Airline Award Status Update: Comparing Saver Level Awards on American, Delta, United and US Airways

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What with American’s announcements earlier this week that their award chart would change to a new 5-tiered system as well as a few changes from US Airways like upping the business class redemption level to North Asia to 110,000 miles from 90,000 miles – plus all the recent devaluations from United and Delta‘s major revamp coming up June 1, I thought it would be helpful to make a quick comparison of Saver award redemption levels across the major US legacy airlines.

5 "Exciting" Award Levels
American’s changes included new award tiers – luckily Saver awards didn’t change much.

The good news is that, at least for now, American and US Airways have not made any major changes to their Saver level awards – the ones most of us are interested in and the levels at which you redeem miles for partner awards – so there are still some great values to be had, but let’s take a look at what the raw numbers have to say.

Just a few quick things to note:

  • These are all awards priced out from North America to other regions
  • The numbers are denoted in thousands of miles, eg 25 = 25,000 miles
  • The numbers are for roundtrip travel
  • I’ve bolded the lowest redemption levels for each region
  • You’ll notice two numbers on some tiers – that’s because of off-peak awards and regional overlap
  • They are listed in the following order of class: economy, business, first
  • I’ve only included Delta’s award numbers for trips after the June 1 devaluation date
  • Delta’s chart only includes economy and business class numbers
  • United’s chart has been split in two – redemptions on United and those on partners
  • I will include notes below on regional differences between carriers but have tried to keep it simplified in the table below for ease of reference

SAVER AWARD COMPARISON

American Delta United United Partner US Airways
Within US/Canada 25
50
65
25
50/65
25
50
70
25
50
70
25
50
50
Hawaii 35/45
75
95
45
80/90
45
80
100
45
80
100
40
80
80
Mexico 25/35
60
80
35
60
35
60
80
35
60
80
35
N/A
60
Caribbean 25/35
60
80
35
60
35
60
80
35
60
80
25/35
N/A
50/60
Central America 30/35
60
80
35
60
35
60
80
35
60
80
35
N/A
60
Northern South America 30/35
60
80
45
90
40
70
90
40
70
90
35/60
60/100
125
Southern South America 40/60
100
125
60
125
60
110
140
60
110
140
35/60
60/100
125
Europe 40/60
100
125
60
125
60
115
160
60
140
220
35/60
100
125
North Asia 50/65/70
100/110
125/135
70
140
70
130/140
160
70
150/160
220/240
60
110
120
Southeast Asia 70
110
135
80
140
80
140
160
85
160
260
80
120
160
Central Asia 90
135
180
80/85
140
85
140
180
85
160
280
80
120
160
South Asia/India 90
135
180
85
140
80/85
140
160/180
85
160
260
80
120
160
Middle East 90
135
180
85
140
85
140
180
85
160
280
80
120
180
South Pacific/Australia 75
125
145
100
160
70/80
130/140
160
70/80
150/160
220/260
80
110
140
Africa/Northern Africa 75
150
200
80
140
80
140
170
80
160
260
70
110
150
Southern Africa 75
150
200
100
160
85
140
180
80
160
260
70
110
150

ANALYSIS

I’ve already pinpointed the lowest redemption levels for now, but there are a few other things to point out from the table and to keep in mind when booking travel.

Crisp, clean coach cabin
If you’re flying economy, you’re still looking at decent award levels.

First, economy awards across the board are still pretty good values and did not change much with any of these recent changes or devaluations. Granted, there are some new Delta and United economy saver levels that have gone up, but for the most part, all the airlines’ charts are in line. In this respect, the best deals are still American and US Airways’ off-peak awards, where you can get economy awards to places like Europe and South America at significant discounts not only over those of Delta and United, but of the airlines’ own normal saver levels.

For business and first class redemptions, you’ll notice a lot more bolding in US Airways’ chart than any of the others’, especially when it comes to Asia and the South Pacific. Though US Airways did just bump that sweet spot redemption of 90,000 miles for business class to North Asia up to 110,000 miles to align with American’s chart, there are still some amazing values like 120,000 miles for first class to North Asia (Cathay Pacific first class!), and 110,000 miles roundtrip business class to Australia, as well as 125,000 miles first class to Southern South America (TAM first class!).

American and US Airways are also the clear winners in two other considerations. First, if you want a first class award, you’re out of luck with Delta (no first class awards) and United’s new levels are astronomical. Second, if you want to book partner awards, AA and US are also the better choices because Delta pulls up terrible partner availability as a rule and United’s partner awards in premium cabins were made insanely high in most cases (220,000 miles to Europe, 260,000 miles to Australia!).

Finally, it pays to know which regions include which countries since there is a lot of variety airline to airline. Frankly, one of the reasons US Airways’ chart beats the competition in a lot of these cases is because its regions are so much simpler and include more countries. For instance, South America is just one big region so while awards to Northern South America are better deals on other carriers, if you’re heading to Brazil, Argentina or Chile, you’re coming out ahead with US. Likewise, the airlines’ North Asia region includes places like China and Japan but also Taiwan and Hong Kong, giving you more options, and South Pacific includes both Oceania as well as Australia and New Zealand rather than splitting them up into separate zones, so there are some potentially amazing values there.

My First Class seat on Cathay from HKG-Vancouver.
I’ll take Cathay First over United GlobalFirst for fewer miles any day!

It pays to think ahead to which destination you’re likely to want to use miles to travel to and which carriers service it since you can end up saving tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of miles by choosing the right frequent flyer program.  For instance, I’d rather use 120,000 US Airways miles to fly Cathay Pacific first class from the US to Hong Kong than 160,000 miles flying United GlobalFirst. And I’d rather spend 125,000 American miles flying TAM first class to Brazil than 125,000 Delta miles to fly Delta BusinessElite or 140,000 United miles to fly United GlobalFirst.

REGIONS

Here’s what the regions above include according to each airline’s chart:

AMERICAN

  • Central/Northern South America: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela
  • Southern South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile (excluding Easter Island), Paraguay, Uruguay
  • Europe: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia
  • Northern Asia: Japan, Korea, Mongolia
  • Southeast Asia/Asia 2: Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Middle East/Indian Subcontinent: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan
  • Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Melilla, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Reunion, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • South Pacific: Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa.

DELTA

  • Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama
  • Northern South America: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela
  • Southern South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay
  • Europe: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark (excluding Greenland), Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (The Former Yugoslav Republic of), Malta, Moldova (Republic of), Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (including Azores and Madeira), Romania, Russia (West of the Ural Mountains), San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Canary Islands), Svalbard and Jan Mayen Island, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Vatican City
  • Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Libyan Arab Jamahirija, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania (United Republic of), Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe
  • Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates (composed of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras El Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Qaiwain), Uzbekistan, Yemen (Republic of)
  • South Asian Subcontinent: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Indian Ocean Territory; India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • Southeast Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos (People’s Democratic Republic of), Macau SAR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan and Vietnam
  • South Pacific: American Samoa, Australia, Christmas Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna Islands.

UNITED

  • Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama
  • Northern South America: Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela
  • Southern South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay
  • North Asia: China, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan – note Japan is separate and the lesser of the number in the charts under North Asia for United
  • South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Central Asia: Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
  • Middle East: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egyp, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Yemen
  • Northern Africa: Algeria, Canary Islands, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Central/Southern Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • Oceania (the smaller of the mileage amounts under South Pacific): American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Western Samoa
  • Australia/NZ: New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Australia

US AIRWAYS

  • South America: Includes all of South America
  • North Asia: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan
  • South/Central Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chagos, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam
  • South Pacific: Includes all of Oceania, Australia and New Zealand
  • Africa: Includes all of Africa

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