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Update: AA reached out to clarify that the airline has increased the redemption rates within its existing award levels — technically, these are the same levels that were first referenced in April 2014. Of course, the end result here remains unchanged — you’ll need to redeem many more miles for some awards as American Airlines increases redemption rates “to better match demand.” But, again, “no new levels were added.”
News broke on FlyerTalk yesterday about some peculiar award pricing on American Airlines flights. We reached out to AA for an explanation of the changes, and an airline rep gave us the rundown: certain routes now have additional higher rate “AAnytime” award levels.
More expensive award rates are always unwelcome news, but this is only a slight devaluation and it’s only on a couple of routes — at least for now. “MileSAAver” level awards still cost the same. The “AAnytime” Level 1 + 2 rates are also staying the same. American isn’t following in Delta’s footsteps by scrapping its entire award chart in favor of a dynamic award pricing scheme. However, it’s now pricing some flights on high-demand routes much higher than before.
Changes Implemented This Week
Background: The American Airlines award chart lists award options ranging from MileSAAver (cheapest) to AAnytime Level 2 (most expensive). However, AA revealed back in June 2014 that there’s another, mysterious “AAnytime Level 3” level — which “are offered on a few select dates and will require a higher number of miles to redeem.”
The problem that popped up yesterday is that travelers were seeing not one, but two levels of award prices that aren’t on this award chart. There were some transcontinental JFK-LAX business class seats pricing out at 82,500 AAdvantage miles one-way, while other business class seats were at 97,500 miles. The maximum price on the current award chart is 55,000 miles for AAnytime Level 2 + 7,500 additional miles for a business class flight on a three-cabin aircraft. So, the unpublished award rates were a whopping 20,000-35,000 miles more than the 62,500-mile maximum as per the award chart.
Rumor spread that this was an indication American Airlines was ditching its award chart for a dynamic-priced award model similar to Delta. However, these most recent changes aren’t nearly that dramatic.
An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed yesterday that the changes are on only on two transcontinental routes: New York’s JFK-Los Angeles (LAX) and New York’s JFK-San Francisco (SFO). On these two routes, American Airlines will add an additional “AAnytime Level 4” rate. Although these award rates haven’t been officially released, we have determined the new rates based on current award rates.
|Flights from JFK <-> LAX/SFO||MileSAAver||AAnytime
*Includes 7,500-mile surcharge for flights on three-cabin aircraft.
There are now five award levels on just these two routes (JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO). AA confirmed that these are the only two routes that have been affected by this week’s change, and a rep stated that there are no plans to expand this pricing scheme to any other domestic routes. However — as we discuss below — there are some international routes that’ll be affected soon.
Following this change, there are currently some transcontinental economy flights pricing at 75,000 AAdvantage miles each way. Considering the cash fare for the example above is just $371 one-way, you’re be getting an abysmal 0.5 cents per mile of value by booking the flight with miles.
In this particular case, the redemption rate isn’t much better for business and first class. Redeeming miles for business class nets ~1.1 cents per mile value. Meanwhile, redeeming 130,000 AAdvantage miles for a one-way first class flight provides less than 1.2 cents per mile in value. However, if you’re booking a last-minute flight at these mileage rates, you’ll likely end up with a better redemption — even if it’s not as good as before this week’s change.
Additional Routes Affected in September
When we asked American Airlines if any other routes are going to see similar changes, we received a heads up that there are two other destinations that’ll be affected by AAnytime award level changes. In late September, American Airlines will add an AAnytime Level 4 rate for flights to/from Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) and Sydney, Australia (SYD).
The new rates haven’t been announced yet. However, American Airlines confirmed that these new AAnytime levels will only be added for business and first-class awards. Economy awards will continue to max out at the current Level 3 rate of 120,000 miles each way.
|Flights to/from AKL or SYD||MileSAAver||AAnytime
If you need to book business or first-class award flights to either of these destinations during a peak travel time, consider biting the bullet and booking before these changes go into affect. This is especially a good idea if you’re able to cancel these award flights at no cost as an AA Executive Platinum member.
Before the new rate is implemented, the most you’ll pay is the hidden AAnytime Level 3 rate. While these rates are exceptionally expensive (250,000 one-way in business or 300,000 one-way in first class), the to-be-introduced AAnytime Level 4 rates will be even higher. It’s probable that the flights currently pricing at AAnytime Level 3 will devalue to Level 4 once the change is introduced.
It’s already been a bad year to be an AAdvantage member. American Airlines devalued its award chart in March and made unannounced, customer-unfriendly changes to earning AAdvantage miles a month ago. So, we are disappointed — but not entirely surprised — to be blindsided by another negative change to the AAdvantage program.
Most of us plan to redeem miles for flights at the lowest MileSAAver levels. However, having miles can be a bit of an insurance plan. Rather than paying last-minute cash fares, it’s comforting to know you can grab an award ticket if your flight is cancelled or if there’s an emergency — even if you have to pay “AAnytime” award rates. However, it’s just these high-demand or last-minute flights that are likely to be the most impacted by these changes. We hope that American Airlines will not expand this new AAnytime Level 4 to other routes.
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