American AAdvantage has consolidated nearly 500 awards into just over 130 “All Airline” awards that are valid on any participating airline or any combination of participating airlines in the AAdvantage program.
In essence, AAdvantage members now have three “types” of awards available — those strictly on American (primarily domestic U.S.), those exclusively on oneworld Alliance partners, and the new system, which includes AA, oneworld partners, and other American partner airlines.
The idea is to allow customers to simply select a destination for their awards, rather than worry about exactly whose metal they step onto. Naturally, the marketing folks at AA explained the changes as a “simplification.” And in some ways it is. Members can now mix and match airlines in order to find the itinerary that best fits their needs.
But consumer reaction has been mixed. Many frequent flyers know through experience that when programs throw around words like “simplified,” it usually means some benefit is being cut. And this is no exception.
The major difference between the new “All Airline” awards and the previous oneworld Alliance awards (aside from a few more carriers) is that All Airline award levels are based on regions of travel, and thus have set levels for, say, North America to Africa. The oneworld award levels are calculated based on the actual amount of mileage your trip will take. Thus, some awards (Business class from North America to Cairns, Australia, on Qantas, for example) were raised (115,000 to 125,000), while others (Economy from North America to South Africa, for instance) were lowered (95,000 to 75,000).
A complete airline award chart, FAQ and additional details may be viewed online at http://www.aa.com.