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The pandemic has greatly influenced the buying behavior of travelers and forcing major airline companies to make drastic changes to their products and loyalty programs. In fact, rumors are spreading of American Airlines removing award charts in their AAdvantage loyalty program with a plan to shift to dynamic award pricing.
Among the “big three” US carriers, Delta SkyMiles was the first one to set the trend of using dynamic pricing way back in 2015, followed by United MileagePlus in 2019.
Why Are AA Award Charts Very Important?
In October 2020, newly appointed AAdvantage President Rick Elieson assured the public that they wouldn’t remove award charts. However, he didn’t see the value of simple award charts but knew that they were valued by AAdvantage members. Now rumors seem to indicate that American Airlines is looking to join other legacy carriers and do away with its award charts.
Award charts are valued by AAdvantage members for two major reasons:
1. Award charts have a fixed rewards system that gives members a simple way to work out the exact value of their points. This also helps members, especially points enthusiasts, plan their travels and extract the maximum dollar value for their points by being able to compare the points cost to the cash cost of a similar fare.
For example, If an award flight from New York City to Rome costs 50,000 points and if this price is visible on the award chart, it provides clarity on several levels. AAdvantage members can plan their earning strategy to accumulate the required 50,000 points (if a flight from NY to Rome is their paramount travel goal). They can also compare other awards to see if they can leverage their 50,000 points for better value or even carry on earning a few more miles for a better redemption option. Finally, it gives members a realistic view of what awards are attainable and what is not within their current travel rewards earning and spending strategies. This makes American Airlines removing award charts a big deal for many AA members.
2. Award charts create trust between the members and the airline company. Transparent pricing is key to building trust. Would you trust a business that doesn’t advertise the price of a product it’s selling? Without transparency, a company can dynamically alter its pricing without explaining why and puts the consumers on the losing end. Ultimately, the award flights start to lose their value so there’s no sense in earning more points.
Current Status Of AAdvantage Awards Pricing & Structure
As of this writing, the AAdvantage award chart is still up on the American Airlines website. Below are the various award charts for flights in the US ranging from Economy to First Class.
Here it is for Premium Economy awards:
The Business/First Class AA awards:
And lastly, here’s the award chart for First Class:
Are Change Fees Still Free For Award Flights?
YES. You don’t have to pay fees if you want to make changes on your AAnytime, MileSAAver, and Web Special award tickets. However, you still need to redeem extra miles if there’s a price difference between your old award flight and the new award flight.
- AAnytime award tickets can be canceled or changed for free even if the origin and destination of the award are changed. Miles can be reinstated for canceled tickets.
- MileSAAver award tickets can be canceled or changed for free but the origin and destination need to stay the same. Miles can be reinstated for canceled tickets.
- Web Special award tickets cannot be changed but you can cancel them and have your miles reinstated free of charge.
New Vs Old AA Award Redemption Search Tool
Do you still remember the old legacy award search too which was adored by many? American Airlines removed it back in May 2020 and introduced a new but unappealing search tool.
The old version made it easy for users to switch between cabins or to select between nonstop flights or connecting flights. Also, you were able to select the type of award ticket you were booking whether it’s MileSAAver, AAnytime, or Web Special.
Describing the new search tool as unappealing is an understatement, it’s just plain awful. Booking an award ticket using the new search tool feels like buying a regular flight ticket, and that’s precisely how dynamic pricing works. This makes you wonder whether this new award search tool is just leading towards the inevitable moment of American airlines removing award charts.
Boosting Your AAdvantage mileage Balance
Unfortunately, AA is not a transfer partner for any major credit card issuers in the US or Canada. However, that does not stop you from earning AA miles for everyday spending since AA has one of the broadest collections of co-branded credit cards and is a transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy.
You can boost your AAdvantage mileage balance directly by spending with any of the following credit cards.
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Gold Card
- AAdvantage MileUp Card
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Select Card
- Aviator Silver MasterCard
- Aviator Red MasterCard
- Aviator Blue MasterCard
- Aviator MasterCard
- Aviator Business MasterCard
As you can imagine, each card is tailored to a specific customer offering its own unique set of perks and benefits. Deciding which card you want will ultimately depend on your goals and aspirations. You will need to balance earning rates, annual fees, and card benefits to determine which card is ideal for you.
Transfer Marriot Bonvoy Points
Although you cannot transfer points from any of the major card issuers in the US, you can still transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AAdvantage. Typically Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to AA at a ratio of 3:1. If you are going to transfer Marriott points to AA, it is well worth it to take advantage of Marriott’s inbuilt transfer bonus. When you transfer 60,000 points, you will receive an additional 5,000-mile bonus. So, transferring 60,000 points will yield you 25,000 AA miles instead of 20,000 miles.
While you typically earn Marriott points for stays, you also have the option of earning points for everyday spending with one of Marriott’s co-branded credit cards.
- Marriot Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card
- Marriot Bonvoy Business Card from American Express
Each card has its own earning rates and perks, including some that deliver Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy. The best card for you depend on your spending and stay patterns, including whether and how you split your small business spending from your personal spending.
Thoughts From Points Panda
There’s no actual news yet of American airlines removing award charts but with these various changes happening in the past year, it’s not a question of whether it will happen but rather a question of when it will happen. Watching its peers, Delta and United, shift to dynamic pricing puts a lot of pressure on the upper management to do the same.
While Dynamic award pricing isn’t a bad thing in itself, it is a system that can be easily abused. Here are some examples from other loyalty programs that have taken advantage of dynamic pricing:
- Loyalty members of IHG Rewards have seen a systematic increase in IHG award prices during the pandemic. Without award charts, they were not able to compare the prices before the pandemic and during the pandemic.
- Delta was the first one to shift to dynamic pricing among the 3 major US carriers. From around October 2020 to February 2021, they drastically increased the prices for business class awards to about 60%.
The bottom line is that American Airlines removing award charts does not benefit the members in the slightest because prices can change instantly and opaquely. It’s hard to keep track without the help of award charts so you can end up making terrible award decisions.