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:
- Most transatlantic business class awards are on British Airways, which imposes huge carrier imposed surcharges on such tickets
- American is extremely stingy with availability on their own flights, aside from brief periods where they seem to make tons of awards available
- Fortunately there are some decent options on airberlin, Finnair, Iberia, and Jet Airways, which come with reasonable/limited surcharges
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?