How Much Are My Favorite American Awards Going Up In Price?

Yesterday American revealed the details of the 2016 AAdvantage program, which included a significant award chart devaluation. The devaluation shouldn’t come as a surprise, as American has had considerably more lucrative redemption rates than Delta and United for a while now. Not surprisingly, the worst increases in award costs are in premium cabins, and in particular in first class.

Yesterday my analysis of the award chart changes was focused on redemptions originating and terminating in the US. Obviously there are AAdvantage members based all over the world (especially since American frequently sells miles at a discount), so I figured it was worth pointing out that the mileage increases are sizable in other regions as well.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post with 10 of my favorite uses of AAdvantage miles, so I figured it would be interesting to look at those redemptions and how much their costs have increased.

Here are some of my favorite AAdvantage redemptions, ranked from the lowest percent increase to the highest percent increase:

US to Europe in business class

Old price: 50,000 miles
New price: 57,500 miles
Percent increase: ~15%

This is actually a pretty mild increase in mileage requirements, and is one of the changes I consider to be reasonable.

It’s not easy to snag economical business class awards between the US and Europe, so I’m not too surprised the price isn’t increasing more. That’s because:

airberlin-business-class-1

US to Asia 2 in business class

Old price: 55,000 miles
New price: 70,000 miles
Percent increase: ~27%

Cathay Pacific is quite generous with releasing business class award space in advance, making it a great use of American miles. With these award chart changes we’re seeing the cost of business class between the US and Asia 2 increase by 15,000 miles. That’s a sizable increase, though I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-A330-40

US to Asia 1 in first class

Old price: 62,500 miles
New price: 80,000 miles
Percent increase: ~28%

While the award costs for travel in first class from the US to Asia 2 went up significantly, the cost of first class awards between the US and Asia 1 (which includes Japan and Korea) didn’t go up quite as drastically.

A Japan Airlines first class award between the US and Japan will run you 80,000 miles one-way in first class, which is still a reasonably good value, in my opinion.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-34

Europe to Middle East in business class

Old price: 30,000 miles
New price: 42,500 miles
Percent increase: ~42%

For a long time the Middle East was a sweet spot for American’s award chart, as they charged just 30,000 miles for business class between Europe and the Middle East. So you could fly business class on Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Gulf Air, etc., and pay that very reasonable cost.

Now the price is going up from 30,000 miles to 42,500 miles. On a percent basis that’s a pretty huge increase, though I don’t think the pricing is that terrible.

For 42,500 miles you can still fly from India to the Middle East to Europe, which is potentially ~10 hours of flying. Still, a 40%+ increase in required mileage one day to the next sucks.

Qatar-Airways-A350-Business-Class-30

Intra-North America in three cabin first class

Old price: 32,500 miles
New price: 50,000 miles
Percent increase: ~54%

This is where the changes really start to sting, in my opinion. The cost of A321 first class between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco, or the cost of Cathay Pacific first class between New York and Vancouver, it going up by over 50%. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

American-A321-First-Class-01

Europe to Middle East in first class

Old price: 40,000 miles
New price: 62,500 miles
Percent increase: ~56%

Above I talked about how the cost of awards between Europe and the Middle East in business class is going up by 12,500 miles. If you’re booking first class, the cost is going up by 22,500 miles.

That might still be worth it to try Etihad’s A380 First Class Apartment, but a 22,500 mile increase overnight stings. A lot.

Etihad-A380-First-Class-01

US to Asia 2 in first class

Old price: 67,500 miles
New price: 110,000 miles
Percent increase: ~63%

I’d be willing to bet that this is the single award chart change which will result in the most head-banging. Cathay Pacific first class is one of the most aspirational and practical uses of American miles, and I’d guess is probably the single “aspirational” redemption people in our hobby have redeemed for most.

One day to the next American is increasing the cost of a Cathay Pacific first class award between the US and Asia by 42,500 miles each way. That’s 85,000 more miles roundtrip. That’s insane.

I suppose the one consolation is that fewer people will redeem for Cathay Pacific first class, and therefore maybe it’ll become easier to book Cathay Pacific first class again. That certainly seems to be the case with Lufthansa first class, which has become considerably easier to book since the United MileagePlus devaluation early last year.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-39

Middle East to Australia in first class

Old price: 60,000 miles
New price: 100,000 miles
Percent increase: ~67%

On a percent basis, the single worst increase we’re seeing is for first class travel between the Middle East and Australia. In fairness to American, this was an award which was previously rather underpriced.

Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Australia is a ~14 hour flight, and on top of that you can add on a flight from India to the Middle East and/or from Australia to New Zealand. This is most practically flown either on Etihad (including in the A380 Apartment), or in Qantas A380 first class.

An award increasing by two thirds from one day to the next stings, though.

Qantas-A380-First-Class-04

Bottom line

The above are just eight examples of award price increases we’re seeing for some of my favorite award types. There are tons of other huge increases, but the above are ones I redeemed for most, and am therefore saddest to see devalued.

The good news is that you still have roughly four months until the devaluation, so if you haven’t flown one of the above products, now is your chance.

Which award price increase are you most dreading with the AAdvantage devaluation?

Comments

  1. The US-Asia 2 F award. Planning a trip to China in late 2017 and have been espousing the benefits of CX F to a friend. We’ll be using a different currency to get those CX seats now.

  2. Agree with all the above. Even though there is 4 months to book those award tickets if you want to fly CX in first class or even business it is almost impossible to find at this point. Zero award space from US to Asia in first or business.

  3. For three-cabin first class it might now be worth considering Avios instead – if Avios are easier for you to acquire than AA miles…

  4. Lucky,

    Looking past the 4 months to book before the changes, what do you foresee being the general strategy going forward? I cant imagine Citi bonuses are going to increase. That 85,000 mile increase for Cathay first class is more than 2 of the AA standard platinum bonuses alone and thats just for the increase!! I consider myself pretty well read in the awards game but limit my luxury travel to 1 or 2 trips per year and dont fly much beyond that. So as of now I dont know how to plan for the future for two people beyond March, 2016. What are your thoughts?

  5. Most of us in Cathays Asia Miles / MPC are relieved the price for AA redeemers finally went up to a similar # of miles we use in our own program to burn F on CX metal. CX F is swamped with AA redemption tix, and the massive price differential and sheer #s of AA people in F is one of the biggest complaints of frequent CX F fliers. CX has been telling us for years they recognize our complaints…only to do nothing. At each of the last three CX Diamond dinners Ive been to in Hong Kong this complaint has come up each time by CX elites and mgmt has said it will change. I wonder if CX simultaneously has increased the price AA pays.

    It sucks for AA members compared to the great rates before, but it’s not unreasonable. The rates before were just insanely generous.

  6. How substantial is the difference between Cathay J vs F. I’m looking for specifics as follows, to help make my decision:

    – Is the lounge different/better? I suppose this depends on where you leave from, so lets assume ex-US.
    – Is the boarding/checkin better beyond being able to board a couple minutes earlier?
    – Is the food different? E.g. caviar in first class but not in business?
    – Are the seats and beds substantially different (to the point where sleep quality suffers).

    As an example, I’d say Etihad and Emirates have a substantial difference in terms of an on-air shower, an experience you simply cannot have in business class. Similarly, SQ has a substantial difference in terms of a double-bed ensuite, an experience not existing in first class.

    What is Cathay’s clear differentiating experience (besides simply “more attentive staff because less people to cater to” or “extra 3 inches of legroom”), since staff and seat-legroom are fine in business too unless you’re very fussy.

  7. I plan to make multiple bookings for late 2016 and early 2017 from North America to Asia and Middle East to Australia. What will happen if I need to change the date of the ticket after the award chart changes? Will I have to pay the additional miles?

    Thank you!

  8. So…one day we know that the SPG program will change or die (my main way to get AA miles), and the next day this devaluation!!! The more devaluations that I see the more I am starting to think that cash back cards are the way to go…sadly…

  9. My favourite awards have just doubled in miles cost, despite the notification email from AA saying they are reducing in cost (which they are only if you’re based in the US). As a
    London based traveller, 20,000 miles one way to Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii were excellent value coach awards, now all increased in price by 50-100% (Hawaii now 40,000 miles one way). A a regular Caribbean traveler this is a major devaluation.

  10. Lucky,

    Will there be any change to the miles required to Upgrade a domestic economy ticket using miles? Currently for domestic upgrades, they charge $75 and 15,000 miles per leg.

  11. Jon, I will give you my 2 cents as a CX regular:

    – Is the lounge different/better? I suppose this depends on where you leave from, so lets assume ex-US.
    ** I usually fly ex-JFK, the lounges are pretty blah either way.
    – Is the boarding/checkin better beyond being able to board a couple minutes earlier?
    **Depends when you get to the gate. CX boarding is generally a clusterf**k. Lots of rude people cutting lines, often delays.
    – Is the food different? E.g. caviar in first class but not in business?
    **Correct. The food is worlds better in First. Not bad in J, but exceptional in F. YMMV.
    – Are the seats and beds substantially different (to the point where sleep quality suffers).
    **Yes. The F seat is remarkable in its size. Bedding is above average. Your sleep quality will not suffer in J, not by any stretch of the imagination. But the F hard product is in a class by itself.

    Overall, I’d do F at least once if you can. But if I were stuck with CX J for the rest of my Asia visits (which it looks like I will be after April) I wouldn’t be too bummed.

    Hope this helps.

  12. I don’t think a lot of AAdvantage members redeemed tickets on the Middle East to Australia route until after Etihad started flying it’s A380.
    I just heard about the AA devaluation since I arrived back home this morning.
    Were there any routes where the pricing decreased? When UA Mileageplus published its new award charts, there were a few routes that decreased in price (I believe their reasoning was not many members redeemed miles for those routes.)

  13. Definitely most sad to see the Europe to Middle East/ Indian sub continent going up from 30.000 to 42.500 there where some fund products to try out: Etihad Apartment, Qatar J on the Dreamliner or A350. And some pretty special destinations: Nepal and the Maldives springs to mind.

  14. I am wondering if American gave Etihad some sort of heads up about this devaluation. On the Etihad site Guest Availability in F and C ex-USA for next year seems to have been gone since Monday. You used to at least be able to find F seats on the “Jetihad” flight out of JFK, but now even those are gone. Coincidence or Etihad’s pre-emptive way of making sure AA-miles users don’t go crazy booking all the open awards before the change in March?

  15. I agree so much with your value in AA points. These are the redemptions that I am most likely to make.

    The clear thing I see with this devaluation is that AA points are worth much less. In fact so much so that this could be the death of “Points” credit cards. Really the only credit cards that are looking of value is cash back credit cards.

    Do you think we will see cash back credit card rates decrease now?

  16. Which routes from west coats to Asia 2 would you more likely to find F awards? Checked a couple months near Summer 2016 out of LAX and not finding anything.

  17. @Bob Trial

    I am curious…what is the complaint CX passengers had regarding AA redemptions? Is it that CX passengers couldn’t redeem them because the award seats were gone? Is it that they cluttered up what would otherwise be an emptier cabin? I ask because if most of the CX first seats are available last minute, then those are otherwise going unsold and unbooked already. CX passengers would have access to that inventory as well. Sure, there are a ton of AA redemptions. But is that at the expense of CX passengers? Or revenue passengers? I guess I just don’t see who AA passengers would be hurting under that scenario.

  18. You mention that there are good awards available on Jet Airways in Business from USA to Europe. Jet Airways just announced today that they will be closing their scissor hub in Brussels from March 2016, so that will not be an option anymore…

  19. @ Cory

    The ‘hurt’ comes because:
    1. AA elites have been able to ‘lock in’ a J award and then upgrade to F with no surcharges but just the mileage difference as soon as they opened up later; this is not possible for CX members.
    2. Partner (AA/BA etc) award availability has been the same as that for CX’s own members, much to the latter’s disappointment. Sometimes partner redeemers can grab award seats and trump CX members waitlisted for the same flight, which was a big bummer.
    3. And of course, the rates on the AA award charts (and earlier ago, BA’s) were much more favorable than CX’s own award chart.

  20. @JL
    Thanks. I actually know almost nothing about CX’s program, but I can definitely see how that would frustrate CX members. Surprised CX hadn’t done anything to address those issues as other airlines have done.

  21. @Lucky – your comment on the Middle East to Australia on First class (SEE BELOW)- I’m confused. !!
    If I am in the US, would I not require an originating flight to get to either Dubai/Abu Dhabi or India in order to make this trip effective ?
    ————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Dubai or Abu Dhabi to Australia is a ~14 hour flight, and on top of that you can add on a flight from India to the Middle East and/or from Australia to New Zealand. This is most practically flown either on Etihad (including in the A380 Apartment),

  22. You say first class between Middle East and South Pacific is the worst devaluation. I’d argue that business class on the same route is. I’m currently in Australia having flown AMM – DOH – HKG – SYD on a combination of Qatar and Cathay. All for 45,000 miles. Same route will now cost 80,000 miles. An increase of over 77%!!!

  23. @ Jason Horner: That’s because they don’t have a strong feeder network in Brussels. They’ll fly via another European city – rumor is it is Amsterdam, since KLM doesn’t serve Mumbai nor Newark.

  24. I’m not really dreading anything about the new award chart. The increases in the awards I’m interested in (US to Europe in F/J) seem reasonable compared to other programs.

  25. No. Thats pure speculation. If they were transitioning to another hub they’d have announced it with the closure of Brussels. They’re just keeping their LHR station for direct flights to India, and transitioning all the USA flow to partner Etihad hub at AUH.

  26. As a Middle East to Europe traveler the whole reason I started collection AA miles is because the redemption was far less than Qatar Airways. Now its only 500 miles less than QA!

    There’s also no QA availability for the two return trips to London I will be making before next summer so doesn’t look like I’ll even be able to use the old rewards one last time!

  27. American has thrown Canadians under the bus. All awards originating/terminating in Canada used to be the same as those in USA, but now they’re all higher. Result is a stinger for awards like CX from YYZ to Asia2. The increase for Canadians is even greater than those Ben complains about in this post. When you combine this with the fact that all purchases of miles are processed by points.com, a Canadian company, attracting a 12% Canadian tax in addition to all US taxes, you basically dump Canadians by the side of the road. All postings hereon about buying miles during promotions, all redemptions that are bargains for US residents, are too expensive to be worthwhile to prudent Canadians.

    American has essentially handed us all over to Air Canada.
    Yuck

  28. Hi Lucky,

    Sorry, but I disagree you on your last point of Middle East to Australia First class rising the most.

    I had my eye on Middle East/India to Australia Business class award, which was 45000 each way. Now its a whopping 80000 one way. Thats a ~78% increase !

    Also, very few agents, if any, allow India to be added as a flight to/from Middle East on this award. I have tried multiple times and AA reservations computer always prices itineraries like BOM-DXB-SYD or SYD-AUH-DEL as 2 awards.

    Has your booking service made this specific booking India to Australia via Middle East in any class? Could you provide me a data point for the same?

  29. Doug Parker had an opportunity to be a leader in the US airline industry. I have written him about the same thing. This only shows that he is a follower, doesn’t value his elite flyers and is taking AA down the same rat hole he did with US/AW. I am disappointed and some what disgusted that my business isn’t worth holding onto vs. DL or UA.

    Regards,

    Robert Heiserman

  30. Talking about redemption on Middle East to Australia you wrote:

    “… on top of that you can add on a flight from India to the Middle East and/or from Australia to New Zealand.”

    What does that mean? Is there a free connection to NZ or Inida bookable in the one-way award ticket?

  31. PS: We are preparing a Lawsuit against AA in Germany because of the
    illicit devaluation of USAW Dividend Miles last year (even prior to the announced date) and probably aswell the devaluation of AAvantage Miles this year. Does anyone know about such lawsuits in other countries / the USA?

  32. yes, you can add a free connection. I book a flight yesterday 1st class SYD-AUH-DEL. super easy

    adriano says:
    March 14, 2016 at 12:10 am
    Talking about redemption on Middle East to Australia you wrote:

    “… on top of that you can add on a flight from India to the Middle East and/or from Australia to New Zealand.”

    What does that mean? Is there a free connection to NZ or Inida bookable in the one-way award ticket?

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