American likely planning to ditch award charts

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The Points Guy reports that the president of the American Airlines AAdvantage program has indicated to them that American is developing a system that will likely replace the current American Airlines award chart. Based on the direction that Delta and United have taken, it is reasonable to assume that American is working on a revenue-based model that will eliminate award charts and work toward a more fixed value of miles toward not only flights but a range of ancillary services.

TPG quotes Rich Elieson essentially saying that American intends to have set “goalposts” or expectations, but in a way more similar to how Zillow will show you the average selling price of homes nearby and a ticker showing how many people are looking at a particular route at the moment. American’s intention to show that combination of completely unverifiable factoids sounds a lot to me like a sales pressure tactic to encourage purchase activity by making it look like you’re getting a deal and that you’d better act now before the eight hundred other people looking at flights to Cancun beat you to it. How is a member to know that there is any accuracy in the historical average pricing AA shows or the number of people searching a particular route? More troubling yet, how is a member to decide where to credit their flights without an idea as to the buying power of the miles when it comes time to redeem them?

Elieson makes the point that the current award chart doesn’t make it clear that members can spend miles for things like seat selection and other ancillary services. I can understand that American wants to encourage people to make poor-value use of miles for those types of things, but they could easily standardize those add-ons and include them in the award chart. It doesn’t sound like American intends to handle it that way.

On the flip side, we’ve obviously seen greatly reduced fares in many markets, particularly for international long-haul premium cabins and also on many domestic routes over the past year.  I’m sure that many members have been redeeming amounts of miles well below what the award charts suggest for flights on American Airlines metal, so I can see where a loyalty program executive could see a problem with making awards look more expensive (via an award chart that isn’t reflecting reality) than they really are.

Of course, for many readers the value in American Airlines miles isn’t necessarily in redeeming them for American Airlines flights but rather using them for high-value awards on top-notch foreign partners like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways. Having an award chart for those types of redemptions helps you plan your collection of miles for specific trips. Losing those award charts would be a major bummer for many of us.

Ultimately, I don’t think most readers will find it surprising that American is working on following the lead of Delta and United in a more dynamic pricing model. However, the timing makes me nervous for the future of Alaska’s frequent flyer program. If American is going to ditch its award charts, does it make sense to do that at the moment when Alaska is joining oneworld and partnering even more extensively with AA? If American ditches its award chart and Alaska keeps a highly valuable award chart, I would think that many valuable AAdvantage customers may defect toward Alaska Mileage Plan…unless Mileage Plan is planning a similar move.

For what it’s worth, Alaska has certainly talked the talk in terms of making it sound like there wouldn’t be a devaluation when they begin oneworld bookings this summer. I think most of us have had some healthy skepticism on that claim along with the expectation that Alaska probably would continue to at least have a good award chart (though likely not wildly better than American’s). If American plans to ditch its award chart, that does make me a little nervous about the future of Alaska Mileage Plan. Maybe my fear is misplaced and premature — I hope it is both.

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Jorge

Going to NYC for thanksgiving, Leaving Wed evening and coming back on Saturday evening.
16K roundtrip in the kitchen

Blue

Thing about Alaska is that AA availability for them is TERRIBLE. So I’m not sure how much they are linked.

[…] American likely planning to ditch award charts by FM. […]

Nathan

Over the past 2 years, American Airlines miles have been by far the most useful miles for a variety of domestic trips.

I have miles with every major program and compare my options with every airline offering a good schedule for any given trip. Since AA Web Specials were introduced, American Airlines has been the value leader 2/3 of the time, in my experience, planning 40+ trips.

I have been paying an average of 7K miles each way for economy and an average 20K miles each way for first, consistently getting more than 2 cents per mile vs paying cash for the cheapest acceptable itinerary (any airline). Some of the best deals booked include things like North East to CA for 5K miles, Boston to Hawaii in first for 30K miles (booked pre-covid), and Midwest to Caribbean for 15K miles in first.

I expect prices to go up now with peak demand but who needs award charts when we can get deals like this?

For international, I rarely have found AA miles to offer the best value so use other kinds of miles/points, depending on the route.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nathan
Keith

I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about (?!)

Ben

I’ve been getting a ton of value from AA Web Specials over the last few years for domestic flights. Almost always the lowest-price option of any program, and sometimes 1/2 the price of Alaska for the same flight.

I understand how much value comes with Intl Biz, but Web Specials have been good enough that I’m not convinced dynamic will kill it. And I bet for non-gamers this will truly have some advantages.

By the way, if we get some “non-transient” inflation, that’s effectively a re-valuation of miles. Not necessarily how you or I would think of it, but I’m sure there are airline execs somewhere doing that math.

whocares

good thing I just burned a big chunk then…

BL-K

Any idea if we will get advanced notice of the change? I’m currently holding my miles for a trip to Asia in lat summer/fall of 2022. I’m wondering if I’ll need to plan my trip sooner.

anonymous

No. Yes.

Jorge

I was booked first class RT to Japan on JAL , back in April. 100K miles.
Booked in June 2020 thinking that Covid would be over by then.
Sure…..I had to cancel.

I doubt that I will ever see those number on JAL.

Christian

Wasn’t it only last year that American promised to keep award charts?

YoniPDX

I am also a bit nervous about the AS Mileage program – moreso with ramped up SUBs 50~100k (recent 100K with $15K over 270 days/9 Months).

With the spike in inflation, fuel prices and pent-up travel demand from COVID Cabin fever. A dynamic award is definitely a negative – Post-COVID.

That said much of Asia is still closed or highly restricted with minimal vaccination of population of SE Asia (China rate is unknown but still mostly closed to non-citizens).

AU/NZ also closed.

So many of the AS sweet spots from the West coast, are not bookable at the moment.

Partnerships/Merger’s rarely benefit customers or employees. Example AS acquired Virgin America was a negative for customers and redundancy among employee.

So award to the EU/UK