Did American’s Award Pricing Just Get More Dynamic Without Notice?

Update: See this post for official clarification from American as to what’s going on here.

If there’s one thing I’ll give American AAdvantage a lot of credit for, it’s what they’ve done a great job communicating program changes to AAdvantage members. They’ve provided advance notice of major changes, which I have a lot of respect and appreciation for (because other programs haven’t been quite as transparent).

In 2014 American adjusted their “standard” award rates, which are their awards offering last seat availability, rather than the typically limited award space that members have access to. While most of us try to redeem miles at the saver level, many people find value in standard level award tickets. For years American was by far the most generous in this regard, as standard awards were roughly double the cost of saver awards across the board, even for last seat availability.

However, they finally adjusted that a while back, and added a couple of tiers of standard awards, known as “AAnytime awards.” Here’s what their current chart looks like:

American-Awards

It’s worth noting that American has the following disclaimer:

AAnytime award levels vary by date and region. There are select dates that require a higher number of miles (in addition to Level 1 and 2 awards). When you search for awards while booking, you’ll see the applicable award level.

In other words, while the above standard award rates apply, there are some dates that are more expensive. The key here has been that standard award rates have historically varied by date, and not by flight. For example, all standard level awards between New York and Los Angeles on a given day should either by in one of the above categories, or if they’re more expensive, should be priced the same across the board.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Now we’re seeing dynamic pricing of standard awards on the same route on the same day.

For example, take the below flights between New York and Los Angeles, where the one-way cost on a given date ranges from 82,500 miles to 97,500 miles:

American-Award-1

Not only do those award prices not match anything on the standard award chart, but they differ between flights, which isn’t supposed to be the case. This isn’t just limited to one route, but seems to be the case across several routes, including Los Angeles to Miami:

American-Award-2

Some have suggested that this has been around for a while. If that’s the case, it seems to contradict the exceptions that American created for standard award pricing, so is worth calling out.

In and of itself this doesn’t impact me too much personally, since I’m not typically booking these high level standard awards. However, the precedent of them now offering different standard award levels on a given route on a single day is a huge step in the direction of dynamic pricing.

I’m reaching out to American for an explanation, and will report back. Hopefully it’s an error, though if it is, typically it’s simply foreshadowing of what’s to come, and was accidentally activated early. If it’s not an error, I’m disappointed that they didn’t provide any acknowledgement or notice of the change.

American-Business-Class-A321 - 3

Have you noticed any routes with dynamic standard level award pricing on a single day?

(Tip of the hat to @JonNYC and Miles Talk)

Comments

  1. Have you seen examples in the past of “all standard level awards … on a given day [being] priced the same [more expensive price] across the board”? I don’t necessarily read AA’s caveat as constraining themselves that heavily, and indeed it would be kind of odd if they did, since even on super-peak dates there are often less desirable flight times that wouldn’t warrant an increased award price. You could read it as saying “on some dates we reserve the right to have higher prices [on some flights].” Which effectively means they could already do dynamic pricing if they wanted.

  2. This has been around for over a year now. And the better the plane, busier the time, the more expensive it is.

    You can look at flight 68 from LAX-MIA – it is always more expensive because that flight is operated by the 77W that arrives from SYD every day.

    AA has been doing this for a while. They have figured out ways to make their core business travel passengers run away as fast as they can. They will pay for it in the long run as more and more business passengers go to other airlines.

  3. Yes, I was booking a trip yesterday and noticed this happening in Economy as well. Was wondering if I’d missed something in the awards chart.

  4. In your Miami example, I think the reason AA 68 is 52.5K is because it’s a 3-cabin flight.

    I know there is also an unpublished Level 3, as well as the few “peak” travel dates during the year that will have higher mileage, but I hadn’t before noticed variable pricing on the same route on the same date.

  5. I first started noticing this awhile back when trying to book a trip to Israel. I thought maybe it had something to do with the partners involved or the lack of middle east award rates, etc. Kinda weird though. I ended up just buying business tickets from AirFrance as it was super cheap at the time.

  6. This is been going on for a while. They do this on heavy routes. What I have done to avoid this is book saver award on different route or time and as it gets closer see if flight that is popular has empty seats and hope for saver award

  7. What is the data point on whether this more dynamic pricing by flight is a positive or a negative? Would we have only seen low level priced flights appear while others would price at the anytime rate or did they just take flights that were commonly low level and bump them because no one wants to fly at 6 am?

  8. You know, it would make it so much easier for AA’s IT department if they just eliminated sAAver awards altogether. Just think of the customer disappointment they’d avoid since the only availability for those awards involves 3 connections and a redeye; and they could certainly fit revenue-generating ads in the 3 extra boxes they’d have.

  9. What’s really weird is that this is, for the first time, where American has adopted a crappy Delta move, and didn’t wait for United to adopt it first.

    The world is a strange place.

  10. @Andrew is right, 3 class cabin get a premium if 7,500 points. Why the one is 15,000? Maybe its two flights on 3 class cabins??? Strange however.

  11. Agree. AA miles have become totally worthless/availability and value have deteriorated so markedly over the past year, I’m going to take my business elsewhere.

  12. Lucky, do you still consider yourself an AA fanboy? I see no reason to bank the miles with AA. I’d rather bank it with another oneworld carrier and get Emerald, which I can use the lounges on a US domestic flight. Domestic fcl fares are fairly reasonably priced.

  13. Standard Award flights to South America Region 1 went up significantly from North America today. Just noticed this.

  14. Yesterday I booked travel for next July 4 to Europe. 30K miles coach to London and 65K miles coach return from Paris. I felt pretty good getting 4 round trips during high season for less than 100K miles each. Very different from AA award chart.

  15. Hey! I booked an Business Class Award to Caribbean round trip a few weeks ago, one of the award prices was on the chart, one wasn’t. I didn’t bring it up because I thought it was known/covered haha

  16. what bothers me the most is the fact that they have always given notice (and one is always prepared for when those changes come) but then they don’t follow what they have been doing before….

    At least with Delta SkyPesos, I know there will always be changes and have low expectations.

  17. This has been the case for nearly a year on routes I fly. Ord to sea, clt, Mia, fll, lga. Also basically no saver availability on Thursday, Friday, Sunday or Monday and many Tuesday’s.

  18. “Dynamic” = Shittier, right? I used to love AAdv but I’m getting sick of it deval every other week, I’m changing to United, period.

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