American is going to have to change its award ‘routing rules’ — a perhaps unintended consequence of yesterdays announced changes. Without changes, members are going to face some absurd results.
As American and US Airways integrate, they’re looking at each element of both frequent flyer programs to figure out what to keep and what to change.
While I’m not surprised at the loss of distanced-based oneworld explorer awards, one thing that now must change as a result are American’s award routing rules.
One of the more arcane rules of AAdvantage award travel is that you cannot connect in a third region — award travel between two regions cannot touch a third region unless a specific exception is in place.
So you cannot fly from the US to Asia via Europe.. You have to fly direct from the US to Asia. (No American partner flies non-stop form the US to Africa, so they have an exception in place that will allow you to connect in the third region of Europe.)
Previously though you could get around this by booking a distance-based award. You could fly wherever you wished and the price of the award would be based on the distance flown.
Now, without that, members are going to run into some real problems:
- Most of the time, to fly to Australia, you had to fly via Asia. American doesn’t’ allow you to connect in Asia on an Australia award (both Delta and United will permit this).
- There’s very little oneworld airline service to Africa. For US – Africa travel you’re pretty much limited to flying British Airways via Heathrow – few flight options with any award availability, and huge fuel surcharges. American won’t allow you to fly Qatar via Doha, Etihad via Abu Dhabi, or Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong (US Airways will allow the Doha or Hong Kong routing, Alaska Airlines allows Cathay via Hong Kong, and United just has more partners that fly to Africa).
- With American, an India trip has to be across the Atlantic – even though it may be shorter from the West Coast to cross the Pacific.
- And while US Airways and United both allow flying to South Asia via the Atlantic (from the East Coast it’s pretty much the same distance), American does not.
For Africa travel, and especially for Australia, ‘connecting in a third region’ that isn’t Europe is a must — given limited flight options on American’s partners to those destinations.
So without a way to get around these problems, other than paying for multiple awards (e.g. one-way to Hong Kong and then one-way again from Hong Kong to Australia), the rules for how an award can be routed need to change.
If they don’t, even United’s extortionate premium-cabin partner awards will look reasonable in comparison.
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