Has American Stopped Releasing International Saver Award Space?

I would mark this as “developing” for the time being, and wouldn’t draw any conclusions just yet.

There’s no doubt that there has been a trend the past several years whereby American is releasing less and less saver award space, particularly in premium cabins on international routes. Back in the day American had an amazing amount of saver level award space on their own flights, unlike any other US airline.

But over the years the trend has slowly been going in the opposite direction, to the point that booking a saver level premium cabin award seat between the US and Europe on American metal in advance is almost impossible. For me the ultimate example of this was several weeks back when I was looking to fly between London and New York. I was trying to book a first class award day of departure when not a single first class seat was taken on two flights, yet they still weren’t releasing saver award space.

American-Airlines-Business-Class-777-62
Saver award space? Ain’t nobody got miles for that!

That being said, economy saver award space has generally been quite good, at least up until now.

But there’s a really alarming trend at the moment. Per aa.com, American doesn’t seem to be releasing any AAdvantage saver level award space in any cabin for longhaul international routes for travel after December 3, 2014.

Not between the US and Asia:

AAdvantage-Saver-Award-1

AAdvantage-Saver-Award-2

Not between the US and South America:

AAdvantage-Saver-Award-3

AAdvantage-Saver-Award-4

And not between the US and Europe:

AAdvantage-Saver-Award-5 AAdvantage-Saver-Award-6

Nothing. Not a single saver level seat in economy, business, or first class.

I have to imagine this is a glitch, or something. There’s no denying that the general trend is pointing towards there being less saver level award space. That’s why American increased the cost and types of standard awards they offer, so that it’s now a multi-tier system. But I don’t expect the change to be quite this drastic.

So let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s a glitch. In the meantime we can just mark this as “developing.”

What do you think — is this intentional or a glitch?

Comments

  1. Ben,

    I was in the process of looking for award space for several trips and I have encountered the same thing. I thought about calling the EP Desk but I am going to give it time and see if this improves and as you say could be a “glitch”.

    Thank you for posting this!

  2. I noticed this very thing today as I was trying to book HKG-DFW in May, which was previously wide open for all three classes. Searching both AA and AS yielded nothing.

  3. I wouldn’t panic just quite yet. It’s not like there’s going to be a wave of people buying Y on DFW-CDG in the middle of January. This is probably just a glitch from loading in schedules or something.

  4. Totally read my thoughts because I couldn’t figure out what was going on today as I searched flights in and out of LAC. Nothing… US Air , on some routes, just produced an error. I’m really hoping it’s a glitch…..

  5. @ Chris — Because most of the cuts have been to premium cabin award space. I don’t believe they would not release a single saver level award seat on any route in any class of service. No airline has ever done that, as far as I know.

  6. Saw the same thing when I was searching for HKG-LAX flights for next summer. Briefly considered HKG-DFW on AA 777-300ER metal but then realized I was just being stupid by not choosing CX.

  7. Odd, two days ago I booked saver space sea-cdg for Jan 20- Feb 3, definitely a new development (and likely a glitch)… There were saver awards available in all classes.

  8. glitch? maybe.
    why only saver? why not only standard?
    award space wont improve in earnest until the 3 majors are forced by regulators to spin off competitors… i give it 8 years.

  9. Definitely looks like a glitch. But surprised that you stole this news from other bloggers who found this and have been reporting. U usually give credit to others. Guess you are too busy on the round the world tour to not steel others reporting and make it seem like ur own.

  10. It is most likely a glitch. About a week ago I booked a friend and I for a spring break trip to Europe. There was saver economy space almost every day ord-lhr and mad-mia. In fact if I remember correctly they were all Y7. I find it hard to believe they would go from Y7 almost everyday to Y0.

  11. Over the last 3 months, I have not been able to find TWO regular awards in domestic first or transatlantic business class on AA metal for July next year. *All* flights either have zero or one seat available, but none for more. And this was before the “glitch” you report on. Since these awards are a wedding gift for a honeymoon, one seat is useless.

    I find this very disturbing and it’s a total devaluation of the program. I don’t regret one bit ditching the AAdvantage card at the beginning of the year — miles are worse than Zimbabwe dollars.

  12. This has been the case for to/from Asia for roughly about 6 weeks. Before that, every single Mon/Tue/Wed flight (and quite a few on other days as well) between Asia and the US (except HKG-DFW) had at least two saver seats in business available, and those that had first class cabins had at least two saver first seats available too. This was for month after month in the schedule.

    I happen to be planning my honeymoon, and was watching almost daily, waiting for the schedule to be loaded for my day, 331 days out. A couple of weeks before the magic day, it overnight went from the above to not a single seat in premium class on any flight for months at a time.

  13. @ John — Where else has it been reported? Have been too busy doing stuff outside my hotel room to realize. Certainly didn’t see it written about on any other blogs.

  14. Looks like a glitch to me at the moment. Even I was able to find AA saver seats (economy though) back this summer between JFK-GRU during the world cup.

  15. It’s not just long haul either. All carribean flights are the same way too, however I think it must be a glitch on American’s end, because US Airways, at least for the moment is still pulling saver availability.

  16. I hope is a glitch. But 5 days ago I put a saver award GRU-JFK on hold for my mother. I am looking for the return ticket and so far not one single date is available.

  17. Noticed this about two weeks ago and it had me concerned! I was trying get some itinerary options for award tickets to Japan that I can’t book for another few months. Hopefully it’s just a glitch.

  18. Can confirm this also affects partner bookings, at least for AS. We were looking at SEA-CDG, purchasing through AS for 20k miles, but all on AA metal.

    The schedule was AA 42 on February 6, 2015, with a stop in ORD. Wide open earlier this week, and just checked yesterday and POOF–everything gone.

    Hopefully this is just got a glitch.

  19. I don’t know of this counts but I was looking last night at flying ogg to lih. It’s usually 5k miles even with the stop in hnl. Last night all the awards had a stop in hnl a they wanted 5k for each segment. So 10k to get from ogg to lih 20k round trip. I looked on untied and they were pricing out 6k each way even with the stop in hnl

  20. Maybe John was too busy hating to learn how to spell a simple word like “steal”. As usual an informative post by Ben though.

  21. @John: I read this blog since it shares a great deal of information on the travel industry that is relevant to me. I also enjoy the majority of comments since they give me others perspective on any given subject. We all aren’t looking for the same thing. The last reason would be that we rarely see trolls rear their heads to post here. I get sick of it on there on the open internet.

    Please show us your sources and stop the nasty petty posts. Even if Lucky posted something out there being reported, is the world going to fall? I got what I wanted out of his post, I could care less if twenty other bloggers were out there posting this from Saturday on. Since you had to throw in the backhanded comment about him being busy on his dad’s trip, tells me you have a jealousy issue.

    If you don’t like the blog, don’t read it. Your post accomplishes nothing but make you look bad.

  22. What if it is an intentional glitch? What if they are studying rdemption rates/complaint levels to see the reaction as a research technique so they can better judge future actual permanent changes.

    No way this isn’t a glitch. Question is whether there was malice aforethought.

  23. When the new AAnytime chart came out, I predicted this. They will slide availability up to the higher category so you basically always pay AAnytime prices and often at more than double the SAAver price.

    At the same time, gleff and others kept repeating the change was no big deal and expected. This is BS.

  24. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but yesterday there were a ton of schedule changes and aircraft changes. Perhaps as a result the award inventory was affected and has to be restored. But in any case, any sAAver level inventory prior to this was slim to none regardless. I wish AA would just be honest and transparent about this, instead of the usual spin we get about sAAver-level seats being limited, or perhaps other passengers already got them, or try a different date etc. Not only is it frustrating for us, but it must be a terrible waste of time for call center agents that are asked to constantly look for availability. It would appear that AAnytime is the new sAAver.

  25. Seems to be plenty of space now…Searching JFK-CDG for next year and see milesaaver Y & J for nearly every day in Feb/Mar/Apr

  26. online international flight award search for AA is a joke, calling in ( and paying the fee) gets better results.

    I was able to book san/bkk/san with JAL using AA miles in a few minutes

  27. @Gene – The regulators allowed all of these mergers, why on Earth would they go back and break them up?!

    @Ray – +1!

  28. Trying to book two biz saver awards LAX-OGG for October. Only one seat is being released. Has anyone experience taking the one seat now and getting the second seat later? How long did it take for AA to release the second seat? Thanks.

  29. I was searching last week and found plenty of J saver awards on partners (BA and IB) but none on AA metal. I really hope this is a glitch. the additional costs and time of flying award travel through London to Europe would really devalue AA miles.

  30. I’ve been calling this behavior by AA a STEALTH DEVALUATION for a couple of years now. I used to have to work to get us 2 FC TATL awards in August, which is clearly a very slow Business market for AA. The last two years that has been impossible, and we have had to book in July, on the one, and only one, day that AA opened up. For 2014, even booking nearly a year in advance, we could only get 2 Saver Awards going, and one Saver and One Anytime for the return.

    For 2015, again booking nearly a year in advance, we could only get 2 Saver awards DFW to FRA, and absolutely nothing for a return in Saver. Not one seat to any US airport. Luckily, we had LH points and are coming back LH FC.

    Others, like United, have been honest enough to post their devaluations. AA is being totally dishonest in effectively devaluing by eliminating availability without any announcement. Probably because an announcement would cause FF discontent, while eliminating availability means no one knows until they actually try to book an award. So that means some AA FFers won’t find out for several years.

  31. @Geoff — I think you’re seeing BA space. If you limit your search to AA metal, there is nothing from JFK to CDG in any saver category.

    AA metal saver award space has been terrible for well over a year, but to show absolutely nothing for an entire year is pretty staggering. Has to be a glitch or computer error.

  32. This is no “glitch” my friends! Make no mistake having flown 3MM on AA this is the worst I have seen. I could not get ANY seats out of Jakarta 3 weeks ago for saver. I have never in 15 years had any problem coming back to Dallas on a saver award. Now it seems there is nothing. This in my opinion is a very calculated moved to have you burn more miles at the anytime award level. Which in most cases is double the miles per ticket. Not only that when the agent does find any space no First Class to or from Dallas to any US gateway none only Y seats.

    I am currently looking to burn my last 100K for summer of 2015 to Asia. I can find no saver space June July Aug or Sep to ICN NRT HKG PEK PVG on AA metal. Better to buy AS miles and fly Emirates which we are doing.

  33. I hope this is a glitch, but based on the constant reduction of sAAver awards that have been going on for the past 2 years it’s obvious that saver awards are going away, it’s only a matter of when. It’s a massive devaluation, pure and simple. But AA has done a great job of getting the bloggers to help them distract the customers from what’s been going on. Earlier this fall, AA released one day of available TATL premium SAAver awards for summer 2015. One day. How does that not indicate a clear intention to eliminate sAAver awards? Is there any other message that could have sent?

    The date limitations, route limitations, and fuel surcharges that have been building up over the last 4 years have made FF miles increasingly useless for most people.

    For me, the future is in mid-tier elite status, taking advantage of business class sale fares, and premium economy. But at least I’ll be going where I want to go, when I want to go, and with the people I want to be with.

  34. @Jim – I booked LAX-OGG for March in September and took 1 saver seat and 1 anytime award. I was able to get the anytime award down to a saver award about 4-5 weeks later in October. Hope that helps.

  35. Well, we scored the “holy grail” of award tickets with AA, on AA metal – Two Saver Award, Business Class tickets, direct/non-stop flight from LAX to LHR Elated! However, I was only able to score one ticket for our return, AA metal, Saver Award, Business Class, non-stop, LHR-LAX. I snagged it, and am awaiting another to show up so my husband can return with me! Every time I plugged in two tickets, it showed no direct flights, Bus. Saver availability, or any flights with connections. When I plugged in one ticket – bingo. One and only one available for direct, Business Class, Saver, AA metal. I tried to plug in another single ticket of the same, and poof! Inventory was and continues to be gone! The system only had one in inventory and then it disappeared after I bought my one ticket. Upon checking AA regularly, they are offering BA inventory for over water, First Class Saver or Economy Saver, but no AA direct flights. Looks like they are holding back and perhaps my tickets were a “glitch” in AA’s system. Very frustrating. Should another ticket not be available for my husband, I will have to re-ticket to his itinerary. We have until August, so I hope AA decides to open up their inventory. Right now a “bird in the hand” with the one return ticket!

  36. @ mike — Right, but that doesn’t change the fact that American doesn’t have any longhaul award space on their own metal.

  37. Before they completed the merging of “old” and “new” miles about a year ago premium, award space became virtually unavailable. After the miles were combined, space opened up a bit. I wonder if they are planning to announce a major devaluation or other program change in the near future.

  38. I am trying to book a flight to Argentina at the end of February/beginning of March, and I have looked at Lima, Bogota, Santiago, and Buenos Aires and there is zero availability. I did look at Johannesburg, and they had availability. Not sure what the deal is.

  39. If it is a glitch, the glitch has been in effect for transatlantic flights for a couple of weeks now. I tried to book a flight from MCO, MIA, NYC, ORD and even DFW to LON or for the end of December/beginning of January and the end of May/mid-June in business or first class. The few award flights available were all on British Airways. So, while watching a movie, I started searching for flights on AA or US air outgoing from December through next September and didn’t find any transatlantic availability except on BA. I just went an looked for MilesAAver availability in coach and, again, no availability on AA. They are having the best sale I have seen from them on purchased mileage right now, but why bother if you can’t use them. My husband and I historically fly first or business to Europe 2 – 3 times for year, typically using award mileage, but it appears that those days are gone (and so will go my loyalty to American).

  40. No glitch whatsoever. This is a calculated move that is only a small step further than they had already gone. I have been monitoring availability to several destinations for next year for the better part of 7 months, and no seats were ever available on AA metal. And I am about to embark on a TPAC award that I am needing to get to LAX for and AA is not opening flights up that are completely open in F nor can EXPs ask agents to call RM these days. Glad I am flying UA these days. At least they devalue out in the open at least for now. AA has become a very dishonest airline, but then again, I have been saying this for anout 2 years…

  41. On Nov. 1 I booked an AA Economy itinerary SFO-Milan for 20,000 miles. At that time, there was decent availability on AA and US “across the pond”. (But, in general, I find UA/Star much more useful than AA/Oneworld for travel to Europe.)

  42. @Jim – actually what I changed was my routing from one with a stop to a nonstop, so there were no fees on that change. I did try to change my return from anytime to saver today and they told me it would be a $150 change fee. I am still mulling it over as to whether that is worth it as the flight time would be less desirable to me (overnight as opposed to late afternoon) but I would get the 30K miles back.

    They did tell me on the phone today that if I had booked it as economy saver and upgraded to business saver there wouldn’t be a change fee – so that might be something to consider. Hope that helps.

  43. Pray that AA doesn’t take away CX / JAL. And pray never gets to show availability via the website.

  44. Yes it helps a lot. Thanks. It appears AA is now only releasing one biz award at a time, West coast to Hawaii. New strategy will have to be snag the first one and then check daily for the second. I’m looking at a targeted mail offer from Citi in my hand right now. Sure makes you think twice. Hope listening Citi.

  45. lucky

    I did see aa metal for part of the trip, but it was a poor route.
    san/dfw/hkg on aa and rj from hkg/bkk

    the trip back on the same flights was over 36 hours

    mike

  46. Very good discussion, thank you. I also have been watching ORD-PEK and PVG-ORD for months waiting for my 331 day. Up to, as previously stated, about 6 weeks ago there were scattered 2 business saver awards every week that one could work with, but all the business awards were absolutely pulled all the way back about 6 weeks ago, I started looking at economy saver up to about a week ago, when all economy saver for my trip were “pulled” all the way back. What I am seeing is scattered business or economy saver a week to departure and nothing else. The saver awards were there and now they are not. When I first saw all the business saver pulled I was able to find a comment on a remote blog site that there are many AA equipment upgrades ongoing. But that is not the reason and it is too wide spread. Like others, I am going to find a way to burn my AA miles and cancel all of my Citi Cards. This is bait and switch. As they say YMMV.

  47. Robert Hanson nails it above.

    Yes, there’s a glitch here. But it’s not what you think. The glitch is when seats are actually available.

    This is not new, and anyone who has been watching carefully knows it. This is only a tiny adjustment to the AA stealth devaluation that has been in effect for the past year+. Bloggers have simply been ignoring it because it serves their interests (money in their pockets, as always the number one motivation for the self-appointed “travel experts”).

    Anyone who has been paying attention – and who is honest – knows that Saver premium cabin award seats on AA metal have all but disappeared, starting about a year and a half ago. First, it became impossible to book more than a single seat on popular routes (anything from the US to LHR, for example). Then it tightened more, single seats becoming harder and harder to find.

    Meanwhile, when people (Mr Hanson included, and me) pointed out how worthless the AA program had become, all the bloggers (including you) blithely dismissed such concerns with a wave of the hand, saying “award space may be tight, but it’s there, and surely more will become available once the merger and system integrations get sorted out – here, sign pun for this credit card!”

    Now the screws have just continued to tighten a little more, and a blogger finally notices. Admittedly, once in a blue moon a seat or even several may open up for a few hours – I’ve seen this a couple times in the past year – so someone will cheerfully chime in and claim “hey, I booked a couple seats, so it’s not impossible!” But the fact is, multiple Saver award seat availability (like, if you want to travel with your spouse) is a thing of the past on AA metal.

    Availability is actually the glitch here, not the lack of it. Looking for more than a single seat in business class on AA metal? Fuggedaboudit. You might as well be looking for an award seat to Hong Kong Rangoon for 4 United miles. Availability is now the equivalent of a “mistake fare” – yes, they exist, maybe once our twice a year for an hour or two. But not as a practical matter, nobody should expect to actually find them for a trip they choose.

    This is not some system glitch. This is the new reality of AA’s program, and has been for a while. Of course, dishonest, self-serving bloggers will poo-poo that and say that’s not really true.

  48. I’m shocked by the number of people on here that use their precious miles on AA metal when almost all the other OW partners are better. I…can’t even…

  49. >I’m shocked by the number of people on here that use their precious miles on AA
    >metal when almost all the other OW partners are better. I…can’t even…

    Not everyone lives in your city. Not everyone has the same destinations in mind as you.

  50. For example – my primary travel destination is Europe. I’d much rather fly AA with no fuel surcharges than BA with, even if the BA experience is superior. (And that’s also why I value UA/Star miles substantially higher than AA/Oneworld miles.)

  51. AA still hasn’t fixed the issue. I’ve been looking for a business/first class award ticket on AA metal trying every routing possible and have come up with nothing. I’ve called several times and haven’t had any luck with the agents. I was told that people grab up premium cabin award space right at 331 days out. I explained to the agent that I’ve been an AAdvantage member for years and have never experienced this. I’m afraid this is a silent devaluation. I sent an e-mail to my companies Airpass rep as well and am waiting to hear back.

  52. Of course they haven’t “fixed” the issue. Parker is in charge and this in intentional. An AAnytime domestic award can cost 100k now and US-Brazil 700,000+ one year in advance. Why would anyone put this latest stunt past the new AA?

  53. Still no business saver to Asia, I am looking for the winter time( Jan-Mar) no single saver award, However, UA is wide open, DL has some dates, AA has NONE. seriously???? no way its a glitch, has been a month now.

    my guess is US sales so many bonus miles

  54. Ben: Appears it was a glitch as having no problem finding both 1st & business saver awards to EU today. Granted, the availability increased for dates further into 2015, but had no problem booking RT first saver to Spain in May, return in June.

  55. People! This isn’t a “glitch” and it isn’t an “issue”. It’s POLICY. Forget your AA miles, they’re essentially worthless. Unless you get excited by “Aanytime” Economy award space. I guess there’s still that for confirmed masochists.

  56. Maureen is right, though, to an extent: I can find occasional award space to MAD although it means flying to DCA then BOS then LHR then MAD. So there are some more seats for (extreme) masochists.

  57. Yes, I’ve noticed that MileageSaverAwards to South America in general are very scarce. It’s too bad. Delta might get some more business, my friends are raving on their customer service. I wish American valued its customers as it did 20 years ago.

  58. Yes, I used to fly to South America quite frequently (EZE, GIG, GRU) and there used to be a ton of availability on mile saver awards. Not so these days. It’s almost impossible to find a milesaver award even many months ahead of time.

  59. True. I’ve been searching for MileSaver Awards to EZE– Buenos Aires (20K each way)– in the past few weeks, and from August to December most of the awards available are 55 to 75K.

  60. The only milesaver that I’ve had any luck with is to Europe. Planning far ahead. I have a trip in July 2016 and I was able to get 4 tickets to Paris (CDG). Then coming back I was able to snag Lisbon back to LA (via Madrid).

    My advice is don’t just try to book online. Call the agents as some codeshare flights don’t show up online or partner airlines. If the partner airline flights don’t show up on aa.com they won’t charge you to book the ticket over the phone.

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