American Airlines Announces 5 Tier Award Chart And Negative Checked Bag Changes

by on April 8, 2014 · 74 comments

in American

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Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before American Airlines decided to increase the amount of miles needed for award tickets since Delta, United and Southwest all made big devaluations this year. These changes are not good, but they also are not complete game changers and AAdvantage will still likely remain one of my top frequent flyer programs as long as they don’t mess with the elite program and institute revenue requirements like United and Delta.

The biggest change is that AAnytime awards will be split into 3 categories – Level 1, 2 and 3 and you’ll likely need to redeem more miles for that last seat on the plane. Luckily the SAAver program remains largely untouched with the off-peak program still intact, which is great since partners price out at the SAAver level and I’m glad AA is not starting to penalize for partner award travel like United.

Update: I’ve also learned that AA will change their international gateway stopover policy (that I wrote about yesterday) to only allow a 24-hour stopover, which is a complete bummer. I asked for clarification on when that change will occur and I believe it is in effect for travel starting June 1, so there could be time to leverage the current flexible stopover rule for travel starting before June 1 – I will need to play around with this to see the limitations and will update.

Update 2: American is also getting rid of their distanced-based Oneworld Explorer awards, which although complicated, can be a huge value.

New Award Chart (Link) Starting June 1, 2014

5 "Exciting" Award Levels

5 “Exciting” Award Levels

The key change here is that there will now be 5 award tiers (Sounds kinda like Delta, right?): Off-peak, MileSAAver, AAnytime, AAnytime 2 and AAnytime 3.  The good news is that there aren’t huge changes to the MileSAAver award structure – they’re still keeping the same off-peak dates and saver 30,000/50,000/62,500 miles awards for economy/business/first travel from the US to Europe, where United and Delta increased those awards by 25% or more. However, the AAnytime rate will vary for all awards and there will be AAytime Level 1 (which is less than current rate of double the miles of a standard award), AAnytime level 2 (which is more than the current AAytime award level) and a mysterious AAytime level 3 award that doesn’t even have pricing, but AA simply states “*AAnytime Level 3 awards are offered on a few select dates and will require higher number of miles to redeem.”

Gone are the days of being able to redeem double the miles for pretty much any flight

Gone are the days of being able to redeem double the miles for pretty much any flight

The new levels are already pricing for travel after June 1- today an AAnytime Award from London to NYC is 125,000 miles and with the new changes it jumps to 175,000

The new levels are already pricing for travel after June 1- today an AAnytime Award from London to NYC is 125,000 miles and with the new changes it jumps to 175,000

Checked Bag Policy Changes (Link)

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.

-AAdvantage Gold members and Dividend Miles Platinum and Gold members will receive one fewer free checked bag than they do today.
-Customers traveling on an AAnytime award or a full-fare economy ticket (on legacy American) will no longer receive free checked bags.

-Starting April 30, customers who have the US Airways MasterCard® with an annual fee of at least $79 will receive one free checked bag
-The second bag charge on flights to and from South America will be removed.

Overall, these changes are not great, but they’re not nearly as bad as they could have been. When I got the call that AA was making major changes to the frequent flyer program my heart sunk. However, they’re not eviscerating SAAver level awards (the best value awards) like the other frequent flyer programs, but are more focused on protecting their revenue by increasing the miles needed for those last available seats which truly take the most expensive seats for sale off the market.

I booked an AAnytime award from Recife to Miami for 100,000 miles last week simply because coach and business class tickets were insanely priced and I snagged the last available business class seat that was selling for $4,000. In the end, the flight got canceled and I rebooked myself on a SAAver level award on different routing, but it was nice to have the option of using double the miles for that very last seat. Now, that AANytime award would cost 110,000 miles at a minimum (if there were a couple seats left), 150,000 (assuming pretty much last seat availability) or even more if it was a mysterious level 3 award that has no published pricing.

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  • SantiHolly Speranza

    This really sucks… I have about 350,000 AA miles and my wife has 175,000 and we have been saving for a year looking for a place to go and use them… I will have to pay closer attention to the Off Peak Travel dates then!

  • RakSiam

    Lucky seems especially exorcised that the mileage based awards are gone.

  • Ruthlessly Absurd

    Don’t forget that they also are getting rid of One World Explorer awards. That one’s killing me

  • K2

    Mannnnnnnnn….this sucks. Like you said, I guess we should’ve seen this coming

  • drewj0912

    Brian, will stopovers at the international gateway city be allowed at all on award tickets or are these gone as well as the explorer oneworld awards?

  • drewj0912

    Wish they would of given advanced notice, however.

  • Justin

    Well we knew it was coming. Ouch. I’m still going to try to get a DUB-HNL with a stopover in PHL with either them or US Air before this chart goes into effect.

  • Rusty Longwood

    Ick, a bit sad about one less checked bag for AA Golds. There’s barely a difference between being Gold and just having a Citi AA Executive card now.

  • Angel

    This SUCKS. Plain and simple. I don’t understand why some bloggers are being so nice to AA with this one. No advance notice is AWFUL!! Also it is funny how now you guys describe the “Explorer” award as complex but before you use that topic to cover pages and pages of your blogs explaining them and saying how great they were…..Again, the lack of advance notice is the problem here and that creates a trust issue from now on. Again, these changes are AWFUL!!! PS: you forgot to include the changes to the US award chart.

  • thepointsguy

    You can only stopover for 24 hours on all award tickets at the gateway city.

  • thepointsguy


  • Diego Frausto

    Bummer since you just posted about this yesterday! I had just planned an trip for fall using this strategy :(

  • Alex

    With that number of miles you can go anywhere you want and this should not really affect you much. Travel the world with partner awards or use the Explorer before it goes away and you will be fine.

  • Brett

    This won’t affect BA redemptions, right? How does that work anyways – it seems like AA probably loses money on short distance redemptions?

  • thepointsguy

    Yea I added that… funny they didn’t include that in their press release! Sad to see them go as well..

  • Justin

    Bri you might as well put up a comparison of all three major devaluations now that some of the dust is starting to settle. In terms of comparing United’s chart vs Delta’s chart vs this new AA-US chart with some example itineraries.

  • thepointsguy

    Like Alex says- focus on SAAver and partner awards- just know that a lot of partners like Cathay don’t show on so you have to call and book.. if you’re flexible you can go pretty much anywhere with that many miles- and in first class

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- no impact on British Airways Avios redemptions- completely separate program.

  • Sherman

    I guess the real big news is they are discontinuing the OneWorld Explorer award.

  • Dave

    Is this effective immediately?

  • tt

    i think this serves as a good caution for anyone relative NEW to the ff game to burn burn burn! i was a miser with my miles and ignored all the warnings, but started burning them 2 years ago and have seen endless devaluations since then. when in doubt – dont save :)

  • Omer

    How will they price our RTW tickets now that explorer awards are discontinued?

  • Lucas Cabral

    I sadly just made a redemption overnight and was chocked by the new rules. The agent also informed me that now, even when flying F internationally the domestic segment has to be done in J. For example: GRU/JFK/YVR (JJ e CX), as of tonight, the JFK/YVR leg has to be done in business and if the passenger wants to fly F all the way the award is ticked separated.
    I still have the ticket on hold, however I called AA at least 10 times this night and all agents informed about this new rule.

  • thepointsguy

    Looks like they won’t be issuing RTW tickets- you’ll have to buy segments separately

  • thepointsguy

    That is ridiculous if true… thx for the tip, will follow up to hopefully get a clear list of what exactly went into effect overnight

  • Henry

    I was going to have a 1 week stop over in Hawaii in November in my way to Japan. Any suggestions on how to get around this?

  • thepointsguy

    Wise words

  • thepointsguy

    Yea it is BS..trying to get answers from AA because half of their negative changes were not announced so I’m not sure we are even through the woods yet with negative changes.

  • Lucas Cabral

    I just spoke to another agent who’s based at the AA office in São Paulo and according to him, that’s the way it is now. I still cross my fingers for that to be only a crash in the system…

  • Matt

    i don’t understand how the bloggers are being so nice about AA and crucifying United/Delta when they at least gave some notice??? The off-peak awards lost significant value w/o the stopover now. A sad sad day — I think the movie Olympus Has Fallen needs to be redone for this.

  • Eurovisionacts

    Called in today for my ticketed award for travel in Fall. Changed the date of last stopover no problem. So I think for those who booked before hand we should be safe.

    For international redemption, looks pretty good. All saver rates continue to be the same.

  • J

    Hate that every airline needs you to have a card to get perks nowadays. To fly nowadays you need 500 cards, a sacrificial lamb and great credit

  • LarryInNYC

    Via Dan @ Dan’s Deals — booking fee has increased from $25 to $35 per ticket.

  • shawn

    The big devaluation is for aanytime premium awards international. LHR-JFK is already showing 180k for a one-way in business on july 2. Now, if you take new roughly equivalent to old F (which was 125k for a anytime oneway) that’s not terrible. But new F high price for one-way is 215, which is nearly twice as much as the old 125 anytime F.

    The other big problem, which they should fix, is if you use anytime awards, you can’t tack on segments with partners. So JFK-LHR-CPH would be 215k for anytiem F, plus another 20k for a business LHR-CPH segment. That’s outrageous, and as long as they are reprogramming the system, they should allow anytime awards to include segments on oneworld partners.

  • jammer9050

    is the cutting of OWE awards immediate as well?

  • Ryan

    Does this apply to Global Explorer tickets as well?

  • hobo05

    Too late! Explorer awards are gone

  • Sales Result Inc.

    I Love the Delta plan…. If oyu are travelling internationally or using AMEX, much better plan than American!!!

  • sherman

    US Airways has devalued their chart “secretly” . Now US-North Asia is 110k for biz class.

  • Federico

    Citi AA Executive? just with the Citi AA Platinum with let you have 1 free checked bag for just $95 a year (plus any sign up bonus).

  • TSH

    Real question is that will they realign their inventory across the 5 Tiers a la Delta, where saver inventory is difficult to find. That would be a major problem.

  • JTP

    Phew! North America to Japan is still the same. relief..

  • Tim

    I was a month away from being able to book my Explorer award. Been planning for 2 years and was just waiting for the year in advance to start booking and to get the last of my needed 440K miles. Not really sure what I’ll do right now, this was going to be a huge life event for my wife (involving a move and likely job changes). If I would have had a month notice I could have modified plans and still salvaged the trip, now I don’t think I can ever afford 16 segments thru South America, Australia and Asia, I’ll never be able to afford to visit all the cities I was planning on that trip now. I’m thinking of spamming every AA email address I can get a hold of, knowing it likely won’t do anything, but considering I fly 100 segments a year you would think a rational firm serving a consumer would think twice about stuff like this when extrapolated out against the many in my situation. I think as retribution for allowing the merger the DOJ should lobby to allow for point to point domestic routes from international carriers :)

  • Patrick Folger

    At least my usual LAX-OGG saver award for F didn’t change. It’s still 37,500. What I’m not clear about is do you still get 3 checked bags for F?

  • ChesterSprings

    At least US Airways card members get free checked bag now yeehaaaaw! I’m gonna celebrate with a cheeseburger or 2!

  • Varun

    What if i’m an AA EXP and redeem AAnytime Award using AA miles or BA Avios, will i get 3 free checked bag allowance or get nothing on the free baggage front?

  • Lee

    If you look at many, many dates, the mileage has gone up to 50,000 for economy domestic tickets for the peak days. And yet, when you look at how much that same ticket is in $, it comes out to 1 cent in value or less. It makes no sense. Why wouldn’t you drop either airline’s credit card and use an Arrival card or Capital One, . It’s ridiculous and a very sad day as I just got the 100k bonus credit card. Sad to see so many bloggers saying this isn’t that bad. Now I will use my Chase points, since at least with having the United credit card I can book 50,000 miles roundtrip on peak days, instead of just for one way.

  • Gear

    As an AA EXP so hard to get upgrade on MIA-SFO,may be this will help!

  • Mariele

    Hi Brian! have been a loyal reader for a while now… I have yet to use my miles for any international travel. I have been hoarding my miles for an Explorer Award, which I was going to book this week. needless to say… I am pissed. Now I would just like your advise (anyone with experience, please chime in!):
    1. Getting to France or Spain in September (from NYC). Best OW partner to get there? (not BA – don’t want to pay the high Fuel Charges) IB?
    2. I have enough miles for Business but would maybe like to save em for another trip, is IB’s economy unbearable for 9hrs? is J really worth the extra 40K miles RT?

    Can anyone help? i have 230k AA miles, SO has 112k we both have about 35k Dividend miles too… should I just burn em all?

  • Evan Salama

    C’mon TPG! Yes, this doesn’t ruin AA off peak saver awards but not everyone has your awesome job and can fit that in. For the masses, the people who have jobs in regimented workplaces or who have kids (or both!) this is terrible. It’s only a matter of time before AA institutes a financial component to their program like Delta & United and to be honest, the AA product is by far (along with US AIRWAYS) the worst in the business. A lot of times it’s like riding a greyhound bus with wings. Bad move by AA.

  • thepointsguy

    What do you mean c’mon? I said these were negative changes (in the title even), but it isn’t doomsday.

  • thepointsguy

    I just wrote a new post explaining even more negative changes. For lack of a better expression, I agree they suck.

  • thepointsguy

    I’m not being nice.. it has taken me all day to put together the big picture and yea, these changes are horrible. Just wrote a new post highlighting what I’ve been able to put together

  • thepointsguy

    Sadly, yes

  • thepointsguy

    I have noticed a lack of saver availability..wouldn’t be surprised to see availability continue to get choked so people start booking AAnytime more and more

  • CB

    I love to know as well. Holding out hope it’s just for the explorer and not the global explorer…

  • Ryan

    Hmm… I already have a gateway stopover award trip booked for HNL-LAX-LHR, with the LAX-LHR leg scheduled out in 2015. Since I already paid my miles for this trip, it shouldn’t be impacted right?

  • CM

    I didn’t see anything on the new award chart for flights to the South Pacific (i.e. Tahiti). I’ve been saving up miles for years (since college) for a trip there and I’m hoping that I’m not going to have to delay it again. Brian, any word on changes to Partner awards or redemption levels for flights to South Pacific?

  • Allen

    Did a quick comparison… for people who use AAnytime, this constitutes the following increases in redemption miles: 21% economy, 27% in business, and 42% in first.

    Relative value to be had still redeeming economy + business to mx/carib/central america. And surprisingly, business from nam to hk. first class is horrible through and through.

  • m henner

    I feel cheated.

    I had intended on booking a London to Eugene, Oregon trip in September with a free stopover in New York.

    Now they say I can’t.

    The change was made with no advance notice

  • Kimberly Grace Taylor

    I’d like to know this too!

  • jackcaj

    Just a correction: off-peak saaver awards to Europe (and southern South America) in economy were and continue to be 20,000 miles one-way. 30,000 is for peak periods.

    But I agree with your main point: saaver awards, which were the best value, remain largely untouched.

  • guest

    Until DUI Doug institutes TODs.

  • Kristen

    Is there a replacement to the Explorer plan or just no RTW tickets available for points anymore?

  • shay peleg

    Wow so sad i guess just focus on the long hauls with AA one ways

  • shay peleg

    I think a lot of the bloggers are shocked

  • CT

    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

  • Ct

    Then write to RUBIN and Schnook and let them know. Don’t pansy around. Just be a honeybadger … They don’t give a sh!@.
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

  • Alex

    you dont get Any bags for free if you are traveling on award ticket!!!! That is the new change. They tell you if you want a free bag then get their credit card.

  • Patrick Folger

    Its not clear if that is for Coach or Biz/First ( depending on classes on flight ) Thats what I was asking TPG. If the award travel for First still gets free checked bags or is that for coach? His post stated AAnytime but I usually get a Milesaver which he didn’t mention

  • brian p

    Anyone else seeing reduced or no availability for First MilesAAver awards after the change? Had been planning PIT-HKG next Feb. but all of the 10+ dates that previously had availability do not now??

  • herb

    Inventory has been slashed for saver and level 1 AANytime awards. This devaluation is much worse than in initially sounded. Routine domestic routes out of ORD that I would book all the time for 50k are now 80 and 90k.

  • Alpha

    AAIs also charging much more in $$$ besides the miles. For instance, to travel business class to Europe, you need over 100,000 miles plus $1,100!!!

  • Esmae

    The greed doesn’t end this sucks!!!

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