Yesterday’s unveiling of new award rules from American Airlines brought out plenty of confusion and frustration. While every AAdvantage member will be affected slightly differently by the changes the lack of clarity on the new AAnytime awards was most challenging to me. Unpublished rules are rarely tilted in favor of the customer.
I reached out to American for more details on the new tier and learned quite a bit. American is not going with the Delta 5-tier system, for example, even though they have that many different prices for various award types. The three AAnytime tiers will be tied to calendar days, not different inventory buckets. So on Level 1 days the AAnytime awards will always be at the Level 1 prices; they won’t get more expensive even as inventory dries up. Similarly, on Level 3 days the AAnytime awards will always be the most expensive price, even when American still has plenty of lower fares for sale.
It is important to note that the Level 3 awards are NOT dynamically priced. Despite much speculation that they would be tied to the underlying cash fare this is NOT the case. Based on feedback from AA I’ve picked a few dates to compare the cash and point-based options on domestic routes. Note that the award costs are static even as the fares vary and also that the awards are Level 3 rates even though some of the cheapest revenue buckets are available for sale.
So, which dates get the Level 3 rates and what are they? An American Airlines representative offered me some guidance as to when we should expect to have Level 3 awards:
[T]he Level 3 dates will mirror previous US Airways blackout dates and are loaded into the system. If you search those dates, you’ll see what the Level 3 values are for travel in certain regions in each cabin for those that apply.
I cannot do a perfect analysis because the new rates are only for travel starting 1 June and the search only covers 330 days out, but here’s what it looks like for flights within the Continental US:
- Tier 1: 143 Days
- Tier 2: 118 Days
- Tier 3: 17 Days
There are more dates at Tier 3 than US Airways used to have blacked out, and that’s without the March and April details known yet. And they’re different from what I see on the old US chart. But it is similar. And I suppose it is reasonable to assume that there are 40 more dates of the 80 unknowns to get to the “AAnytime award travel will now be available more for than half of the year at an even lower redemption level” promise American made. And that promise also ignores the number of regions where the rates are higher throughout the year. Plus, we don’t really know for certain and the other bits don’t line up perfectly.
For CONUS to Hawaii the calendar is slightly different:
- Tier 1: 140 Days
- Tier 2: 120 Days
- Tier 3: 18 Days
Again, these dates do not line up exactly with what was previously published as the US Airways blackout dates but it is close. I can only assume that the dates for other regions vary similarly, which is to say that it will remain inconsistent. I’m also not 100% certain that the blackout dates are symmetrical across all dates; we’ll just have to wait and see on that, though some spot checks appeared to line up the same in both directions.
And then there’s the actual rates, or at least what they are as of today. The far right column is an evaluation of how much the Level 3 price is compared to the normal Level 2 SAAver award.
The numbers are – as expected – VERY high. And that’s going to hurt some folks a lot. Compared to the old rates the new Level 3 numbers range between 1.5-2.6x more points for the same award. I know that we like to say “no one ever redeems for these anyways” but that’s simply not the reality. And increases of this magnitude will very much hurt those customers.
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