Here we go again. American and US Airways both introduced some changes to their awards last night. While they aren’t major, they are probably just a portent of things to come. I think the most worrying thing about these changes are that they were announced without warning and are effective immediately. That’s bad customer service in my book – United and even Delta gave fair warning. Here is a quick summary of changes and the way to deal with them.
Change 1: New rates for AAnytime Awards on American
MilesAAver awards are the awards that are capacity controlled but also the cheapest. However, American and other airlines offer last seat availability for more miles – these are called AAnytime awards. Well, the price of these has gone up a lot and they’ve introduced three tiers of AAnytime awards. Presumably, the less seats that are left on a plane, the more AAnytime awards will cost. Previously they already cost at least double sAAver awards, now they are even higher in price. The new prices are effective immediately and can be seen on aa.com already.
Solution: Don’t book AAnytime awards
I never advocated booking AAnytime awards before, now they are an even worse deal. At this point you’re probably breaking even if you just pay cash when you need a last minute ticket. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to get around this change.
Change 2: New Standard Award Tiers on US Airways
US Airways basically has instituted award tiers for their standard awards as well. It’s the same concept as change 1 and the same solution: don’t book standard awards, only saver.
Solution: Don’t book Standard awards
Change 3: Oneworld Explorer Awards eliminated
American had some pretty cool distance based awards that you could do – 150,000 miles for up to 25,000 miles in business class! Well, too bad, because they are dead. This one hurts especially because I was just beginning to work with a client to book one and was looking forward to the challenge. Alas, the distance based award is dead on American. Granted, this was a niche product but it had the potential for GREAT value.
Solution: Use British Airways Avios for short legs, though that’s not really a solution, it’s more what you can do to save miles if you want to visit a lot of places that are close to one another on Oneworld carriers.
Change 4: International Gateway Stopovers eliminated?
I couldn’t find anything on AA’s website, but it seems like they have eliminated the policy of allowing you to stopover in your North American gateway city. People are reporting that anything over 4 hours is now being considered a stopover. To put it mildly, that sucks. I’m not sure how anal they are going to be, but if they force you to break up your award into two segments that’s going to be costly.
Solution: Keep your layovers less than four hours if possible. If there is no flight in four hours, hope the agent sees reason and doesn’t count it against you.
This isn’t surprising, everyone expects AA and US to devalue eventually. Still, we can hope that they won’t do so without warning like they did this time. If loyal flyers voice their displeasure, hopefully we can at least convince them to give more advanced notice next time. If we just take the changes quietly, that will just let them know it’s okay to do it again. The sky isn’t falling yet, but book your awards sooner rather than later. Earn and burn!