New American Airlines premium-cabin 'Web Special' award prices climb off the charts
After expanding Economy Web Specials to all routes, American Airlines launched Web Special pricing on business and first class awards earlier this month. Since then, we've seen some excellent deals such as first class awards to Hong Kong for 61,000 miles and business class awards to Europe for 84,000 miles round-trip.
However, there's a downside to dynamically-priced awards. TPG has found that these "web special" award prices have now also climbed above the published AAdvantage award charts for premium cabins on international flights — and American has confirmed that this pricing will be rolling out systemwide by the end of the day today (Tuesday Dec. 17, 2019).
For example, for business class awards between the U.S. and Europe, the published AAdvantage award chart tops out at 135,000 miles each way. However, we are finding business class pricing as high as 179,000 miles each way:
American just added premium economy awards to its award chart in January 2019. For flights between the U.S. and Europe, the highest published award pricing is 110,000 miles each way. However, we are finding "web special" pricing at 140,000 miles each way:
However, this isn't as bad as it could be. For now, the "web special" award pricing is limited by the off-the-chart award pricing that American Airlines introduced in 2014 and increased for select destinations in 2017. In addition to the published award chart levels of Off Peak (economy only), MileSAAver, AAnytime Level 1 and AAnytime Level 2, AAdvantage has unpublished AAnytime levels.
The explanation to justify this increased pricing is that there are "select dates that require a higher number of miles (in addition to Level 1 and 2 awards)." However, AAnytime Level 3 pricing has become ubiquitous — especially for nonstop flights on European routes.
|U.S. to Europe||Premium Economy||Business class||First class|
|AAnytime Level 1||75,000||110,000||140,000|
|AAnytime Level 2||110,000||135,000||175,000|
|AAnytime Level 3 (unpublished level)||145,000||180,000||215,000|
At least for now, American Airlines' "web special" pricing isn't climbing above AAnytime Level 3 on international routes. That means that these web-only awards will still be a discount to the award prices that would otherwise be available.
That being said, it's worth pointing out that both Web Special and the unpublished Level 3 and 4 prices aren't just applicable during peak travel times like summer vacation and the December holidays. They're appearing across a number of dates that wouldn't otherwise be classified as high season.
TPG reached out to American Airlines regarding this change, and the airline confirmed the update to its award pricing.
“We’ve been testing economy web specials for the past year and the response has proven we’re giving customers the schedule and pricing flexibility they’re looking for in award travel," Bridget Blaise-Shamai, President of the AAdvantage program and Vice President of Customer Loyalty and Insights for American, said in a statement to TPG. “To offer even more ways to redeem miles, we’re working quickly to roll out web specials in premium cabins systemwide.”
American also shared that over one million Web Special awards had been booked from its limited introduction in October 2018 through December 2019.
While many TPG readers are hopefully using their American miles for lie-flat seats to international destinations, American says more than 85% of rewards redeemed during the past three years have been for economy itineraries.
Now that all economy awards — and an increasing number of business/first class awards — are priced dynamically through the Web Special program, flyers may wonder why American Airlines continues to publish an award chart for its own flights, especially when Delta and United no longer have ones of their own. An spokesperson says that the airline will "maintain the current award chart because customers have let us know it provides a helpful guideline for redeeming miles." However, she acknowledges that "as customers continue to find web specials, the award chart may become less relevant over time."