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Avios Rates for AA Domestic First Class Just Dropped 50%

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Over the weekend, American Airlines made an adjustment to how it classifies its domestic first class. Starting January 11, the front seats on flights within the US are still going to be called “first class,” but AA will now classify them using business-class fare codes (J, D, I and R) instead of first-class fare codes (F, A and P).

So what, right? Now that AAdvantage members earn miles based on the price of the ticket (and elite status) and there’s no elite-qualifying mileage (EQM) benefit between business and first, this adjustment would seem to just be an irrelevant change. And, for the AAdvantage program, it is an irrelevant change. But, for British Airways’ Executive Club program, this adjustment makes a significant difference.

British Airways was charging the same number of miles whether you were flying in this seat or the first-class seat of a small regional jet.

Since American Airlines was treating domestic “first class” as first class, British Airways has been charging first-class rates for these flights. So, whether you were up front on an American Eagle Embraer RJ-175 or American Airlines’ 777-300ER (pictured above), you were going to be charged the same number of Avios according to British Airways’ distance-based chart. This meant that it was typically a poor redemption to use British Airways Avios for American Airlines domestic flights.

After this weekend’s change, however, these same American Airlines first-class seats are now pricing at business-class Avios rates. Let’s take a look at what this means. Here are the old and new rates for using Avios for domestic American Airlines flights. British Airways Off-Peak award prices are listed in parenthesis.

Distance Band Example Routes British Airways
Avios — old rate
British Airways
Avios — new rate
AAdvantage award
miles required**
1-500 miles* LAX-SFO, ORD-MSP 30,000 (25,500) 15,000 (12,750) 15,000
501-650 miles* ORD-ATL, ORD-DCA 30,000 (25,500) 15,000 (12,750) 25,000
651-1,151 miles JFK-ORD, MIA-JFK 30,000 (25,500) 15,000 (12,750) 25,000
1,152-2,000 miles ORD-LAX, DFW-LAX 40,000 (34,000) 20,000 (17,000) 25,000

*While British Airways has a cheaper award tier for 1- to 650-mile flights, BA doesn’t allow US domestic flights to book into this tier.

**Before factoring in possible discounts for reduced mileage awards and 10% mileage rebate.

As you can see, the old British Airways rates were up to double the AAdvantage rates. After this weekend’s change, the Avios rates are the same as or cheaper than American Airlines rates across the board. But, remember that British Airways charges for each flight segment individually. If you’re unable to get a nonstop flight, you’re likely going to end up paying more to book the award flight with Avios than AAdvantage miles.

In case you’re wondering why the chart only goes up to 2,000 miles, note that the fare codes weren’t changed for transcontinental routes — such as JFK-LAX — that use three-cabin (first, business, economy) aircraft. Since these fare codes weren’t realigned, there was no change to the Avios award prices for these routes.

Bottom Line

This seemingly unimportant American Airlines fare class realignment just made your British Airways Avios more valuable for flights on American Airlines. Whether Avios just slightly increased in value or nearly doubled is going to depend on your travel preferences and how many nonstop AA flights there are from your airport. If you’re in a hub city and like to fly first class, this is great news.

If you’re in a spoke city or fly economy, you’re not going to benefit from this too much — unless you want to change it up and fly first class. After all, you can now pay 15,000 Avios for a first-class flight up to 1,151 miles vs. 12,500 AAdvantage miles for an economy flight over 500 miles.

Are you planning on redeeming any Avios thanks to this change?

Featured image of an American Eagle first-class cabin courtesy of American Airlines.

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