I spoke with Suzanne Rubin, the President of AAdvantage, this morning about the changes that have been announced today.

I think she heard the feedback about the lack of notice in the changes to the award chart, rules and opportunities that were announced today, and that while she wouldn’t promise they’d do things differently it’ll be something they think long and hard on in the future.

Here are some key points from our conversation:

  • I emphasized the importance of advance notice of changes to members, as an issue of trust and respect

    Suzanne said made four points, the fourth of which is the most important:

    • They wanted to be out in front of members with their own communication first, rather than having the information come out early, but with some of the changes they had to make advance filings. (This would relate to baggage fee charges.)

    • They felt like they were providing a timing buffer by making changes for tickets effective immediately but only for travel starting June 1.

    • Many of the changes that came out today were seen as “harmonization” rather than transformation changes, and to “get up to speed where the industry already is.”

    • She seemed a bit surprised by the reaction to the lack of notice, “will take the feedback we’re hearing from the community, feedback of the commentary today, into consideration for future decisions. Ultimately we’ll be doing everything we can to steward the AAdvantage program in the way that customers expect.”

  • On the mystery 3rd (high) level of AAnytime awards

    They show just an asterisk for how many miles the top level of awards is going to cost. That bothered me.

    So I asked about pricing and Suzanne told me that it

    remains to be determined, we’re looking at making sure we can appropriately match the award levels with the demand we see on certain days. If you go and think about the prior US Airways Diviend Miles blackout dates, that’s a good first pass at what the days would be, we are actively making sure this isn’t expansive and truly trying to match the demand for the product. Ultimately we need to make sure the value is in line with the revenue opportunity that we have. We’ll have some learning to do on this.

    I’m surprised that the asterisk currently represents that they don’t know.. It can’t be good, of course.

  • Stopovers on Awards

    Suzanne suggested that elimination of stopover was in part driven “from a technical standpoint, while it may not be evident it’s part of making this work together” and also suggested that there was probably too much value relative to pricing (I assume she was referring here to the ‘free one-way’) and that it’s an obscure rule that wasn’t benefiting most members.

  • When can we expect to see more news

    Reciprocal upgrades for elite members should be the next thing announced — US Airways elites getting upgrades on American and vice-versa.

    We have been laser focused on delivering customer benefits of the integration as quickly as possible. We’ve seen the early-on recognition of elite members, entry into oneworld [for US Airways], and notably absent so far is upgrades. We’re working around the clock on upgrades, it’s near and dear to customers, so we’re spending a lot of time, but it’s a complex issue to deliver. It will hopefully be one of next things to announce.

  • On Whether US Airways and American Elite Qualifying Mileage Will Get Combined Towards Status

    This isn’t a topic of the day but something I’ve seen mixed reporting on, and since they don’t actually know for certain when the programs will get combined they haven’t actually made a decision one way or another about how they are going to combine elite qualifying miles from a member’s US Airways and American accounts to determine elite status in the program going forward yet.

    • “Balances in member accounts today cannot be combined to redeem an award on one or the other carrier” (you can’t use some American miles and some US Airways miles towards a single award, and cannot move miles back and forth between the two programs)
    • “We haven’t come out with a date to integrate programs”
    • “When we do integrate, we will be bringing balances together into a single account structure”
    • She then explained that they would probably need to combine elite qualifying balances if the programs were combined during a program year (eg combined in March or September) but not necessarily if there was a clean break into a new program on, say, January 1.

American was too generous with their ‘AAnytime’ awards compared to the rest of the industry. We’ve known that and their actions with new routes suggested that they did too. They were also too generous with baggage allowances for bottom-tier elites, that wasn’t going to last especially with an airline management looking for revenue at every turn.

I’m disappointed to see North American gateway stopovers and oneworld explorer awards go away. Both take real value away from frequent flyers even though they were used only by a very small portion of members.

There will be give and take during the integration, and both AAdvantage and Dividend Miles members will have reasons to be unhappy. US Airways elites up front domestically will at least get fed occasionally now.

I appreciated Suzanne’s time this morning. She’s done good work with AAdvantage to date and clearly wants to going forward, and is somewhat constrained in conversation about their plans.

But the biggest issue in all of this is maintaining trust, being transparent, and giving meaningful notice about changes when possible. That’s the message I offered, and it’s what will set the tone for the rest of the changes to come.

  1. Surffnutt 3000 said,

    They were surprised by the reaction to their lack of notice? Seriously???

  2. toomanybooks said,

    She was surprised that people don’t like lack of notice when they make huge changes?

    How long has she been at this?

    I am dubious, to say the least.

  3. Travel Summary said,

    Thanks for posting this. Her response in regards to a lack of an advanced notice is baffling!

  4. swag said,

    Thanks for making the effort to reach out to her for comments, and for relaying the frustration that many of us feel about the lack of notice.

  5. Lee said,

    You should do a detailed report about how the peak days of at least 50,000 miles one way domestically in coach is a total rip off. i have noticed many dates are now at that level. if you do the calculation, many of these redemptions are less than 1 cent in value. why would you not then do an arrival card for 2.2% in value, plus be able to earn miles in a program for extra value? I am going to start using United more, now that I can book anytime coach fares at only 25,000 miles, because I have their credit card. i just can’t believe how out of hand they got with the miles they required; this has to be worse than delta now many times, as i rarely see any low level direct flights anymore.

  6. Nick said,

    You didn’t ask about reduced availability of SAAver awards? That’s the elephant in the room in my opinion and which potentially makes this devaluation massive.

  7. AdamH said,

    As bad as the UA devaluation was, they gave months of notice and worked through questions and are now erring on the customer side with some of the repricing issues for outstanding awards. Sort of have to hand it to them for a little common sense.

  8. JL said,

    Gary – I feel like you let her off the hook here. The sudden disappearance of the free stopover + oneworld explorer awards really hurts.

    They could have made these changes effective June 1st and I think most would be content.

    I’m filing a DOT complaint here if anyone else wants to (won’t do any good but will go on record).


  9. JL said,

    @AdamH Yes I agree – I’m surprised they managed to screw up more than United.

  10. MyTravels said,

    “They wanted to be out in front of members ..”
    Q:Is this a tangent, it does not seems to have anything to do with providing or not providing advance notice of changes.

    “They felt like they were providing a timing buffer by making changes for tickets effective immediately but only for travel starting June 1.”
    Q:Selling a bridge in Brooklyn?

    “Many of the changes that came out today were seen as “harmonization” rather than transformation changes”
    Q:Presumably customers pick you over others because you’re different, then why would you be surprised when you “align to the industry”?

    “She seemed a bit surprised by the reaction to the lack of notice…”
    Q:Haven’t you been on discussion boards before? It seems you’re familiar with Mr. Leff who previously railed companies when they provided no notice.

  11. LarryInNYC said,

    If you accurately reported Ms Rubin’s statements (and I assume you did), I’m afraid they sound like disingenuous corporate-speak to me.

    – If they wanted to communicate with their members first, they could have done so prior to implementing the changes — in truth, they still have not communicated with their members AFTER implementing the changes.

    -A policy that goes into affect immediately cannot possibly be described as providing “a timing buffer”.

    – It beggars belief that they’re surprised by the reaction to the lack of notice, especially from AAdvantage members who may have been saving for an Explorer award for several years, only to have that redemption eliminated without a hint of warning.

  12. Truthiness said,

    “laser focused” is the most over-used term by publicists. Clearly using talking points and not providing real insight. How is no notice “harmonization?”

  13. MyTravels said,

    Gary => I am in agreement with Travel Summary & swag, thanks for reaching out to Suzanne Rubin and sharing highlights from your discussion.

  14. CW said,

    Ditto to Nick…this all means nothing absent info on SAAver availability. Whether it drops off will be the factor that determines whether these modifications are completely game-changing.

  15. Patrick said,

    “American was too generous with their ‘AAnytime’ awards compared to the rest of the industry…” Maybe the rest of the industry is too stingy? If everyone else is serving up @##$% then AA has to do the same?

  16. Santastico said,

    Did she used to work for Delta? I guess so!!!! That is where she learned that the objective of an airline is to make customers mad. And she is getting that.

    BTW, did you ask why she keeps devaluing Gold status? It used to be a decent status to have but now it is almost worthless. First they took economy comfort, then they took selection of preferred seat, now they reduce the number of free bags. Thus, I am wondering why bother having Gold status with AA.

  17. DTO said,

    @AdamH Yep this really makes UA look like a gentleman with class.

  18. dhammer53 said,

    I’m not impressed with this once star of the FF community.

    I have one 4 letter word for her, but since this is a respectable blog, allow me to say this #Fail and shame on Susan and AA.

  19. Marvin O'Grovel said,

    ‘Many of the changes that came out today were seen as “harmonization” rather than transformation changes, and to “get up to speed where the industry already is.”‘

    Translation: Everyone else decided to screw their customers over and we were still providing marginal value, so we decided to screw our customers over in order to keep up with the industry standard. We’re committed to maintain our position at the cutting edge of customer-screwing.

    I admire anyone who could maintain composure while someone lobbed that grapefruit at them, much less thank them for the opportunity.

    I was going to try and book an explorer award sometime in the near future. Oh well.

  20. FullMoon said,

    I am sorry they weren’t “laser focused” on the benefit most important to this EXP: the free stopover. When this occurs within the outbound and inbound flights of an itinerary, I don’t see its elimination as a cost-effective change for AA. Get rid of the post-travel one-ways if you must, but don’t tread on my stopovers, please. That was a mighty precious AAdvantage to this program.

  21. Ryan said,

    If the worry w/r/t stopovers was allowing the extra one way on awards (which I understand), then why not just eliminate that part of it? Why not state that stopovers can only be for a max of X days? That problem could have been solved in a much less customer unfriendly way. Now, we cannot spend a day in SFO on our way to HKG, as we have always enjoyed doing.

  22. Robert Hanson said,

    “They felt like they were providing a timing buffer by making changes for tickets effective immediately but only for travel starting June 1.”

    What a crock of ###. How many AF FFers sitting on several hundred thousand miles can make use of them in the 53 days? I’m sure Lucky will be frantically flying around the world in for the next 53 days. But hardly anyone with a job, much less a family, will be able to arrange for time off, and plan a trip, starting in just 53 days.

  23. nsx at flyertalk said,

    “She seemed a bit surprised by the reaction to the lack of notice”

    This attitude reveals that American does not see loyalty as a two-way street.

    Managers of loyalty programs must be able to see things from the customer’s point of view. Otherwise customers will not take the program seriously, because fundamentally the management does not take the program seriously.

  24. travelerkt said,

    Gary – for me, it is the elimination of the Explorer awards that is galling. It is simple bait-and-switch, and we in the community have been too blithely accepting the airlines manhandling us for years. How do we organize?

  25. Jon said,

    Thanks for the info, Gary. Your way over-friendly treatment of AA in this post and the last few today is what gets you access to AA execs like this, so I can overlook it as the price for access to the info. If your reaction to AA today was similar to the untimely DL post yesterday, you surely would not get interview opportunities like this.

    My observation is this: despite all the DL-bashing by you and others and the discontent of even the most loyal DL customers, over the next year AA will watch DL’s very profitable implementation of their award program changes and will follow suit – or “harmonize” to use Ms. Rubin’s terminology.

    The AA program advantages that you promote so loudly are crumbling down around you, and in a year’s time the only difference between AA and DL will be DL’s vastly superior operational ability and their lack of merger chaos and grumbling front-line staff. Enjoy what remains while it lasts!

    It may not sound like it, but I’m a huge fan of yours. You’re going to have egg on your face on this one, though, by the time the dust settles.

  26. Bill said,

    I quit AA’s program several years ago and have never flown them since.

  27. stvr said,

    I think Gary being overly generous to Suzanne Rubin — who comes across like she hasn’t worked in this space very long even though she has — has to do with access. If he’s going to be the blogger getting to make the Day One call to corporate, he can’t totally rake her over the coals. So he’s giving her some leeway she doesn’t really deserve. That said, she has to report to a CEO who may not think frequent flyers deserve notice. So I’d read her “surprise” with a grain of salt and chalk that “surprise” up to taking one for the team. Otherwise, that’s just professionally embarrassing for her.

  28. Jay said,

    I think everyone was kind of anticipating some sort of changes from AA. The only thing left is to change officially change the program name to Dis-AAdvantage. Thanks for the harmonization!

  29. Shannon said,

    Gary, I feel you are not as strong to this women as you are to Delta which is a huge disapoitment. I still very upset about American Airilne’s decision to eliminate One World Explorer. Is there any way the will consider at least to give some mercy period?

  30. jay said,

    “I think she heard the feedback about the lack of notice in the changes to the award chart, rules and opportunities that were announced today, and that while she wouldn’t promise they’d do things differently it’ll be something they think long and hard on in the future.”

    what an absolute joke that is… so there is NO promise they will not make stealth devals again.

    given that response…

    @gary – is AA still a program that you trust????

  31. Brad said,

    +1 to jay — Gary, I’m curious whether AA is still a program you trust?

  32. jettyboy said,

    Jon, I disagree. Lucky was very critical of AA in his posts last night and today, and he had a chance to speak with Suzanne as well.

  33. Robert Hanson said,

    I just checked my email, and the “notice” I was sent from AA is much worse than the lies mentioned above.

    “Redeem for less. Effective today for travel starting June 1, 2014, a one‑way AAnytime award now starts as low as 20,000 miles plus applicable taxes and carrier–imposed fees. Plus we’ve lowered the minimum number of miles needed for AAnytime awards to popular destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe. Our lowest AAnytime mileage levels are available for more than 50% of the year. Don’t forget we still offer MileSAAver awards that can be redeemed for as low as 12,500 miles each way, plus applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees.

    No blackout dates! Continue to use your miles for any seat on any American Airlines flight using an AAnytime Award. Award levels vary by date and a few select dates throughout the year are now offered at higher mileage levels.”

    It makes it sound like they have LOWERED the required miles for Anytime awards. Bull^^^ Perhaps for economy trips to Finland in January, I didn’t check. But I did check for a pair of FC awards ORD to LHR.

    Forget “lowered”, not one single day from June 1st thru end of booking is even as low as it was yesterday. It used to be 125K miles for one way FC TATL.

    Remember how the new rates aren’t supposed to start until start until June 1st? May 31st jumps from the previous 125K to 175K.

    From then on thru the summer, FC awards range from 175K to 215K one way. Once one gets into the winter, some days drop down to “only” 140K. But far from lowering anything, not one single day after May 30th is as low as it was.

    I’m not sure what I hate the most; the massive devaluation with zero notice, or blatantly lying to me in the email about it.

  34. Gary said,

    @Shannon – I don’t see them going back on the decision unfortunately even for a short time

  35. ABC said,

    @Marvin O’Grovel
    ‘Many of the changes that came out today were seen as “harmonization” rather than transformation changes, and to “get up to speed where the industry already is.”

    Read: first we harmonize USAir and AA. Next step is gutting of the award chart. No advance notice I suspect.

  36. Steve said,

    Just as AA/US was winning me over from UA 1K this comes along–very sad move and the lack of notice inexcusable.

  37. Adam said,

    The salient takeaways are these:

    –Rubin is the only carryover high-placed AA exec still in her role with the airline. She is working for Parker and Kirby now and dancing to their tune. Clearly they were not of a mind to give notice, nor were they interested if FFs were put off. Consolidation is a bitch, folks.

    –Though the previous management may have wanted AAdvantage to have a superior value proposition, from Rubin’s language, this management wants nothing to do with that idea. That they are hacking away at benefits on an interim basis, before they even merge the programs, is laser-precise evidence of that.

    –Again the language about over-rewarding. We’ve heard it from Robertson, Smisek, and now Rubin, albeit in a less off-putting way. For now it’s just the low-hanging fruit, but obviously more is to come. Clearly if the question is whether to retain value sweet-spots as a competitive advantage or devalue, this management will opt to devalue.

    No one should be surprised. This is the legacy of consolidation. Competition breeds innovation, unique value propositions, a laser-focus on the competitive advantage. Consolidation breeds using market-size and lack of competition to leave the consumer feeling they are without options as value is destroyed. American is bringing its product up to domestic industry standard as they bring AAdvantage down to that as well. Gary predicted it.

  38. BFrankley said,

    In other news, Putin is SHOCKED that anyone is bothered by him annexing Crimea. SHOCKED!

    Suzanne could do PR for Vladimir. They seem to understand each other.

  39. MileageUpdate said,

    Wondering when the whole mileage thing falls apart? So how does an normal point/mile earner even compete anymore. Are normal ppl ever accumulating 200-300k in their accts for a flight? I cant imagine if someone grinding along putting all spend and shopping online thru the AA portal saving for a big trip might have just been completely screwed. And now we just shrug when miles costs bump from 90k to 110k. Whew it only went up by 22% thats not so bad.

  40. David said,

    So was this a conference call with several bloggers or an individual conversion? TPG, Ben, and You spoke with her today.

  41. John said,

    Although Gary appears (disappointingly) to be an AApologist today with his posts, what he doesn’t appreciate yet is that this blog and all the others out there (especially the more snake oil salesmen/women ones) have also become far less valuable.

    Agree with everyone else that Suzanne’s explanation for the lack of any notice is pathetic and her surprise is just fake.

  42. Jim said,

    Quite simply – as it comes to customer focus/concern – there is zero excuse for not giving anyone advance warning. The only excuses involve increasing revenue and so forth. They could have simply afforded people some notice. People fly on these airlines and accrue miles hoping to use them for something. By the very nature of how these programs work, you cannot get around a time lag between earning the first mile and spending the accumulated miles for an award. Because of this lag, they should certainly give the customer the respect of knowing what is coming. We all understand inflation and costs and revenue and wall street targets, but just a little notice would mean a ton. I guess they don’t understand the customer or just don’t care.

    In all, I don’t care about the ins and outs of the changes as much as I care about lack of notice. It is a very abrasive maneuver especially for those who had been planning complex itineraries for family moments/experiences/etc. and now are undone.

    I was going to sign up for some credit cards and fly some additional trips for more miles. However, I have decided it is better to become agnostic to brands as a friendship and instead become more alert to which companies I will not do business with.

    As far as raging at Gary – it is his blog and he can write and feel what he wants. It doesn’t mean he is a shill or in some dark alleyway. If you are angry, upset, or otherwise – call/email/tweet American and let your voice be heard. If they do nothing about it, then do your best not to fly them. Otherwise, I got a life to live – caio!

  43. Steve said,

    Apparently, many bloggers spoke with Suzanne this morning so I doubt much will change since I’m guessing there’s a pretty cozy relationship there.

  44. Gary said,

    @David this wasn’t a conference call, seems like she spent some time to talk to who they’d view as key influencers today.

    And to others I am presenting her side of the story but also I hope making clear where I feel they came up short.

  45. jay said,


    Really would like your opinion… given that AA told you that they won’t gaurentee steal devals – is this still a program you trust?

  46. jay said,

    errr i meant *stealth devals

  47. Tex said,

    The email I got was all positive and rosy. The quick devaluation of their program really hurts to people like me who have aligned themselves with American in large part due to their frequent flyer plan.

    I agree that the summary Gary posted sounds like a broadcast of AA’s lame talking points and less like he actually asked her “why screw your customers so badly and with no warning.”

    Rubin’s statement “Ultimately we’ll be doing everything we can to steward the AAdvantage program in the way that customers expect” doesn’t seem to fly counter to what all of us are saying we expect and want. They will do what they want to do. And unfortunately, I would expect a few more program cuts between now and next year (including increasingly less award space at lower levels).

  48. The Other Carl said,

    Suzanne Rubin used to be the face of the most customer-focused ff program. Seems she knows who’s signing her paycheck. Color me disappointed. She was not “surprised” at the reax to lack of advance notice. How do I know? Because SR is not stupid.

  49. Nun said,

    Gary — Did you ask her about Explorer awards? Once US is completely integrated and there are fewer technical issues, it would be great if Explorer returns. I doubt it, but would like to hear that answer.

    Suzanne’s comment about matching the industry is complete BS. Few airlines have 5 tier awards (do any besides DL?). NO ONE has an asterisk price. Other airlines allow stopovers. If people abused stopovers, then put a limit on the length of the stopover and make them require approval by phone. For example, you’re flying NYC-SYD, but a 2-day stopover in LAX is necessary to make the SYD flight. Allow that. Block someone who wants a 4 month stopover in DFW so they can get a free HNL flight.

  50. Nick said,

    Not giving advance notice basically means they cannot be trusted at all. They gave no notice because they didn’t want to give us a chance to redeem at the old level. But that failure to give some of their best customers notice to be able to use their miles will hurt them in the long run.

  51. Autolycus said,

    Gary, when they eventually change their SAAver award chart, will it be dinAArs or riyAAl? ;)

  52. ffi said,

    Save your loyalty folks, both for travel – choose the best cheapest nonstop
    Save your loyalty folks – no AA, go with cash- it is KING all the time and devalues slower than the miles

    it is “Zimb-AA-bway”
    AA is worse than DL for me.

    Luckily I can still have status on DL with a few MQMs and am really happy they are still in DC

    The best may be Jeff $misek after all.
    The UA domestic part is not changed that much and the free upgrades beat AA stickers for a Plat.
    I still get free award changes and decent partners with low YQ

    Shame on AA – it was bad enough that they added YQ on BA suddenly 3 years ago, but at least the rest were OK

    Now it is all a commodity and we are right to focus on price alone

  53. Gary said,

    @jay I have varying degrees of trust for different programs. I trust American less than I did.

    There’s no one that gets 100% of my trust.

    At the top and again various gradations but in general I have more trust than distrust (in some cases despite past devaluations) for Hyatt, Starwood, American Express, Chase.

    I have more trust for American than I do United or Delta even after todays changes, but less than I did yesterday because of the lack of notice.

    At the very bottom are programs like Amtrak (even though they’re better than they used to be probablh), they’re almsot down there in my book with the all-time least trustworthy progrmas like GlobalPass.

  54. LIH Prem said,

    Not sure what the message is when the head of AAdvantage is “genuinely surprised” that no-advance notice changes would be met this way. What does that say?


  55. Gary said,

    @Nun – I think the answer on explorer awards is that they looked at what each program offers and decided that’s one US Airways doesn’t have, it’s one that very few members actually use (even though many here in the comments do it’s a very small percentage of members), it’s costly to maintain — think of the last time you booked one, did the agent you were talking to even know much about them or how to do them? Had they done more than 1 in the past year? So going down the list and coming up point by point what to keep or change or jettison I think I get why that one gets jettisoned. It sucks. It really does for me, and for those paying close attention to how much value was there. But from a program standpoint, cost versus benefit to members, I think I get why that one winds up on the cutting room floor. I do not like it, but I could live with it **IF** they had given members notice and said “We’re going to be ending the explorer award, so you’ve got the next couple of weeks to get one booked if you want” instead of ending it overnight. That I thought was pretty awful.

  56. David said,

    I’m confused…it’s for travel starting June 1 but tickets issued today. Meaning if I’m buying today for next week, old things apply or new?

  57. Todd said,

    re: top level awards – they’re taking a page from the Uber playbook and implementing quasi-surge pricing.

  58. Bill said,

    –she must think we are stupid
    and believe her — Such b.s!!

  59. m henner said,

    I feel cheated.

    I had intended on booking a London to Eugene, Oregon trip in September with a free stopover in New York.

    Now they say I can’t.

    The change was made with no advance notice

  60. MyTravels said,

    I believe it’s any bookings made April 8th forward for travel on or after June 1st. If you made a booking prior to April 7th, old rules apply. If you make a booking anytime before June 1st old rules apply. Make a new booking on or after April 8th for travel on or after June 1st and new rules apply.

  61. MyTravels said,

    @ David:

    I believe it’s any bookings made April 8th forward for travel on or after June 1st. If you made a booking prior to April 7th, old rules apply. If you make a booking anytime before June 1st old rules apply. Make a new booking on or after April 8th for travel on or after June 1st and new rules apply.

  62. Steve said,

    The best quote of the day is from Marvin –
    Translation: Everyone else decided to screw their customers over and we were still providing marginal value, so we decided to screw our customers over in order to keep up with the industry standard. We’re committed to maintain our position at the cutting edge of customer-screwing.

    Gary loves AA and was very soft on Suzanne. And I bet she knew that when she agreed to the “interview”. She sounded like a politician telling us their latest BS. All the airlines are in a race to bottom for service and customer loyalty and a race to see who can charge the most and give back the least to both occasional and elite customers.

    How is AA going to sell miles at >2 cents and give you back <1 cent. Maybe they will tell us we will make it up on volume. :)

    While I am Lifetime Platinum now, I wonder what that will mean when the harmonization is finished.

  63. GUWONDER said,

    Most awards types are used by a small minority of the program customers. If that is a rationale for eliminating awards without notice, the program would gravitate toward having just a 25k level roundtrip domestic US award and do the change effective immediately too. These characters have real audacity in trying to spin things in the way they have.

  64. Nun said,

    @Gary – Thanks for the explanation. I would sort of still like to know AA’s stated reason for canceling Explorer. Also a blogger said that other oneworld members offer distance-based awards like Explorer. If true, that makes it strange for AA to permanently drop it.

    Also, there are 2 statements that are a little at odds. On one hand you’re saying Explorer is too much trouble for AA to maintain, but on the other hand no one uses them. Well if hardly anyone uses them, how much trouble can it be? If the online booking tool ever includes all oneworld partners, it may be even less work for their staff.

    Finally, there are some products that can help a business even if the customer never buys it. Explorer is one of them. It’s a dream product for some members. To use a car example, how many people buy the “Limited” version of their car? Probably few, but it makes the car brand look better.

  65. dcacoaster said,

    What email address should we send our thoughts about this to at AA? Eliminating Explorer awards folks had saved for for years overnight with no warning really destroyed trust in the program–what’ll go next with no warning?–in addition to being a significant personal disappointment as it ruined my “trip of a lifetime” plans.

  66. Kelly said,

    As an EXP with 3+million miles, i am absolutely devastated. I am retiring in a few months and have been planning a round-the-world trip for 4 in first. I have NO issues with their devaluation/changes – we knew that was coming – but to do it with no notice is unconscionable. BTW – the online booking tool for Explorer tickets is awesome.

  67. Steven said,

    I’ve been saving for years for a RTW trip for my honeymoon this coming winter. 350k miles, now highly devalued to me. Honeymoon plans are now wayyyy different. This will likely push me back to the arms of United, which is just as painful.

  68. abby said,

    @Gary: you obviously personally cared about the explorer award, but there is no mention of it relative to your chat with her. what possible excuse did she have for why it was cut with no warning? the “we’re surprised people care”‘ response is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. i can’t imagine you would let that slide unless you are really toeing the New AA line.

  69. Gary said,

    @abby – I’m not letting any answers slide, I’m sharing what she said so that people can judge for themselves (and I think the judgment is clear).

    See my answer above in the comments re the explorer award.

  70. Anon256 said,

    The elimination of stopovers is a disaster, worse for me than UA’s devaluation (since I fly coach). Why is Gary burying and minimising the significance of this huge loss of value? The claim that the changes only impact travel starting June 1 seems to be an outright lie, AA.com won’t let me book a free stopover even for travel later this month.

  71. Gary said,

    @Nun – it’s precisely because it’s little used that the training investment doesn’t get amortized across a lot of members, and agents get really rusty doing them.

  72. Gary said,

    @GUWonder my guess is they’re getting rid of this in some sense for the same reason Hyatt killed passport escapes award which saddened me greatly because i personally used it.

  73. Gary said,

    @David if you book an AAnytime award now for travel next week it should be under the old award chart.

  74. chris said,

    As these mergers happen we all lose more and more. I understand change is many times necessary and its their program, we can go elsewhere if we like. But to make the changes with no notice is just plain wrong, I spend a lot of time and effort earning miles with US and AA so much for their loyalty to their customers. I just don’t get why you can’t run a successful business focused on customers and be successful, oh, I think you can and that’s probably why all the airlines have gone bankrupt. Maybe if they cared about their customers they would be successful and not nickel and dime us to death. Lousy move on AA’s part.

  75. GUWonder said,

    I suspect Hyatt killed the Passport Escape because the F&B costs were rising and hitting along with the awards disproportionate use during peak periods resulting in Hyatt GP paying closer to the prevailing ADR. A cost reduction exercise independent of “training”/”knowledge” costs. F&B discounts were probably capped.

    These AA changes seem a cost-reduction exercise of the same sort — one that uses minority interest in the reward as an excuse to eliminate value customers get out of the program and reduce program operator’s costs to reimburse the service provider.

  76. Ruy said,

    I feel bad for Suzanne, since I’m sure none of these were her ideas. She is paid to spin. However, how can she be surprised by the reaction from customers who feel nothing but betrayed?

  77. Andrew said,

    Did you push her on why we can not transfer miles between AA and US? From your post, it looks like they will wait until the programs are combined. Most other mergers provided this ability early in the process. They are clearly afraid of something since this is a rather simple IT effort.

  78. TravelinWilly said,


    “I feel bad for Suzanne, since I’m sure none of these were her ideas. She is paid to spin.”

    Suzanne is the president of AAdvantage. AAdvantage is a marketing group for the airlines, all airlines, not a communications hub. She is not paid to spin, she’s paid to run the AAdvantage program. Because of that, she’s responsible for this change and the timing of same. Full stop. The buck stops with her, and she chose to avoid providing any meaningful answers.

  79. Gary said,

    @Andrew I didn’t get the sense that you wouldn’t be able to move points back and forth, just that they didn’t have a date when you’d be able to. I think the IT is proving more challenging than expected on a lot of fronts.

  80. nsx at flyertalk said,

    “They gave no notice because they didn’t want to give us a chance to redeem at the old level. But that failure to give some of their best customers notice to be able to use their miles will hurt them in the long run.”

    Right and right. Travel companies need to learn that second part, but managers act as if they will be long gone before the long run consequences bite their companies.

  81. pointie said,

    She’s downplaying the whole thing because she’s an executive and that’s her role. Regardless, I take this as an ominous sign for things to come – I’m burning my miles!

  82. robert weisberg said,

    Suzanne is a mouthpiece. She is full of it. While this doesn’t affect me right now she is not truthful Just like the email trying to sound like all the changes were great benefits. The truth as nsx stated. The comment from Gary about being a free agent does ring true. But it was Gary’s friend Steve Belkin that did a seminar at FTU called ditch your status. I had some humor to it, and for the most part I agreed. Now even more so. Sizanne is like a lot of people I deal with in business, no guts, and cant handle tough questions. I am sure if Gary grilled her hard she would probably hang up on him. He walks a fine line. If Gary is interviewed on TV or a major publication and brings attention to this American wont invite him to their next party.

  83. Adrade said,

    The new AA says screw you to me, I’m going to end up saying screw you back. One EXP for the first time in a long time seriously (VERY seriously) now considering leaving for United. I don’t love UA, but in all of their screw-ups, of those that were intentional changes, not even one was done so poorly with such callous disregard for their flying base.

  84. robert weisberg said,

    Correction the Steve Belkin seminar was more or less to forget the status and be a free agent. Which I have been the past few yrs. If there is blowback and the airline cards suffer as a result, they wont be so happy.

  85. robert weisberg said,

    @Nick and others. Trust in these programs is a one way street.

  86. DJ said,

    all the airlines unite in their agenda, that is to continue minimizing FF program, drumming up charges while saying they have improved services etc. like Lucky said we need to let them hear it, regardless of which program aa/ua/as/dl you are in. when there is a devaluation everyone in the game need to unite & let them know, dont just flee to another program or smile that it has not hit me yet, there is no where to run sooner or later they will come knocking.

  87. David T said,

    I like JAL because they don’t make changes to their programs with ZERO advanced notice. #flyoneworld #flyanythingbutAmerican

  88. Trent said,

    You have to be really incompetent to screw things up worse than Delta and United combined in just one day, and act like your surprised by it.

  89. ff_lover said,

    We ALL should complain (write and call) to Citi Bank about this American Airlines dishonesty (naming Suzanne Rubin, the President of AAdvantage as the defendant) of issuing credit cards and then no-notice huge changes to the so-called “loyalty” program. Then cancel Citi AA cards. We can’t be just be “sheep” and taking it bending-over.

  90. An American Airlines Devaluation With No Notice!Miles To Memories – Travel Realized. said,

    […] and new baggage policy on American’s website.  Additionally, Gary Leff has an interesting interview with Aadvantage President Suzanne Rubin about all of the changes and the reaction to the lack of […]

  91. gobluetwo said,

    I feel like it’s a strategic move. They know they’re going to take their lumps during the integration. Maybe they’re doing it this way now so they can spit-shine the next turd that comes along with advance notice and all that and say, “We heard you!”

  92. Kenneth D said,

    As someone who was just about to reach 260k miles needed for a AA Explorer SE Asia trip with my GF we had been planning for next January, I feel betrayed. How can anyone call this a “loyalty program” when they strip away benefits without any prior notice, simply inexcusable.

  93. dhammer53 said,

    @Kenneth D,

    I agree. The airlines played us for suckers, and they’re getting away with it. As long as business is good/profitable, they can do as they please. One of these days (in the future), they’re going to come crawling back when business is bad. At that point, I’ll remember who screwed me/us over the most before I decide who will get my business.

    As for now, Southwest has been getting my business. In spite of their recent increase in the cost of an award, they seem to have multiple sweetspots; such as free luggage, no change fees, ability to change an award if the mileage goes down, and some ‘low’ priced awards ie 15,000 points R/T LGA/SFO, and LGA/FLL at 8000 points that we booked last year, or anywhere, if you book far enough in advance.

    As someone else said upthread, future booking will be purchased at the best price (Kayaking). ;)

    Rubin looks bad because of her relationship with Gary and Milepoint. Just goes to show you.

  94. The Why, How, and What of Devaluation Plus Double Miles and Changes at Qantas Too (Bits 'n Pieces for April 9, 2014 - Part Deux) - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] Of the 278 days he looks at, 51% are at tier 1 (so sometimes lower priced than before), 42% at tier 2, and 7% at tier 3 (as I reported yesterday, tying to the old US Airways blackout dates). […]

  95. American Doesn't Know When AAdvantage and Dividend Miles Will Combine - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] I spoke with AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin last week I asked about the elite qualifying miles […]

  96. New 'Tier 3' last seat point values displaying, and they aren't pretty - FlyerTalk Forums said,

    […] […]

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