American AAdvantage Increasing Award Costs For Select Peak Travel Dates

Take a deep breath, there’s no need to panic!

American got in touch with me to let me know about a minor change they’ll be making to AAdvantage.

The conversation started by referencing the AAdvantage changes last April, whereby American increased the cost of many “standard” awards, which have last seat availability.

AAdvantage-Award-Chart

Contrary to popular belief, the highest priced standard awards are typicallyĀ the most costly redemptions for airlines, as those are often seats which they could have otherwise sold. In other words, if you redeem a standard award for the last business class seat on a plane (even if it costs 175,000 miles one-way), and that seat could have otherwise sold for $5,000, that’s a costly redemption for the airline.

Standard-Award

Fortunately the change isn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting based on the start of the conversation.

American doesn’t have any blackout dates on AAdvantage awards, though for bookings made starting sometime in August 2015, they’ll be raising the number of miles required to travel on American metal on four of the busiest days of the year, presumably around the holidays. I’m told this should impact both international and domestic awards, booked in economy, business, and first class.

So if you’re looking to book holiday travel using AAdvantage miles, you’ll definitely want to book in the next several weeks if possible.

Personally I often find standard level redemptions around the holidays to not be worthwhile, even if fares are high. While it was sometimes worth it when the “standard” cost was double the cost of a saver award, at a higher cost than that it’s only rarely worth it, assuming you can otherwise efficiently utilize your miles.

Bottom line

All things considered this is a very minor change, and I really do appreciate American’s transparency in communicating this minor change so far in advance. They’re telling us roughly two months in advance that the cost of award travel on less than a handful of days per year will go up, while Delta can’t even tell us how much a SkyMiles award ticket will cost any time of the year. šŸ˜‰

If you are someone who books peak holiday travel using miles at the non-saver level, you’ll want to book in the coming weeks.

Comments

  1. And so it begins.

    I’m excited to see your adjective progression as they move to a revenue-based model.

    Signed,

    A Skymiles prisoner.

  2. Ben – I’m unclear. They’re raising rates for four days in August period, or they’re raising AAnytime awards only on those four dates (and sAAver remains the same)? Thanks.

  3. I tried booking off-peak AA award travel to Europe for the holidays 3 weeks ago and found nothing available on American metal at the off-peak level. Had to change plans to February.

  4. Would perhaps the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve be a couple of these “peak days”? That would make sense…

  5. I have been trying to book an Off Peak award to SXM on American since April and there is nothing available anytime of year. Even when there are at least 8 seats available for purchase and the seat map shows First to be empty.

  6. Definitely a minor change, but I think you’re giving them too much credit at this point. It seems like they told you directly since you are a travel blogger, and would probably be lambasted by everyone at boardingarea if they did this without notice, but I still haven’t seen an email communicating this change(may have just missed it) so unless you read this blog, you probably wouldn’t know. Let’s wait until they communicate to the general masses before praising them.

  7. Either AA is stupid (to trade $5000 for 175000 miles) or you are stupid (to believe them) or you are a write gun.

  8. Thanks for the heads up. Contrary to what George has indicated, I found availability to SXM from NYC area and since he did not give his location, his point is pretty worthless. By the way, I found availability in both Business/First and Economy.

    In addition, don’t you think that starting to look for award seats to Europe at the end of May for that summer is a bit late — I do!!!

  9. The last comment was intended for Jackie, who seems to have further qualified her desired dates to summer holiday periods such as July 4th and Labor Day. That just make is more unlikely to find award seats on such short notice!

    Again, an easily fixable issue if Jackie had only started earlier in looking for award seats!

  10. @John +1,000

    My thoughts exactly. Minor change, sure. Giving them credit for being transparent? Yeah…. Not if they aren’t alerting the masses as a whole because I sure as heck haven’t had an email notice.

  11. This is confusing, since the linked award chart shows level 1 and level 2 AAnytime awards, but there are more levels than that already (4 I think). AAnytime 2 domestic is 30K for Y and 55K for J, but check the Sunday after Thanksgiving (busier than the Wednesday before), and you can easily find AAnytime pricing of 50K for Y and 75K for J, one way.

    So I’m guessing either the level 4 pricing will increase, or they will be adding a new level 5 price tier.

  12. I wonder when all those people who jumped ship from Delta will realize what a horrible mistake they’ve made. The FF program is the only advantage that AA has over Delta at this point, and even that is chipped away at more and more everyday.

  13. I am a little confused. Does this mean they’re simply adding another tier to the Standard/AAnytime rates, or does it mean they are actually changing costs across the board for certain travel dates (i.e., increasing Saver rates as well as AAnytime ones)? The former makes some sense to me–I don’t know why they would go through the trouble and negative publicity of implementing the latter instead of just not making Saver awards available during peak travel periods.

  14. Well, Maybe Delta is trying to make a positive move. I can foresee an auction based frequent flyer program in future. Where you can book the ticket immediately by paying a fixed amount of miles bid using miles. If there is still empty seat left a few days prior to departure.you are able to pay with less miles.

  15. @ John — Well fair enough, though I’m also a travel blogger as far as Delta is concerned, and they don’t give me or anyone else advance notice of the changes and allow them to post about it.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t necessarily feel like this is a change which they need to communicate by email to everyone in advance. They send me updates on a roughly weekly basis, and a lot of them are very minor. Most of them are so minor that I don’t even bother writing about them, and my job revolves around these little details. Should they really clutter inboxes with every tiny change?

  16. @ Daniel — For tickets booked starting in August, they’re raising the costs for travel on four subsequent dates.

  17. I noticed that AA has over the past 3 days eliminated TONS of domestic saver availability (for US metal flights). Has anyone else noticed this? Is it a glitch now that all Dividend Miles awards now need to be booked at AA.com?

    There are a few routes I redeem on all the time without problem, and 4 days ago had saver award seats available on almost EVERY date next month. Fast forward 4 days, and there are NO saver seats are available on any date next month. How can an entire month with good availability just get wiped out that quick?

    It seems like flights departing within the next 10-14 days still have the “normal” level of saver award availability. Of course there are close-in booking fees to contend with, and uncertainty that the award will pop up.

    Has something big (quietly) changed?

  18. @ Luke — I’ll see if I can find any patterns, because I can’t say I noticed this. Interesting, though.

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