US Airways Dividend Miles Further Changes Without Notice

Update: American has confirmed that this was in fact an error.

As far as I’m concerned, the single biggest thing a loyalty program can do to break the trust of their members is to devalue a program without notice.

Members collect points in good faith, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that loyalty programs would at least give members some advance notice prior to program changes.

In April American and US Airways really broke the trust of their AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members by making program changes without any sort of advance notice, including:

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

Suzanne Rubin, who heads the AAdvantage program, was nice enough to speak with me and share her thoughts on the changes. She explained that they were making these changes as part of a larger set of changes, and she seemed genuinely surprised by the backlash to the changes that were made without notice.

I think we shared our feedback in no uncertain terms, and they heard us.

Prior to that I trusted the American AAdvantage program and always thought that it was one of the most “honestly” run loyalty programs there is. However, as I explained in my follow up post, I no longer trust the AAdvantage program.

Well, it seems like they’ve done it again. This time US Airways Dividend Miles has changed their award redemption rates without any sort of advance notice.

Again.

One of the “sweet spots” of the US Airways award chart was that they charged the same number of miles domestically for two cabin first class/business class as they did for three cabin first class.

That meant it was possible to fly American A321 first class between New York and Los Angeles, or Cathay Pacific first class between New York and Vancouver, for 50,000 miles roundtrip in first class.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-12
Cathay Pacific first class

However, without any advance notice they’ve adjusted rates for these awards, and have gone from charging 50,000 miles to charging 65,000 miles for oneworld awards in first class:

Dividend-Miles-Award-Rates-2

Meanwhile the partner award chart still shows the old rates.

Dividend-Miles-Award-Rates-1

For reference, here is the Dividend Miles award chart as of yesterday:

US-Airways-Award-Changes-1

And here it is today:

US-Airways-Award-Changes-2

The US Airways website is a bit mind-boggling to me, but for what it’s worth it appears that these new prices haven’t been hard-coded in to the system yet.

A roundtrip LAX-JFK in 3-cabin first is still pricing at 50,000 miles roundtrip, for the time being:

US-Airways-Award-Changes-7

And this even books into Z class:US-Airways-Award-Changes-5 

My post about why I don’t trust AAdvantage was actually a follow up to Gary’s post about why he still does trust AAdvantage, and despite disagreeing with the premise of his title, I agreed with his message:

I think and hope that the strong consumer reaction to lack of notice of these changes will be a lesson learned.

For me they get one screw-up.

How they behave next time — advance notice of changes and clear, transparent communication about those changes — will factor much more into my own opinion about the trustworthiness of the program than this one-off incident.

I’ve always thought that about the worst thing a program can do is pull the rug out from under customers when making changes. And when I’ve seriously and immediately called out programs in the past it’s generally been of programs I already didn’t have much trust in.

Here I think there’s warranted criticism for how this was rolled out. American AAdvantage still has my trust, but I’m wary, and future decisions over the next months are going to be key.

They’re at a turning point. Certainly they know it. And we’ll all be watching.

But I still trust them, and whether I continue to do so will be dependent upon the next data point.

If anyone at American is still listening – this has to stop.

(Tip of the hat to echino)

Comments

  1. Pointie says

    I just liquidated my miles because I don’t trust them. The recommendation to burn miles now is well heard and warranted.

  2. Larry says

    Pretty lame. Though, I would put this one in the category of an removal of an unintended boondoggle. I don’t really see this so much of a change but more a situation of finally dealing with the fact that they are merging with an airline that has three-cabin aircraft. US was cannibalizing their own partner’s frequent flier program, and I can understand them fixing that situation quickly. I view this as different from suddenly raising the cost of a particular category. But, in any event, the real reason this doesn’t bother me is that I actually like transcon business class better on the 32B than first. The NYC flagship check in lounge is pretty slick, though, so that’s a bit of a bummer. And it’s nice to get access of the flagship lounges. But, in terms of the 6 hours in the air, I don’t like the F seat very much. I mean, it’s great for domestic, but not worth extra miles to me.

  3. Ryan says

    I agree with @Larry. While any change without notice is bad, I see this as correcting an errort in the chart and not a devaluation. I can given them a pass for this one.

  4. says

    @ Larry — United had three cabin first class on their transcons for years as well. Not really sure how this is much different.

  5. Larry says

    Lucky — Don’t get me wrong, notice is better. But I can understand them not wanting to undercut their own airline. The good part is that US tech changes seem a bit glacial, so, in essence, there is at least some “notice” here in the sense that you can still book AA transcon F online at the moment for the lower 25k. I’m sure they’ll fix it eventually, but at least they are out there for grabs right now. (Or, were 10 minutes ago.)

  6. Jon says

    This isn’t that bad…They just aligned with the AA chart. In the past US had no 3 cabin flights, and seeing how they technically do now with AA, this is a fair change in my eyes.

  7. jay says

    Lucky, as usual your analysis is spot on and I agree 100%. I’m actually very interested to hear gary’s take on it – there’s no way to dress this up given the excuse American used last time about being shocked at the negative response.

  8. Brian L. says

    I’d bet that this change was done without notice at Dougie’s insistence, and I’d bet the last one was, too. Dougie Parker doesn’t care about anyone/anything other than Dougie Parker. I can imagine pre-merger AA people saying, “We need to give people notice before we do things like this,” and Dougie saying, “Shut up and do it, or I’ll replace you with someone who will.”

  9. Roberto says

    And if it doesn’t stop… then what? Will you stop flying US+AA altogether? As the biggest airline in the World, they have a lot of power, don’t forget that. :) Plus, their changes are way less dramatic then the ones made by DL and UA.

  10. pointie says

    The point of his article is to at least give advance notice, which they did not. Burn those miles!

  11. deltahater says

    @larry. You are missing the point. If a robber robs a convenience store and only takes half the money and does not hurt anybody and apologizes on the way out, he is still a thief

    Same here. It is irrelevant if F class is worth it or not or if the increase is small. The fact that aa did this behind our backs is the issue. It is dishonest and very troublesome.

  12. RakSiam says

    This proves that airlines don’t give a crap about their customers. In case there was any doubt about that

  13. Steven S says

    Not good and not surprising. The game has changed a whole lot in the 10 years I’ve been playing at it. That said, I have two big trips planned – Southern France and Australia, NZ. List price of my flights and hotels is over $100K – don’t flame me as I know there’s no way I would EVER spend that much! I used to compare this game to the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle – I loved figuring it out and making it work. Now it’s more like an endurance contest that you know you may not finish. Still getting value but getting tired of it. Problem/blessing is that I still have way over 1 million miles so there’s not much to do but keep trying to make it work. And lately, I’ve been treating my kids to trips.

    For those of us who have made the most over these last years, at least we’ll have great memories!

  14. Steven L. says

    “If anyone at American is still listening – this has to stop.”

    AA: “Or what? You’ll switch to United or Delta?”

  15. Laurel says

    I’m looking at US Airways off-peak travel from SFO to CDG in February 2015; however, the discounted award seats are not available anywhere to Europe for 35K, current minimum is 60K.

  16. voice of reason says

    “If anyone at American is still listening – this has to stop”

    Or else what?

  17. Jay says

    Wow… Yea, they clearly learned from the last one

    I’m looking forward to boarding area’s resident AApologist to explain this one away as well (“well this doesn’t affect THAT many of their members!”)

  18. Markus says

    @Jay – By AApologist, you mean “View from a Jerk”? At the moment he’s too busy attacking people in congress about some bill and currently ranting and fighting for the rights of rich fat congressman to always fly first class. It may be right for them to keep flying first “IF” they earned their upgrades like the rest of us but his support is inexplicably disproportionate in favor of a bunch of politicians.

    What about the very people he’s supposed to be speaking to and fighting for with these blogs?!?! Regular flying folks like him.

    Well, we all know how he let us down with the AA devaluation debacle and placing his “trust” in what is now the worlds largest airline entity and sadly soon to be the “worst” airline in the world if all these unacceptable and dismissive trends by US/AA carry on.

  19. Cmoz says

    Sorry, but for “book now, think later,” does USAirways charge for change or redeposit on award tix? Wifey and I each have 37-41K points sitting pretty much useless and want to spend them before US+AA pulls yet another DECAL stunt!!!

  20. DaninSTL says

    I guess I expect negative changes but unannounced changes leave a bitter taste for sure.

  21. dan ray says

    I’m somewhat confused. So can you still book Cathay Pacific first class between Vancouver and New York round-trip for 50K us air miles?
    Where is the best space to search for Cathy award space? Thanks.

  22. dan ray says

    thanks. I see Cathy first available within the next 2 weeks but only business in September when we want to go. Since it’s 50K for business or first could I book business now and then closer in if available move it up to first? Also, on the same 50K US Air miles could I add Alaska flights to and from PDX to vancouver?

  23. says

    @ dan ray — Alaska doesn’t partner with US Airways, so you couldn’t include Alaska flights on the ticket. You could later upgrade, though you’d have to pay a $150 per person change fee. There’s also always a chance that they do devalue the award chart between now and then.

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