6 Awards NOT To Book Before American’s Devaluation

As I posted a reminder of yesterday, today is the last day to redeem American AAdvantage miles before the devaluation kicks in. Some of my favorite awards are going up in price substantially, while others are staying the same, while some awards are even going down in price.

Cathay Pacific first class awards between the US and Asia are going up in price by over 60%!

I know a lot of people still have awards to book today, and I’d expect hold times to be really long. Obviously if you’re wanting to book a first class award from the US to Asia, or a first class award from the Middle East to Europe, you absolutely should put in the effort to book today.

But I thought it would be interesting to talk about six awards you don’t have to book today, and in some cases shouldn’t book today. These are all for travel to/from the US, though there are certainly awards in other regions which aren’t going up in price either, and in some cases even going down in price.

1. Domestic Economy Awards

The single most popular award for AAdvantage members is a domestic economy award, which starts at just 12,500 miles one way. It’s not surprising that American isn’t raising the cost of this, given how popular it is with members.

The catch, however, is that availability at the saver level keeps getting worse. So airlines want to be able to keep dangling this carrot in front of members, even if in practice the cost keeps going up.

Keep in mind that the cost of shorthaul awards is even going down. Awards of under 500 miles on American in the US and Canada will cost just 7,500 miles one way starting tomorrow. So for those awards you’re even better off waiting until tomorrow.

American 737 economy class

2. Business Class Awards To Northern South America

American charges just 30,000 miles for one way business class between the US and Northern South America. The cost of that won’t be changing with this devaluation. This region includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Manaus (Brazil), and Peru. If you’re looking to travel to one of those places, there’s no rush in booking.

LAN-Business-Class-787 - 15
LAN 787 business class

3. Business Class Awards To Africa

American also isn’t increasing the cost of business class awards to Africa. They cost 75,000 AAdvantage miles one way, and that will continue to be the cost after today. Keep in mind that American’s definition of regions isn’t that strict. For example, Egypt is considered to be part of the Middle East, even though it’s technically in Africa.

In practice American typically lets you route from the US to Africa via Doha on Qatar Airways, so that’s a great way to route between the two regions. I’m happy this award isn’t being devalued, since I really have been wanting to explore more of Africa, and this will probably contribute to me doing so.

Qatar Airways A350 business class

4. Business Class Awards To The Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America

This award chart devaluation isn’t all bad news — American is actually decreasing the cost of business class awards between the US and the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. The cost is decreasing from 30,000 miles one way to 27,500 miles one way.

This isn’t personally how I’d typically choose to redeem my miles, given that most flights to these regions feature American’s domestic first class. But if you’re wanting to redeem miles to these regions, which is definitely popular among the “average” AAdvantage member, it’s actually advantageous to wait.

American 737 first class

5. Business Class Awards To The Middle East

Business class awards to the Middle East are increasing in cost from 67,500 miles to 70,000 miles one way. So if you know exactly which flight you want to book, and there’s availability, then sure, book today and save 2,500 miles.

However, otherwise I don’t think it’s worth potentially spending a really long time on hold today, and also if you’re not Executive Platinum, potentially spending money on change fees later.

While the award price is going up, 2,500 miles is a very modest increase.

Etihad A330 business class

6. Upgrade Awards

I’ve frequently been asked whether American is also increasing the cost of upgrades with this devaluation. The answer is no. So if you’re planning on paying for a ticket and then redeeming miles with a co-pay for an upgrade, there’s no need to book before tomorrow.

Upgrade costs will remain the same, as follows:


American 777 business class

Bottom line

There are some awards which are going way up in price, like the US to Asia in Cathay Pacific first class, which is increasing from 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles. However, the above are some examples of awards which aren’t being impact as negatively, and in some cases are even going down in price.

Hopefully everyone is finalizing the last AAdvantage awards they plan on booking for the day right now!


  1. I managed to squeeze in MEL-BNE-LAX-SAN, LAX-MEL just in time last night before the system started acting up. BNE – LAX segments say “subject to govt approval”. Any idea what happens if govt. does not approve these sectors? Would I get notified by the airline or the onus is on me to keep track?

  2. Ben – since the system is “down”, do you think they’ll offer an extension? Anyone you can reach out to about this?

  3. Ben — I locked in SFO-HKG-HAN in Cathay First a few weeks ago. Been trying to book my return the last few nights and every HKG-SFO/LAX seat gets picked up before I can book. Decided to put HKG-LAX in Cathay Business on hold last night (right past midnight west coast time… looks like I got in right before this system maintenance issue)

    Is this still a good use of my AAdvantage miles before the devaluation? Still going to try one more time tonight for First.

    Thanks, Matt

  4. System down for “maintenance” the last day before devAAluation, what a coincidence. 🙁

  5. With reports of the systems being down, I’m glad I put something on hold on Thursday to be ticketed today. However, I’m wondering if there will be a problem with the actual ticketing. I have called the reservations desk and requested that it be moved from On Hold to Ticketed. No update several hours later. It involves a partner, so I’m not surprised, but, being mostly a Delta flyer used to near-instant ticketing, it’s unnerving not having an eticket # yet.

    At what point should I call AA again to make sure the system issues require something else be done to wrap things up at the current price?

  6. I am EXP on AA and I last night I called and got 4 confirmed first class MileSaver awards on Cathay Pacific DFW-LAX-HKG-CGK for next week. But I don’t want to travel next week, I want to travel in December 2017. I will look for flights for Feb 14 2017 (furthest out as of today) and see what the CX availability is. There will be zero first class. So I will call later today and tell them I will take a voluntary downgrade to business or to premium economy or economy and keep checking back until it opens up. Then as March 2017 and onwards keep opening up, keep calling back and moving the date into the future. So long as I keep DFW as origination and CGK as destination, any routing is allowed without changing 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles. It is ticketed as of today (03/21/2016), do I have 365 days to use it or can I eek it out to December 2017?

  7. Hi!

    What about business class on 3 class domestic transcons, and first on two class domestic flights. Aren’t those staying at 25k each way/ 50k round trip?

    I mention it because you singled out the economy awards.

  8. Awards to/from Canada used to be the same as USA. Not it’s a separate region, and going up in price significantly more.

  9. If I book a S fare discount economy now from Nrt-Ord. As an exp AA member who takes the flight in August will I get the eqm of 12k or is it those revenue points?

  10. Ben,

    If I book lax-> hkg with a connection in HND. My LAX/HND leg is in economy(JAL) and my HND/HKG leg is in F (CX). Will this price at 67,500 (today) and more importantly will I be able to change that to a non-stop on CX in F ?

  11. @ Matteo — Only redeemable miles are going to revenue based earnings. Elite qualifying miles will still be issued based on distance flown.

  12. @Carl You have until 21st March 2017 to complete travel. The day the ticket was issued, you have 1 year to play with. If I’m correct, if you do decide to change class of travel after 22nd March, the new rate kicks in.

  13. Any answer to Adam’s question?

    If I book lax-> hkg with a connection in HND. My LAX/HND leg is in economy(JAL) and my HND/HKG leg is in F (CX). Will this price at 67,500 (today) and more importantly will I be able to change that to a non-stop on CX in F ?

  14. @Sam, @Adam 67,500 is the award and you have a CX leg in F, so you are just waiting for the LAX/HND to open up in F, so you should be able to change it without triggering anything detrimental. That is what I am trying to do. I have a confirmed CX in F for next week but will not travel next week and will keep the same 67,500 miles but downgrade temporarily to business or lower and keep checking back. They took out the 67,500. Thoughts?

  15. @Carl, in this case, we will be changing airlines – from a JL/CX connection to a CX nonstop. Will that be allowed? If we were to change to AA/CX connection (say LAX-SFO on AA then SFO-HKG on CX), is that allowed?

  16. @Carl, @ Sam

    That exactly my concern now- it’s about changing the airline from CX/JL to just CX. I called AA plat desk four times over the past two days and for the most part each agent told me confilcting info.

  17. @Adam @Sam So long as you don’t change the origin & destination cities, you can go to any city inbetween on any OneWorld airline.

  18. Today (03/21/2016), I ticketed SIN (CX)-HKG (CX)-NRT (AA)-LAX (AA)-DFW for 67,000 miles one-way for January 2017 travel. Can I change the ticket to December 2017?

  19. @Carl, as was stated above, you have 1 year from when the ticket is issued to complete all your travel, regardless of how many changes you make to the ticket. If ticketed today (3/21/2017), you have to complete all travel by 3/20/2017. You cannot change the flights to any date later than 3/21/2017, as that would require the redeposit of your miles and the issuance of new tickets.

  20. @ tony — Nope, tomorrow Manaus is changing regions from South America 2 to South America 1, so you’ll want to wait till tomorrow to book.

  21. Lucky,

    I’ve currently got two seats booked on 30k inventory from DFW-LHR-HEL in May. With the bump up in Biz Saver to 57.5k to Europe do you think I”m better off going with the upgrade waitlist (25k miles +copay) or keeping my ExpertFlyer alert for U Class inventory and getting them to bump me up if that opens up?

  22. I am planning a trip to hong kong in january 2017 via business class. is it a good idea to try to grab a business seat now and hope something opens up later? or flights to become available to HKG from JFK is impossible around the week after New Years’?

  23. @Carl

    I know that’s normally true about switching between Oneworld airlines is completely fine. However, Are you sure that will still stay true after tomorrow with what we are trying to do with the hold award chart.. I have heard conflicting information from several agents when I called. if you don’t mind me asking where did you get that info from?? Thanks

    “@Adam @Sam So long as you don’t change the origin & destination cities, you can go to any city inbetween on any OneWorld airline.”

  24. Hi Lucky,

    Am I safe if I have a PNR for a flight that I booked today for Feb 2017? It currently says “On Request” and has been 8 hours since I called to book and hasn’t ticketed yet. They have my CC and I authorized them to charge my card.


  25. @Carl @Adam @Sam I believe there are somewhat conflicting rules about changing airlines. There is a rule that says a change in the “governing carrier” will trigger a change fee, although the rules also allow for free changes between Oneworld airlines.

    Of course, none of this really applies to whether changing airlines will trigger a reprice after today, as there is no guarantee that free changes will not trigger a change in the number of miles required. Given that it appears that many changes that are free require a manual “override” by the agent (at least in my experience), I would err on the side of caution in terms of assuming changes that are free as of now will not require more miles tomorrow.

  26. @Andrew @Carl @Sam

    I just called plat line again- this time she put me on hold to check with the resolution department (never heard of that one before). Nonetheless, she said.. and I quote.. ” it will not be a problem to change because they are all Oneworld carriers”. So with that said I will breathe a sigh of relief and let the whole thing rest for now- the good lord only knows how many hours I spent on this devaluation debacle for the past couple of days…

  27. Called and got through instantly, locked in JFK-YVR-LAX-SFO-HND-HKG-BKK. The itinerary’s primary purpose was to fly JL F SFO-HND and CX F on the 747 before they retire. AA of course had no availability from JFK-SFO or LAX so I initially took a routing to SFO through ORD in the hopes some AA transcon F space would open up. Then I thought why the hell am I hoping for AA transcon space when I can fly CX transcon. I just wasn’t sure if they’d let me take that kind of indirect routing, but they did, so I’m happy.

  28. Lucky: For AA upgrade awards to Europe does the discount economy upgrade priced at 25K miles plus $350 upgrade to premium economy or to business class? Is that RT or OW?

  29. When I called this morning I was only on hold for about 2 minutes. For some reason the AAgent didn’t see the F class seat I saw on JL’s website (via awardnexus.com) on CX841. But she did find a J class seat on the evening flight that goes via YVR so I took that. I’ve got record locators and everything, but no email confirmations but it’s in the system and I was able to select seats on CX’s website.

    I’ll just have to book the return at some point. Any idea when KE opens their awards for booking? Is it 330 days? It seemed like I could even search for seats beyond 6 months using their award tool on their website. But since I’ll be traveling off peak it’s only 95K for their F class from SE Asia to NA and I can spend a few days in Seoul with their 1 allowed stopover so it seems like a decent value.

  30. It’s exceptionally frustrating that the system is “down”. I called last night and after waiting 26 minutes was told “I can’t see any fares other than economy at the moment”. That’s interesting … online all flights are showing all classes (MEL-LON) but when I click on them the fare is no longer available. Coincidence?

  31. @ Jo145 — American often displays phantom space for Qantas, so that might be what’s happening online. The phone systems are all up now though, so you should be fine there.

  32. @Tiffany – ALL J class flights with any airline (BA, Finnair, Qantas) are still coming up with the same issue I had last night – they show on the AA site but as soon as I choose a flight they are no longer available. Even though the points have now increased by 40%. Have no idea what is going on, but am in no hurry to book now that they points are devalued so will bide my time for a while. Thanks for the tip though, I had no idea phantom space was shown.

  33. Ben, is it possible just like in the africa exemple, do the same for Colombo to Bali conecting in Doha? Would i still be charged just like an Asia 2 award?

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