American Is Limiting How Many Segments You Can Have On An Award

As of today, American has added a new restriction to AAdvantage award tickets. Going forward, you’ll be allowed at most three segments on an AAdvantage award within the US and Canada, and at most four segments on an international AAdvantage award. Those limits are one-way, meaning you’d be allowed twice as many segments on a roundtrip.

I’m told that these changes are being implemented as they’re in line with American’s most direct routing rules, and allow them to “better support their partner airlines.”

In reality American doesn’t really have a strict “most direct routing rule,” but they actually let you exceed the maximum permitted mileage quite a bit. In a way, American’s award rules contradict themselves:

  • You can exceed the maximum permitted mileage of a city pair by up to 25% (which allows for huge “detours”)
  • You have to intend to take the most direct routing, which is explained in the rules as follows: “The number of awards assessed should be determined by the customer’s intentions. If the indirect routing is booked at the customer’s request, multiple awards should apply using Pricing Override Options – Force Fare Breakpoint. If the routing is booked based on lack of award availability on direct routes, then an exception may be made, allowing Sabre to price as one award.”

In other words, you can take a really indirect routing as long as you don’t intend to.

Ultimately this new restriction isn’t a huge deal, in the sense that you should always be able to get to your destination in 3-4 segments if award availability is good. However, given American’s lack of saver level award availability on their own flights, this could prove challenging in some cases for those who don’t live in an international gateway city.

For example, say you want to go from Tampa to Langkawi, Malaysia. It’s not unusual to travel from Tampa to Dallas to Los Angeles to Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. Sure, it could be done in four segments, but I’d hardly call that route circuitous given the state of award availability.

In the grand scheme of negative AAdvantage changes this is fairly minor, though it is something to be aware of.

Will anyone be impacted by American’s new award segment restriction?

Comments

  1. Wow! I just booked a flight from Jnb-Doh-Waw-Txl-Lhr-Bos all on one ticket in J. It was all that was available. Thankfully I was able to book this before the changes were made. I am hoping to, however, make that a bit more direct if availability permits closer to departure.

  2. The biggest problem with AA is their other ridiculously limiting routing rules. Like, you can’t go through Asia to get to Australia on a single award. Or you must go TPAC to get to SE Asia.

  3. Well, good! American is notorious for the multiple segments on their steel because they refuse to offer direct flights available on miles unless it’s on BA. Or, jump through hoops for a partner airline that isn’t listed on searches. Say what you will about United, I’ve never had a problem using miles.

  4. Being an AA FF in a non-hub city this seems unfair as the positioning flight already takes away one segment. I guess I’d be OK with this rule if there wasn’t such a lack of award space. It’s not unusual to have piece together a MCI-PHL-MAN-LHR-VIE+ flight for a decent award. I’d much rather fly a more direct routing but there is nothing ever available AA, come on.

  5. I had a FRA-DFW-AUS award flight in J last November on AA metal (saver award), and the FRA-DFW flight was canceled. They changed it to FRA-CLT-AUS with a much later arrival time, so I had them change it to FRA-CLT-DFW-AUS which got me there closer to my original time. It was annoying to change planes so much and I wished the FRA-DFW flight had still been available, even though CLT-DFW and DFW-AUS were in domestic F. I ate and drank a lot that day between the hotel breakfast, the JAL lounge in FRA, and all 3 flights.

    I can’t imagine I would even want to travel with 4 segments on an international itinerary unless the layovers were very short or very long where it was almost a stopover. Not sure how saver availability would even allow for this anymore.

  6. This ultimately hurts the forgotten people in small town America most. As a big city cosmopolitan elitist I’ll make out okay. What’s trump going to do about this?

  7. I think you should be able to use your miles under the terms of the program at the time you earned the miles.

  8. This is total BS. They should at least allow it by phone. There are lots of times this is necessary and it’s not just asia. If you’re in a non hub it can be 4 segments to get to the Greek islands even with cash.

  9. oy. I mean, theoretically this should be no problem — Even between two secondary cities, it should take at most 2 domestic segments to get to the gateway, one long-haul, then a final segment. This doesn’t work when either domestic saver availability forces extra segments or when the distance is sufficient to require extra stops (like SE asia, south asia, africa). But, then, domestic saver availability is so pathetic, you usually have buy a ticket to the gateway, so I doubt there are very many people this rule would affect.

  10. Yeah, I could see this being somewhat troublesome for small airport folks, but only on very rare itineraries. I am a small airport-type. I am 1 segment away from both ORD and DFW. Aside from the types of itineraries like the one Lucky used as an example, it won’t matter to me. Also, a complete non-issue in the sense that getting a flight to ORD or DFW on AA is getting to be damn near impossible.

  11. “This ultimately hurts the forgotten people in small town America most. As a big city cosmopolitan elitist I’ll make out okay. What’s trump going to do about this?”

    Tweet more inane/psychotic thoughts.

    I remember when the USA used to have presidents. I miss those days.

  12. What was the old limit? Wasn’t this the case before if max 4 segments? I’ve never been able to do more before on a one-way international itinerary.

  13. Never thought I’d say this, but with how convoluted the AAdvantage rules have become and non existance of saaver awards, why not just go full Delta and just say “whatever prices you find on the website is what you get”?

    We’re probably two years from “miles can no longer be redeemed for flights” .

  14. Outrageous! For example, I have flown saver business BKK-HKG-LAX-DFW-LGA (4 segments) or similar routings when domestic availability is good. However, I have seen saver availability from LAX-NYC be LAX-LAS-PHIL-LGA (3 segments) or LAX-PHX-DFW-LGA (3 segments). So combining the two: BKK-HKG-LAX-LAS-PHIL-LGA (5 segments) or BKK-HKG-LAX-PHX-DFW-LGA (5 segments).

    Would I ever INTEND to fly 5 segments in the above routing. No, I plan to swap out (free as EXP but paying change fees if I have to) until I get as close to BKK-HKG-JFK (2 segments) as I can. However, once I have set up the initial reservations I have a trip, so I can move forward with obtaining approval for vacation time, reserve hotels and so forth.

    Further, suppose as others have commented, those living in a non-gateway town would run up against those limits all the time.

    Thank you Lucky for pointing this out. Personally, I think this is a big deal that downgrades the value of miles given domestic availability.

  15. Every time I fly American I think to myself they are the worst! Then I fly another airline like United or Delta and realize they are the worst.

    The airline industry is so terrible in this country.

  16. Keeping it real, I remember when every post was not littered with smug, condescending, inane political commentary that serves no purpose except to inflict your opinions on other readers and has nothing to do with Ben’s post.
    By the way, who was the president whose DOJ approved of the US airways / American merger… and let Mr. pure evil, Doug Parker, run the combined airlines?????

  17. One of the many reasons I will not consider going back to Delta is because they routinely, even in paid J fares want to route me on four segments to Europe from SAN (2 domestic, 2 EU flights). I can’t imagine how bad their reward space must be. Given AA reward space scarcity, five segments wouldn’t seem unreasonable – not something I would ever want to pay cash for but I’d do it occasionally for the right reward mileage.

  18. “By the way, who was the president whose DOJ approved of the US airways / American merger… and let Mr. pure evil, Doug Parker, run the combined airlines?????”

    Barack Obama was the president when that happened. He presidented. Imperfectly, but then we have never had a perfect president and nor will we.

    It was nice when we had presidents. I can’t wait for us to have a president again.

  19. What timing. Just called to book TLV-AMM-DOH-BKK-HKG-TPE. I kept arguing that this is a valid route, and they had no clue why it wasnt. Didnt know about this one. I guess it violates this new rule.

  20. I think the hardest part about this is if you fly from a non-hub city. Getting to a hub takes one segment immediately (plus the return). Add to that the insane lack of availability (I am between two hubs DFW and ORD. All I can say about getting a flight to one of them is…ugh) and you have the potential for this to be horrid.

  21. @Lucky. Re: “If the routing is booked based on lack of award availability on direct routes, then an exception may be made, allowing Sabre to price as one award.” Does this relate to the NEW regulations, or was it the OLD one? If the former, presumably the phone agents can still book a 5 segment international ticket? Often when we fly on AA award tickets back to the US, they give us the JFK-CLT-BNA segments.

  22. @Lucky, I think this is actually a much bigger deal than you think. This now makes impossible to redeem AA miles for certain city pairs on a single award — which is a significant break from their promise.

  23. @ alex — Hmmm, can you think of any city pairs where that’s the case? I couldn’t come up with any myself.

  24. Simple solution. Book a cash fare from your regional airport to your closest AA hub. And then use your award to book from that hub.

    Annoying but not fatal.

  25. I’m burning my last AA miles on a trip to HKG and then leaving AA in my rear view mirror. And, I say this even though I live in DFW!
    One stupid AA example. Looked up award ticket, DFW-SEA for a 3-day weekend getaway. Simple right? Nope. No direct flights. At all. And, only red eye on the return. Also, had to connect through PDX. OK, no real issue. I also like to go to PDX. Checked award ticket to PDX. Well, those direct flights to PDX I saw on the SEA trip were now gone. Have to connect through SNA, shared AA/AS metal.
    These games AA is playing are infuriating! Life is too short, and I have other options, even in DFW.

  26. Getting saver award is becoming increasingly more difficult to the point that this change probably does not matter. AA should be more transparent that Saver Award levels are so rarely available

  27. This is a much bigger issue than you assume. You already suggest that this is actually a big hurdle in this contradictory excerpt: “Ultimately this new restriction isn’t a huge deal, in the sense that you should always be able to get to your destination in 3-4 segments if award availability is good. However, given American’s lack of saver level award availability on their own flights, this could prove challenging in some cases for those who don’t live in an international gateway city.”

    I can’t think of a case in the last two or three years where I was able to book an international award in four or fewer segments. I book 8-11 months out, and there is never availability for the most direct domestic connection to or from the international flight. Often, I spend hours hunting for any possible routing with availability, which typically has many extra segments than I want.

    Given how hard it is to find SAAver availability, this seems a capriciously cruel restriction. Perhaps AA got concerned at how many miles were piling up unused, and figured this would be a way to force people to redeem multiple awards, thus using up stockpiled miles. Presumably they just don’t care that this will increase the frustration and anger when people are unable to use their miles in any sane or fair way.

    Didn’t I read that AA has already seen a significant decline in revenue from miles purchased by credit card companies? Presumably people are figuring out that the miles are too hard to use. Doesn’t AA care that this makes it so much worse?

    If AA were to add an “intent” exception, so that the segment limit can be waived when necessary due to no available more direct routing, then it would be OK.

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