The complete guide to American Web Special awards

Dec 3, 2020

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American Airlines is one of the airlines doing dynamic pricing right.

The carrier is sticking to an award chart for most of its tickets. But American added a limited form of dynamic pricing when it introduced Economy Web Special awards in 2018. Although the pricing is no longer limited to economy tickets, these discounted tickets are issued on a route by route basis. And the discount varies by day, route and when you book.

American usually discounts Web Special awards below the cost of a MileSAAver award ticket, but it can sometimes be more. You’ll usually see higher prices when only AAnytime — American’s “last seat” award ticket — award space is available.

In this guide, I’ll show you everything you need to know about American Airlines Web Special award tickets. I’ll discuss what Web Special awards are, how to find them and the restrictions surrounding them.

By the end of the article, you’ll have a complete look at how to use Web Special awards to maximize your American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Let’s get started!

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In This Post

What are American Web Special awards?

American Airlines 787 landing
American’s Web Special awards are a little different than MileSAAver awards — here’s what you need to know. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

As discussed earlier, Web Special awards are a product of American’s move towards dynamic pricing. They usually provide a discount over MileSAAver awards but also include more restrictions around changing your ticket. The cost of Web Special awards varies but usually offers a relatively significant discount over MileSAAver awards.

In the past, we’ve seen crazy cheap Web Special awards. For example, the airline once offered 10,000-mile round-trip economy flights to Australia and New Zealand. I’ve personally booked New York-JFK to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) via Los Angeles (LAX) for just 45,000 miles in business class with Web Special awards.

Generally, however, deals won’t be quite this good. In most cases, expect to save 5,000 to 10,000 miles per ticket. For example, I found a Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) to Cancun (CUN) for 10,000 miles one-way in economy. In this case, you’d get a nice 5,000 mile discount from the standard 15,000 MileSAAver price.

Further, you’ll sometimes find that Web Special awards are more expensive than the published MileSAAver rate. This higher cost usually happens when the flight is out of MileSAAver award space. As such, American is effectively offering you a discounted AAnytime ticket. You may find this option useful when booking a last-minute ticket or flying on high-demand routes.

For example, a same-day flight from New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) didn’t have open MileSAAver award space in business class. This flight would typically cost 57,500 miles one-way. An AAnytime ticket costs a huge 110,000 miles one-way, but American is offering a Web Special award for just 65,000 miles one-way. 65,000 miles one-way is a solid deal for a last-minute international business class flight.

Web Special Comparison
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

Web Special awards are slightly more restrictive than MileSAAver

There is one significant restriction to Web Special awards: you can’t change your ticket. So if you want to make changes, you’ll need to cancel your trip and book a new one once your miles are refunded.

Thankfully, American Airlines recently removed cancellation fees for Web Special tickets. You can cancel your flight online and American Airlines will automatically refund your AAdvantage miles to your account. In my experience, it takes around 24 hours for American Airlines to reinstate your miles.

The inability to change Web Special awards isn’t a massive deal in the end. The only thing you have to lose when canceling and rebooking a ticket is — possibly — the cost of the new flight being higher than your original flight. This is far better than the high fees American Airlines used to charge for Web Special cancellations, making Web Special awards a lot more flexible.

Related: American Airlines further improves AAdvantage with added flexibility

How to find Web Special awards

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Finding Web Special awards is simple: search the American website like you would for any other award ticket. Web Special awards will appear alongside MileSAAver and AAnytime awards.

Start your search by heading to AA.com and entering your search details. Make sure to check the “Redeem Miles” box before starting your search.

Starting a search on American's Website
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

If your dates are flexible, use the calendar search tool to find the lowest award price for the month. This tool shows you pricing for all the dates in a given month. You can access it by clicking the “Calendar” button at the upper right-hand corner of the search results screen.

American Airlines Award Search Results
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

American Airlines highlights the lowest price in green, which generally indicates a Web Special award if it’s less than other prices that month. If you’re interested in booking, click the date and then click the blue “Apply Changes” button at the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

DFW to CUN Award Calendar Pricing Dec 2020
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

You can’t tell which awards are Web Specials from search results. Instead, you’ll get this notice when you click on the award you’d like to book. Here, American will sell us a Web Special or MileSAAver Main Cabin award. If you’re comfortable with the Web Special restrictions, click the Confirm button under the Web Special option and continue to book as usual.

Award Special Notice DFW-CUN
(Image courtesy of American Airlines)

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

How to earn AAdvantage miles

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Are you interested in redeeming miles for Web Special awards? You’ll need to earn AAdvantage miles first.

American doesn’t partner with any of the major transferrable points programs. But there are several cobranded American Airlines cards. These cards let you earn AAdvantage miles on every purchase you make. Even better, some of these cards offer lucrative travel perks like free checked bags, priority boarding and even Admirals Club access.

Here’s a look at some of the best American cobranded credit cards and current signup bonuses:

The information for the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select and CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: The best airline credit cards

Bottom line

American’s Web Special awards are a great way to maximize your AAdvantage miles. You can use them to save miles on international and domestic award tickets in economy class and premium cabins. I’ve personally used Web Special awards to save tens of thousands of miles over the years.

These awards got even better when American Airlines removed cancellation fees. Now, Web Special awards have almost as much flexibility as MileSAAver awards. Remember, you can cancel a Web Special award and redeposit miles for free, but you still can’t change a Web Special award.

Of course, always make sure that it makes sense to book your flights with AAdvantage miles. For example, if the flight you’re looking at has MileSAAver space too, check the price of booking with British Airways Avios if you have transferrable points available to you. Doing so could help you save even more miles on your next ticket.

Featured image by Mark Rightmire/Orange County Register/Getty Images.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you.  Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

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

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