American AAdvantage changed award pricing on some awards with very little notice to members and eliminated other awards with no notice at all. For all travel booked from June 1, 2014, the redemption levels for AAnytime Awards are changing.
AAnytime awards offer the ability to book any unsold seat on any flight with a premium of miles. Before the current change, the cost for AAnytime roundtrip awards was double the cost of a MileSAAver award, which made roundtrip domestic awards 50,000 miles in coach, 100,000 miles in business and 130,000 miles in first class. Those who booked AAnytime awards also received free checked bags – that benefit has also been eliminated.
AAnytime awards will now be redeemed based on three levels, starting at 20,000 miles for a one-way coach flight within the United States. Level 2 will be 30,000 miles and Level 3 awards are offered on a select few dates and will require a higher number of miles to redeem (the miles needed are not indicated on the current award chart). Award levels vary by date and will be confirmed during booking. So, the cost will be less for Level 1 coach awards at 40,000 miles roundtrip, more for Level 2 at 60,000 miles and we don’t know how high it could reach for Level 3 awards.
Roundtrip business/first domestic awards are now 80,000 miles for Level 1 awards and 110,000 miles for Level 2 and first class domestic are 170,000 miles for Level 1 awards and 190,000 miles for Level 2. Just as the domestic awards, Level 3 redemption amounts are a mystery until you are ready to book. Redemption amounts are indicated in an award chart at http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?11310 for regions worldwide, up to 420,000 miles for a roundtrip AAnytime award ticket, Level 2 between North America and Hong Kong / China – and the Level 3 will cost more than 420,000 miles.
You can use your miles to book AAnytime one-way trips or combine awards for a roundtrip or multi-city award. AAnytime awards are only available for American Airlines flights, partner airline flights are only offered as MileSAAver awards.
Another change is the discontinuation of oneworld Explorer awards, which are distance-based and were used by members to add value to award trips by adding short-distance flights within Europe, for example. American says that members were not using these awards much. But now, members will have to book serial one-way awards at a higher cost if they wish to book similar award trips.
And yet another change is the elimination of stopovers on award flights. In the past, American allowed one free stopover on international awards at the North American gateway city. So, for example, if you were flying from Los Angeles to London, you could stopover in New York City. The elimination of stopovers was implemented without notice.
American also upped the fee to book awards via an American Airlines Travel Center to $35 from $25.
Bottom line: The devaluation of award miles is never a happy occurrence for frequent flyer program members and when changes are made without notice, it’s even more disheartening. We are surprised that American AAdvantage decided to take the “no notice” route with these recent changes. The timing is not good considering that a great many of their members are already nervous about how the program will change when the merger with US Airways is complete.
Putting aside the “no notice”and looking at these changes, AAnytime awards are usually used by members as a last resort when they really want to fly and are not able to find a MileSAAver award. These awards are not the type of award most people fly on so will not affect the majority of flyers; however, now, these awards might cost up to three times as much as before. Not knowing the high end for “Level 3” is certainly worrying and those redeeming these awards are losing the two free checked bags benefit. Blogger Wandering Aramean took a close look at the new levels and says, “The three AAnytime tiers will be tied to calendar days, not different inventory buckets. So on Level 1 days the AAnytime awards will always be at the Level 1 prices; they won’t get more expensive even as inventory dries up. Similarly, on Level 3 days the AAnytime awards will always be the most expensive price, even when American still has plenty of lower fares for sale.” And he says Level 3 awards are not dynamically priced, which was a concern since the amounts are not published.
losing the Explorer awards and stopovers on international awards is simply bad news for AAdvantage and the soon to be incorporated US Airways Dividend Miles members.
Although many members are not happy about the way these changes took place, there are others who take a more philosophical approach, such as this person who commented at the View from the Wing blog, “Oh well, more proof that frequent flyer miles are a perishable quantity. It would have been nice if there had been warning, though. And such is life. Let’s not forget that these programs are a kind of game … the rules change all the time [and that] is just part of the game.”