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American's new award pricing system is now live; we found a 480k one-way ticket

Dec. 18, 2019
6 min read
American Airlines Planes at O'Hare
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Earlier today, we posted an update about American Airlines' expansion of its "web special" pricing to premium cabins on international routes. In searches this morning, we found some web special awards between the U.S. and Europe that were priced higher than the published award chart. However, we were generally encouraged that award pricing didn't exceed the unpublished "AAnytime Level 3" rates that have been in place since 2014.

Oh boy, how an afternoon has changed things. As American Airlines rolled out its new "web special" award pricing to all international routes today, we are seeing some extraordinarily higher award prices — in many ways similar to its fellow legacy carriers (Delta and United).

Get ready for some sticker shock.

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Award flights between U.S. and Europe

Earlier today, business class awards between the U.S. and Europe didn't exceed 180,000 miles each way for any routes that we searched. However, AAnytime award pricing between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Rome (FCO) has now climbed as high as 400,000 miles each way in business class:

Through the web special pricing, some awards are discounted to 370,000 miles one-way:

Award flights between U.S. and Australia

In August 2016, American Airlines introduced an additional unpublished AAnytime Level 4 price between the U.S. and South Pacific that drove business class awards as high as 375,000 miles each way — which is $5,250 worth of AA miles at TPG valuations.

Now, we are finding business class awards between Los Angeles (LAX) and Syndey (SYD) pricing as high as 480,000 miles each way:

While "web special" pricing drops the award price on some of these dates, not all flights are discounted from these extreme levels:

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Award flights between U.S. and Hong Kong

Hong Kong is going through a period of political turmoil, which has led to a sharp decrease in the number of visitors. That's opened saver award availability and instant-clearing upgrades on some dates, and we have seen first class awards to Hong Kong drop as low as 61,000 miles.

However, now we are finding that American Airlines has increased the award pricing in first class as high as 412,000 miles each way on some flights:

And that's a discount from the AAnytime award price of 460,000 miles each way:

Business class rates are almost as high. AAnytime award rates have been increased all the way to 450,000 miles each way with web special pricing dropping that back to 309,000 miles each way:

Comparing these prices with the award chart

For reference on just how expensive these awards are, here's the current American Airlines business class award chart:

And here are the published award prices for routes with Flagship First Class:

Here's how the award prices that we are finding tonight compare to the published award chart prices:

RouteCabinHighest award
chart price
(AAnytime Level 2)
Highest current
AAnytime price
Highest current
"web special" price
U.S. to EuropeBusiness135,000400,000370,000
U.S. to South PacificBusiness195,000480,000374,000
U.S. to Asia Region 2Business175,000450,000309,000
U.S. to Asia Region 2First Class210,000460,000412,000

This extreme pricing is what we feared when we found out that American Airlines was introducing "web special" pricing on international business and first class awards. While we were optimistic this morning that the dynamically-discounted web special pricing would remain reasonable, we are finding out the full extent of AA's new dynamic award pricing this evening.

American has been moving in this direction for some time now, but this represents a sudden lurch to the stratospheric pricing that has (sadly) become the norm with Delta and United. While AA's web special pricing does seem to still remain a "discount" from a particular level of AAnytime award pricing, we see that the airline has increased the maximum on these awards to levels that we've never seen before. So, while it may still be framed as a "web special," you may very well be paying double or more the highest published award chart level.

Now it's worth noting that American has told us here at TPG that more than 85% of the awards booked over the last three years were in economy, so these increased prices affect a comparatively small number of AAdvantage members. That being said, if you're trying to get the most value out of your points and miles by redeeming them for premium-cabin awards, this is a rather unfortunate development.

Featured image by Corbis via Getty Images