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American Airlines Pledges to Increase Saver Availability, Introduce Premium Economy Awards

Sept. 29, 2017
3 min read
American Airlines Pledges to Increase Saver Availability, Introduce Premium Economy Awards
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At the American Airlines Media and Investor Day on Thursday, journalists and analysts got to try out new products and hear some amazing stats. We also had multiple opportunities to ask questions of airline executives, for example about seat pitch. But we also had questions about AAdvantage awards.

Future of Saver Award Availability

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Anyone who has tried to redeem AAdvantage miles anytime in the last year knows how frustratingly little "MileSAAver" award availability there can be. The Points Guy readers have complained that AAdvantage miles are downright "worthless" due to the lack of AAvailability. While I've gotten decent value out of awards — even scoring a 3.3-cent economy domestic redemption this week — I understand your frustration. And, I want to make sure American Airlines understands it too.

In her introduction before a Q&A session, Bridget Blaise-Shamai — AA's Vice President of Customer Loyalty & Insights — said she knows AAdvantage needs to do better. So, I pointed out to her the frustrations of AAdvantage members and the competition that American Airlines co-branded cards have now from new premium cards and enticing cashback offers like the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. I asked if we are reaching a breaking point where AAdvantage has to get better or risk losing highly profitable credit card partnerships.

Blaise-Shamai was quick to point out that American Airlines signed two "industry leading" agreements in the past year with two different banks. The airline is "as excited as we've ever been about our prospects with our partnerships with the banks." Then she addressed my question, mentioning the challenges resulting from the acquisition of US Airways:

There is certainly a lot of feedback we have received regarding availability of both tickets and upgrades. And, we have this integration where the two airlines came together. [The two airlines] kinda had a different view and use of the respective programs. And we're at a level of availability that was just a little different from past practices and have moved upward since then. And, I can tell you as we sit here now, we are on a path to materially increase the saver levels on American. Just stay with us, it's coming soon. We know that the value of the program for so many is tied into the use of their miles.

Premium Economy Awards

While squeezing seats in the back, American Airlines has done a commendable job of rolling out premium economy seating on its long-haul aircraft. Effective January 15, American Airlines is selling true premium economy to five countries in Europe, Japan, Korea, southern South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Based on slides at Media Day, these seats will be fleet-wide on wide-body aircraft by the end of 2018 — not by June 2018 as originally planned.

However, AAdvantage members still don't have the ability to book premium economy awards — on American Airlines or its partners. So, I asked about the hold up. Don Casey, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management, pointed to issues with IT, and elaborated that the premium economy awards were "de-scoped in the initial rollout because we had all of the other work to do." I pressed for a estimate of when they could be added. Don said we can "expect that it will be sometime in 2018."

While the answers weren't as conclusive as I would have liked, American Airlines does seem to understand our frustrations on lack of award availability.

Featured image by JT Genter
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
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  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases