American Shares Insights On AAdvantage Changes

This morning I wrote about a slew of changes that American and US Airways made to their AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs, all without advance notice.

These changes included:

  • American has eliminated distance based oneworld Explorer awards
  • American has eliminated stopovers at the gateway city on AAdvantage awards
  • American has created multiple tiers of AAdvantage standard award levels
  • US Airways has created multiple tiers of Dividend Miles standard award levels
  • US Airways has raised the cost of Dividend Miles business class redemptions between the US and North Asia from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles

As I said in my previous post, if these changes were all announced in advance, I don’t think I’d have an issue with any of them. When I used the adjectives “disgusting” and “horrible” in my previous post, that wasn’t in reference to the actual changes, but rather how they’re being implemented.

My issue is twofold:

No advance notice for tickets being issued going forward.

Say you’ve been slowly racking up miles for years towards a “dream” Explorer Award, and you were planning on booking in the next few days. Heck, maybe you’ve purchased miles in the current AAdvantage sale, or are waiting on points to transfer from SPG.

Overnight that option has disappeared, without any advance notice.

I mean, I can’t think of any US airline in the past few years that has made such radical changes to their program without advance notice. Some airlines have changes award costs without notice, but American has changed award costs, eliminated award types, and gutted stopovers, all without notice.

Not Delta (they did increase costs without notice, but didn’t change stopover rules or eliminate an award type).

Not United.

Not Southwest.

Not any US program I can think of has made changes to this level without notice.

Not only is there no advance notice, but the changes STILL aren’t being communicated clearly or transparently.

There is nowhere on the American website that lists the change to the stopover policy, and you have to dig to find the announcement that OneWorld awards have been discontinued.

Don’t even get me started on the Twitter situation, but suffice it to say there hasn’t been an official announcement there either.

To their credit, American did send out an email to AAdvantage members about an hour ago. However, they don’t even mention the overwhelmingly negative changes, but rather only the few scenarios where the change is positive.

It’s not even that they tried to spin the changes to stopovers and Explorer Awards, which I would at least understand the rationale behind. They are simply not mentioned. At all.

Ultimately I like to do business with companies I can trust, where I can rest at ease knowing they won’t radically alter things overnight. That’s not to say companies can’t and won’t make changes over time, but you trust that the changes will be reasonable and there will be advance notice.

In fact, I have used American Airlines and the AAdvantage program as a past example of how to engender trust among your customer base. Historically, American has been really transparent.

American’s approach to these changes today is concerning not because of the changes themselves, but because the way the changes are being communicated creates a sense of distrust and fear. That is terrible for a loyalty program.

I mean, as an Executive Platinum member I get free award redeposits, so should I basically be speculatively redeeming all my miles at any given time, in the unlikely event that the airline chooses to devalue their program overnight? Miles are a currency, so think of it this way — you want to trust your currency is safe in a bank, and not have to store it in gold bars under your mattress. I’m starting to feel like I should be keeping all my AAdvantage miles under my bed!

Or to give a really simple example, say your local coffee place has a punch card, where you get a free cup of coffee after 12 stamps. You accrue your 12 stamps, and then go to redeem for your free coffee, only to be told “oh, as of today we actually require 15 stamps for a free coffee.” Without advance notice I think anyone would feel screwed by such a change.

American’s perspective on the changes

This morning I had the chance to speak with Suzanne Rubin, President of American AAdvantage. I really appreciated that she took the time to speak with me.

Based on talking to her I certainly got the impression American wasn’t expecting such a negative response. I think my opinion on the way the changes were executed is clear above, so I won’t inject it into the below, and will instead simply share what I was told.

American’s intent was to walk customers through these changes, and not for them to be rolled out prior to customers receiving communications of the changes (emails are going out to AAdvantage members right now explaining the changes… sort of).

The intent was apparently that these updates were part of a broad list of changes that went out today (the others involved checked baggage policies and inflight enhancements), and their intent was to introduce the changes in a more bundled manner, rather than having them trickle in over time.

Her explanation was that they’re laser focused on delivering the benefits of the integration, so they’re trying to align as many policies as possible. Apparently the next major thing they’re working on is reciprocal upgrades.

I asked if we should assume that these are all the award chart changes coming in the near future or if these are just intermediate changes. I didn’t get a clear answer one way or another, and even asked twice, though Suzanne explained that they’ll continue to monitor the competitive landscape and act accordingly. So I didn’t necessarily get the impression that these are all the changes we should expect.

American’s email to AAdvantage members

As I mentioned above, American just sent out the following email to AAdvantage members:

As we integrate our two airlines, our goal is simple: restore American Airlines to its status as the greatest airline in the world. That’s why we’re taking delivery of two new aircraft every week, have given you access to the world’s best network through a codeshare agreement, and now offer the ability to earn and redeem miles on both carriers.

As we continue to align our business, we have a few updates to share with you about our new award travel levels and checked bag policies:

Redeem for less. Effective today for travel starting June 1, 2014, a one‑way AAnytime award now starts as low as 20,000 miles plus applicable taxes and carrier–imposed fees. Plus we’ve lowered the minimum number of miles needed for AAnytime awards to popular destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe. Our lowest AAnytime mileage levels are available for more than 50% of the year. Don’t forget we still offer MileSAAver awards that can be redeemed for as low as 12,500 miles each way, plus applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees.

No blackout dates! Continue to use your miles for any seat on any American Airlines flight using an AAnytime Award. Award levels vary by date and a few select dates throughout the year are now offered at higher mileage levels.

For complete information, visit the American Airlines award chart.

Checked Baggage — We’ve also updated our baggage policies, effective for tickets issued on American Airlines flights on or after April 8 and for tickets issued on US Airways flights on or after April 23.

For complete information, visit aa.com/baggage.

Thank you for flying with us. We appreciate your loyalty and will keep you updated as we continue to build the new American.

Frankly I’m kind of speechless that this is how they’re choosing to communicate the changes. It’s so disconcerting.

The email subject line said “We’ve made some changes,” so I was expecting the email would actually be honest and outline the changes, both positive and negative.

If they knew the changes were positive they would have had a much more upbeat subject line.

AAdvantage Changes

But the only thing they mention about changes to AAdvantage awards is that we can “Redeem for Less?”

Really?!?!

They don’t even reference that a vast majority of standard awards went up in price, that they eliminated oneworld Explorer Awards, or that they eliminated stopovers?

Bottom line — let American know the biggest “sin” here is the lack of advance notice

None of these changes radically alter my valuation of AAdvantage miles or Dividend Miles. Yes, my “sweet spot” 90K business class redemption went up in cost by a little over 20%, but it’s still an amazing value, given that you can route via Europe. Yes, Explorer Awards were nice, but there are still plenty of great values on American’s partner award chart.

So I’d by all means recommend sharing your feedback with American on Twitter or Facebook, or through customer relations. But I’d suggest being clear about the feedback. I don’t think anyone likes the changes themselves, but the real problem here is that they did this without advance notice, and that’s what I’d focus my feedback on.

All of their responses to customers have been along these lines:

  • “These policy changes ensure we can invest in and deliver the best possible products and services.”
  • “These changes are based on industry trends of our global competitors. We’re sorry for your disappointment.”
  • “These changes also allow us to be more consistent across combined network ensuring customers know what to expect when traveling.”

So get out ahead of them and be very clear that it’s the lack of advance notice you take issue with, and not the changes themselves. If you’re not feeling too creative, feel free to retweet my Tweet expressing my disappointment in the lack of advance notice.

That’s something they haven’t addressed, and frankly something they won’t have a good response for, because it’s inexcusable.

Comments

  1. Andrew says

    What did Suzanne Rubin say when you gave the reason for the negative response as the lack of advance notice, and the whole “trust” argument?

  2. Dave says

    I agree that the issue is how it was rolled out over night without notice. However, what is taking to Facebook or Twitter going to do aside from generate a canned response? Unlikely they extend the roll out to a future date. We just got hosed.

  3. says

    @ Andrew — She simply acknowledged the feedback and said they would consider it in the future. Admittedly it’s tough for big companies to admit their mistakes, though I didn’t get the sense that they saw it as a big blunder and wouldn’t make changes without notice again in the future. That’s why I think it’s so important for us to provide targeted feedback regarding making changes without notice.

  4. RakSiam says

    So, did you ask her about the lack of notice?

    I’m not surprised that she refused to give a definite answer about future changes.

    Are you saying we can route to Asia via Europe now using AA miles? Or is that still only possible using US miles?

  5. Ivan Y says

    Haven’t gotten that email myself but it’s completely insufficient to cover all the different changes! What the…

    @ Lucky – while changes to award levels aren’t crippling, could you dig into the whole stopover mess? I am especially concerned by the comment on the previous post saying that any layover 4+ hours long prices out as separate awards on AA.

    P.S. Would also be great if we could be allowed to change dates on our existing awards that include stopovers.

  6. Nicolás says

    I’ve bought 80.000 miles for a specific trip that included free stopovers. I was waiting for the dates to open up to book the tickets.
    Now the same trip costs 75.000 MILES MORE.
    This is a disaster!
    How can they do it without advance notice?? and then they send us that email saying “we made some wonderful changes” WTF????

  7. says

    @ Wandering Aramean — Correct, they did, but I wouldn’t consider those changes as radical. American didn’t just change award costs, but they changed stopover rules and eliminated an award type, all of which Delta didn’t do.

  8. says

    @ RakSiam — That’s only possible using US Airways miles. Yes, when I asked about lack of advance notice she simply explained they were trying to roll out all the changes at once, so I didn’t get the sense she viewed it as an issue.

  9. says

    @ Ivan Y — The way it has been communicated to me, stopovers of more than 24 hours are no longer allowed at the international gateway city. So I don’t think the four hour rule is correct in this case.

  10. says

    @ Dave — To clarify, I don’t want to blame the messenger or anything, but as consumers all we can do within our power is share feedback via social media and customer relations, so I say we do that to the best of our ability. The “noisier” we are, the more they’ll hear us. But it’s important that we’re clear about what’s wrong here. It’s frustrating that they made these changes, though I totally see they would. It’s the lack of notice that I’d argue is inexcusable, and what we have the potential to change going forward.

  11. Justin says

    Haha Redeem for less is my favorite snake oil portion of this email. Now United’s devaluation seems like peanuts. SkyPesos now gain some value too. Way to go AA. Sigh.

  12. Mochi says

    Kinda makes me glad that I have Alaska MP as my backup program. Perhaps it will become my primary one now… Something to think about. They are the only US airline offering a Canadian credit card, too!

  13. Alcwj says

    The saddest part is … there’s noting you can do about it. You can’t even bring it to court…

  14. LarryInNYC says

    It was certainly nice of Ms. Rubin to talk to you about the changes but I’ve read your account of the conversation and I’m not certain where she shared any “insight”. I don’t know anything about the changes I didn’t know before I read the piece and much of what she said sounded like typical corporate prevaricating.

  15. Adam says

    I’ve flown 60,000 butt-in-seat miles this year so far on AA. I’m now starting to wish I flew them with a different airline. I realize we’re already in April, but I’m wondering if I still have time to get 1k on United before the end of the year.

  16. AH says

    Lucky good post, one of the best Ive read in a while. My only concern now is will US Air pull out the stop/layover rule after what AA pulled off today? Im assuming little bit more damage is about to come from Dividend Miles rules/routing but for everyone else’s and my sake hope Im wrong. If they do decide to do it I hope we are given ample of time notice.

  17. pw says

    After the Fuel Surcharge debacle, they don’t really have an excuse for how upset people would be about no-notice negative changes to the program. Remember how upset we all were about that?

  18. Michael says

    Well written and a much better response than what Gary had to offer. I guess we are back to square one and the notion that airlines just cannot be trusted at all, ever.

  19. Chris says

    I have been saving up for 3 years to get enough money to bring my family from Brazil. I saw the 40% bonus and jumped on the offer just yesterday! Now it will cost me so much more and I can’t bring my family. They have sold everything they own in Brazil! Now I am stuck.

  20. Tyler says

    Lucky, you rock. Way to be the only blogger to actually do something. Gary is sitting there sugar-coating it while you are letting our concerns known.

    My opinion of you rose significantly today, while mine of Gary declined.

  21. BFD says

    I was about to share miles to build up my supply of American miles for when they merge in 2015. Do you think that is unwise at this point because of the unknown?

  22. says

    @Wandering Aramean: Delta at least had the decency, after much pressure from Twitter, to cough up their award chart for 2015.

    Yes, DL has a solid track record of no-notice devaluations, but even they came around to the value (and trust-building aspects) of letting customers know things are changing before they actually do.

  23. AH says

    Curious did Suzanne Rubin mention anything about showing award availabilty for all/or atleast the main one world partners on their booking engine?

  24. Kelly says

    Ben – you did well in writing all posts on this information this morning. Thank you for sharing this disturbing info and doing it well.

    •“These changes are based on industry trends of our global competitors. We’re sorry for your disappointment.”

    A textbook example of a cop-out, along with their other talking points. In their email, they say:
    “As we integrate our two airlines, our goal is simple: restore American Airlines to its status as the greatest airline in the world.”

    To be the greatest airline in the world, one would expect that company to LEAD, NOT follow the rest of the pack into devaluation of trust and loyalty of a customer base that you earned it from.

    For all that Ben has shared with us on AA, I was like Yoda in Star Wars – eyes widening in almost disbelief that Luke could lift the X-wing out of the water safely. I thought AA was actually going to not suck as bad as the other large legacies have turned out to be. Alas, my eyes dimmed at the reality that nope, their just as bad as DL and UA as I watch the X-wing sink back into the water…

    Sticking with AS, who isn’t perfect, but does seem to have somewhat of an independent mind. Still, proceed with doing business with any corporation who doesn’t place focus on the customer and the customer experience.

  25. abby says

    So, Ben: did you posit that given the fact that they are ‘surprised’ by the negative reaction and that they haven’t even made formal the stopover change, while the explorer awards still show on aa.com… that it wouldn’t be too difficult to give us a little notice. frankly, i’d be ok with 24 hours! those of us with major plans centering around an explorer award have our world turned upside down. did you get into the impact of killing explorer with zero notice? any reaction? i really hope you used words like disgraceful and shameful, because that is what it is. people save a long time for these and to pull it with no notice is cruel.

  26. Andrew says

    Tweeted them about my disappointment with no advanced notice – this is what they said “Andrew, for competitive reasons, everyone was advised at the same time.”

  27. says

    nice write up. Sad that your contact at AA had very little to say that would make us truly understand their motive.

    The main sticking point is that we didn’t get ANY warning. They can make changes in their program as they see fit, but to wake up and be told sorry this award doesn’t exist but did yesterday is wrong.

    As it is the miles game is getting less fun, but it’s getting to the point where you only hold enough points for your next redemption and then use em.

  28. Joey says

    Thank you for this post! Did Suzanne Rubin grow up in the USA or is she familiar with business practices in the USA? I’m shocked as well that lack of advanced communication was not in her agenda. In other cultures, I understand if there was no advanced notice but for AA to do this, it’s unacceptable. I just sent a tweet to AA about my disappointment on their lack of communication.

  29. The Other Carl says

    I sent a comment via aa.com and – surprise – just got a phone call from a real live person at aa. He was very polite, acknowledged my frustration, noted that he had nothing to do with the decision, and assured me he would pass on my concerns. I thanked him for calling and asked that he make clear that I understand there will be devaluations over time and I accept that. What I can’t accept, I told him, is that the changes were made with no notice and that even the after-the-fact notifications that are being sent don’t mention the biggest bombshells. He said he’d pass it on…. For what that is worth.

    Gotta say it was upsetting to see Suzanne Rubin signed on the non-explanation “we’ve made some changes” email. As head of AAdvantage, she was one of the good guys, one of the people we all thought “got it” and understood loyalty goes both ways. Now she seems to be drinking the Phoenix Kool-Aid, and that’s a real shame.

  30. Nemme says

    This sucks. I’m happy to have cleared out my AA account last week. How do they think no stopovers are okay? They already had the worst policy. Delta at least has always been great (though with crappy partners) that you can stopover and have an open jaw.

    Do you think bloggers who tout free one-way are responsible? I’m guessing that’s a big factor. I can’t see any other reason for them to switch.

  31. Rick says

    Any speculations if, AA/US will pull a UA and make massive changes to partner awards as well?
    Awards on EY, CX, QR premium cabins are still high value offerings. How long before these get chopped… tick tock…

  32. says

    @ AH — So far there don’t seem to be any changes to US Airways routing or stopover rules, though of course that can (and I’m sure will) change.

  33. says

    @ BFD — Personally at a rate of 1.1 cents per mile I think it’s tough to go wrong. Even if they devalue the currency by 50% that’s still a good deal on miles, in my opinion. I know I plan on taking advantage of it as much as possible.

  34. Nick says

    In terms of responding to this, I agree with Lucky. The move is really unpolished for a loyalty program like AAdvantage. That is my framing of the issue in my response. It’s not up to there own standards. If they wanted to keep the image of a growing and thriving airline out of the bankruptcy and into the merger, then communicate with your customers and manage expectations. Competing with competitors is different from defaulting to competitor’s standards (or setting a new floor #racetothebottom). It is both done in poor taste and again, my question would be ‘why’ or ‘what is the goal’? They’ve done a poor job managing the ‘how’ of this change. They should be embarrassed and indeed it is embarrassing from my #viewfromthewing, as I take it #onemileatatime.

  35. says

    @ Rick — That’s a great question, I have no clue. They’ll have a new “combined” award chart once the programs merge, so I would guess by the end of the year or early next year we’ll see the new chart.

  36. JW says

    “Say you’ve been slowly racking up miles for years towards a “dream” Explorer Award, and you were planning on booking in the next few days. Heck, maybe you’ve purchased miles in the current AAdvantage sale, or are waiting on points to transfer from SPG.”

    Thanks Lucky I fall into two of those 3. I even wish they would have raised redemption miles for the explorer award rather than cut it. Even a 50% increase I can deal with, but not this.

    BTW AA sounds a lot like US now, seems like they have been merging pretty seamlessly already.

  37. Gav says

    Who are we kidding…

    I don’t want to play the devil’s advocate but ever since Delta devalued their program it was only a matter of time that AA would devalue theirs as well.

    It was written in stone once UA devalued theirs as well.

    So, there’s your advance notice…

    Did people really think AA wouldn’t change anything? The 3 major Airlines always follow each other (fees/etc/etc).

    I have a feeling AA isn’t done yet making changes to their award program… So here’s another advance notice…

  38. Bill says

    Everyone was clamoring to the American camp in terms of mile values and for award ticket redemptions after the latest United devaluation…but I knew better. Say what you want about United, but United gave everyone PLENTY of advance notice and also has allowed pre-devaluation award tickets to be changed very easily and at no penalty for up to a year with no increased mileage penalty. United was transparent and appropriate in how it handled the devaluation that everyone knew was coming.

    I STILL say that Chase Ultimate Rewards points are the best mile currency out there, even after the United devaluation that made everyone seem to think that American was the better investment all of a sudden–even though everyone knew that an American-USAIrways devaluation was extremely likely to be forthcoming.

    Chase UR points transfer both to United AND BA, and BA awards with American metal are pretty easy to come by, even in premium classes, with a reasonable degree of advance booking. I’ve been using Chase UR transfers to BA to get premium awards on American for years now, and the American-US Airways devaluation only makes the BA transfers MORE optimal, as the BA award chart is now often better than American’s.

    The net result is that Chase UR points are back to being the single best reward mileage currency out there. Again. I never had any doubt.

    I’m so glad I passed on the Citi AA credit card offers. I’d rather wait for better offers for cards that give me more reliable value than deal with American. American’s latest action makes them just as untrustworthy as Delta in my opinion, and I don’t want my miles sitting to be used only with an airline that is untrustworthy.

  39. jettyboy says

    To echo what someone said earlier, your blog has definitely grown in stature in my eyes as a result of your posts today. VFTW is more like VWTF?!

  40. Mike says

    OK, except that the “broad list of changes” are all negative, with the very minor exception of bringing some US Airways inflight amenities up to the AA standard. Which doesn’t mean anything for PMAA flyers… all we get is bad news.

  41. says

    @ Gav — Again, don’t think anyone (reasonable) didn’t see changes coming. Not sure how much more I can bold, capitalize, and underline my key point, but the issue is the lack of advance notice, making changes one day to the next. *That’s* the only thing I take serious issue with.

  42. Nick says

    Redeem AAnytime for less! C’mon that’s code for we won’t be releasing as many SAAver award seats. Wake up & smell the roses people this devaluation is at least as big as the UA devaluation earlier this year.

  43. says

    @ Nick — I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually redeemed American miles for travel on American metal. I’ve always redeemed for travel on partners — in particular Cathay Pacific and Qantas — and those awards will continue to be bookable at the saver level, whatever rate that may be.

  44. Ken Y. says

    I will start flying rev. transpac C on CX about six times a year or more. Was considering dumping DL DM (already have enough all the way through Jan. 2016) and switching to AA. Where do you suggest I credit the miles now?

  45. says

    @ Ken Y. — As of now I would still credit to American. At the end of the day they still have a lucrative award chart for transpacific travel in premium cabins and don’t impose fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific. The bigger issue with this change is the precedent it sets, as opposed to anything else.

  46. Tom says

    @ Lucky, I’m a fan of yours, but over the years, I have been disappointed in the way you have blithely accepted the devaluations in frequent flyer programs, not just the manner in which those changes have been rolled out. I disagree with your that these changes from American — especially the elimination of the Explorer awards — is anything other than bait-and-switch. They lure us into playing the game with an expectation that we will be able to have a certain kind of experience and reward for our loyalty, and then they take it away. It is dishonest, it is cynical, and if any other business were regularly perpetuating such a fraud (regardless of what the fine print says, the expectation has been created by the advertising) there would be an uproar that would bring the industry to its knees. Maybe someday we’ll be smart enough to organize, and get them to honor their promises, and to treat us with the respect human beings deserve, as opposed to the commodities they think we are.

  47. Ken Y. says

    Since transpac travel is work-related in C, I’d be more interested in awards ex-Asia. What are your thoughts on CA’s award chart for CX redemption? Too good to be true?

  48. Susan B says

    They are responding to individuals on Twitter, though not very satisfactorily. I tweeted stressing the NO NOTICE part; they answered — actually their corporate-speak non-answer seems to have disappeared from my feed, hmmm. I blasted out three more tweets, the last of which: “No one likes devaluation but it’s the TOTAL LACK OF WARNING that has shocked, enraged, and disappointed loyal customers.”

  49. Tom F says

    I concur with the opinions of Tom in #55.
    In addition I wish to point out that American frequently makes special “bonus” offers to induce us to buy large numbers of miles. So after you buy miles, you may wake up and find out that they have just been devalued. Looks like bait and switch to me.

  50. Santastico says

    Did she use to work for Delta? I guess so!!!! That is where she learned that the objective of an airline is to make customers mad. And she is getting that.

    BTW, did you ask why she keeps devaluing Gold status? It used to be a decent status to have but now it is almost worthless. First they took economy comfort, then they took selection of preferred seat, now they reduce the number of free bags. Thus, I am wondering why bother having Gold status with AA.

  51. TravelinWilly says

    Y’know the axiom
    1. Tell them what you’re going to do
    2. Do it
    3. Tell them what you did
    ?

    Yeah, they failed at step one. Not encouraging, American, and you need to revisit how you’re managing your marketing department. But wait. This garbage starts at the top, doesn’t it?

    Next thing we know is they’ll try selling the “Mergers are good for the customer and good for competition” line to us…oh, wait.

  52. says

    All of these recent devaluations at United, Delta, and now American/US have definitely created an opportunity for one of the smaller US carriers to step up and make a strong statement that it values the loyalty of its frequent flyers. I imagine that such a statement (if honored) would resonate not just with award travelers but also with the American public.

  53. pavel says

    I was just given this response from AA via email, which does not seem to address my main complaint — that the lack of notice was incredibly inconsiderate to loyal customers:

    We understand that your comments are meant as constructive criticism, and we assure you that we accept your valuable perspective in the manner in which it was intended. Thank you for your candor and for believing in us enough to share your words.

    To remain competitive, it is absolutely necessary that American Airlines adjust with the changing climate in our industry. We’re making strides toward improving our fleet and technology. We continue to strengthen our standing in the current environment. But sometimes it is easy to lose sight of the good news. Remember that we are making our decisions with a vision of the future; remember that we are focused on serving you for years to come.

  54. says

    I had been saving for an explorer award, finally had the miles and was trying to decide where to visit. Very disappointed indeed

  55. says

    Thank you for doing the research on this and telling it like it is, unlike some bloggers out there. I fall into the category of people who were planning on making a major award booking very, and I’m seeing my options diminish due to these changes.

  56. Jono says

    Is there no legal recourse? The bait and switch argument is certainly valid. Must be some lawyers who just got scammed with the rest of us.

  57. ADP says

    Lucky,

    Thank you for your insightful write-up. I personally am torn over the various devaluations and changes from each of the major players here in the US; as a traveler and a businessman, I can see both the pitfalls and promise of this change made by the company.

    It’s important for all of us to remember that although airline miles can be seen as a type of currency, they’re a private currency, and by choosing to work arbitrage magic through them we’re able to find great deals at the cost of risk – these types of changes CAN be arbitrary as we’re playing with someone else’s “monopoly money.” Yes, there’s PROMISE, but there’s also RISK.

    As a businessman, I do think that for the airline business as a whole, the curtailing of rewards programs to be based off revenue will better the overall service level. of course as a traveler I’m saddened by the increase in costs.

  58. Steve says

    Time to look for another carrier to bank miles.
    The majors do not seem to get it that the very high revenue revenue flyers don’t care about points and the very low level ones seldom accumulate many of them.

    The sweet spot is the road warrior who flies day in and out and does care about accumulating points and using them to travel with this family.

    I am talking about those who fly with higher level Y class tickets–and lots of them. Not the guy who has no brand loyalty and will purchase a couple of F class tickets a year.

    The smaller airlines look more attractive all the time for a majority of business travel–especially when we see changes like this with no notice.

  59. Chuck says

    Lucky,
    Wouldn’t it seem prudent to believe that having hope in friendlier carrier’s programs, like Alaska or BA, will get the ax as well, to stay “competitive”. No doubt DL has its eyeballs drilling down on AS right now as a possible acquisition – once they have made life for AS too miserable to sustain?

  60. SST says

    This game has been fun for 30 years. Now, the days of accumulating forever and redeeming once in a very great while, mostly for domestic coach on your own airline, are returning. This was probably inevitable beginning with the capacity reductions they started several years ago filling up the planes, followed by the consolidation into three big players instead of maybe 7. Now we have an oligopoly, a cartel, and the race to the bottom on benefits will only pick up. When they are attacking BOTH accrual and redemption practices, you can see the bean counters (who look at these programs simply as a negative giveaway) fully in control. It is sad, but hopefully we will get a few more competitors out there (Alaska, Virgin, etc.) and make lemonade out of lemons. I know one thing: I am now absolutely FOR the application of Norwegian Air Shuttle to fly to the US, legacy carriers be damned.

  61. m henner says

    I feel cheated.
    I was going to book a London – free stop in New York – then on to Oregon for September. Now I can’t because of the elimination of stopovers

  62. Jessica says

    I understand why AA eliminated stopovers on one-ways. It created a loophole that they wanted to close. However, it affects many people, not just the people using the loophole. To do it with no advanced warning is unacceptable and a company that I will no longer do business with.

  63. Matt says

    Whatever. If The new AA wants the customer relationship to be about who can f* over who first and hardest, they might not be pleased with the customer response. Bad faith works both ways after all…

  64. Howard says

    You can thank the people responsible for letting this merger happen….the next step will be a double of air fares….

  65. Dax says

    Wait, weren’t us points peons supposed to BENEFIT from this merger?

    Didn’t you imply that they’d be keeping things the same longer than if they remained two separate airlines?

    I could swear I read that on this blog. More than once even.

    Maybe we should stop wasting time looking for the least despicable airline and hotel to lavish praise upon.

    These guys do whatever they want whenever they want however they want and merging together only serves to make it easier to screw us over.

    You can tell us that a given trip only costs so many miles and allows however many stopovers but it’s all dependent on rules that are changing faster and faster among a shrinking group of expanding carriers.

    There needs to be a lot less fawning and cheer leading and a lot more honesty and transparency.

    Or you can just keep making the same suggestions only to feign shock and surprise when those claims suddenly turn out to be worth less than the pixels they’re written on.

  66. Susan J says

    When I wasn’t able to book the AAnytime award London- NY-JFK that I already had on hold via online because they removed the “Purchase” link, I called to pay on phone. It was 2 am on 4/8 when the stopovers were officially not allowed but they honored the reservation after making some calls. As we talked I looked all over the website and saw NO mention of changes on it. Then I read your article from yesterday to the agent in its entirety (expletives deleted). She said that training had started on the changes about 7 days ago through the day of it occurring. She admitted that it was not like the way that American behaved in the past and wasn’t happy about it so I couldn’t fault her. I had heard that the US Air CEO is less passenger-centric than was American’s. Not a good sign … / Also I am Platinum for life and my husband is ExecPlat and we did not receive the email you mentioned, as of yet. (Posted this on FB but then saw the chatline was on the blog instead)

  67. Bill says

    Just do not trust them anymore , will vote with my feet as have other options –if want to regain trust change the roll out date by 3 months , this will show they have not changed and value us

  68. Santastico says

    For more that I hate what is happening in the airline industry regarding loyalty programs I am surprised that many people are saving miles for that “dream trip”. Don’t get me wrong since I also have tons of miles but in my case I have more miles than I can use since I usually fly for business and am only able to redeem miles once a year for vacation with family. However, miles are supposed to be burned as soon as they are earned. There is no loyalty or trust in this industry. Customers are just there and the airlines don’t care if we get mad or not when they change the rules of the game. Thus, those keeping miles as a 401K are trusting an airline that should not be trusted.

  69. Susan J says

    Also, per someone’s comments above: I hope that Alaska Air is NOT bought out by Delta, who is behaving very competitively in some of Alaska’s markets right now. Alaska Air is a breath of fresh air for good service and excellent mileage program. There’s no way it would not be damaged by acquisition from one of the big guys.

  70. smittytabb says

    Thanks for calling it like you see it and yes, for the transparent outrage. Respect.

  71. dbeach says

    I agree with everything in this post, but I just wanted to say that you probably shouldn’t use the word “gypped,” as it is an ethnic slur.

  72. Nun says

    @Lucky – I guess you didn’t ask why Explorer was cancelled, did you? Someone said other oneworld members offer this award but I don’t know if that’s really true. It would be strange for a founding airline to permanently drop this.

  73. Hillrider says

    Ben,
    Have you recalculated what an AA mile is worth? My back of the envelope calculation says that based on the hard-to-escape co-pays for flying BA and the latest devaluations is worth less than 1.25 c/mile.

    Based on this I think that I should cancel my $95/year AAdvantage card (bearing a 3% foreign fee to boot) and simply charge on a cash back one instead, using the cash to buy tickets on whatever airline makes sense when needed, and end up better off with this strategy.

    Thoughts?

  74. Hillrider says

    @Santastico — people are accustomed that the Government will enforce businesses promises to the consumer. If a business tells me that if I fly X (or buy Y with their credit) card I get a free flight, and when I’ve flown X (or bought Y with their credit card) they will give me the flight or the government will step in.

    Congress is asleep at the wheel on this one.

  75. Kliff says

    I consider myself a very rational person, but the lack of advanced warning just killed it for me. Hopefully smaller programs such as Virgin or Southwest take advantage of this and earn more customer.

    And PLEASE, let’s tweet AAdvantage, that’s the only way customers can be heard. #whyflyAA #noloyalty

  76. italdesign says

    Lucky, you said “@ Nick — I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually redeemed American miles for travel on American metal. I’ve always redeemed for travel on partners”

    But you still need AA metal to get to the partner flight.

  77. Chris says

    I tweeted them my disappointment in their deceptive email and radical adverse changes with no notice. I suggested they rescind them and give advance notice. This is outrageous. Hopefully since I am EXP I’ll hear something back. Thanks for your analysis Lucky.

  78. CT says

    It’s really not surprising, or I’m not I should say. These changes require hours and hours of thought, many, many interdepartmental meetings, loads of reviewing the pro’s and con’s and then re-reviewing options once again to hash out any possible kinks or PR issues that may come back to bite them in their collective, well, that will backfire on them.
    Let’s be realistic – these changes or “realignments” in fluffy terms – were a done deal months ago. Not a single doubt at all that a working group committee was organized to brainstorm possible “alignment” scenarios and then, to work and rework the figures three times over. Almost like the time put into figuring out how many different/obscure/questionable possibilities there are to earn more and more without flying. But I digress.

    If anyone thinks that corporate American (or any company without a spine or genuine interest in their immediate customers) acts any differently, that person is mistaken. That’s how they are. Remember DL and UA not all that long ago? I think they’re dirtbags.

    I realize the small print always states that “changes can be made with or without notice”, but it’s still a shock when it happens – although what’s more difficult to digest is the shyster-like way Rubin, et al, implemented it. But then, it is Suzie RUBIN. It’s money, pure and simple. Not only did they get millions of people on the hook with the miles, they collected over $1 billion dollars less than a year ago from Citi. That’s with a “B”. And you think they give a rats a$$ about anyone other than full fare paying passengers. Frequent Flyers of which there are millions are not their bread and butter. Award travelers whose mileage accounts are from actual flying might matter to them to a certain degree. Award travelers whose mileage accounts are from every other source mean nothing to them. No matter what someone else might tell you and definitely no matter what any airline representative tells you.

    So, there’s not much anyone can do other than:
    - if you’re going to Asia (not just because they suck to Europe but Asia seems to be their preferred growth and profit center), then enroll in a QUALITY Asian airline’s mileage program, although they keep a close eye on mileage accruals.
    - don’t fly them and send copies of you OAL tickets each time (although executive platinum emerald et cetera wouldn’t ever do that.
    - collect all the Citibank miles from sign-up bonuses that are hawked all over bloggerville and then cancel the cards letting Citi know why (not to be harsh to people here, but I’m afraid too many would be mamby-pamby about doing that though)
    -inundate all the lackeys at the DOT and your respective representatives with the bait and switch theories and how it affected you personally.
    - last but not least, use the following addresses and write, write, write! Pissing and moaning isn’t going to do anyone, save one or two here, any good. Emails would be a good start, but putting pen to paper really pisses them off – too many hours to sort through what’s written and it occupies the mail room staff too.
    So don’t just piss, moan and commiserate here, be like Nike and just do it: buy a stamp and piss them off.

    Suzanne.rubin@aa.com
    Thomas.horton@aa.com
    Jon.snook@aa.com

  79. CT says

    Slight amendment in paragraph 3:
    1. Frequent Flyers SHOULD BE their bread and butter.
    2. Award travelers whose miles are from flying matter to them to a great degree.

  80. says

    @lucky when I price out an award with a stopover in YYZ for 14 hours, the award no longer prices as one on their award search engines. Do you need to call to make this booking?

    I already have a booking but was just playing around with the tool and was surprised to find this detail. The itinerary was as such:

    MAF-DFW–CLT-YYZ (arriving Saturday morning at 12:10) and YYZ-HEL(leaving late Saturday evening). This used to price out at 50k miles, I thought 24 hour stopovers are allowed.

  81. says

    @ Teja — I’ve been told that you can still have a stopover for up to 24 hours at the gateway city, so I would try calling.

  82. CT says

    “We continue our journey forward,” said the airline’s president, Tom Horton, “with pride in what we make possible, representing the best of a nation and proud to bear the name American.”

    How much weed were he and SuzieQ smokin when they thought this up.

  83. CT says

    @Dax: extremely well written and EXACTY to the point:
    There needs to be a lot less fawning and cheer leading and a lot more honesty and transparency.
    Or you can just keep making the same suggestions only to feign shock and surprise when those claims suddenly turn out to be worth less than the pixels they’re written on.

  84. dj says

    Well we have all been saying its a game of cats& mice. The thing is the cats are united while mice are not. How easy it is for 1 airline to start something bad (& lying by saying it’s an improvement), the others all follow. Why? Because mice take it quietly or fleet elsewhere. We should have unite in our response to those creepy tactics. When ua/dl/aa does bad things, regardless of your airline alliance, you need to let them hear it, don’t just sit smiling sheepishly that it has not happened to your airline because it will.
    Spread this to all FFs, no matter what program you’re in,ua/dk/as/aa, there’s is no way out, write to aa like Lucky suggested & let them know what you are thinking.

  85. Ct says

    You’re exactly right, but I find it impossible to imagine everyone or even a fraction of those so concerned will actually do any of that, sad to say. I’ve already been to the post office (yes it was me, CT, who said “write” and also added their specific email addresses) and mailed old fashioned letters as well as sending emails.
    Tweeting may be ok, but it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” and simply sending emails to customer service at aa.com is only going to land in a CS inbox that’s more or less already programmed with the same crap as a form letter response. Like they actually give a shit. They’re like honeybadgers.
    Flooding the mail room, I know its an old fashioned, time consuming deal – but flood the place with paper will have way better results. I doubt if more than 100 actual letters will be sent. Unfortunately people tend to be last sheep but maybe I’ll be wrong on this one.
    One million pieces of mail addressed to Her Nibs that will all have to be read, or opened at the very least. THAT message will get across and get some negative PR for them.
    A call from L as an unofficial spokesman or whatever (more likely than not bearing a very deferential tone of disappointment on his part rather than an incredulous tone) isn’t going to accomplish J or S. But you can be sure one million pieces of mail will hit the spot. But sadly I think most will be too lazy or really care to work as a group.

  86. Dee Tee says

    For AA to say and the flyers to believe the “no advance noticed” was purely coincidental or was not planned is an insanely silly idea.

    They knew exactly what they were doing and knew what to expect. If anything, they think it is going better than they thought.

    US Airways is not too far behind. Expect something like this pretty soon.

  87. Ed says

    I realise that this is going to be very a unpopular viewpoint, but…

    I’m not sure why anyone thinks they are owed any advance notice on redemption rates and term s and conditions. American have just raised their prices, fares rise and fall daily, with no advanced warning. It is simply not in American’s interest to telegraph price changes in advance.

    Firs of all I don’t think anyone would disagree that prices have to rise; more miles available, less seats available, basic economics says prices should rise. Again if this were cash fares it would happen organically as lower fare buckets sell out and fare buckets are repriced.

    More miles being issued and redemption costs for American rising (opportunity costs on giving away seats and partner remotion costs) increases the liability carried on the balance sheet. Increasing redemption rates restores an acceptable position (even conjures a bit of free cash).

    So why would AA not give advanced notice? Simply because there would be a spike in redemptions in the intervening period – an increase in cash straight out the door. AA don’t tell people their cash fares are going to rise so why should they owe anything more with points?

    As for the marketing position its not surprising that AA weren’t expecting a reaction and, by and large they didn’t get one. A small but vocal minority of their customers are aggravated but the vast majority aren’t. People are flying for money again, loads are up, fares are up, yields are up. The vast majority of customers won’t even notice this has happened and even for those that do watch and value their points the headline news is going to be on reductions in domestic coach awards, the bulk of redemptions in any case. For the smaller minority of people who are looking for international or premium awards they are simply going to ask the question’ Is it available? Can I buy it on the website?’

    Only the minuscule minority of use who read, understand and exploit the rules are really affected by this and innovations in the travel and financial industries are surely going to provide more opportunities to exploit. If you are really mean spirited you can start hoping for a new financial crisis and supply of miles will increase again.

  88. CT says

    @Dee Tee: yup, it’s not too far away either and there’ll be the same couple of newscasters “feigning shock and surprise” once again.
    I see L has already moved on to another post about a previously posted trip report. So much for following through or keeping up. Oh we’ll….

    If anyone actually sends a email to Her Nibs & Co., keep a tally.
    If anyone actually cares enough to mail a letter as well, keep a tally.

    Although I’m sure this advise (yes I’m in the biz and know how it works) will fall on deaf ears, at least 9 out of 10, sad to say.

  89. Bob S says

    Lucky, thanks for relating the insights from Ms Rubin. Agree that the lack of advance notice, especially when AA/US must have been planning this for a long time, is most egregious.
    I also feel AA/US missed a revenue opportunity here. If they had given even a week’s advance notice, with the current mileage promotions going on, I’m sure they would have gotten a very nice bump in revenue and cleared out many miles off of their books.

  90. Mike C says

    Zero respect For AA. I STOPPED FLYING THEM AND NOW AM SURE THAT WAS A CORRECT DECISION. I don’t have a problem with devaluation we see that with international currency daily. But let us know. Take a lead fromUNITED AIRLINES.

  91. NotKind says

    “Without advance notice I think anyone would feel gypped by such a change.”

    So…you’re either a bigot or racist?

  92. CT says

    @Ed: correct me if I’m wrong, but what about the person who’s actually EARNED miles by flying, (NOT by graduating from Churn-A-Card University or collecting US Mint coins or any of the other myriad schemes), but by actually being on a plane in the air? Let’s say this person EARNED, not collected, 500,000 miles over the last numbers of years. Now Mr. and Mrs. Psgr are retiring, wanting to take that big trip of theirs which includes stopping over in EBF, NY to visit their grandchildren before leaving the country.
    Suzie RUBIN & Co. now say, out of the blue: NO! you can’t get on OUR “silver bird take me there”! Why they ask? Miss RUBIN abruptly tells them:
    1. you don’t have enough miles
    2. Even if you did, you don’t anymore and by the way, we don’t let you stop anywhere but your final destination. If you want to see the grandchildren, buy another set of tickets or cough up the miles for another set of award seats.

    THIS Ed, is why it would be, forget about being courteous since that trait long left the gate, but being professional and treating Mr. & Mrs. Psgr respectfully since they were respectful toward the company and didn’t chisel anything out of the company all these years (you know, like collecting coins and churning credit cards, et cetera).
    Maybe not in your “world” but there a thousands of people being screwed in this situation. Had AA or actually, had Miss RUBIN had even the slightest shred of common courtesy, decency or professionalism, a certain amount of advance notice should have been given. This would’ve given Mr. & Mrs. P. some time to maybe rework their plans, even if the advance notice was like only two weeks or something. God forbid!
    Maybe had the majority “exploited” the system as you and a few other clever folks have done, there wouldn’t be an issue? That’s in a nutshell what you’re saying Ed, right?

  93. John says

    Planning to book for this month, the no stopover is effective now or in June 1, 2014?

  94. CT says

    @NotKind:
    Gypped” is arguably the most commonly used racist term in existence today.

    You’re right! HE can use that slur, but god forbid anyone use the other slur that begins with a “j” – it’d be the end of the effin world. Thanks for reminding everyone to keep it “slur-free”.

  95. Ivan Y says

    @ John – effective as of today which is one reason why everyone’s up in arms.

  96. says

    @ CT @ NotKind @ dbeach — Sorry, really wasn’t my intent. Changed the word and noted for future reference.

  97. Ed says

    @CT I don’t really buy that argument. I’s the same as if I’d been saving up my cash for a dream holiday and AA raises the cash price. They aren’t going to give me any warning. The only difference is that cash prices go up gradually and non-transparently whereas mileage prices go up in big jumps. Given the minor storm this has caused I can see another reason why Airlines might want to switch to revenue based redemptions.

    Someone saving up miles for a trip is not going to be generating a lot of value for AA in an environment where flying people to places for money is paying off (for the first time in years). It was different when flying wasn’t profitable, selling miles to the finance industry was keeping airlines afloat. Now it isn’t.

    My dad is a great example of an airline customer airlines would really like to have. Hub captive (BA London) premium cabin traveller. Miles work as an incentive to him because he uses them for vacation or charity work. All he cares about is there being a seat available in a premium cabin when he wants to go and isn’t bothered when there isn’t. As I suggested he will check on the website and if no availability shows, that is it, he’ll buy a ticket or not travel. Rewards work because they are a way of distributing unsold inventory of a low marginal cost product. If there is less unsold inventory they prices will rise but the people who the airline wants to reward for loyalty will still get rewarded. Rewards are a bonus not an entitlement.

    Think of the alternatives, AA could cut back on or restrict credit card sign up bonuses (don’t bet on it not happening), or cut earning rates, but this is way way less visible to the average customer. Don’t forget AA is a business and its first duty is to maximise value for its shareholders. Warning people in advance would cost money and I’m sure the finance, marketing and loyalty team got together, ran a benefit-cost analysis and calculated the benefits of not having a spike in redemptions outweighed the costs of to the reputation of the airline.

  98. Ed says

    @lucky Could you remove my full name from my last post or delete entirely and I will repost

    Autofill got the better of me

  99. Ed says

    Thanks Lucky

    @CT I don’t really buy that argument. I’s the same as if I’d been saving up my cash for a dream holiday and AA raises the cash price. They aren’t going to give me any warning. The only difference is that cash prices go up gradually and non-transparently whereas mileage prices go up in big jumps. Given the minor storm this has caused I can see another reason why Airlines might want to switch to revenue based redemptions.
    Someone saving up miles for a trip is not going to be generating a lot of value for AA in an environment where flying people to places for money is paying off (for the first time in years). It was different when flying wasn’t profitable, selling miles to the finance industry was keeping airlines afloat. Now it isn’t.
    My dad is a great example of an airline customer airlines would really like to have. Hub captive (BA London) premium cabin traveller. Miles work as an incentive to him because he uses them for vacation or charity work. All he cares about is there being a seat available in a premium cabin when he wants to go and isn’t bothered when there isn’t. As I suggested he will check on the website and if no availability shows, that is it, he’ll buy a ticket or not travel. Rewards work because they are a way of distributing unsold inventory of a low marginal cost product. If there is less unsold inventory they prices will rise but the people who the airline wants to reward for loyalty will still get rewarded. Rewards are a bonus not an entitlement.
    Think of the alternatives, AA could cut back on or restrict credit card sign up bonuses (don’t bet on it not happening), or cut earning rates, but this is way way less visible to the average customer. Don’t forget AA is a business and its first duty is to maximise value for its shareholders. Warning people in advance would cost money and I’m sure the finance, marketing and loyalty team got together, ran a benefit-cost analysis and calculated the benefits of not having a spike in redemptions outweighed the costs of to the reputation of the airline.

    I’m not sure why people redeeming for points should be extended a courtesy not extended to those paying with cash.

  100. Neil S says

    I can’t stop laughing. Ed’s right – they don’t owe us anything.

    And I also can’t hide my glee, as a Delta flyer, that the “best” airline ever just showed its card.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  101. Steven L. says

    @Neil S

    And watch in turn as others laugh when Delta screws you over again.

    Speaking as someone on the sidelines who has managed to pledge fealty to NONE of the US carriers, it’s quite amazing (and sometimes appalling) how fanboys can be so defensive about their chosen banner and how willing they are to partake in schadenfreude when it won’t be long before it’s their time to be bent over a rail once again.

  102. italdesign says

    @Ed, b/c that’s not how reward programs work. They are designed to reward loyalty and there’s certainly the expectation the terms won’t change overnight without notice.

  103. CT says

    @Ed – I can see your point of view. I guess we can agree to disagree. Your Dad is fortunate in that he has the ability to do things the way he can. That said, anyone who thinks this whole deal came out of the blue is in another world. Those c/b analysis’ were conducted months ago and the decision to proceed was already a done deal – more than likely before the ink even dried on the merger papers.
    Award travel isn’t an entitlement although that’s the manner in which the airlines have colored it over the years. It’s a self-created monster that grew too big and now they’re abruptly cutting it down left and right.
    It’s a losing battle for those who spent lots cash by actually flying and maybe some cc spending with plans to make one big, premium class trips.
    But to those who’ve accumulated 2-3+ million miles by collecting coins, churning credit cards and flying up front numerous times per year, none of these changes mean much, if anything.
    One thing I definitely agree with you about the following:
    AA could cut back on or restrict credit card sign up bonuses (don’t bet on it not happening), or cut earning rates.
    This definitely WILL comes to pass, just a matter of time.

  104. Ed says

    @italdesign

    This is where I think people have it wrong. Loyalty programmes are about identifying, retaining and maximising the revenue of the highest value passengers. The only expectation you should have is that an airline will seek to do this for the lowest cost possible. If the terms don’t suit you then then you probably aren’t in the target demographic.

    I guarantee you that 99% of AA Advantage members have ignored the email or just shrugged their shoulders and moved on with their days. I’m not sure pleasing a vocal and probably not very profitable minority of members is high up on the Agenda. Sad to say AA can do without your business right now, (although it’ll probably welcome you back with open arms next time they are on the rocks financially and need to prop up their revenue by selling miles to credit card companies)

  105. BFrankley says

    Ben I appreciate your disgusted tone in discussing American’s horrible handling of these changes. And I appreciate you organizing what I hope is significant social media backlash to communicate with the dishonest team at American.

  106. Ed says

    @CT wholeheartedly agree with the self created monster comment.

    I am wondering if any legacy airline out there is brave enough to slay the dragon and completely reinvent or do away with their loyalty programme. Probably not but I would safely predict that most earning and redeeming of miles will be revenue linked within 5 years with vastly reduced opportunities for earning outside of travel.

  107. says

    @Ed: Airlines created the “monster” of would be travelers “saving” up miles to go somewhere aspirational. People should be understandably annoyed when that is shattered by a quick spike in prices that require they push back their plans.

    At the end of the day, empty airline seats are highly perishable goods. Keeping mile redemptions separate from revenue prices allows the airlines to maintain price discrimination between vacationers and most business travelers for whom high, last-minute fares are typically intended. If we look at Southwest, why would I ever bother to collect their points with their credit card (a 1.43% rebate, assuming I have no liquidity preference between cash and their points) instead of a straight cashback card (2% is easily obtainable)? Selling points to banks kept the legacies alive, switching to revenue-based programs might kill that golden goose.

  108. italdesign says

    @Ed, I don’t think any customer, big or small, wants moderate changes that *could* impact them to take place without ANY advanced notice. The lack of respect is simply inexcusable.

  109. RH says

    Lucky – Any idea if US Airways will now allow a US to Europe award with a stopover in Asia? That would result in a more modest 10k increase in a Europe/Asia combined award.

  110. Ct says

    @Ed-
    maybe sooner than 5 years. It just depends on which one of them is less of a pansy than the others. Once one does it, the others will pile on.

  111. Dan says

    If the head of the largest airline loyalty program can announce significant wholesale negative changes with immediate effect and then be “surprised” at the negative response, they are either:

    – wilfully ignorant
    – woefully incompetent
    – the unwilling mouthpiece of higher ups, forced to make announcements which destroy the value of the customer loyalty built up over 33 years.

    I’d hope it’s the latter, but doesn’t bode well for the AAdvantage program.

  112. Paul says

    As a United 1K, does this mean we will start to get some reviews of UA and Star Alliance metal? :) I took part in the AA match a few years ago and never found anything special and worth switching my loyalty over, so stayed with UA.

    Bottom line is that there is no loyalty on any airline side, so I fear this recent move with AA is just a sign of things to come.

  113. Tom says

    @ Lucky – with these new changes to AA, does that mean that I am able to book an award booking from Australia to JFK and add a stop over at LAX before returning to Australia using Dividend Miles without having to use extra miles?
    Thanks!

  114. Jeff says

    @lucky I was planning on booking 2 business class on one of there partner FIJI airlines feb 2015 for 50K miles one way. Is that still possible now or the miles required in partner business class in now higher? I have 200K in AA miles good for 2 business round trip.

  115. says

    @ Jeff — The partner award chart hasn’t changed, though I would absolutely book that sooner rather than later, as award space to Fiji can be tough to come by.

  116. Jeff says

    @lucky thank you for the quick reply… I will definitely start looking for availability tonight… Time to burn all my AA miles.

  117. JTP says

    Refreshing that you call it out for what it is unlike some other bloggers out there. Thanks lucky.

  118. Brendan says

    @ed @CT I certainly sympathise with CT and anyone who has collected the majority of their miles by the old bum in seat method. The reason is that increases in cash ticket prices and the devaluation in miles should not go hand in hand – the person accruing the miles is already paying more for these miles by flying on ever increasing ticket prices so a devaluation is a double whammy really. The real need for devaluation has come from credit card signup bonuses and AA are responsible themselves for printing and selling their currency to credit cards. So in reality they win every way.

  119. Brendan says

    ps I’m gutted about the loss of the free gateway stopover. They could have cushioned the blow by maybe enforcing that the onward leg must be within a week (instead of a year) or allowed it on a return (or both!!) but to get rid completely is hard to stomach.

  120. Tom says

    @Lucky – I used the website to complain about the elimination of Explorer awards, and this is the response I got:

    Dear Mr. (I’ve redacted my last name):

    We understand that your AAdvantage® Gold privileges are important, and we acknowledge your comments about the changes to your free bag allowance. Our intention is not to detract from the importance of any of our elite levels, but to provide recognition to all elite members appropriate to their status level.

    Of course, as an AAdvantage® Gold member, you will continue to be able to check your first bag free of charge. You will also continue to enjoy many benefits not offered to non-elite customers, such as priority boarding and expanded upgrade opportunities, just to name a couple.

    Mr. Cannold, we appreciate your business very much, and we hope to have the opportunity to welcome you aboard again soon.

    Sincerely,

    Debra Achilefu
    Customer Relations
    American Airlines

    That the heck?!?! I didn’t mention bag fees! They couldn’t even be bothered to respond to what I actually wrote!

  121. says

    @ Tom — OUCH! Do you also have the original email you sent? Any chance you could forward the interaction to my email (onemileatatime@hotmail.com). Won’t post it without prior permission.

  122. Paul says

    I haven’t even received an email about it. My Mom got one, and she’s got zero miles and zero status, and I’m Plat. They really screwed this one up.

  123. Ct says

    I’m willing to bet that not even one person has vehemently expressed in the greatest detail their displeasure, mistrust and outrage to each of the following:

    Suzanne.rubin@aa.com
    Thomas.horton@aa.com
    Jon.snook@aa.com
    Douglas.parker@aa.com

    Commiserating here or any other forum won’t do jack. Not that it’ll change things but at the very least have a client with 3.5+ million miles and they’ve done what I’ve suggested. Not only that, today they’ve purchased* $82k premium cabin tickets for their next trip on a head-to-head AA competitor (versus spending $52k with SuzieQ’s airline). They’ve not only written to the aforementioned douches but have scanned ticket copies showing all the details. I’d like to be with Suzie when she opens that email. :-)

    * Their last minute plans jelled yesterday and decided to book the Explorer Award. They couldn’t confirm it online, so they called. American’s reply? Verbatim: we have three seats available which you can purchase, or you can contact customer relations. (They hadn’t heard of the abrupt change prior to starting their booking). Their response was in essence, “stuff it”. It’d probably make a great MasterCard “Priceless” commercial.

    Let’s see, the net loss on this one transaction is: $??,???.00 ? Hmmmm

    So email, tweet or write if you feel you’ve been, politely put, “done”. And each time you fly, don’t go by way of Aaus then scan and forward your copies. Trivial? Maybe.

  124. Ct says

    @Lucky: Can you adjust or add? Thanks. My keyboard malfunction and “lost in translation”. What should have transmitted in the beginning was:

    Commiserating here or any other forum won’t do jack. Not that it’ll change things but at the very least perhaps it’ll help get their thick skulls aware of their extreme anti-loyalty behavior. Let them know in no uncertain terms how this affects you and your future spending with them (aanus).
    On a related note, I have a client with 3.5+ million miles and they’ve done what I’ve suggested. Not only that, today they’ve purchased* $82k premium cabin tickets for their next trip on a head-to-head AA competitor (versus spending $52k with SuzieQ’s airline). They’ve not only written to the aforementioned douches but have scanned ticket copies showing all the details. I’d like to be with Suzie when she opens that email. :-)

    …and the remainder was ok.

  125. J.T says

    Where do we go to sign-up for a Class Action lawsuit against AA? Seriously! I paid more money for higher mileage tickets, put up with still-frozen-in-the-middle-pizza-like-buns on international flights, only to be told that the Explorer deal went away over night. Without that I would never have flown them!! It’s the year 2014 for gods sake? Have they not heard of the internet and social media?? Making AA the best airlines in the world? I’d suggest that starting by punishing your best customers with brain-dead moves like these is not a great way to start out on that journey!!

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