Delta’s model could be “Leading the Way in Killing Awards” as the other major US airlines love to follow those moves made by Delta. Delta removed their award charts a while ago and then, last week, United revealed they will be doing the same as they move to a dynamic award pricing scheme (so, the award prices you may see today will not be fixed in the future). American Airlines is expected to reveal a similar move soon.
The Worst Part About an American Airlines Award Devaluation
Coach Award Values and AA’s Stinginess for Business Awards Is Already a Problem
Of course, any such move is horrible for the customers that like to redeem their miles for premium cabins as that is the area this move hits the hardest. For economy awards, a dynamic award structure could benefit those redemptions since, for example, Europe is cheaper than ever for travel from the US.
With normal awards at 60,000 miles for a roundtrip economy redemption and many fares available for under $500, it really does not make sense to use miles for coach to Europe if you are traveling between major cities.
With American Airlines, they are already incredibly stingy with their awards in business class to popular places. I mean, if you have the choice between a partner like Cathay Pacific or AA, you really don’t want to go with AA anyway! But, they really do love to hold back their business (and, sometimes, even coach) awards at the saver levels. At least United has offered their credit card holders a different award bucket!
Yes, This Move Would Open Awards, But…
So, a move to dynamic award pricing with AA would really open up awards but just at a much higher price. In fairness, AA has held that 57,500 miles for a one-way business class award (for US – Europe) for some time while United went to 60,000 miles (for their own planes, 70,000 for partners) and Delta went to 70,000 miles before removing their chart. But, they appear ready to just skip the raising the miles to go right to a dynamic, chart-less award structure.
The Worst Part About an AA Award Devaluation – NO MEANINGFUL TRANSFER PARTNERS!
So, what is the worst part about an American Airlines award devaluation? It is the lack of transfer partners. At least with Delta, we have always had American Express Membership Rewards and United has had Ultimate Rewards. This allows us to transfer enough points over to miles to make a redemption when we get close. With American Airlines, we have Marriott as a partner and that is it. Also, no Citi ThankYou points transfer partnership with AA or any other flexible program to AA.
Buy Miles and Pay a High Price for An Award If You Are Short
This means that, if you do have any AA miles, if you want to book an award under the eventual dynamic pricing model with American Airlines, if you are short miles, you will need to buy them – plain and simple. Since the award price you see on one day may change completely the next, you don’t really have the time to spend on an AA card or even transfer from Marriott to book that award in time.
Without flexible transfer partners like Amex, Chase, and Citi have, AA members are stuck with using what they have or buying the miles at terrible rates. This is also true if AA does not open up the ability to mix cash and points like Delta has done. In this case, it is still really bad with AA awards that would no longer be tied to an award chart.
Award devaluations are bad but when AA gets around to ditching the charts and implementing full dynamic awards, it is a real insult to their members. Without a meaningful transfer partner, there is no way to top up accounts in an easy, cheap fashion and that is going to really put the strain on the customer/airline partnership – even more than a devaluation already would.