Lack of Award Space on American’s Own Flights: No Saver Awards to Buenos Aires From Mid-July Through End of Schedule

I value American AAdvantage miles quick highly — but for redemption on their partners, like first class awards on Etihad, and not for redemption on American’s own flights. In fact, all things equal, I would rather not redeem miles to travel on American (unless it’s redeeming 4500 British Airways points for an American flight under 650 miles).

Nonetheless, the lack of award availability on American’s international flights has become even worse, sometimes and some routes impossible.

Marc L. asked me this morning,

I was wondering if you knew or could check on why there are no saver awards to Buenos Aires from the U.S in September, October, and perhaps indefinitely

Let’s have a look at this, because it’s even worse than that.

I searched AA.com for Dallas to Buenos Aires, just one passenger, allowing connections. From July 19 through end of schedule there is not a single saver award in any class of service on American flights.

Here’s what each page looks like, showing the lowest one-way mileage price per day.

Many of these days are 75,000 miles one-way in economy.

Throughout each month there are only ‘AAnytime’ awards whether you want economy, business, or first class.

Now, American offers discounted ‘off peak’ awards during low season. Here’s a part of the award chart for economy. Look to the last row for US-Southern South America.

Off-peak travel is when people simply aren’t flying these routes. Since planes are empty American charges fewer miles.

And yet during this August 16 – November 30 period there’s not a single saver seat available on American. Even though it’s low season.

In fact during ‘off-peak dates’ you have about as many days pricing as ‘AAnytime Level 2’ awards as you do at ‘AAnytime Level 1’. By definition off-peak ought to be the lowest level if you’re being charged AAnytime prices. Of course during off peak periods there should be saver awards!

During this period American has:

  • A Boeing 787 flying Dallas – Buenos Aires six days a week. That’s reduced capacity, and American generally limits award seats on new or refurbished aircraft for awhile. But no saver seats at all for nearly 10 months and I’m not searching for non-stop flights only.
  • Two daily Boeing 777s flying Miami – Buenos Aires. 777s are being refurbished with new business class and no first class, and American has been tight with premium inventory under those circumstances. But we see no economy awards even.
  • One daily Boeing 777 flying New York JFK – Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires is a bit of a unique route with political uncertainty. Strikes crippled travel a couple of weeks ago. Airlines saw their assets frozen in Venezuela last year, and that’s created a skittishness over Argentina as well. Indeed, even American’s oneworld partner LAN isn’t offering award seats into Buenos Aires to any meaningful degree either. Airlines have pulled back quite a bit from the Argentina market. I can see at some level holding back award seats when you’re thinking you could pull back even further. But there are none. And not even just on a single flight.

Although there’s been uncertainty, it remains an important destination for American, and they have their own newly-refurbished club lounge there.

American’s award space does sometimes go in spurts. I don’t expect the anomaly of no award seats in the market to persist. And since there are saver seats available for travel within the next four weeks, I’d guess that this window would get pushed out into the future as the calendar advances. But it’s a dramatization of the overall state of availability on American’s international flights.

Also worth remembering that American’s website only supports a handful of airline partners. So just because you’re seeing only AAnytime extra mileage pricing on the website doesn’t mean that’s all that’s available. It’s important to consult my Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

But the lack of award seats on American is troubling and even outrageous. I don’t want to use my miles this way anyway, but the majority of members do.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why dont you talk to Rene at Delta points and tell him how bad AA redemptions are. Maybe he’ll finally agree that while Delta miles aren’t always the best, at least there’s availability on their own metal on some flights

  2. I was searching this morning DFW-LIM and noticed the same. No saver business class at all. Wonder if it’s a glitch or something worse?

  3. And the rub of it all is that you can’t accurately check LAN space via BA site. So OW to SA is off the table now (at least for us)

  4. I had the same issue a few months ago trying to book flights from PIT to Japan in the fall to visit our daughter. We were willing to be completely flexible with dates, stops, destination city. No Saver seats. Eventually seats opened up and I managed to book us in economy PIT to ORD to NRT in October with off peak Saver miles. Not thrilled, but better than swimming. Then last month the heavens smiled upon us and Japan Airlines had 1st class availability on the same route on the same days. I called and got us switched immediately. Huzzah.

  5. @ econjon / @gary – any further specifics on the state of LAN awards? I was actually looking into this last night (to SCL specifically) – tons what is certainly phantom availability showing up on BA.com, but the latest I can see on FT is that AAgents can’t see this (obviously) – but not much hard data on whether LAN awards are 100% dead or just a crapshoot. Any insight?

  6. I totally agree about the lack of availability. It’s gotten worse over time, and it’s made worse by: 1) The route of asking inventory management (as an Executive Platinum) to manually open up saver award space no longer seems to work – I’ve been denied every single time in the last year or so, even on flights that were wide open; 2) Unlike United American is not good about opening up seats for saver awards as the date approaches – like Delta they seem to prefer to let a seat go empty rather than let a member redeem miles at the saver level; 3) Again unlike with United you can’t even waitlist for awards; and 4) Alternatives with partners are limited, especially across the Atlantic, unless you’re willing to pay BA’s ridiculous “fuel” surcharges.

  7. I bet I spent 100 hours not long ago looking at south America and Europe award seats in business. I finally gave up on AA for south america. Its been really rough to find anything.

  8. I’ll add that in my experience, when there IS a biz saver award available for a workable international flight, there is often only ONE. I’ve never found differently on AA hardware (for the flights I need). This makes it hard to fly as a couple. When I find a United award flight, checking early enough, there usually are 2 available.

  9. Gary,

    I was thinking the same thing for Japan as nothing appears for the entire calendar as of last week for saver space. Like Dee I was able to book JAL 1st class both ways, but was hoping to fly the outbound in B-class on the new AA 787. I’ve flown JAL 1st class before, but their Video selection is limited, and flying both ways with the same selection gets old. I guess I’ll survive though…..

  10. I was searching for lax-Eze for October 330 days out a while back. Nothing on either as or la.

    I ended up finding dfw-scl in f availability and booking that for 62.5k one way. Not sure whether that is still am option. It means we did have to book a one way scl-eze segment paid but it was relatively cheap on KLM and its a short flight (plus I get a few days to explore scl)

  11. Gary, since the merger all (ALL) YVR-PHX AA Biz/F award availability has been removed for the entire schedule on the 3 direct flights daily.

    It used to be an easy find but now it simply doesn’t exist period, ever.

  12. American is just pathetic for saver award availability. At some point the airlines will tick off enough politicians in Washington that they might just do something about it. If they’re not going to offer the awards they should stop promoting them and just be honest about it. People save up miles thinking they can actually book a saver award only to find they’re not even being offered. The other thing they need to stop doing is blocking all of their seats when you book a reservation forcing you to pay more for the seat if you want a seat assignment. In today’s world buying a ticket without a seat assignment is like gambling. If you don’t have a seat assignment and the flight is over sold you are royally screwed especially if you don’t have status with the airline.

  13. I have cut way back on earning American miles and I am one who as earned
    7 million miles in the past.
    I predicted that the US Air/ Parker influence would prevail and I believe the worst is yet to come
    Now have a cash back card and cut up my Citibank cards except for one and likely to close that one if this keeps up
    Don’t even try to book awards with American as they are either rarely there or playing or becoming the new Delta like program. Hopefully this will change and if not for the most part I am prepared to bail on the program
    With dire predictions of coming devaluation to the program and rumors of Cathay Pacific withholding back Advantage award inventory I am doing business with other international carriers including those in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions no need to mention names but some are the very ones American has been complaining about!

  14. I’d noticed this with flights to B.A. and also Lima. MIA-LIM hasn’t had a single saver seat in J available for ages. There is sometimes a bit of inventory 4-8 weeks out in coach, but practically nothing after that. After August, there are maybe 6 days with availability MIA-LIM until the end of the schedule. And its been this way for a while. Since I live in Lima part time, this has made AA miles much less valuable to me. Even if I’d be ok with paying the standard rate, its 50-85k for a one way now half the time. I consider myself lucky if I can get an award for 35k. It doesn’t make sense to me that Lima is so bad yet there is plenty of availability to Bogota for example.

  15. AA is right up there with Delta for a worthless award program. It’s penny wise and pound foolish. They have no loyalty anymore even to their best travelers so why should we be loyal in return. I say open up the skies for more competition.

  16. I take one or two international vacations a year often for group tours and usually fly business class. It is rare that I can find dates at Super Saver rates that match my plans. I am not a FF maven but I am coming to the conclusion that FF miles in general just aren’t worth much. I may switch to cash back cards or a card like Amazon that gives me points I can actually use with ease when I shop at Amazon.

  17. @Gary – As usual, I ask you what your contacts at AA have to say about this when you bring it up to them. Is there an actual change in policy regarding saver awards availability?

    Since you have increased access to the folks at AAdvantage, I would hope that you’re passing along questions and concerns that your readers are facing!

  18. Couldn’t agree more. AA sAAver tickets have gone the way of the dinosaur recently. The flights to EZE are not an exception, but more the norm. Premium sAAver seats simply do not exist to HKG, and rarely come available to other cities in Asia. I’m betting we never see them on the new SYD routes.

    AA used to be a market leader here, but has really fallen behind in this space. It’s mind boggling that AA still even advertises as having sAAver tickets on certain routes where it simply does not exist.

  19. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that there are no seats at an advertised level. This should be taken as false advertising. In addition, if AA raises their levels on their award chart even more, I will completely disown them. Essentially what they have done is a silent award chart rise by not even offering the lower levels at all.

  20. I’m enjoying flying Cathay just fine. They always have a ton of inventory within a month. Maybe not first, but business works great for me and HKG lounges are awesome.

    South America is really the only big problem as there’s very little alternative routes. United and Star Alliance could work in a pinch I suppose, or Delta.

  21. @Gary – Not sure if you’re reading these comments, but I want to echo that I hope you’re checking with your AA contacts on this saver availability issue to South America.

    I’ve personally seen this with SCL and both major international airports in Bolivia, VVI and LPB. The Bolivian airports I recently searched the entire AA schedule for and found, IIRC, 9 dates with saver inventory between the two, and only in economy (searched from MIA, the only AA hub I know of that flies to either airport). DL and *A look MUCH more attractive for South America awards these days, and that makes me sad to say, particularly about DL. *A has a strong network in the Americas, but DL having better availability even with a double connection (JFK and GRU, I believe, in my case) is a real shame for the AAdvantage program.

    It makes me glad to have miles in all 3 alliances even though I’ll be EXP by the end of the year. 🙁

  22. just made theove to AA from United…tired of their upgrades that can never be used due to corp. clients paying full ride. Now I am reading that AA is pulling a fast one with SA. What is one to do? I refuse to use Delta and their constant nickel and diming on award miles and extra $ needed to maintain status. Is there an overseas airline that we can use that allows for good acces to US domestic free tickets without costing an arm and a leg?

  23. Interesting to see everyone is experiencing the same issue with no availability. I agree with Curtis that it is false advertisement. They advertise the saver awards yet they know they’re not offering them. It’s basically a scam to either get you to buy a ticket or spend twice as many miles. If you can’t find a saver award in all classes of service 10 months or more out then you’re being royally screwed.
    At some point in the future there will be another down turn in the economy and these airlines are going to need customers. They’re ticking off their best customers and I can assure you I’ll remember it when the airlines really need the business.

  24. DisAAdvantage has been in a long slow jump over the shark for some time. Now It feels like it is getting closer to the other side.

    I notice that the ‘5th tier’ which they introduced at the time they removed RTW awards has now disappeared from the award chart page. It was Delta-like in their inability to publish the rates at the time, and Delta-like in the way it was then removed.

  25. Seems GRU is the only airport in southern SA with some availability. My thoughts: They are holding those very cheap awards (40K rt for a ticket that normally goes for 1400$.) until they devalue the award chart, towards the end of the year.
    The fact that Brazil shows availability is in my opinion related to the fact that Brazil’s economy is not doing well and people there are travelling less (you can fin 400+$ rates US-Brazil these days)

  26. The have saver space available on non 777 routes to South America. Basically any flight with 2 classes of service (ie Rio or Santiago). But if you want a real 3 service class flight you are SOL. This is a silent devaluation.

  27. I’ve been complaining here about AA’s “Stealth Devaluation” for nearly 3 years. Today you finally posted about it. Better late than never I guess…. 😉

  28. I agree with Petecus. I am having the same problem with flights from Chicago and the flights have been completely empty for next winter for months. It’s clear to me they have effectively doubled the requirements. AA is so uncomfortable in coach in the US that I will not fly them at all costs. I’m now paying for first class tickets on United and no longer have any loyalty to AA. I’m wondering at what point CIti is going to realized that this is the reason people are no longer using their affinity cards.

  29. It’s not just international availability, try booking a simple domestic that’s over 2,000 miles, and, I’m not even talking coast-to-coast. Try LAXYYZ. Absolutely NOTHING for a premium cabin direct flight from now until the end of entire loaded schedule. A mere 3 years ago one could even find 4 seats on a flight around Christmas (both directions). I’ve flown this route often, and, have easily upgraded into premium cabin on a paid ticket, and observed empty seats (even half the cabin), yet, they will wouldn’t sell the seat as a sAAver.

  30. I’ll echo what the other commentors are saying – I fly US-LIM a lot and there hasn’t been a saver J seat in a year (even on the Eisenhower 757 from MIA), and rarely in Y. And with so many dates 50-75K one-way in Y, I’ve been booking UA standard awards for 50-60K in J.
    Also, I’ve been on 2 ex-LIM AA flights that went out with empty seats in J without ever going C1 or opening up a saaver award seat.
    I am yet, in my life, to find an actual J award seat on LAN that AA would or could book.
    Plus, AAs revenue J fares for LIM are typically 2x those of DL, who actually have a modern product.
    Maybe TAM will become the Oneworld option, but AA + LA doesn’t cut it, and actually has me thinking of DL or AM for next year. With mexico rolling out a global entry equivalent, maybe AM is now the best option for SA.

  31. Based on the response to this subject it certainly looks like AA has been exposed for fraudulent advertising. They claim to have saver awards yet they make none of them available. I was even able to book an AA flight on BA when AA offered the same flight for twice the miles as an everyday award not a saver award. It’s just a case of consumer fraud..

  32. Considering paid business class fares to EZE from many places in the US are running around $1300-1500 roundtrip through the end of schedule including Dec/Jan high season, on Aeromexico in lie-flat 787 business class, paying (and having flexibility over dates) versus spending an inordinate amount of AA miles is a no brainer.

  33. I’ve been loyal to AA for years and thought availability was good, but the past year or so all that has changed. It’s also not just foreign routes, but domestic as well as routes into Canada as well. I also noticed that when they combined AA and USAir several months ago, many of the routes–especially the non-stops–simply disappeared from availability. I was monitoring several awards and noticed the weekend that they combined, drastic reductions in availability instead of increases due to the combining.

    I wish someone inside would say what is happening because it’s really obvious that something bad is happening. I don’t want to change, but I’m being forced away from AA after years of using and recommending them.

  34. I am from Buenos Aires. I had milesaaver tickets from Buenos Aires to Hawaii last year but this year it has been impossible to find 20 k tickets. I have tickets via Sao Pablo, with a first trip with other company like TAM or Lan. But there should be at least some availability. Very disappointing…

  35. I been looking for BOS to EZE, HKG, LIM for a year now and have found nothing.
    This is false advertising there are NO Saver awards out there. We need to get a State Attorney General to press the issue.

  36. I was trying to get an award ticket in business from DFW to Korea today. There was nothing all the way out to the end of the season. So then I looked for a first class ticket and the result was the same. When paying I always fly either business or first so I’m not too happy with AA’s program. I used to fly United (1K member) but switched to AA about a year ago because United doesn’t service my local airport. Guess I’ll switch back and just deal with the 2 hour drive to Kansas City.

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