As we probably all know by now, American is devaluing their award chart for bookings made as of March 22, 2016.
The devaluation is significant between many regions, as the cost of some of my favorite awards is increasing by 60%+. For example, the cost of Cathay Pacific first class awards between the US and Asia is increasing from 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles one-way.
In many ways this devaluation is match the United MileagePlus devaluation from a couple of years back, making AAdvantage miles not nearly as lucrative as they used to be.
How will award changes be handled after the devaluation?
One question I’ve been asked repeatedly is how will American handle award ticket changes after March 22? Can you book an award before March 22 and then make changes afterwards while preserving the old mileage rates?
To answer that question, let me start by posting two reminders:
- American AAdvantage makes award seats available 331 days out regardless of whether you’re looking to fly American or a partner airline (meaning if you ticket an award on March 21, 2016, you’ll be able to book travel through February 15, 2017)
- All tickets are valid for a year from the date of issue (meaning if you ticket an award on March 21, 2016, all travel has to be completed by March 21, 2017)
With that in mind, it’s my understanding that AAdvantage award changes post-devaluation will work similarly to when AAdvantage and Dividend Miles integrated.
Post-devaluation you can change an award and maintain the price if the award doesn’t require reissue. That means if you’re traveling between the same origin and destination in the same class of service and the same general set of airlines (either American, oneworld partners, or non-oneworld partners), you’ll be able to make a change after the devaluation and preserve the price.
However, if you make any change which requires the award to be reissued, you’ll be charged the new cost, as this will require the old award to be redeposited and the miles to be deducted from your account again.
What’s my plan for making bookings?
My plan is to book a few awards as far out as possible for travel post-devaluation on routes I know I’ll fly. For example, I might book a couple of first class tickets in Cathay Pacific first class from Los Angeles to Hong Kong for 11 months from now. Then I can always change the dates without issue anytime up until a year from the date the ticket was issued.
If I wanted to get two seats in Cathay Pacific first class, I’d probably book two seats on separate flights (since Cathay Pacific rarely opens up two first class seats on a single flight far in advance anymore), and then when I see two seats on a flight I want, I’d make that switch.
The good news is that the type of awards which don’t require a reissue also don’t come with any change fees, so you can move around dates and times freely without incurring any fees.
If you have a lot of AAdvantage miles to redeem, I’d start thinking about what kind of speculative bookings you want to make. I’d wait until as close to March 22 as possible to make the bookings, though, so you have as long as possible to use the tickets.
To keep things simple I’ll be making bookings out of major gateways, so that I won’t have too much trouble finding seats at a later point (ie, Los Angeles to Hong Kong, New York to Abu Dhabi, etc.). I’d rather pay for a positioning flight to a major gateway than being stuck paying the new award cost in case I can’t find award space to the gateway.
What’s your strategy for making post-devaluation AAdvantage bookings?