without a signup bonus or statement credits and an anticipated AA Gold or higher status, I’m basically paying $450 for lounge access which isn’t worth it for me.

  • T Silva

    Wouldn’t this hurt you credit though?

  • Fanfoot

    I think its worse than that. US Air offers to sell miles in what appears to be an attractive offer timed just before the devaluation? That’s not a coincidence. They knew there would be no takers after the devaluation and they wanted the money.

  • bobby

    I think the new changes suck!

    Instead of “oh my goshing”, how about some alternative feedback on programs that work and still make sense (ie american carriers and avios do devalue)!

    Tpg what have you got to suggest for us regular folks.

    Outside of heavy mileage accumulators, who really dont need any help getting points anyway on this site, lets focus on what value can be added to the regular shlo who is trying to get his family to europe for the summer on points (not offseason in first class with the tricks of getting more points or value). Keep in mind i cant get to recife in the off season mid week for 4 days in first class, i have to work!

    What other programs work, lufthansa, ethid, emeriates, i dont know…air india, air mandaly, dragon air…

  • Ct

    That’s true. Too much bragging by guys that have their blog sites on how they “tricked” the system aka abusing the system. Airlines had people who follow travel blogs. They’re not stupid.

  • Ct
  • kelly

    I’d say luft through united miles? I saved up and built my aa miles through march thinking this would happen (been watching this nightmare scenario build since late last yr) and i booked a first class on cathay with my aa miles last mo thinking this might happen but I’ve always noticed aa Had a better codeshare agreements towards asia. united seems the way to go towards europe. and now the options w aa look very limited even in terms of destinations in asia…

  • thepointsguy

    Delta award levels (especially at the saver level) are much higher in general

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- basically no stopover on AA awards, which is not industry leading by any means

  • thepointsguy

    How is maximizing a stopover rule abusing the system? AA has always been 100% aware of their own award rules

  • thepointsguy

    There’s a minimal impact because the account will still show on your credit report for years after closing. Downgrading is also an option to keep the account active

  • thepointsguy

    Agreed- as long as there is first availability

  • thepointsguy

    Agree with this 100%

  • BobChi

    Don’t deflect the blame. AA could easily have structured it to cut off abusive gateway stopover tactics (if they saw them as such) without eliminating the stopovers altogether. Don’t blame bloggers; blame AA. Remember that only several thousand people read blogs regularly, and of them only a fraction actually employ such techniques. The vast majority of flyers use those stopovers simply to add a few days in New York, L.A. (or whatever) as part of an international trip. AA could, for instance, have limited the stopover to, say, a week, thus making it really a stopover.

  • BobChi

    Several more shoes to drop, I’d imagine. Those of us who were optimistic things would work out OK with the merger can admit we were wrong. They’re out to gut any distinct values from their program.

  • Hepworth

    What abou the “upgrade with miles” redemption levels? Are those going to rise as well?

  • Dean D

    I just signed up (last week) for the 100,000 offer from AA with Citi. Can I cancel now and not have to pay the $450 fee/not face any issues? These miles are practically worthless to me now. Thanks.

  • mpeterson78

    For AA, maybe. I know for United you HAVE to have bought the ticket/paid the taxes with the MP Explorer card. I found this out the hard way.

  • Albertina Roca

    Re: free checked bag on flights to South America, this is really confusing! I got one ticket EZE-MIA a few weeks ago with my miles, and paid for the other for my bf with my City AA Mastercard. Now, I don’t understand, people who bought the tickets yesterday (and moving forward) will get their second bag FREE, but I have to pay for them?? That’s incredibly unfair! We’re being punished for planning ahead? is there a way around this, or am I misinterpreting the new rules?

  • ??

    If you’ve ever dealt with USAirways, you must have known having Doug Parker spearhead the new AA would have consequences.
    The airlines view travelers as a means to an end – their bottom dollar (which they have every right to) and hold them in contempt and well as a captive audience. Now that there are fewer legacy carriers, expect more of the same.

  • Mark D

    I would disagree unless you were planning to use it on an AAnytime award, which I would never do.

    The gateway city thing hurts, but overall, low level award prices are the same on AA.

    Now, if you were going to book an explorer award…

  • Brian C. Lee

    You realize that Horton is no longer CEO, right? He’s the non-executive chairman, and I don’t think he has very much, if any, power over this.

  • Diego Frausto

    Duh. It’s a business to run. You think they don’t do the calculations before rolling these changes out?

  • Komal

    Has anyone heard anything about AA changing their 24-hour fare guarantee effective yesterday? I went to the AA office in Belize to book a ticket and was told that although they can still offer 24-hour holds, they are no longer guaranteeing the fare. Anyone know about this?

  • LATraveler

    So I flew to Mexico from LA a few days ago and when I fly back I’ll have to pay for my checked bag?!

  • Brian C. Lee

    Dougie is out to make money, 1st and foremost. If that means gutting Aadvantage, that’s what he’ll do. These changes aren’t good, but I don’t think Dougie’s specifically out to gut Aadvantage – he’s willing to do that if that means he makes more money.

  • Allan Klein

    This really sucks considering I finally jumped on the AA 100k offer for their credit card not even a week ago. I had planned to use those points towards an explorer award and was considering status matching from DL Diamond to AA EXP. I guess there’s no point anymore.

  • Bryan C

    Does anyone know what distinguishes anytime level 1 and level 2 awards? The dates in the footnotes are only for milesaver level 1.

  • MYRflyer

    Reading all these comments in this thread, you would think the sky was falling. Yes, if you had plans of using Anytime awards or RTW award. But for most AAdvantage members who book Saver level awards, we got lucky this time. US Air J North Asia increasing by 20k is nothing to get worked up about. US Air Barclays credit card free bag change is great news, one that’ll save hundreds of thousands of cc users all over the country.

    My gut feeling is the next devaluation later this year when the programs finally merge completely will be devastating! Until then, earn & burn people.

  • Scubawef

    The lack of any warning or communication to elite customers is the most disturbing trend. They stopped letting you use SWU for coach to business at booking without a word. You just have to go on a wait list. We got hit with the 24 hour layover for a trip from MIA-ORD-HKG-BKK. I couldn’t get Suzanne Rubin email or phone so sent her a letter. Three weeks later some lower level staff person sent me a “tough s**t” email. Have been EXP for 14 straight years, this year never got a congratulatory email or letter and still no new EXP card! The new American is not impressive in how it regards our past loyalty.

  • AceTracer

    I only just recently got the 160,000 miles I needed for the top oneworld Explorer ticket and I’ve been waiting literally years for that.

  • Allen

    My secret does NOT involve office purchases with the Chase Card.
    I get 5X on everything I buy.

  • Allen

    Bob. No, it does NOT involve office supply stores.
    Cheers

  • Mike

    I had the same thought. It’s no secret that the higher tier credit cards basically offer the same benefits that the entry level elite statuses used to. AA Citi Exec is the new AA Gold elite tier.

  • JIMMLYY

    You also lose all the benefits and protections of purchasing with a credit card…

  • Victor

    Is anyone here aware of how to convert US air miles into American or vice-versa? Obviously it wouldnt be direct, but through any 3rd parties? I have a bunch of miles on each but not enough to book the trip I am looking for.

  • Elys

    Is “Global Exporer” award is bookable using the mileage points?

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