I’ve Accidentally Discovered A Way To Save Up To 75% On American Tickets

No, this title isn’t clickbait. I’ve discovered a way to get huge discounts on American, and this method doesn’t violate any rules. Actually, finding this was just dumb luck. Let me explain.

I was in Italy a couple of months ago, and for whatever reason Chrome has saved the Italian version of American Airlines’ website ever since. I suck with technology, and haven’t bothered to change it back. So every time I visit aa.com I manually change the country and language to the US and English. I’ve literally been doing that for months. How inefficient.

american-italian-fare

I’ve been trying to book some tickets for travel over Thanksgiving, and they’ve been outrageously expensive. One way transcon economy tickets are pricing at $350 at a minimum, and often at $600+. Ouch.

Today there was a fare I was looking at on American’s US website that had one seat left, and it kept disappearing when I went to the page to try to confirm it. After getting frustrated, I figured I’d try American Airlines’ Italian website, since it was the default in my browser all along.

What did I discover? Domestic American fares are often much cheaper when booking through American’s Italian website (or presumably many other foreign AA websites as well).

Just look at the calendar search pricing over a few days. Here’s the lowest price through American’s US website:

american-ticket-discount-4

Meanwhile here’s the lowest price through American’s Italian website:

american-ticket-discount-3

To compare specific flights, take a look at this flight between Tampa and Los Angeles, which is pricing at ~$605 one way:

american-ticket-discount-1

That same ticket through American’s Italian website costs 148EUR, or $157:

american-ticket-discount-2

That’s nearly 75% off. I assumed this had to be a glitch or that I was missing something.

While I didn’t ticket exactly the above, I ticketed something very similar, where the American website was showing a ~$600 fare, while I paid ~$150. Much to my surprise, the ticket issued within minutes, and showed in my American account as well.

While the point of sale can impact ticket costs, I didn’t expect it to be that drastic or consistent with a major US airline. Typically the cheapest fares won’t be cheaper on American’s website, but if you’re in a situation where tickets are expensive, American’s foreign websites may have access to lower fare buckets.

Hopefully some of you can save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars using this trick!

Comments

  1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are now working hard to resolve this pricing error

    Sincerely,
    AA Revenue Management

  2. Wow! That’s crazy! I am glad you have discovered (and reported on) it! Will be interesting to see whether after your post, they might try to “fix” it.

  3. Strange. Maybe depends on origin/destination/date? I just checked the same for a random flight from JFK to MIA on 12/13. Flights are pricing cheaper on AA’s US website than the Italian version.

  4. I discovered this back in my US Air days a few years ago. I don’t know about the rules for AA but there were restrictions for Americans doing this with US Air. I can’t recall specifics but it had something to do with residency. I’m going to definitely look into this – had completely ruled it out. New hope!

  5. UA had an issue like this with a fare and invalidated all the tickets because it was viewed as intentional.

    AA really needs to fix that int’l site bug. Stuck with the Danish version for months after a trip there.

  6. I’ve had the same issue with the .it website since I flew AA to FCO … I’ve actually looked for several flights these past few months on there and the € price has usually been within 1% of the $ price.

  7. Are you sure using a site other than that of your country of residence doesn’t violate the T&C’s in some way? I thought this was the excuse that was used a couple of years ago to void the mistake fares on the Danish websites.

    FWIW, you can sometimes find the same thing on Norwegian Air Shuttle. Premium Class from LGW-BOS on the US site priced out at $621. The UK website priced out at 474 euros, or about $520 at the time. While not a 75% difference, it’s still meaningful.

  8. The cheap price on italian version is basic economy that is not refundable but on US AA site it is refundable.

  9. What’s really amazing to me, from a technical standpoint, is the sheer number of countries you’ve been in since you were in Italy! Combined with all the places where you’ve been and used a VPN, it’s almost impressive that it was stuck on the Italian site.

  10. Lucky is a piece of shit for telling the world about this, why publish this and let American Airlines quickly fix the flaw. It’s times like this I am glad people hack your travel accounts and cancel your trips / reservations.

  11. Why publish this and let American Airlines quickly fix the flaw. It’s times like this I am glad people hack your travel accounts and cancel your trips / reservations

  12. This may not have been posted as clickbait, but I would imagine it has been a hot thread! It got me to click through right away, as an AA EXP, that’s for sure!

  13. You should delete this article now if you want to keep getting discount AA tickets before they find out (Seriously). Funny you should mention Tampa to Los Angeles, was just looking for flights 🙂

  14. same thing with Air France website happened to me
    i was booking RT flight from paris to LAX business class fare on french website was 5700€ while in the Air france US website it was only 3500$ !
    i ve noticed the same thing with air miles space availability, the US website was offering much more space than the french one …

  15. For some odd reason, AA has teamed-up with Amadeus for the European version of aa.com (as opposed to the “ex in-house” Sabre GDS used in North America). On this occasion, different fares identified as “private” (= usually restricted to some agents/ticketing points) have been (mistakenly?) loaded to Amadeus only…This is the reason for them to show-up only on the Italian (or any other EU-based aa.com page). Definitely not a discrepancy on availbility/inventory, or a “VPN” trick. I have checked other routes, and it seems that they have a few others (e.g JFK/LAX, MIA/LAX) loaded the same way at this time. Not sure if this is intentional or whether it will last however !

    NO REBOOKING REQUIRED FOR LOWEST AVAILABLE FARE
    LAST TKT DTE 18NOV16 – SEE ADV PURCHASE
    —————————————————
    AL FLGT BK T DATE TIME FARE BASIS NVB NVA BG
    TPA
    XCLT AA 713 G G 23NOV 0639 G0AHZNN2 23NOV23NOV 1P
    LAX AA 2057 G G 23NOV 0920 G0AHZNN2 23NOV23NOV 1P

    USD 127.44 23NOV16TPA AA X/CLT AA LAX127.44USD127.44
    EUR 119.00 END
    EUR 8.89US ZP TPA4.00CLT4.00XT EUR 7.44ZP EUR 6.98XF
    EUR 5.21AY TPA4.50CLT3.00
    EUR 14.42XT
    EUR 147.52
    RATE USED 1USD=0.930094EUR
    FARE FAMILIES: (ENTER FQFN FOR DETAILS, FXY FOR UPSELL)
    FARE FAMILY:FC1:1-2:MAIN
    FXU/TS TO UPSELL FIRST FOR 670.86EUR
    > PAGE 2/ 3

  16. Mark is correct. It’s a private G fare. Availability in G exists for your flight but the lowest public fare is M. For some reason Amadeus loaded a private fare for public distribution. It’s not a POS issue.

  17. I just checked a flight DFW to Hong Kong on Italian site. The when I went to USA site, my AAdvantage account is disabled, so AA already appears to have taken steps to stop this. I could not log in and wen tried a password cahnge, they said I needed to call AAdvantage. WTF

  18. Lucky, to hell with @TheDude. the criticism you take for sharing things like this is irrational. 90% of folks who make those comments would never find something like this on their own. so at the expense of the ~10%, you get to open this up to 1000x more people for a short while, and we all get to learn something new about an airline or the industry. these blogs are about connecting with others, which is exactly what you enable. screw the haters.

  19. I’ve done this in the past a couple of times using the German AA website, it wasn’t a 75% saving but still quite substantial. Good reminder to check this again next time, I almost forgot about it!!!

  20. Thanks Mark & Bo. That explains it. A lot of times also, when going through Google Flight to AA, it will provide lot cheaper tickets than booking with AA direct.

  21. I don’t know why people are so critical of Lucky. For what it’s worth, similar cases have been posted in the past, you just have to look it up in FT.

  22. I know that with Norwegian, this has been a thing for a while — it was cheaper to book flights on their Norway site than their US site (though I don’t think the difference was quite as stark as this).

    Rolling my eyes (respectfully, of course) at those who think you have some sort of moral obligation to keep these things secret.

  23. Anyone tried to book?

    In september i tried booking some flights at AA site, when using iPad i get On the US site but from PC i Got the DK site, and the Price was +100% On DK site, so ofcourse i try booking On iPad, but when entering CC details it ends up showing DK Price.

    Finally i just booked through Justfly as i Got the US Price at Them.

  24. Not new to me. As Mark explained, AA is using Amadeus in Europe (not only Italy), which can lead to different fares. They are sometimes (but not always) cheaper. However, the Amadeus internet booking engine is less capable than the US one. Complicated multi-leg journeys are difficult, if not impossible to construct. Therefore, it might also end up being more expensive, if you cannot book a through fares. Other difficulties can be experienced in terms of additional services (e.g. seat reservation).

  25. I took the fare basis provided by Mark above (G0AHZNN2) and shown on the fare rules and made a booking my GDS (I’m a travel agent). When I forced the fare at this fare basis, I got “RULE FAILED – CAT 35). Since I could not display the fare rules in my GDS, I looked at CAT 35 fares on ATPCO and found this explanation:

    CAT 35 – Negotiated/Net Fares, Fare Component.

    Category 35 is a subset of private fares but contains multiple fare levels such as the Net amount remitted to the carrier, the Selling Fare, or the Gross/ticketed fare level. The category contains security, authority, fare creation information and ticketing information including commission. When Category 35 exists and Category 15, security in Category 35 prevails.

    Assumption: Absence of Category 35 means the fare is not a Negotiated/Net fare.

  26. Just tried the French version of the AA site, and priced r/t LGA-MIA-VVI (Santa Cruz in Bolivia) in Business, the price is the same as the US site.

  27. Good chance your ticket will be cancelled as your IP address was in the US, your residence is in the US, and your CC is a US card. UA had a glitch on a foreign site like 2 years ago and they did not honor them. I see a cancellation in your near future.

  28. FYI American uses Amadeus’ (GDS) pricing and booking engine for all of its e-commerce done outside of the US. That’s where this ‘discrepancy’ is coming from, and is likely just a point of sale filing thing.

    AA is not going to take kindly to pointing this out…

  29. Lucky, can you please make another post by your travel date for whether or not your ticket was cancelled? This would be a cool trick to use in the future, but not at the cost of having to rebook later (when flights may be more expensive)

  30. @Hugh B. Yes, it was a joke….but if you don’t think AA employs full time rats to sniff out cheese like this, you’re kidding yourself.

    I have a hard time believing Lucky could be this naive to not realize his post would lead to AA becoming aware of this glitch and making changes now that it’s been known to his entire readership.

    I’m very disappointed that Lucky would choose to post something like this. Anything for clicks… sigh

  31. Earlier this March, I booked a roundtrip for my family using AA India website that was cheaper by half price than what the US websites showed. I’m not sure how long this trick will last now, now that yur massive readers will try the same and AA will fix it soon.

    Oh well while we are at it; just search via flights.google.it or flights.google.in or whatever and yu get the same cheap rates at that currency ; no need to use all that VPN and Hide IP BS

  32. AA will revoke these tickets, there is a precedent with another situation last year with a ridiculous overseas fare people were buying. The tickets were intended to only be sold in country so it was determined they could cancel tickets from those out of country who were clearly going around their local market.

  33. This is such an incredible find! Assuming you saved this page while you were in Italy, is it easy to access the Italian server while still in the States? Putting a pin in this for the next time I hop over the pond! Thanks!

  34. I had the same experience with Hertz when I was traveling to Brazil. While I was there I needed to rent a car in San Francisco a few months later, and I noticed the prices were much cheaper than I was used to paying. When I came back home to the U.S. the Hertz site would default to the BR site and continue to offer me much lower prices on any rentals in the U.S. That eventually went away, but it was nice while it lasted 🙂

  35. @MG and The Dude-if this really bothers you so much I have a great way for you to reduce the number of clicks to his site: simply stop following him. The rest of us will be happy to not read your ugly comments. It must be really horrible to be that angry.

  36. Ray
    ur most correct this gos on BUT it is like ONE cent to the Big Boys a great deal to a Cave Dweller..

    CHEERs

  37. I have played around with different countries websites for a while but have never found a really great deal like this except for 1 time booking a JAL flight. I am curious, if you plug these flights into the ITA flight matrix and change the point of sale to a city in Italy will it give you the same results as the AA websites?

  38. I cancelled my plans this thanksgiving because of insane fares, but found a great fare using this method. do you guys think I should book the flight and plan accordingly?

  39. OMG – some people are paying less than the American rates? Gee! Is it a problem fare or is AA actually pricing their flights cheaper to others in the world?

    Probably not a mistake fare.

    I purchased a new car in Toronto (Datsun) for $2500 with a delayed delivery (this was in my youth long ago). Then got married in Vancouver (port of entry) and the price in Vancouver was $3500. Brasso Datsun would not budge on price even with my invoice so eventually I took delivery of my new datsun in Toronto – with a shipping invoice from – ta da – Brasso Datsun.

    So pricing is set by markets – if they have the market you pay full price. If they want your market then they discount.

    Keep searching Lucky and pls keep us informed.

    ps – any secret pricing for flights from DXB to MLE?

  40. Yes, this works best if you also have a foreign passport (which I do) AND you use a VPN to position yourself as a person in the country.

    Also note that round-trips to the US are invariably cheaper than round-trips from the US for the same destination. So once you position yourself overseas then, assuming you travel regularly, you can buy round-trips from there to the US and back at big savings.

    Immigration and Customs don’t appear to care

  41. It isn’t. The second thing but a weird thing happened to me recently flying between YYC and ORD on a code share flight between AC and United. The AC website wanted $1400 CAD for two economy seats for a flight actually operated by United. United’s Canadian website sold me the tickets for just over $1000. That seemed crazy to me but maybe hats normal with code share flight?

  42. @Ray. You know who’s going to be angry? Those readers who use this “trick” then have their rez cancelled right before their trip and have to pay a last minute fare now that American has been made aware of this loophole.

  43. I did the same thing on LAN. If you chose your country as U.S., the one way Biz Class 787 fare SCL-IPC was running $2000 vs. $510 one way (if you chose country as Chile) for the exact same flight LAN prices significantly lower for the local market.

  44. Oh wow lets just email AAL’s CEO next time. Such a warm fuzzy feelin…

    Bloggers – can’t blame them as thats what they do to earn $ 🙂

  45. @Tomas be aware the the cheap LAN fares REQUIRE proof of residency (clearly stated in the fare rules). You may be uncharged or denied a BP upon checkin if you cannot provide a residency card for the country of issue.

  46. This is an old trick for many airlines/hotels/travel sites. While I wish Lucky didn’t single out American for this as other airlines have similar price differences, I’ve also seen the same for textbooks and electronics over the years. I even have seen Google Flights suggest booking one leg in USD and another in GBP.

    Differences in price can be due to exchange rates, markets, etc. Just another tool of many which frequent flyers can use to get the best deal.

  47. Old trick that doesn’t always work. I just checked a flight and found the price to be 3x what I found on the US AA site.

    I’ve booked a couple of trips on Alitalia’s Italy site over the years and saved a couple of hundred bucks. I’ve found the same thing true for some trains in Europe as well.

    It’s not always going to work and I’d be curious to see if they close it down / cancel the reservations. I’m sure somewhere there are rules prohibiting it.

  48. Seems similar to using Norwegian on the .no site , though strangely sometimes the cookie from .no makes the prices change n the other versions of the site.

  49. “AA is using Amadeus in Europe (not only Italy), which can lead to different fares. They are sometimes (but not always) cheaper.”

    Agreed. Savings on a flight — ONE flight; hardly definitive — was $304 on Amadeus versus $340 on the US website. But REMEMBER to use a card that has NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES or your savings will disappear.

  50. For many years I used Canada based travel agent to book hotel stay in Caribbean saving lots of $$$. So it is totally possible to find a better price on a none-US site. But I don’t think you will find a significantly better price on companies international site.

    I checked AA international (India, France, UK, Germany, Nederland…) sites from PHL to AUA and found the marginal difference most likely due to currency exchange rate.

    You are better look for none-US based travel agency for deals.

  51. The haterz can suck it.

    I see this happen on Asian airline’s website, albeit in reverse. Some of those carriers will only release expensive/higher fare bucket tickets to the GDS’s that distribute in the US, but their fares on their own website are much cheaper. I’ve bought tickets on airlines in China and Vietnam like that, and have never seen a restriction that says “for locals only” or anything like that.

    China was tough, because at the time, ctrip only took Chinese credit cards. Lucky for me, I was in grad school with a bunch of Chinese kids.

  52. Using Net Shade 6 on an iOS device will allow you to choose the IP address for your browsing session. You can show a U.S. IP, a Canadian IP, or a European IP, to get around the merchant limiting access to local markets.

  53. I have used this trick a couple of times, usually when AA US tried to charge me extra airport taxes, or when EF show some availability on an specif class, but AA US/CA/UK don’t. I saved $47 for each ticket last week, but it was not a fare difference, just an extra airport tax.

    In your case is showing a fare class that is not available for SABRE, eventually they will close that loop for some base fare that (may/may not) suppose to be available for the public.

  54. Lucky – what is your logic for what its OK to post something like this publicly? In all seriousness, please explain.

  55. I don’t get all the handwringing from those who are against this post. Lucky is a travel blogger. If he finds something relevant to the world of travel (which this is) he will post it to the benefit of his readers.

    If that logic flow is too difficult to follow, I’m happy to draw it out for you.

  56. @Ben — It’s not like this is “brand new” news . . . after all, it’s been known for quite some time that (for example) fares are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper on Norwegian Air Shuttle if you go to their website in Norway (norwegian.no), versus their US website (norwegian.com). Other airlines are also known for these differences; check it out for yourself.

    You can interpret it anyway you want to: the price difference was significant enough that Lucky felt it was newsworthy (OK, “blog worthy”); it is “clickbait”; or, it’s just simply running a business. Whatever. I’m more curious why you seem to be objecting to it.

  57. Jason,

    I think Ben felt he was “special” knowing this, and now he isn’t special any more. FWIW I knew about this too but don’t object in the slightest to Lucky noting this – it’s his job to highlight deals

    And cross-border arbitrage of prices will always e possible

  58. Thanks LUCKY I went to Chase bank and sign upped for the NEW INK 80K points no fee first year card . Met a nice young person who signed me up who’s Dad company got brought out and he moved to Maui .
    I guess he got us beat .

    THANKS

  59. Wow! Just tried this with a sample booking from MIA to FCO. Italian site listed economy tickets at $650 r/t USD. The American AA website showed only premium economy availability at $1300 for the same flights. Crazy!

    It probably depends on the ticket but it’s a nifty trick when trying to find the best prices!

  60. I think they’ll honor the tickets bought this way. Had a huge price difference between KLM’s Indonesian site and AF’s Singapore site booking CGK-SIN back when AF ran the route a couple years back, asked AF whether they’d honor tickets bought on non-local sites, and they replied to me stating that they’d be perfectly OK with that.

  61. Were you able to buy it without an Italian Issued Credit Card?

    I had a friend buying a clubmed weekend stay in Brazil a few years ago. He resided in Brazil at the time and making reservations in Brazil were outrageously expensive. His wife was able to buy the same package for (comparatively) “a song” from the UK site. However it only worked with a UK issued Credit Card.

  62. I’ve been a travel professional for 25+ years…this is a technical glitch on AA’s side. However, once the ticket was actually purchased it is guaranteed and (I assume) a e-confirmation is in hand. AA must honor this ticket…this time. Once AA figures this out, believe me, they will have a robotic in place to prevent this in the future…it is a not a long term tool to save money on ticket purchases. Booking from the Italian (or any foreign airline) AA website assumes Italian residency…US residents are not offered the same deal as our European counterparts – the airlines say this is a way to generate foreign revenue …unfair? maybe, but to avoid having your reservation flagged by the airline and being stopped at check-in and asked to pay the full fare, stick to the normal methods of booking and look for more creative, legal ways to save money on airline tickets.

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