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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

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:

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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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • 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

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees