One of the best ways to use frequent flyer miles was lost yesterday. Unfortunately, American Airlines has discontinued a few of their award capabilities – doing so without warning their customers even a day in advanced.
This announcement came under the new leadership of Doug Parker, former CEO of US Airways (prior to the merger, now CEO of AA) and a person who had a poor track record with regards to customer service. Here is the run-down of what happened and how it impacts you.
No more “Explorer” awards
Many bloggers had written about the benefits of the Explorer award. These were distance-based awards that allowed travelers to get tremendous value for multi-city and round-the-world award redemptions. For example, using 220,000 AA miles could have netted you 16 segments, on 6 continents, in business class – all the way around the world. But alas, it ‘twas not to be as AA canceled the awards on April 8 without notifying anyone – some readers even had an itinerary held but were unable to book once the change went in. Further detail of the cancellation can be found here on FlyerTalk, which also has a thread dedicated to channeling any customer complaints you may have.
Elimination of free U.S. stopovers on international awards
Another loss that AA announced was the elimination of free stopovers in U.S. gateways on international routes. I know that is a mouthful; let me tell you what that means for you. In the past travelers could add a decent amount of value to their award redemption when flying from the U.S. to an international location by adding another U.S. destination on their itinerary for free. That’s right; members could add a week in New York to a typical Los Angeles to London award flight without having to spend any more miles. Or, if you wanted to add that free flight on the back-end of your journey, nothing was stopping a member from adding a Los Angeles to Maui (or some other location) any time within a year of booking. Remember, remember the…eighth…of April.
AAnytime Award pricing means more miles are necessary
The third devaluation went much further under the radar. American has long held a tiered pricing structure for award redemptions, with the smallest amount of miles necessary being Saver flights. This has also changed for the worst. While American is touting their increased availability of AAnytime Awards (the second tier in terms of miles needed to book) and has assured us that Saver awards aren’t gone for good, my and others research is proving that to be a lie. It looks as though the 25,000 round-trip redemptions for New York to San Francisco are virtually non-existent when these were the norm six to twelve months ago. To view the full award chart, click here.
That about wraps it up – April 8, not a good day for mileage earners everywhere. This change hit particularly close to home for me, as I spent a countless number of nights booking fake round-the-world itineraries dating back to my college days. I was constantly dreaming of when I could book my own Explorer award – they were both aspirational and inspirational to anybody aware of earning free flights…your very own “Amazing Race” if you will.
And I was so close…I had a 16 segment, 5 continent, business class route picked out to be booked in June (flights only become available a year in advance, hence the wait). Oh well, onward and upward my friends. As always, comment below or contact me if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: Photos credit to American Airlines.