Five Big Changes with the American Airlines DevAAluation

American-Airlines

By: Frank – @dugup46 – Unless you have been living under a rock for the past three months, you probably have heard about American Airlines “DevAAluation” of their award chart, beginning on March 22nd, 2016.  In this article, I will break down five of the larger changes for you and make them easy to understand.  I will also show you how you can maximize your AA miles into 2017 with some forward thinking and different tricks.

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American Airlines Award DevAAluation Begins March 22nd, 2016!

Let’s kick this article off with a positive spin:  When we dive into the details below you will see that economy awards have not changed much.  Since most award travels choose economy, I am slow to call this a huge devaluation.  However, for business and first class customers, the new award chart will have you cuddling your pillow tonight with a box of tissues soaking up all those tears.  It’s not that the chart is horrible for today’s standards… it’s just that we have become so accustomed to having cheap first class flights with American Airlines, that we forget what other airlines charge for a similar experience.

At the end of the article, I’ll talk about a couple tricks, like using your American Express Starwood Preferred Guest credit card to get a 20% transfer bonus to AA to help alleviate some of the pain.  So be sure to stick around until the very end!

If you want a comprehensive, detailed write up of the award changes, be sure to check out One Mile At a Time’s blog post about it.  They cover not only awards but paid flights, loyalty status changes, and seat upgrades.  With that said let’s go ahead and start the count down:

5) Economy Award Redemptions are Similar

Economy flights within the 48 states remain at 12.5k miles one way.  As you’ll read below, flights within 500 miles actually get a little cheaper.  Let’s break down a short list of all the economy changes:

Location (One Way) Old Miles New Miles
Contiguous 48 States & Canada ≤ 500 Miles 12,500 7,500
Alaska & Canada 12,500 15,000
Hawaii Off Peak 17,500 20,000
Caribbean Peak 17,500 15,000
Mexico Peak 17,500 15,000
Central America Peak 15,000 12,500
Central America Off Peak 17,500 15,000
South America 1 Off Peak 15,000 17,500
South America 1 Peak 17,500 20,000
South America 2 Off Peak 20,000 Eliminated
Europe Off Peak *See Below 20,000 22,500
Asia Region 1 Off Peak 25,000 32,500
Asia Region 1 Peak 32,500 35,000
Asia Region 2 Off Peak N/A 32,500
South Pacific 37,500 40,000

*Europe off peak dates will see a significant difference.  See #3 below!

The two biggest changes will actually be touched below as we proceed.  Flights under 500 miles in the US and the changes to the off peak dates to/from Europe.  Almost everything else is going up but not by leaps and bounds.  I think all the changes in economy are reasonable.

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4) Flights to Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America are Cheaper

Flights to the above areas are actually getting a little cheaper.  I personally didn’t find Mexico, Caribbean, and Central America very expensive before, so the cheaper flights are a nice surprise.  Previously, flights were 17.5k miles year round; however, moving forward, flights are only 15k during peak times and all the way down to 12.5k for off-peak times!  That’s a 10k mile round trip savings if you book off-peak!

So let’s quickly define the peak and off peak seasons:

Currently:

  • Caribbean & Mexico
    • September 7 – November 14
  • Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru & Venezuela
    • January 16 – June 14 & September 7 – November 14
  • Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay
    • March 1 – May 31 & August 16 – November 30

New Chart After March 22nd:

  • Caribbean, Mexico and Central America
    • September 7 – November 14, April 27 – May 20

So we lose some days here and there, but at least I don’t have to type as much.  That gives us a total of 91 days for off-peak flights – Not a whole lot of room to work with, but something is better than nothing!  September is very slow for many resorts in the Caribbean like the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica so this could be a great time to visit and miss the crowds.

paris

3) Europe Off Peak Dates Are Cut In Half

One of the best sweet spots on the AA award chart was the off-peak flights to Europe.  Unfortunately, this is one of the harder hit areas in the new devAAluation chart.  Previously we were given a total of 213 days for off peak travel!  Pretty incredible really, so I wasn’t too surprised when they decided to make cuts there.  In saying that, I wasn’t expecting them to cut those days in half!  The new chart only gives us 106 days of off-peak awards.  Let’s take a look at the changes:

Currently

  • Europe Off-Peak
    • October 15 – May 15

New Chart After March 22nd:

  • Europe Off-Peak
    • January 10 – March 14
    • November 1 – December 14

They remove two months after March 14th, a month during the holiday season, and the first couple weeks of October.  These changes will really hit people hard!

PITMap

2) Short Haul Flights Within the US Drop Dramatically

Before I lay the single biggest disappointment on you, let me hit you with some good news.  Short haul flights within the US will drop significantly.  Right now the formula is simple: All flights within North America are 12.5k miles one-way.  After March 22nd, the new chart will look like this:

  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states
    • 12,500 miles one way
  • Canada & Alaska
    • 15,000 miles one way (a 2,500 mile increase)
  • Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (≤ 500 miles)
    • 7,500 miles one way

Obviously, the biggest change is that flights within the contiguous 48 states & Canada that are under or equal to 500 miles will drop to only 7,500 miles one way.  Only 15,000 round trip!  If you live on the east coast, this change is huge!  Being based in Pittsburgh, I can now travel to Chicago, New York, Montreal, and even BOSTON for only 15,000 miles round trip.  I will certainly be using some of my AA miles for these short haul flights.

You can search for airports within 500 miles by using two FREE tools!  The first is the Great Circle Mapper (one of the coolest tools in the industry).  By searching for a term such as “500mi@PIT” it will draw a circle and highlight all areas within 500 miles of your airport.  The second tool is the new tool created by the Wandering Aramean (he has a lot of great tools) called the “AAdvantage Shorthaul Awards” tool.  Simply type in your airport code and see the list of airports within 500 miles.

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1) Business Class & First Class Flights Are Hit Hard!

This is the single biggest change and the one we all feared.  There is no sugar coating this one.  It costs more to fly business class after the devAAluation then it did to fly first class before it.  Sometimes much more.  To save on space let’s look at business class and generalize the changes.

Business Class Changes

In the areas designated as North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Europe you can expect a 5,000-7,500 mile increase in your one-way business class seats.  Not too bad.  Here’s where things get ugly:

  • Asia Region 1
    • Currently: 50,000 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 60,000 Miles
    • 10,000 mile increase
  • Asia Region 2
    • Currently: 55,000 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 70,000
    • 15,000 mile increase
  • South Pacific
    • Currently: 62,500 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 80,000 Miles
    • 17,500 mile increase

Ouch… now let’s see what happens to first class redemptions.

First Class Changes

If you thought business class was harsh, just wait until I cover some of the changes you can look forward to with first class.  I want to be very clear… these miles are ONE-WAY!  North America, Central America, South America, and Europe – all are looking at a 10k – 20k rise in cost.  Europe was 62,500 before the changes and after March 22nd will be 80,000.  It gets worse:

  • Asia Region 1
    • Currently: 62,500 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 80,000 Miles
    • 17,500 mile increase
  • Asia Region 2
    • Currently: 67,500 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 110,000 Miles
    • 42,500 mile increase.  Wowzers!
  • South Pacific
    • Currently: 72,500 Miles
    • After March 22nd: 110,000 Miles
    • 37,500 mile increase.

Check out poor Asia 2 over there, looking at a 42,500 mile increase!  How AA justifies going from 67.5k to 110k, I do not know.  A 20,000 point increase is a tough pill for anybody to swallow, but when you start talking 30k and 45k – that’s just unbelievable.  So get your flights in now, and let’s check out some tips to maximize your miles moving forward!

Smiling woman in knit scarf, hat and mittens putting credit card in piggy bank

Maximizing Your Points & Saving Miles

Maximizing your points is the same thing as saving money.  It’s very important and a big key to success.  Let me preface this by saying, if you are an economy jetsetter, there is really no reason to panic here.  Yeah, nobody likes devaluations, but they happen every couple years.  Although there was hope AA would remain the beacon of light for flight loyalty programs, most people assumed this was going to happen after the merger with US Airways.

So, what can you do to maximize your miles if you like booking business or first class flights?

  • Use your American Express Starwood Preferred Guest points to transfer to AA if you have some extra.  Remember that every 20,000 miles you transfer will earn you an extra 5,000 miles for free!  With the Starwood / Marriott merger coming up, a lot of people are looking for ways to use up their SPG points.  This is one of those ways!
  • AA allows you to change flights +1 year.  You can book a flight on March 21, 2016 for March 21, 2017.  Then you can always change that flight to fit your needs, as long as the origination and destination remain the same.  This should not result in a mileage change.  For example – You want to fly F on Japan Airlines in September but there are no seats.  A seat MAY open up one week out, but then it would be too late (post devAAluation).  Book the flight now for March 21st, 2017.  When/if a seat opens up, you can call AA and change the date to fit your schedule.  This strategy does involve risk, because a seat may never open up for your preferred dates, and you will have to pay to cancel the ticket.

Those are just a couple ways to save AA miles right now, and get you to your destination cheaply through March 21st, 2017!

Quick Recap

Economy is really going to be fine.  It may cost you an extra 5k-10k more round trip for some destinations, but you’ll save on short-haul flights.  Off-peak season to Europe will be cut in half, but the biggest change is going to be business and first class prices.  Some of those are very close to doubling in price.  If you want to take a trip on Cathay Pacific first class, arrange for that flight now because you may never get to do it again!  Check back regularly for future updates on the AA award chart changes and everything else for your award travel needs!

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3 thoughts on “Five Big Changes with the American Airlines DevAAluation

  1. So for tickets booked before March 22, europe off peak period will be considered what it is now, if dates need to be changed in future ?

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    • So that is the current thought! This bridge hasn’t been crossed in awhile, so there aren’t many data points on it. I have not been able to call American Airlines and ask a rep directly though. I’m basing that off of what I hear on Reddit and FlyerTalk.

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