It has happened – American Airlines has announced the
enhancements devaluation to their wonderful award chart. Coincidentally, I was actually on my first ever American Airlines mileage run when this broke which is why I am catching up with it today (more on the mileage run later – and I would totally decide to do it again!).
The AA Mega Devaluation
The fact that AA did devalue surprises absolutely no one. The changes that were made were mostly in line with what Delta and United have already done but it was made worse by the fact that American Airlines had such a wonderful redemption chart before and a host of great partners that you could book them on.
So, let’s look at an overview of the devaluation and then drill down on what I think are 5 of the worst changes to their chart. These changes will come into affect for bookings made on/after March 22, 2016.
Like United, AA has released two separate award charts – one for travel on American Airlines and one for travel on their partners. Of course, the chart for travel on only AA suffered a little less than the partner one because, really, who would choose to fly American Airlines to Asia in first class when you could fly Cathay Pacific of JAL for the same amount of miles?
The Award Chart Changes
American has actually changed the economy redemption rates as well, which is never a good thing. Honestly, I expected the economy redemptions to skate through this since that is where the majority of the passengers would redeem their miles for and the cost to American Airlines is less. But no, they changed those as well. The changes are only 2,500 miles, but still. One thing they did change was that they actually dropped travel to Middle East/Indian Subcontinent from 45,000 miles to 40,000 miles (which is like United/Delta).
Fortunately, some of the more popular redemptions – like US – Europe – stayed at the 30,000 mile level. The chart below shows the changes and the difference between travel on partners or just AA.[table “” not found /]
Business class saw an increase pretty much across the board (with a couple of exceptions). The chart below only shows the differences (Africa stayed the same at 75,000 miles one way). Do note that travel to the Caribbean in business has decreased.
Also, for travel on domestic flights served by 3-class aircraft, the business class redemption rate goes from 25,000 miles to 32,500 miles one way. That is also true for routes to the Caribbean, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America region 1 if the domestic portion is on a 3-class aircraft. For example, if you are flying business from LA to the Caribbean in business, it will only be 27,500 miles one way. But, if that includes a LA-JFK on the 3-class A321, that same flight will be 35,000 miles total.[table “” not found /]
First Class Changes
The really bad changes came to the first class chart, which everyone knew would happen. Their first class redemption, especially to places like Asia, were just ripe for change since they had some incredible values. For instance, I cannot tell you how many times I heard people say “it is only 12,500 more miles for one way in first class so why not?” Well, suffice it to say, it is no longer simply a 12,500 mile difference.[table “” not found /]
That’s right – it is an increase of 42,500 miles one way to enjoy Cathay Pacific’s first class now! What is ridiculous is that AA is going to charge you the same amount for first class on their flights as they do for partners in first class. Really?
Of course, they also hit award travel to Australia pretty bad with an increase of 37,500 miles one way.
7 Worst Changes
In no particular order, here are my picks for the 7 worst changes with this AA devaluation. By the way, this started as the 5 worst but just kept going up. 🙁
Changes to Off Peak
AA had the best off peak award calendar for travel to several regions on all of the oneworld partners – it included Hawaii, South America Region 2, Europe, and Asia Region 1. With the new chart for partners, that is all eliminated except Europe – which goes from 20,000 miles off peak to 22,500 miles off peak.
For travel on AA, the off peak regions stayed with the addition of new ones as well. The bad part about it is that the regions simply made the cost be just a fraction (2,500 miles) lower than the old economy or it matched the old economy. For instance, they added Asia Region 2 and made it 32,500 miles one way. That is just 2,500 miles less than it used to be without an off peak.
The real damage is what they did to the off peak calendar. It is used to be fantastic – Europe off peak was October 15 – May 15 and that was across the alliance! Now, it is only January 10 – March 14, November 1 – December 14. That is absolutely terrible! It is understandable that they would make changes to premium cabins but to gut the calendar for their economy off peak awards to Europe is terrible.
To view it all, check this link.
Europe to Middle East/Indian Subcontinent
One of the best redemptions on their chart had been Europe to the Middle East Subcontinent. This let you fly the fantastic Etihad A380 in their First Class Apartments for only 40,000 miles one way (it also applies for travel on Qantas from London to Dubai)! Not only that, but with the addition of the A380 from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, you could fly London – Abu Dhabi – Mumbai all on the A380 in the First Class Apartment for only 40,000 miles.
That all changes now. It goes up from 40,000 miles to 62,500 miles one way. That is over a 50% increase on this route. It does make it be inline for the kind of trip in duration and experience, but it still absolutely stinks.
Business class was not immune either. It goes up from 30,000 miles to 42,500 miles one way. That is hardly terrible since you still get to fly Etihad’s business class which is pretty fantastic, but not a welcome change.
Middle East/Indian Subcontinent to South Pacific
Another big negative was the change for Middle East/Indian Subcontinent to the South Pacific. Again, this was is impacting travel on Etihad in their premium cabins but also affects Qantas on their flight from Dubai to Australia. What was a fantastic redemption at 60,000 miles one way for over 13 hours of incredible first class is now going up to 100,000 miles one way.
US to Middle East/Indian Subcontinent
This was already an expensive route – 90,000 miles one way – but it let you fly on Etihad for this travel (when you could find availability). Now, this has gone up to 115,000 miles. While that equates to only a 25,000 mile increase on way, that is still a very pricey redemption.
US to Asia Region 2
Like I said earlier, it was almost a no-brainer to select first class when traveling to Asia Region 2 when you were talking business or first class. With the difference being only 12,500 miles one way to move up to Cathay Pacific’s roomy first class, it was always an easy pick for first class.
But, that is going from 67,500 miles one way to 110,000 miles one way! That makes Cathay Pacific first class a very rich redemption for sure. Will it be worth it? Honestly, since the difference between business and first is now at 30,000 miles, I would select business since Cathay Pacific still has an incredible business class cabin. Just a shame to see such an incredible hike on this route.
US to South Pacific
Just in time for American Airlines to launch their new service to Sydney, they are hiking up their first class redemptions from the US to Australia from 72,500 miles one way to 110,000 miles one way. That, of course, means Qantas first class also goes up to 110,000 miles one way. Another big negative on the chart.
Business goes up as well but not quite as bad – 62,500 miles to 80,000 miles. For such a long flight, first class is great but business class will still be much better than coach. I would certainly pick business over first now.
US First Class Redemptions
I have flown AA’s A321 from JFK to LAX in first class and it is an awesome way to cross the country! To be able to do it for only 32,500 miles made it even better.
But, now they are increasing that as well, taking it from 32,500 miles one way to 50,000 miles one way. With JetBlue’s Mint providing competition on these routes and at lower cash prices (and thereby lower point redemptions), I am surprised they are raising it this much.
They have also increased the business class cabin redemption rate on that plane from 25,000 to 32,500 miles.
While this was expected, it is certainly not welcome. This severely impacts all customers that want to redeem for first class flights across the globe. Business class is affected as well but will most likely be the new go-to redemptions over first class since they are still somewhat reasonable.
What I really don’t like is that they messed with the economy charts. An increase of 2,500 miles is not a killer, but an extra 5,000 miles roundtrip when traveling as a family is going to hurt a bit more. Not only that, but the damage to the off peak charts is really bad.
Take away – start planning your trips now and get them booked! Get the miles you need sooner rather than later because availability will shrink as time gets closer to the March 22 date.