The Sad State Of American Award Availability

I’ve long been an advocate for American AAdvantage. Not because I think American as such is superior to Delta or United, but rather because their loyalty program has been a point of differentiation for them.

I’d like to think I’ve been fair to them, and I’ve encouraged people to fly with them because I truly believed in the value proposition of the AAdvantage program. Has the program been perfect? Absolutely not. But I’ve been willing to forgive the shortcomings because of how great the program was otherwise.

One issue I get a lot of comments about is how abysmal American’s award space is on their own flights nowadays. Back in the day American was incredible about releasing award seats on their own flights, by far the best of any US carrier. Years ago I remember there being saver level award space more often than not, in particular on transpacific flights.

That has changed over time, and American has certainly gotten stingier with award space. But I’ve always sort of forgiven that:

  • “Well, American’s elite program is great, so it’s a small price to pay.”
  • “Who wants to fly American longhaul anyway?” (at least when they used to have their old product)
  • “As long as we have good partner redemption costs, who really cares what international award availability looks like on American metal?”

But now that the program is being devalued, I think it makes sense to revisit American’s award availability for their own flights. I’ve searched a vast majority of longhaul routes for travel in 2016, all the way up to when the schedule opens ~11 months out.

Perhaps the most jarring example of how bad American’s award availability has become is evident when looking at space over the Pacific (to Asia, as well as the new flights to Australia and New Zealand). For all of 2016, American doesn’t have a single saver level first or business class award seat on a single flight over the Pacific. Not. A. Single. Seat.

American-Awards

And that’s looking at all routes to Auckland, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, and Tokyo, over a period of ~10 months. At some point you almost have to wonder why they publish saver level award rates for their own flights when that space doesn’t exist.

American-Business-Class
There’s not even saver award space for travel in American’s old business class across the Pacific

It’s sort of sad when you get to the point where Delta can be used as a poster-child for releasing awards on their own flights. Just to give an example, Delta has saver level business class award space on their own flight between Los Angeles and Shanghai almost every single day ~10 months out.

Delta-Awards

That’s just one example, not that Delta is generally great about awards. But fundamentally I take issue with an airline virtually never making saver level award space available in a market. Like, not even one seat a day, or even a seat a week, or a seat a month, or a seat a year…

When British Airways devalued their award chart recently they made a guarantee to Executive Club members, that they’d make two business class and four economy class seats available for awards when the schedule opened:

We guarantee that more than 9 million reward seats will be available on our flights this year, with a minimum of two Club World/Club Europe and four World Traveller/Euro Traveller reward seats on all British Airways operated flights that are offered for sale on ba.com (excluding subsidiaries and franchises).

These minimum guaranteed reward seats will be made available 355 days before the flight and will remain available, if not booked, until 45 days before departure.

British-Airways-A380-Business-Class
At least British Airways guarantees business class award space

Not that the airline is great with award space in general, but I think that’s a fantastic “promise” to make, which gives people an incentive to try and earn points in the program.

In fairness to American, they do have some award space in 2016 to Europe and South America. It’s not great by any means, but at least there’s some.

Bottom line

Personally I still don’t view American’s lack of award space on their own flights internationally as a huge loss for the most part (perhaps except for the new flights to Auckland and Sydney, which I’m excited about), since I’m not dying to take them.

But there’s also something I find disingenuous about publishing a saver level award chart for travel on American but not allocating any seats to that inventory.

Do you have an issue with an airline consistently not releasing any saver level awards in advance across dozens of routes?

Comments

  1. My favorite destination for travel is Europe, besides the LAX-LHR 1st class redemption I was able to do in AA when they first open the route, for the last 2 years I have not found anything on AA for saver awards. I have done all my travel to Europe on BA with huge fuel charges.

  2. When does it cross over into fraud? If they had one seat a week, I could say it’s shady but more or less legit. But, to have no seats ever? That seems like outright fraud.

  3. It’s really time for someone to hold AA AAcountable. They “promise” saver seats but no longer deliver. Atlantic is NEARLY impossible – pacific is nuts.

    With the changes to availability, earning, AND redemption – I’m no longer loyal to AA.

  4. Ben- I agree with you 100%. I think Doug Parker and the his U.S. Air team has ruined Am. Adv. for the worse. What really gets me mad is how hard it has become to get a domestic award tickets to a connecting international flt! All America’s new management cares about is maximizing profit.

    Also have you seen how Parker and team have raised airfares in many cities. A lot of times they don’t even match the lower fares of another carrier in a given mrkt. Hey we are American Air and we can charge whatever we want. American is the poster boy for what went wrong with airline consolidation from a consumer point of view.

  5. I just like that you use that same picture of BA’s biz cabin with that guy on the right eying you just over the seat divider. Cracks me up every time.

    But I do think AA’s complete disregard for saver level space on their own flights to be outrageous. We are left to the whim of their partners to book awards. At this point there is no reason to be loyal to any of the US airlines.

  6. I saw this too – no Saver space to AU or NZ all the way into October 2016! The website is also showing phantom space on Qantas when trying to find space from Europe. Itineraries involving Finnair seem to come back as “no longer available” as well. And of course, US-based agents can’t seem to find Etihad J or F space. Not that there’s any left now! At least there’s still JL and CX… maybe…

  7. They don’t release award seats because they don’t have to. Many other airlines do the same thing. Nothing new here.

  8. Absolutely true!
    I have been posting on other sites like “View from the Wing” but have not gotten any feedback or posts on this until yours! It is atrocious and when AA devalued this time I didn’t really care since you cannot find saver awards so there is no point in flying their own metal. But why leave the first and business class seats empty rather than have atleast one or two open for award booking? Boggles the mind!

  9. American doing this is somewhere between a huge back door devaluation and fraud. How badly are your bridges burnt with United? It’s stunningly sad to say, but I’m actually considering them. Stopovers allowed, better availability, never a fuel surcharge, etc.

  10. I had almost 90,000 Aeroplan miles. I wanted to fly to UK. I was unable to find any flights at all to redeem my miles. I decided to buy Best Western Gift Cards instead. I got $800 in gift cards for 88,000 miles.

  11. Is it possible that the award travel game is about to implode? That is, if AA can make money without offering benefits to frequent fliers (like award seat availability), they will eliminate those benefits. This was just step one.

  12. @John

    ” I think Doug Parker and the his U.S. Air team has ruined Am. Adv. for the worse.”

    It wasn’t that much better with Horton. The value’s been sucked out for years.

    Of course, a few weeks ago, Lucky was posting about how USA-LHR availability was wide-open, on this very blog. I guess Doug Parker must not have been in charge that day or something.

    “All America’s new management cares about is maximizing profit.”

    Which is, by the way, what a publicly run airline is supposed to be doing, running the business for the benefit of their shareholders, not the readers of blogs like this who come up with schemes on how to pay 90% or more discount on their first class seats and drink Krug and caviar.

  13. I try to use AA for Europe—–AA HAS TURNED INTO A FEEDER airline for BA – almost every search turns into a BA flight via LHR with huge fees—-if willing to pay none saver can easily find AA flts at 110K AND 140 BIZ “ONE WAY”

  14. In my opinion a lot of this has to do with a ton of people all trying to burn miles. I spent 3 days (like 20 hours of time) booking a trip to Austria and Germany. I was able to find 1 round trip into Zurich in August that I held for a few days, it actually just went back into inventory I would imagine. I finally settled on a Business routing through Manchester to Vienna and back home in First from Milan on AA metal. It is hard to find space for sure but it’s a supply and demand problem right now combined with low availability. AA should realize this is a problem and release more space. What’s even worse is that the AA.com doesn’t seem to let you book some partners like AB or AY lately without calling.

  15. They have significantly shrunk their premium cabins to accommodate the flat beds and the fact that they used to have way too much capacity on average.

    Bloggers can argue that upgrades and awards are what drive “loyalty”, but they are not what drive bottom lines. Paid fares do. An upgrade or a saver award is essentially an “oops” we didn’t have the right config on this route today. For the last couple decades there were a lot of those “oops” moments happening on regular basis, even on a Thursday evening flight that should be full of business travelers. As airlines have completed retrofits or bought new planes they have fixed the supply to match the actual premium demand in most cases.

    Smaller cabins plus all-time-high demand means its a pretty simple equation not to release awards seats months in advance.

  16. I can never find connecting domestic availability to connect to partner flights. I suppose they’re available a year out but those juicy last minute (or even last month) partner awards require a revenue positioning flight unless you live in LAX or ORD or DFW.

  17. It’s going to get worse. Airlines can do whatever they want now. Because oil is at decade lows they are raking it in and DO NOT CARE about consumers.Thank god I don’t have to fly often like you.

  18. Thanks for putting up a post on this. I know I’ve harped on it in the comments recently as have others. I knew saver availability was terrible, but ZERO transpacific seats for ten months. Yes, I would call that fraud. With partner award space drying up rapidly, all those AA miles are looking more and more useless if one planning to use them for premium cabin long haul travel. Delta is actually looking better all the time. Operationally they have been superior for quite awhile; now their FF program suddenly looks competitive, too.

  19. @Alan Graham – Where are you flying from? Aeroplan has a pretty good award tool with various options from US to the UK with a connection or two. Lufthansa releases F seats very close to departure. Doing a random search for a week in December 2016, I see JFK-LHR via FRA on LH and a return on OS via Vienna

  20. Equally as concerning, there isn’t a single seat non-stop JFK-LAX or LAX-JFK in Business or First thru end of schedule…

    -JRL

  21. eponymous must be high on cheap drugs.
    The saver availability has been atrocious since Parker came aboard on AA.
    I’m sitting on ONE MILLION plus AA miles because they are useless for traveling to places I frequent.
    Screw Parker and screw eponymous and all AApologists.

  22. Tried to get flights from Toronto (YYZ) to Glasgow (GLA) or any other UK airport but Air Canada only flies to Heathrow (LHR). Couldn’t find any flights using Aeroplan.

  23. It’s a huge lost internationally, because most of the partners (TATL) are on the east coast. I’d rather fly AA from LAX-LHR than AA domestically to ORD, MIA, JFK, DFW, etc (usually on a 738 other than JFK) to connect with a partner.

    The only choice these days is to pay for the domestic leg and then fly a partner. So much worse than a non-stop on a 77W.

  24. Has anyone noticed recently that AA agents will tell you that two awards are needed because two segments are in different classes? I assumed the agent may have been an ex USAir person but they didn’t have a southern accent

  25. About time this has been brought up. I like many others here have a boatload of AA miles that I have been wanting to redeem to Asia, Australia, and Europe. There are always countless flights available to/from Europe in the saver level but they are always BA flights…all of the AA flights aren’t available. I know we can use Iberia, but for a family of four coming back from Seville we had to spend nearly $600 in Economy for fees on Iberia. AA has so many flights from all over Europe and makes none of them available.

    Asia like you said is also a complete joke, and Australia/New Zealand you can forget about. For a family of four that can only travel over the “school holidays because my wife and I work at schools”, options like Cathay are always out of seats before we can access them with our AA miles because of the 20+ delay in us having access to them.

    I can’t believe I am saying this, but I have been going through my Delta Sky “Pesos” like crazy because unlike AA they actually have TONS of flights available even from my tiny little airport even over the school holidays for the most part. You have to spend more Delta miles compared to AA in almost every situation, but unlike my AA miles…at least I can use them. Thank goodness for all of these mergers and the lack of competition.

  26. Um, not to defend AA but….

    A week after we all learned of a huge devAAluation, we’re Shocked! Shocked!!! that we can’t find seats for the sweet spot in the current chart.

    Like the rest of you I’ve been drinking the Kool-AAid and I feel like I’m sitting on lots of pAAsos. However, I’m comforted by the fact that 80% of Cathay’s flights from my home have J seats available. 50% of them have 2 seats available. So, I’ll pack my bags, put them by the door and wait until 3 days before travel. That day, or the day before/after, I’ll find what I need.

    It’s not that I have no sympathy for those who want to book well in advance. It’s just that I don’t think that’s the reality. The seats we want are the ones that they “couldn’t sell” for big money. Why should they set them aside and choose not to TRY to sell them? When should they release premium seats for us? I don’t blame the carriers for holding back until the last minute. The ones that AAnoy me are the ones that don’t release them, even last-minute, then fly with empty premium seats. That, IMHO, is rude, disingenuous, sleazy and downright frAAudulent.

    Are we watching a trAAnsformation in Lucky’s loyalties?

  27. I hadn’t thought about this until I read this post, so thanks for bringing this up! You think if enough of their members voice concern they will open some space up? You would think this would upset their one world partners, since it effects them too.

  28. I find this funny. AA saver awards were ALWAYS difficult to find even before the merger…unless you booked right when the window opened or waited until maybe 6 mos out or within a week or so of departure. Nothing has really changed except that now all the AA masses (and those who’d switched over from UA and DL) are finally discovering the bait and switch of AA. Everyone was so ecstatic to have a non-revenue based loyalty program that they never bothered to recognize that saver premium class awards on AA metal were difficult to come by unless you got paid a lot more miles for standard awards. Even with standard awards, AA premium award flights were ALWAYS harder to come by than those on UA. And there are far more UA partners from which to choose than there are with AA–especially without fuel surcharges. I still fly AA using premium award flights when I can get them–almost always at standard levels–but I can always find UA premium award flights, both at saver and standard levels. DL awards are a joke to me, and I just flew DL F LAX-PVR a few days ago for Thanksgiving–but used AS miles for less than half the miles that DL required for the exact same flights. To me, UA and AA are good for F and J awards, but you almost never find them on AA compared with UA. I’m quite thrilled I stuck it out with UA, thank you very much.

  29. Just searched to SYD for first class…can’t even figure out what a MileSAAver price should be since there’s not dates with one available. The charts I find are all out of date and the current ones don’t show Australia….maybe another way they are moving to be like Delta. If you don’t have a published chart how do you know if you’re getting screwed…

  30. Here is a real world consequence for AA. I and EXP and just booked a RT paid J ticket from JFK to India for December. AA had a workable fare connecting through LHR on to BA. In the past, I would have jumped at that itinerary. Instead, I booked on EK. The fare was marginally lower (a few hundred $) and the connection in DXB is easier than LHR. The only compelling reason to book AA is the AAdvantage Miles I would earn. The lack of premium cabin award availability, coupled with the pending devaluation, makes the benefit of these miles look far less appealing than before.

  31. I was actually really surprised on a recent trip to ICN that saver space opened up at the same time upgrade space did. So it isn’t entirely true to say that it’s fraud, because they do seem to occasionally offer seats at the advertised price. Something I’ve noticed (maybe just my experience or the days of the week I’ve been travelling?), but C has been completely full on transpacs from DFW after processing upgrades. I can see why revenue management would choose to hold back saver space when the seats will be filled with paying customers — even if those customers haven’t really paid for an actual business class seat. However, there are many times when F has been virtually empty and no saver awards are ever made available. That seems to be a genuine failure of revenue management to monetize the space.

  32. Thankfully I got my international redemption for next year booked up before the shoe dropped. I was hoping to get a chance an an economy saver seat to position me better to ORD, but even finding economy saver 6 months out is missing.

  33. I am finding Bus Saver Awards in April/May and a few other months. If I search RT…. NADA. But if I search for two 1-way tickets I am finding them.

  34. Remember pre-merger when certain airline execs told the Department of Justice, the media and the public that the US-AA merger would be good for consumers?

  35. Give it some time. As the economy stalls further around the world, business travel will drop and things will open up again in the premium classes. People think they can just book awards to OZ/NZ – they are the most difficult awards to find anywhere! The real problem at the moment is award availability within North America.

  36. I’m generally able to get Saver award seats as I need them but checking a recent redemption yielded only economy space. However, checking the availability on both segments shows no front cabin seats occupied (or sold?) and ExpertFlyer shows J7/D7 (transborder Canada and Caribbean flights). So AA appears to not be offering at least one premium cabin Saver seat on every flight as most airlines do in their FF programs, particularly for their own members.

  37. @Stephan, I agree. The economics for airlines are the best they’ve been in years not only because of lower expenses (oil, as you mentioned), but increased demand. There’s no reason to make premium cabin seats available for saver awards when well-to-do leisure travelers and business travelers are willing to pay top dollar. Plus there are plenty of folks who don’t know how to value their points/miles (like my parents and anybody else over the age of 60, who happen to have the largest accumulation of miles vs other generations) and will willingly redeem awards at the standard level without realizing they’ve been fleeced.

    The music will probably stop sometime soon, but til then this is the new normal.

  38. Internationally, aa has given us little reason to fly with them (except for the new j class on 777300). Food and service is mostly a joke….and the f cabin has no reason for existence. Yet, aa’s pricing does not take into account the carrier is inferior to most (if not all) of the major foreign flag carriers. Personally, I told my business to book my full fare tickets on aa because of the loyalty program. But now it’s not just the devaluation of the awards….it’s also the downward trajectory of the recognition and benefits provided to elites (even at CK level the experience is very inconsistent). All this points in one direction: premium revenue travelers will base purchases purely on schedule and service levels. Aa is going to learn the hard way here. Their products and services are not world class–and they don’t seem to understand the options available to us in the markets with highest yields.

  39. While I was on the phone with an AAdvantage agent once, she mentioned offhandedly that American was making no trans-Atlantic AAdvantage seats available on its own metal. All AAdvantage traffic was being pushed to BA, meaning of course that any ticket would incur $400+ in fuel surcharges.

  40. For a couple of years now I have periodically been posting here that AA has already done a devaluation. I’ve called it a “stealth devaluation”, because they didn’t publicize it, and they didn’t announce it, they simply implemented it thru progressively reduced award availability. It’s been a steady downtrend for at least the last 5 years, but got suddenly much worse the past 2 years.

    Up until now, not only has no one responded to my posts, but for the most part no one else has seemed to even understand what I was talking about. Suddenly today, lots of people are waking up to what has been the reality for the past few years.

  41. While I don’t begrudge you your personal opinion, it is apparent that you are basing your evaluations on “how it affects me” rather than how it affects your readership. You didn’t care because it wasn’t anyplace you wanted to fly? Really? London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Barcelona?

    It was because you have sooo many points you could get there on another airline.

  42. The UKs ASA (advertising standards agency) considers 10% a reasonable number to offer your lead in fare at, if you advertise it. I would suggest they’d consider the same for miles. May be worth complaining to them about false advertising if you’re UK based.

    On the other hand I found 2 x F awards LHR-AUH (EK) / HKG-LHR (CX) on my preferred dates ~7 months out no problem yesterday.

  43. AAdvantage has become AAdisAdvantage. You can thank Ms. Suzanne Rubin, President of the American Airlines AAdvantage® program, for this..

  44. Forget TATL TPAC, and forget the new chart. Since the merger I cannot even get Santo Domingo to Boston without THREE legs. On. Every. Single. Date. Or SDQ to anywhere domestic for that matter. Never. Seems that absolutely everything has to go through Charlotte. None of this is new news. My wife and I each have 7 figure balances… oh joy.

  45. They should be AAshamed. As should BA because they are complicit in this bait and switch. They’ll happily take your $800 to sit in an empty seat.

  46. Yup, we stopped flying AA and dumped the Citibank CCs when I noticed this. Nobody seemed to listen then, though. Nice to see some press about this, for whatever it’s worth.

    We won’t be back until it changes but are in no hurry, that’s for sure.

  47. I still search saver awards but know when I start that the game is fixed.
    I’ve actually found an economy seat using. Standard award but, thankfully took the time to search inventory in First. Economy standard –> 70k each way; First saver –> 50k each way.
    Even their search tool appears shady.

  48. @Sam

    “Screw Parker and screw eponymous and all AApologists.”

    How is saying “um, no, really, it’s been going downhill for a while, well before Parker came on board” being an “AApologist”?

    Basically, what @Robert Hanson has said. Hmm, let’s do some math since he brought up a date. About five years ago the US was bottoming out of a huge worldwide recession which dramatically impacted air travel (including putting American Airlines through Chapter 11 bankruptcy). Now, we have record high demand for planes in terms of seats being filled. Hmm, do airlines want to give away as much inventory at a time when they can sell it instead? I think I’ll answer “no”.

    Also, if you have a million miles like you said, buy AAnytime. You have plenty of miles to buy AAnytime on any route you want if you have a million miles. You are just too cheap to do so, which is your privilege, and it’s your privilege to whine about it, but AA isn’t stopping you from flying on miles. They’re just doing it at a price you don’t want to pay.

  49. How funny I make a comment about this 2 weeks ago and got blasted by your reader who didn’t care about award space, but how good it is to have AA flying to NZ, how you write about how horrible the award space is, I sure hope your readers blast you too for this post…

  50. @Maxwell:

    Manufactured spend, buying miles in programs, being a free agent instead of “loyal” to a brick or a “loyalty program” that will never love you back, and realizing that the day of the TPA-MIA-CLT-JFK-ORD-DFW-PHX-LAX-SFO redeye mileage run for $99 to get RDM is over and done with, history, kaput. It was fun while it lasted, but airlines have decided to shut down this particular casino game, so you move on to the next one.

  51. It would seems like all the whining and grumbling is coming purely from the elite crowd – if anyone has read AA’s investor transcript – 50% of AA’s customers travel with them only once a year and that 50% of some of their market’s revenues are still up for grabs where they are directly competing with low cost carriers. Backing out that 50%, and other hub captive Exec Plats who don’t really have a choice and need to continue flying AA, I’m sure AA has already run the math and decided they could lose the rest of us EXECPLAT to United and still be fine (in fact, they might be hoping for that to normalize capacity/load factors/elite ratios, thereby making the move a self correcting one).

  52. “AA isn’t stopping you from flying on miles. They’re just doing it at a price you don’t want to pay”

    Yep, we got those miles, whether thru BIS trauma, or credit card spend, etc with an award chart promising FC TATL at 62,500 miles, and Anytime at 125,000 miles. Now for the most part all AA will give out is the horribly inflated new Anytime price of up to 215,000 miles. For the mathematically challenged, that’s close to 4 times the Saver price, and close to double the original Anytime price. And yes, I call that a stealth devaluation, regardless of what the fictitious award chart may show.

    There was a time when AA was losing money on every flight, and the only way they stayed in business was thru the profits of the FF program selling miles to banks etc. Rumor is Citi bought somewhere north of one Billion dollars of AA miles. Which is the only reason AA is still in business. Now that they have cut capacity, oil is cheap, and business travel is way up, they want to pretend none of those sales ever happened, and that when they open an award seat they are “giving it away”. The colloquial name for this type of operation is “Ponzi Scheme”…..

    I do however have proof that AA follows this blog. Every time Lucky posts something like this, AA almost immediately opens up award space. I guess they are hoping that naïve readers will read the post, quickly to go AA dot com, see open award space, and disregard the entire blog.

    Anyway, right now between Sept 18 and Oct 2 there are 8 dates with 2 J seats per flight from LAX to LHR. And a whole boatload of one seat per flight awards for FC Saver LAX-LHR. 33 dates with one seat per flight in Saver J between July 3 and Oct 18.

    I haven’t got any way to check, but I’m pretty sure none of these were available before Lucky posted the above. Not to mention the commenters who used the F word…”fraud” 🙂 Can’t tell you how often I’ve seen this happen. So maybe if Lucky runs a post of this sort every single day….?

  53. This is all a result of the mega airline mergers. The less competitive the airline game is, the less our miles will be worth. Watch what happens to fares when you get down to a 1 carrier market.

  54. For Award flights from DFW…..or anywhere….to Europe, aa.com will ONLY give you going on BA to LHR with ripoff fuel charges. No AA, AB, IB, Finnair flights. None.

  55. I don’t know if this is all Parker fault. I never had too much trouble finding premium seats to Europe when it was US Airways.
    I agree that now the choices to Europe are always through BA (with the fuel surcharge joke while oil is the cheapest in years). Or you can get flights on AA, with 23 hours crazy layovers. If you sit on a pile of miles, burn them and then start selecting carriers based solely on quality, schedule and cost. Forget loyalty and status. It is better to seat in economy plus on NZ from LAX to LHR than on a AA first.

  56. @RobertHanson

    “There was a time when AA was losing money on every flight, and the only way they stayed in business was thru the profits of the FF program selling miles to banks etc. Rumor is Citi bought somewhere north of one Billion dollars of AA miles. Which is the only reason AA is still in business. Now that they have cut capacity, oil is cheap, and business travel is way up, they want to pretend none of those sales ever happened, and that when they open an award seat they are “giving it away”. The colloquial name for this type of operation is “Ponzi Scheme”…..

    Award inventory has ALWAYS been based on giving away excess capacity that the airline didn’t think it was going to sell. That was how AA came up with it in the 1980’s: give away seats you weren’t going to fill as a loyalty incentive.

    This was at a time where 70%+ of your seats going out full was doing pretty well, by the by.

    And AA awards back then came with free hotel and car rentals, and the miles didn’t expire, the charts were better, etc., ad nauseam. So anyone thinking that “devaluation” is something new that AA came up with in the 2010s with Parker, is actively misremembering history or is just unaware of it.

    Good Lord, people, it says RIGHT IN THE PROGRAM TERMS that AA can change the program any way, any how. The courts have agreed with them. You’re playing in a casino where if the people running it don’t like the fact that you’re winning at blackjack, they can kick you out, or change the rules. You’re on the blog of someone quoted in major media as thinking airline executives are stupid and he’s going to outwit them… and you all are somehow shocked, terribly shocked that the joint’s being closed because gambling is going on, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, at a time when airlines are better informed about which customers are profitable and which aren’t than ever before, when big data is out there, at a time where airlines make money selling miles to banks and to us?

    “Anyway, right now between Sept 18 and Oct 2 there are 8 dates with 2 J seats per flight from LAX to LHR.”

    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/10/22/american-business-class-awards/

    One month ago. As I stated up above.

  57. One would think that as AA migrates to a revenue based earning system, that miles have a cash value that should translate to an award. Seems like they should open all seats to saver reward.

    While WN has had a revenue based earning system for a long time, all seats are available for reward travel, not the case with AA/UA/DL.

    I think it has come to the point, that corporations should negotiate corp fares which do not earn miles, and it they do not, the traveler should be taxed on the value of the miles, as income to them from the portion of the ticket providing the future payment for travel.

    Only tickets paid for by the traveler should be except from taxation as one is really paying an advanced payment (say 10%) of the fare towards the purchase of future ticket (like money in the bank).

  58. @DaninMCI

    >>In my opinion a lot of this has to do with a ton of people all trying to burn miles.<<

    Oh, that is exactly what is going on. Years ago, pre merger, AA publicly admitted they expected no more than 1/3rd of AAmiles to ever be redeemed.

    AAdvantage is designed to use empty seats. AA never had any intention of throwing to the elites the seats they could sell.

  59. I have also noticed that they have taken away the systemwide upgrade options for all of PVG flights. Really discouraging to be flying AA.

  60. I have given up looking for Awards on AA. It’s pathetic. Looking months out yields nothing. AA is getting worse. Most of their FA stand in the front talking with each other more than provide any service. The wait time and knowledge of their AAngels (grin) is becoming a joke.

    OK. Venting over.

    @Lucky – I couldn’t agree more. Not. A. Single. Seat.

  61. Agree. American airlines should be ashamed of this behavior. Commenting From the sky on an aa flight right now. From someone who occasionally actually buys business class tickets in addition to using award tickets, this kind of behavior makes me consider other airlines when in the past I was pretty loyal to AA. I hope they are reading all the comments on your blog because it will have an effect on their bottom line. It’s not just points hoarders/award seat users who notice this… Customers who pay for tickets notice as well and can take their business elsewhere.

  62. Completely agree with this blog post. I was looking for AA first from LAX -> NRT, started looking in 2014, and it took 5 months until they somehow must have accidentally released something. The entire month (October 2015) opened for business and first, I got my two seats, and the whole month was closed (first and business) the next day.

    So either there is an insane demand for these (unlikely, I saw empty cabins in F on many dates), or there is an aggressive revenue management team that doesn’t want to part with a single dollar more than they have to. It certainly comes at a price, since I’m back on UA / *A now.

  63. Sure they can change the program at any time, but when is it false advertising?

    Lucky, when everyone is getting screwed, why is it necessary to even attempt to be fair to American? Wasn’t it last year when they devalued awards booked close to departure dates? And now this? At what point do you, and the rest of us ask for some honesty and accountability? And please stop saying awards are available at ridiculously great redemption rates from now on, please? Just because one company hasn’t devalued yet doesn’t mean it’s a great deal. It’s not like awards are priced the same as when the programs first started.

  64. They just blocked all the F seats from LAX to JFK, EVERY SINGLE ONE.
    I guess this is related to devaluation, they will probably release some on March 22nd…. :sadface:

  65. Isn’t the whole point these days to earn status so that you’re treated marginally better for the end-to-end experience?

    Redemptions of miles for “free travel” is anachronistic and a bit of a side show as far as I’m concerned.

  66. As an AA Exec Plat and an expat based in Shanghai, I have little to no use for my AA miles despite my frequent business class flights back to the US for work and vacations.

    To echo everyone else, I’m glad you are finally discussing. But I disagree with your bottom line, AA does not to rectify the situation. There is no way that this can be an acceptable practice.

  67. I’m encountering the issue of AA not having any Business Class award seats on any of it’s flights right now. Trying to book a trip to Europe in Business Class for 2 and all that keeps showing up are BA flights which require approx. $2000 in fees. Since we are located near BWI, I’m naturally checking PHL to Europe (flexible on destination) and only checking AA operated flights…..well NOTHING is available for months on out. IAD and BWI showing nothing as well even though we could connect at another AA hub like ORD, etc.

  68. @ Christian, check PHL to FRA, yesterday after this post I was able to book 2 Business class tickets for July 12 2016,

  69. I have had a similar problem. Have been looking for rsw-pek award availability and it is abysmal. Overpriced award space (NO savers – EVER!) with routes with RIDICULOUS schedules that go like this: rsw-jfk-sfo-ord-pek and pek-dfw-lax-dca-rsw. You can find some better award space if you do a multi-city award and connect in hnl (example: pek-hnl-dfw-rsw), but it’s still not that good. I used to be an advocate for American’s frequent flyer program, but they no longer are the best due to devaluations. In fact, with what American has done with it’s FF program (can’t believe I am saying this), they have made Delta come out on top. Can’t WAIT for next years Freddies!

  70. Can’t remember who said it in this post, but yes indeedy-do AA reads this blog. My proof of this is I was checking on multi-city availability just a few minutes ago and pek-hnl-rsw has disappeared (I get this error message “We are unable to provide a price for your itinerary. Please contact…”). It was there a few days ago. I am sick of this baloney and having invested in an airline that obviously does not value my loyalty. Yes, in the past I could have booked cheaper flights/hotels/cars through other airlines that gave MUCH better service, but I always used AA.com instead because I knew that they HAD (extreme past tense) a good FF program. Gonna cancel those AA related Citi-Cards (and I will let Citi know EXACTLY why) and start investing in a FF program that does not give me the royal runaround.

  71. Yes, indeed. Notify Citicards and Barclaycards that AA is cheating them and their customers. They pay AA a lot of money for miles that have become almost useless. You and others will have to switch to using credit cards with other airlines for personal and business travel.

  72. The far bigger issue right now is the complete lack of F space on partners. I have been searching for Cathay and unless you. An travel last minute there is nothing, even 11 months out. EY has zero F space ex US. Qantas F might as well be a unicorn. What partner F can we book for 2016?

  73. Simple solution – buy the flights that you need and do the spending you need to on the card of your choice. When you have enough miles in whatever program, redeem. Airline points aren’t savings or legal tender. They are a scheme. Treat it as such.

  74. BTW – THANK YOU LUCKY for this post!!! This is an issue that has been eating at me for some time and other bloggers (who are poster children for AA) ignore the issue. AA is using bait and switch methods and if enough incensed people speak up, perhaps things might get better. And Anthony, it very much sounds like you are new to the FF world. We do use the card of our choice and redeem within reasonable time frames. It’s agreed that it’s not legal tender, however when people sign up for something and are loyal, they expect to get what they were initially promised.

  75. Priscilla – try JAL out of LAX. Look for availability 6 months or more out. I tried this about a week ago and found availability on Cathay. Happy Thanksgiving!

  76. eponymous, you can defend AA all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that AA saver seats became ridiculously after Parker came aboard.
    Yes, AA saver seats were becoming more scarce like all other airlines before Parker, but not as ridiculous as now.
    I’m not whiny like you. I’m just stating what I observe.
    As for my AA miles, I’ll spend the way I want, not like eponymous on cheap stuff.

  77. So eponymous wants me to basically spend one million AA miles to fly about two roundtrips on AA F AAnytime awards.
    Now I think eponymous is really on some cheap drug.

  78. Priscilla – try JAL out of LAX and check for availability 6 months from now. This is an option I may have to use to get to where I need to, and I tested it about a week ago. Million Mile Secrets talks about how to use JAL’s portal, but I am assuming you already know how to. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  79. Priscilla mentioned Etihad – isn’t this a coordinated effort?
    There is ZERO F from the US and it seems perfectly timed with the devaluation announcement.
    The new development though – they seem to release some F last moment, they haven’t done it before.

    Crazy. We all are trying to book something great before March, but AA is fighting this pretty hard.
    I bet $50 they will release some good seats on March 22nd. Any good lawyer out there?
    Is there any chance to sue those b@#$%?

  80. I was looking at the first half 2016 to SYD last week, and there was plenty of business saaver availability on Qantas. Today, there is none.

  81. This is insane.

    After I wrote my little note here that there was zero F seats on LAX-JFK flagship flight,
    magically they released Fridays and Saturdays. Not much, no 2 seats on the same flight,
    but a few single seats EVERY Friday and Saturday. Crazy.

    They are really reading this blog. Maybe we should mention word “lawyer” more often…

  82. I reported to AAdvantage the fake availability Australia-Europe, particularly in First Class, a fortnight ago. The website is still showing mainly phantom space and nothing has been done.
    Incompetence or fraud?

  83. Dear AA,

    Dallas Beijing on 12/28/2015 AA263 nobody in Business and Coach is wide open. Please open 1 seat on SAAver award. 140 One-way is cra cra!

    Please be nice in Christmas

    Love me

  84. Pacific looks good. But try to get an AAward to Europe next year on AA, AB,IB, Finnair. ONLY on BA via LHR with ripoff surcharges.

  85. Could not agree more, especially with the explat expat in Shanghai. I am 2 million miler lifetime Plat and live in Singapore. Been loyal for … a very long time. I travel HKG/DFW often. There is scattered coach saver availability here and there, but as Lucky points out – NOT. A. SINGLE. F/J SAVER. EVER. I am pleased to see I am not the only one feeling screwed over by this. The comments above about the 1:1 correlation between posts here and availability that suddenly appears (and then disappears just as suddenly) is a hoot. What else could explain that bizarreness? It certainly does not appear to have any rational relationship to foreign concepts like customer service or, God forbid, actually rewarding loyalty.

    Goodbye Citi and goodbye Aa. There are other cards and programs out there that don’t make you hurt so much when you sit down….

  86. I agree with Lucky. Somehow in the last couple of years, AA has made this move which I think is completely dishonest. How can you publish a chart when no seats are available for that rate. I live in one of AA’s hub city, and travel every week and often pay last minute fare. I used to like AA a lot, now I have to rethink which airline I should pick.

  87. All of this will be moot in 2 years or so.
    When I can get on Delda and get first class RT domestically for only a few dollars more than Comfort Plus, the end is near for all perks at all levels. The raffling off of empty FC and Bus. seats means that soon the major airlines will make these premium seats pay something rather than nothing!
    So the whole system will come tumbling down; the only question is what lies and deceptions the Big 3 will try to palm off.

  88. I’ve been loyal to American for a decade (since I started to travel frequently), and have been Exec Plat for nine out of the last 10 years. I live between NYC and London so travel this route at least every eight weeks. Since the merger, not only have saver awards tickets on American disappeared, so has the ability to advance confirm VIP upgrades. I find the latter especially frustrating, since there’s no option to use them on partner airlines even if you would be willing to suck up additional surcharges. With the plan moving to mileage accumulation by amount spent rather than distance flown in the middle of this year anyway (a model European airlines have been doing for a while), the inability to book VIP upgrades and saver awards on American leaves no reason to stay with AA that I can see. I’ll be switching to one of the European carriers, who at least offer better lounges with more services this year. I’d rather have a VIP upgrade than a 15 minute express facial at LHR. But, hey, I’ll take what I can get.

  89. I understand that AA is in business to make money and to please their shareholders. For a while these priorities will probably work, because what can any of us do about it. I suspect, however, that someone in the market will figure out that they can also make some money by appealing to the hoards of disaffected AA patrons. I renounced AA once before when it looked like they were going down the tubes and sticking us on decrepit planes that would scarcely have been acceptable in third world countries. Then came the rollout of their new AA, with bunches of shiny new airplanes on the horizon. So, back I went with a new AAdvantage credit card. Now this. OK guys, it’s the old “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” I don’t think so. I am always willing to give some consideration to a person or a company if they are having a hard time, but seem to genuinely be making an effort. But, as evidenced by these many responses to this issue, it seems perfectly clear that AA has not one whit of responsibility to those of us who purchased their product. I, for one, will no longer be doing business with them and will look for some way to dump my largely meaningless AA miles. Won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. AA won’t change because of anything I do, but there may be a groundswell here that ultimately AA and its bottom line will not be able to avoid. Question is, will it be too late for AA? Big guys have gone down before!

  90. Saver awards to South America are ridiculous…

    AA has a direct flight from LAX to GRU on a 787. When you search for this itinerary, they will send you LAX – IAH – MIA – GRU. Basically to get from anywhere in North America to anywhere South America in less than 3 legs, they’re forcing you to book at anytime award levels. Looks like this is the case for pretty much any destination at this point. Even if you can find them, saver awards are useless. It’s a joke.

  91. I wish I had better news. There are still no save award level seats available over the pacific for the next 7 months! I got tired and stopped searching once I hit September. Its ridiculous. I was platinum for over a decade and now switched to United as of Jan 1st of this year. I should have switched sooner! I have been upgraded to first (complimentary) in 9 out of 11 flights with UA since then. I would not have even been upgraded once with AA since I was not Exec. Platinum. I have 200K miles to burn, but no availability to use them. SO LONG AA, you will not see me on any of your flights for a very long time, if ever again! Oh, an the availability in UA is miles ahead of AA. And when there is space, I can actually fly direct, and not through 3 different cities like AA makes you do to go down to South America.

  92. No MileSAAver awards to Europe except, once in awhile, on BA to LHR with ripoff surcharges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *