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Update 11/8/2018: American Airlines expanded from the original six routes to add an additional 11:
- Austin (AUS) — Los Angeles (LAX)
- Los Angeles (LAX) — Portland (PDX)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
- Orlando (MCO) — Pittsburgh (PIT)
- Las Vegas (LAS) — Los Angeles (LAX)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — New Orleans (MSY)
- Phoenix (PHX) — Las Vegas (LAS)
- Boston (BOS) — Greensboro, NC (GSO)
- Orlando (MCO) — Baltimore (BWI)
- Los Angeles (LAX) — Honolulu (HNL)
- Phoenix (PHX) — Honolulu (HNL)
For months, Delta has been impressing mileage collectors with a stream of award flash sales. Now, American Airlines is getting into the mileage-discount game by launching “Economy Web Special” awards. Beginning Monday afternoon, American Airlines began offering AAdvantage members the chance to redeem just 5,000 miles for a one-way award on certain routes.
As AA explains on its website:
Economy Web Special awards are available exclusively on aa.com and may be offered on select flights and dates for fewer miles than either the MileSAAver or AAnytime award level. Travel is in the Main Cabin, and mileage levels vary by date and flight.
The program is being launched on just six routes:
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — Wichita (ICT)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — Corpus Christi (CRP)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — Brownsville South Padre Island (BRO)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) — McAllen (MFE)
- Phoenix (PHX) — Long Beach (LGB)
- Charlotte (CLT) — Orlando-Melbourne (MLB)
All of these routes are under 500 flight miles, meaning that the standard award chart cost for a nonstop award is 7,500 miles one-way. Through the Economy Web Special discount program, awards are discounted to as few as 5,000 miles one-way. A round-trip booking isn’t required to receive the discount.
On some routes, the award calendar shows that Economy Web Special availability is wide open:
However, not all flights are discounted to the same price. For example, on February 1 from Dallas to Wichita, “discounted” awards range from 5,000 miles all the way up to 13,500 miles for the one-way award flight:
The good news is that these awards don’t have American Airlines Basic Economy-style limitations. This means that you’ll be able to choose your seat at booking and won’t be banished to Group 9 boarding. And Executive Platinum elite booking one of these awards even get the chance to add themselves to the upgrade list — as they can on other domestic economy awards:
Limitations of Economy Web Special Awards
For award flights booked through Economy Web Special, you “cannot make changes.” This isn’t defined but may mean that travelers can’t use Same Day Flight Change to switch to another award flight on the same day.
However, you will still be able to cancel and reinstate your miles according to the same terms as any other AAdvantage award. A redeposit fee of $150 for the first passenger and $25 per additional passenger applies for everyone but AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites. However, the price of these awards are cheap enough that it’s likely not going to be worth paying the fee to redeposit the miles.
American Airlines prompts members with a message warning about this when you select the award:
While the program is live now, awards aren’t available on these routes until January 8, 2019.
An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed that this “Economy Web Special” program is in addition to — not replacing — the Reduced Mileage Award program. For those unfamiliar, the RMA discount program allows select Citi and Barclays cardholders the ability to book award flights for as little as 6,500 miles one-way to/from a rotating list of airports.
If these changes have you encouraged about earning and using AA miles, here are some of the offers on AA co-branded credit cards:
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard: 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months.
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard: 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months and 2x miles on a wide variety of expenses.
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. Plus Admirals Club access for up to 33 travelers at a time.
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card: 10,000 miles and a $50 statement credit for spending $500 in three months — with no annual fee
While Economy Web Special awards are quite limited at this time, it’s very encouraging to see American Airlines taking steps to make AAdvantage miles more valuable by dropping the price of award flights and making it easier for members to use their miles. The launch of this new discount program comes right on the heels of AA adding Malaysia Airlines, Fiji Airways and then Qatar Airways, Air Tahiti Nui and SriLankan Airlines to online award searching and booking.
That said, the appearance of “discounted” awards costing 9,500, 10,000, 10,500 and even 13,500 miles on a route where the standard rate is just 7,500 miles is quite concerning. Hopefully this is just a bug in the rollout, and not the first step toward a revenue-based redemption program like what we’ve seen Delta transition to over the past few years.
Featured photo courtesy of American Airlines.
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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.
- 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 guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- 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