Spending 580,000 AA miles, just in case of devaluation

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People have been speculating for a while now that American Airlines is on the cusp of a major award devaluation.  The fear is that they’ll drop their award charts in favor of dynamically priced awards (which is a bad thing for those looking to book international premium cabin flights).  Recently, View from the Wing listed 5 reasons to expect this to happen.  One of those reasons was that JonNYC tweeted “…I’d expect the AAdvantage changes next month or early November, if I had to guess.”  And View from the Wing says that “Jon has excellent sources.”

I don’t personally have a strong opinion about whether this will really happen or how soon, but I do have enough AA miles socked away to be worried about this.  I don’t want to miss out on what may be AA’s best sweet spot award: Qatar Qsuites to the Middle East, India, or the Maldives for 70K miles one-way, or to Africa for 75K one-way.  Qatar’s Qsuites is widely considered one of the best business class products in the world.  I’ve never flown Qsuites, but I’d love to.  And I’d love to use my AA miles for this sweet award before its too late.  For this reason, I’ve booked 580,000 miles worth of QSuite awards with the hope that I’ll either be able to fly some of them as-is or that I’ll be able to later change those awards without AA repricing them…

Qatar QSuite Business Class. Image courtesy of Qatar Airway’s website

AA Sweet Spots

For reference, here are some of AA’s best award values as things stand today:

  • Fly first class on Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Japan or Korea for 80K miles one-way.
  • Fly first class on Etihad, Japan Airlines, or Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to the South Pacific for 110K miles one-way.
  • Fly business class on partners like Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to the following destinations:
    • Asia: 60K to 70K miles
    • South Pacific: 80K miles
  • Fly business class on partners like Qatar or Etihad from the U.S. to the following destinations:
    • Middle East, India, or the Maldives: 70K miles
    • Africa: 75K miles

Can we lock in awards now and change them later?

If you have the AA miles and you know now where you want to fly, and if you can find available awards, then it makes sense to simply book what you need now in order to lock in the current pricing.  What if you don’t know that much?  For example, I know that I’d like to fly to South Africa on QSuites, but I don’t know when that will happen.  Could I book now for a random future date and then, post-devaluation, change the flight to a date that really works for me?

I think there’s a reasonably good chance that this will work.  View from the Wing explored this question the last time there was a major devaluation (in 2016) and he reported at that time that the following changes would be possible post-devaluation:

  • You can change date and time without repricing the award, while keeping airlines and routing constant.
  • You can change routing without repricing the award, while keeping the airlines constant, with a few caveats. Basically you cannot break the fare. You cannot add a stopover. You’re going to have to stick with a legal routing for the primary carrier on the itinerary.
  • You cannot change award types, which means you can’t go from American only to flying partners. You can’t go from extra mileage award to saver award without a redeposit of miles and re-issue.

Basically, if things stay the same as with the last devaluation, we should be able to change travel dates and make minor routing changes as long as we keep the flown airline the same.

Fortunately, AA no longer charges for award changes or cancellations so there is no risk in prospectively booking award flights.  Worst case, you can always cancel and get your miles and fees back.

To the Maldives and South Africa.

Here are the flights that I booked.  I’m sure that we won’t fly all of them, but hopefully some of these.  All of the following are booked into Qatar business class for two adults…

Maldives

  • Chicago to Malé, Maldives: 70,000 AA miles plus $15.70 per person.
  • Chicago to Malé, Maldives: 70,000 AA miles plus $15.70 per person.

I separately wrote about booking the Six Senses Laamu resort in the Maldives.  Somehow, we have to get to the Maldives.  One great way to go is via Qatar QSuites.  I couldn’t find award availability for the exact date that I was hoping for, but I found both an earlier flight and a later flight.  So I booked both of them.  We might be able to change our plans to fit with one of those two bookings.  If we end up using one of the flights, I’ll cancel the other.  If we end up doing something else entirely, I’ll cancel both.

South Africa

  • Chicago to Cape Town, South Africa: 75,000 AA miles plus $15.70 per person.
  • Johannesburg, South Africa to Chicago: 75,000 AA miles plus $59.77 per person.

We have a friend that we’d love to visit in Cape Town, so I booked a flight to Cape Town.  Then, my thinking is that we’ll travel around South Africa and end up in Johannesburg before flying home.  That’s why I booked Johannesburg to Chicago for our return.

Why Chicago?

Qatar doesn’t fly out of my nearest airport (Detroit – DTW).  It’s theoretically possible to book awards flying AA from Detroit and then from the next airport to fly Qatar onwards.  But finding award availability for that combination is very difficult.  Instead, I chose Chicago because its a short flight from Detroit, and all three major carriers offer multiple flights a day.  In other words, it should be easy to book the positioning flights that we’ll need.

Should you transfer Citi points?

Citi ThankYou Rewards is allowing 1 to 1 transfers to American Airlines, but only through November 13th, 2021.  If you have a lot of Citi ThankYou Rewards points, but you don’t have enough AA miles to book exciting “just in case” awards, you might be wondering if it makes sense to transfer to AA for this purpose.

I’d only recommend doing so if you first find award availability and if you’re pretty confident that you’ll use the booked flights.  Other ThankYou transfer partners have their own great sweet spot awards (such as Virgin Atlantic: Book ANA first class one-way to Japan for only 55K or 60K points!).  Transfers are one-way only.  So, if you transfer points to AA and end up cancelling the booked flights, you’ll be left with AA miles that might by then have devalued.

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[…] the details were announced today. While a significant devaluation of award tickets was expected, causing some to make several speculative bookings, the changes were limited to the ways members would earn status in the […]

Amit

Just in case.. booked two HPN-ORD-DOH-CPT for 75k each; currently two qsuites, 23 hours.

whocares

I’ve actually flown in a premium airline product that Greg-FM hasn’t! Ha! Never did I imagine that would be true. 🙂

Qsuites was awesome earlier this year. DOH-SEA. Yes, used AA. Looking to make a speculative booking once some AA points post. But u might also consider the Citi – Qatar 20% bonus right now. I just transferred a bunch of Citi TY. Waiting for bonus to post.

Anthony

I just booked Etihad using 75k AA miles plus about $16 from Chicago to Johannesburg for May next year. I had to call a foreign call center to book it. I could have booked other flights that would have got me there quicker but I have a plethora of AA miles.

[…] have this post on Frequent Miler to thank for the idea but I’m not about to make almost 600K miles worth of reservations for flights I might take as […]

Forrest

Hi Greg,
When I tried redeeming my AA miles on Japan Airlines using AA portal, I didn’t see anything with Japan airlines showing up on Jun 15 2022. But I did see JAL11 (DFW to NRT) on the same day bookable when I used Alaska or britishairway rewards booking portals. Did I do something wrong? Thanks.

Mira

I want to fly to Australia/New Zealand in Nov/Dec 2022 using AA miles but the flights are not listed yet. When will they be available for booking?

Robert L Rothley

If you are keeping your cash in the bank… And using equivalent AA Miles… You are just treading water. Sorry.

paul5795

Say what?

Robert Rothley

Miles and dollars are devaluing. Take your pick … Dollars or miles… It doesn’t matter. But do spend some today miles and or dollars… as you might not get as much value tomorrow..

Cavedweller

Ur both right u go when u want to GO !! If u don’t want to GO or buy a deal on Anything(car,truck,house) isn’t a Deal…

Rich T

Can I combine partners on a single award redemption? Like Qatar and Etihad?

Rich T

Yes you can – I’m my own data point: I just booked IAD-AUH-DOH-NBO in J for 75k AA each

Tom

my bet the B6 reciprocal changes next month are the fig leaf for the deval

Todd

Gregg, does booking Qatar through AA allow for name changes after ticketing? Does booking straight with Qatar offer this?

JRG

I don’t have many AA miles, but enough that I booked 60K business DFW-ICN and hope to do another leg booking once some bonus miles post. I want to empty my account and then see if the devaluation comes…..

ed k

I always cringe when I see everyone start talking about devaluations. Even if a company isn’t considering it at the time (maybe they’ve planned it for after we climb out of this pandemic led travel problem) it could make them think “well, if they’re all talking about it and expecting it let’s do it earlier”. They read the blogs and flyertalk too. But, it could also be that they need people to unload their storehouses of miles now due to so much availability, that they start the rumor themselves. Since I know I can’t travel far right now I hope any devaluation will be at least a couple years from now. With all the flight cancellations and major issues coming in the next few months for the airlines, I would hope they’d wait. If they price people out of the place they’ve been trying to earn to get to within the next 12 months it could cause even more empty seats and canceled flights due to not enough passengers. We had a vacation recently canceled because the airlines couldn’t get enough passengers to the island we wanted to go. In fact, even the hotels there closed temporarily. COVID is still a problem and some places don’t really want more visitors because their hospitals are full, even though the travel industry, stores and such need visitors to survive. It’s a double-edged sword for the world economy and less flights also mean less medicines, vaccines and materials getting to places that need them and want them. Most mail actually goes on commercial flights. We need more planes in the air, yet there are many obstacles for the airlines and the government isn’t helping matters (I’m not an anti-vaccine person at all). Let businesses and their workers run their company, not the feds (of course we need regulations, but they shouldn’t go too far). Has anyone not flown on a particular plane because they found out that not all the crew were vaccinated? When we go anywhere I realize there are people not vaccinated, but wear masks, and that still doesn’t stop me from going to a grocery store or even confined areas like a crowded waiting room at an office. I’m vaccinated and wear a mask when required. It’s just the new world we live in. Sorry for the long read!

Matt

I don’t think you can fly Cathay Pacific from the US to Japan or Korea. You can’t transit Asia 2 to get to Asia 1 and pay the Asia 1 price.

Anthony

How early does Qatar make awards available to partners? I’m looking to fly to South Africa in May next year and don’t see much availability.

Greg

330 days out

Josh

I could never get AA to show ORD to MLE business class on Qatar! Only premium economy

Michael Tarlow

I saw BOS/ORD/MLE this morning for next Sept.

elk

I can’t get anything to show up either on aa.com even with BOS. Is BA search still useful for this? Trying but getting only connection flights thru BA.

Michael Tarlow

It’s hit or miss. In one search I can’t find any business class on any airlines. Hours later I find lots. Sometimes when you log out and back in availability changes dramatically. You just have to try different things. I think there has been a rush to book after the original post. There’s a ton of speculating going on. That leads to a lot of canceled trips and changes in availability. You just have to keep looking. Good luck.

Michael Tarlow

I booked BOS/ORD/DOH/MLE this morning and there were still seats on my flights on 9/10

losingtrader

You must be a trillioanire . Always jetting off to South Africa just “to visit a friend.”
I think you should just buy a private jet from your blog earnings, then thumb your nose at us plebes.

paul5795

Hello troll. The whole point of travel with points and miles is that you don’t have to actually be rich to fly like you are rich.

ed k

So true! My family has been traveling free (air, hotel, excursions, food all on points) for years and if people judged us by that appearance they’d think we were rich, but we’re far from that. I actually feel guilty if I have to pay for any of those things. The key thing we found was to acquire points while also making enough monthly statement credits and referral bonuses on certain cards to pay for groceries, gas and medical care (the necessities) when we aren’t traveling. For us, it’s about living. Sure, we work full time jobs, but because we work for a non-profit cause we don’t earn what we would in the same line of work if we were working for-profit. In fact, we used to use MR points for charity which meant thousands of dollars, until we got our points confiscated by the Rat Team. They didn’t care that we used it all for charity through their own charity program (you choose the charity). They shut us down anyhow even though we didn’t do certain things we knew they didn’t care for such as certain bill pay methods. Now we have points and certificates for free travel, but find it difficult to travel at this time. I’m glad we started when we were young enough, but it’s never too late depending on health. We can only fly in business (full lay down seats), so it takes more points than it did when we were much younger, but we just can’t go back to coach due to health reasons. Still planning our next trip to the South Pacific and that gives me a greater push to get healthier.

Cavedweller

Good for u a non profit I have given away like 20 cheap flts in 5 years.One was to Portland on SW so my buddy could see his sister before she passed. My last one was $1k (2 nites) with free SW most can’t afford that sudden cost.
Good Luck

Cavedweller

I take photos with GPS on them that are NOT for me to look at. But to show people so they see I’m not telling Tales…In Brisbane I take a photo in front of the hotel with ME in it to show my buddy’s wife I was there..
I’m 1 for 8 trips(canceled) and 6 booked now lets hope we make them..
Enjoy ur Trips like I do..

losingtrader

There’s that , and photos don’t wear well in a cave.

Cavedweller

HaHa I just figured out an hr ago out how to transfer my old ph photos to my new Laptop . My buddy said old man u didn’t climb (Friday) to the top of Diamond Head .Show me the Proof, I did photos look way better on cheap laptop then cheap phone..

Cheers

losingtrader

Someone is taking me seriously?

Cavedweller

Ur not a Troll he just took ur post the wrong way, Oh the internet, in person is the way to deal with people as in eye contact and body language .
Good Old Days..But internet more $$$ in less time Hmmmmm.

paul5795

All this talk of AAdvantage devaluation is making me nervous. I will be taking a long trip starting in Egypt next October (2022), and the current AA partner award availability and pricing is very good for the routing I want. The latest date I can currently book, however, is for September 9, 2022. And there is no way can actually start my African trip on that date . . . or on any date before October 1. Can I really book a ticket for September and expect to change it risk free to October of next year??? Uggh.

Cavedweller

Yep Wait like me for ATH>ORD just looked for 9/20. I know Greece and Israel can the Beach lifeguards 10/1 so check the weather IF you don’t know ..Love my Locals @ beaches..

paul5795

I bit the bullet and booked two business class tix this morning (total of 140k Aadvantage miles) to Egypt for next September. On a September date that I know I can’t actually fly. Next month I will try to change the dates. Fingers crossed.

Cavedweller

I still can Book AA ORD to ATH 60K rt non-stop in 9/2022 .They have worked well for me in the Cheap seats..

CericRushmore

Are people actually able to get CX USA to Australia to show up as 110K first class. When I do a one way search (JFK-BNE), nothing shows up. I’m able to multi city via HKG (first class) then business class to BNE for 150K. The AA Oneworld chart has the footnote ^Transpacific only for the 80K pricing.

paul5795

I could be wrong, but I don’t think Cathay Pacific flies any aircraft between Hong Kong and Brisbane that are configured for First Class.

CericRushmore

Yeah, it’s first the US/HKG route and then business from to Australia.

paul5795

So then maybe you have to call AA to discuss mixed cabin pricing?

CericRushmore

Maybe, I guess my main point is that the one way route of JDK to BNE which has to go via HKG on CX doesn’t show up at all on AA. Greg, can you help us out here? What do you think?

David

You can call AA to build JFK-HKG and HKG-BNE into one itinerary, but it will still price out as two rewards, because AA award chart does not allow such routing in a single award. So it will be the same as you book online as multiple city. If you have Alaska miles, you will be able to do it as one reward for 80K miles in First and 60K in Business.

CericRushmore

This is the interesting question. Better to burn 150K AA or 80K Alaska since AA devaluation may be coming soon. Also, I think AA gets access to CX 1 day before Alaska, so will the flight still be available to Alaska the next day. Decision time!