Big (Unannounced) Changes to American Airlines Award Charts and Rules

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This morning American Airlines announced some big changes regarding their award charts and redeeming AAdvantage miles. In the miles and points games, changes are almost NEVER good and in this case that holds true.

Cutting straight to the chase, three of the biggest changes American Airlines announced is that there are no more stopovers at North American international gateway cities, there is no longer an Explorer award option, and AAnytime Awards (standard awards) are increasing in price and being split into three levels.

Changes to award charts and the value of miles and points is expected, but lately it seems there have been too many announced changes. It’s one thing when consumers have fair warning to make use their miles at the existing prices, but today American Airlines disregarded the potential uproar from loyal customers and devalued their award charts without prior mention. This is a low blow in my opinion.

When these changes happen overnight and without any warning many frequent flyers are likely to have to rethink their upcoming travel plans. I know I will since I was set to book an around the world Explorer award this coming winter—now I’m abruptly stuck rehashing my plans and calculating my options. And I know there a many others that are in the same boat.

Thankfully the lowest price awards were unscathed and you can still book off-peak awards at a great value. If you always book more-or-less standard round trip or one-way saver awards you won’t see much change.

AAnytime Awards Now Have Three Levels and Increase in Price

Each domestic one way economy award within the US will cost 20,000 miles, a drop down from the current 25,000 miles which is a nice savings. Though for the rest of the chart, award prices have gone up quite significantly to say the least.

For travel after June 1, AAnytime awards are being split into 3 levels. The new award chart will have a total of 5 levels including MileSAAver awards, which will also be split in two levels.

Here is a quick comparison of the changes from the current award chart Continental US to Europe to the new Level 1 AAnytime Awards:

Economy:         60,000 miles → 65,000 miles

           Increased by 5,000 miles

Business:          100,000 miles → 110,000 miles

            Increased by 10,000 miles

First:                  125,000 miles → 175,000 miles

                   Increased by 50,000 miles

A quick comparison of the changes from the current award chart Continental US to Europe to the new Level 2 AAnytime Awards:

Economy:         60,000 miles → 110,000 miles

    Increased by 50,000 miles

Business:          100,000 miles → 180,000 miles

                           Increased by 80,000 miles

First:                  125,000 miles → 215,000 miles

    Increased by 90,000 miles

These values are reflective of American Airline’s newest award chart that was released today.

If you’re going to travel using AAnytime Awards, you’re going to have to fork over some serious points, if you’re even willing to. The cost increase is extremely significant and is a pretty big shock considering that there was never a warning.

Standard awards are generally not a good deal and you should still try to book SAAver awards to get the most from your miles. Yes, standard awards give you flexibility because they give you access to any seat sold on an AA flight, I personally would never pay for a standard award unless it was my last option. Luckily MileSAAver awards remained mostly untouched, but the off-peak and peak pricing is being replaced as level 1 and level 2.

There is no telling of how the award seats will be distributed at these 3 new levels—let’s hope that American Airlines at least spreads out adequate award seat availability among the lower levels.

Say Goodbye to Oneworld Explorer Awards

The Oneworld Explorer Award Chart is no longer available. The distance based chart which was open to Oneworld Airlines will no longer be bookable effective immediately. The last day to book Explorer Award was yesterday April 7. This change was also made without advance notice to its consumers.

With the Explorer Chart, you had the potential of maximizing your awards based on the amount of miles you plan to fly using any of the Oneworld Alliance Airlines that serviced that destination which also made it possible for RTW trips. Now there is no feasible RTW award option when using American Airline miles.

No More Stopovers at North American International Gateway Cities

Another blow came with the end of stopovers at North American international gateway cities. Previously American Airlines allowed stopovers as long as the stopover was in an international gateway city and was either the first destination departing from the US or the last destination before returning to the US.

US Airways Business Class Saver Award to North Asia Increases to 110,000 Miles

So far the only change to the US Airways’ award chart is an increase from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles for a business class saver award from the US to North Asia. At the previous 90,000 miles this was a sweet spot that a lot of people will be sad to see go, and the option literally vanished overnight. Like American Airlines, there was no mention of this change.

Free Checked-In Bag Perks No Longer Available

Gold and Platinum Elite Status holders who usually had the perk of 2 free checked in bags will now only be able to check in one free bag. If you’re a Gold and Platinum Elite status holder and have either a Citi or Barclaycard, then the card benefits can be combined to get the 2nd bag for free. However, if you are on a flight operated by US Airways you have until April 23 to enjoy a flight with two-free checked in bags as status holders.

On top of that, flights from the Continental US to Central America, Mexico and Puerto Rico which had the perk of one-free checked in bag is no longer an option regardless of elite status. The first checked in bag is now $25 and $45 for the second checked in bag.

At the End of the Day

I expect to see devaluations over time, but have almost always expected to received fair warning for major changes—especially from one of the largest US Airlines. Yes Club Carlson and some other programs pulled an unannounced devaluation over the last year, but I always hoped that we will get fair notice in the future so we may scurry to book some trips at the existing award prices.

This is one reason why I push for people to earn miles and go travel—use them! You never know when they will lose value and no one enjoys earning lots of miles just to see them lose value overnight. All this is just another reason to book that trip and go travel.

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