I’ve long said that it’s a myth that the best award availability is right when airline schedules load — the date for which varies, but is often midnight 331 days in advance of travel. People used to get up at midnight, call the airline, and when the space they want isn’t open think, “Drats! Someone must have beaten me to it!”
That’s not how it works at all. Some airlines do of course load some award space when they first add flights into their future schedule. Not all airlines do. And not all airlines load seats and call it quits.
Rather, in general, airlines want to make seats available as saver awards that they do not expect to sell for cash. A year in advance they may have some idea how many seats that’s likely to be on a given flight, but their knowledge gets much better as travel approaches.
What’s more, not all airlines are in a huge hurry to actively manage their inventory nearly a year in advance.
So as time progresses, airlines may add or remove award space. Just because awards disappear doesn’t mean someone else has taken the awards. And just because there’s no award space on a given flight doesn’t mean there won’t be space later.
I find in general the best times to book awards are right when the schedule loads, six months out (really, 4-8 months even), and in the days leading up to departure when airlines know with a reasonable degree of certainty what seats will go unsold. This pattern doesn’t hold for every airline, but it’s a rough approximation of what to expect across the board.
So there’s nothing inherently wrong with something I’ve noticed and that several readers have reported, but it’s still interesting: American Airlines does not seem to have loaded a single saver award seat for 2017 on any route.
- I have not literally checked every route, but for every route I’ve looked at this seems to be the case.
- In general American’s award availability has been better lately — it just hasn’t extended out into 2017.
- American’s website will show saver awards in 2017 for some routes, of course — because AA.com supports availability from some airline partners. But American Airlines flights themselves aren’t available.
- For American’s calendar that’s really just a couple of weeks’ worth of flights at this point.
I have to assume that the space will open up eventually. At this point it’s only a couple of weeks into the 2017 airline schedule, so they’re not all that far behind. But it’s curious that there’s essentially no space at all, on any flight.
There’s not a single saver award in any cabin on an American flight in January 2017, New York JFK – London:
There’s not a single saver award in any cabin on an American flight in January 2017, Chicago – Washington National (and there’s space every day before that…):
There’s not a single saver award in any cabin on an American flight in January 2017, Chicago – Beijing:
There’s not a single saver award in any cabin on an American flight in January 2017, Austin – New York JFK:
Tick, tock, AAdvantage. Your members are waiting to book award tickets, and while I’d normally just counsel patience for the moment the worry is the impending March 22 award chart devaluation.