American Airlines Literally Hasn’t Opened a Single Saver Award for 2017

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.

Of course the strategy there would be to book 2016 travel and change travel dates later to January 2017 when the space does eventually open.

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. So I was able to put on hold an ORD-DCA saver flight in first for January 1 the day it was released to complete an international itinerary. By the time I had ticketed it, though, all the saver availability had been pulled. The flights had all been showing multiple seats (7 on the one I booked, I believe) and then they all disappeared!

  2. I cannot believe how difficult it’s been for me to book SuperSaver awards! United is way open, Southwest is way easy, but American just simply suck. Even as an EP it sucks.

  3. Just another example of the “negligence” AA has with regard to offering award seats. For all its faults, UA always seems to TRY to give its MileagePlus members access to award seats. With AA, it always feels like they’re doing you a favor by allocating award seats. There’s no process. The seats just seem to rarely and unpredictably pop up. You certainly can’t count on AA to be “fair” in its allocation.

    To me, the negligence seems to start with top management at AAdvantage. They seem to think there’s no business reason to “fix” the award allocation problem. They seem to think reasonable award allocation does not drive valuable loyalty to their airline. Maybe they’re right — maybe taking advantage of your frequent flyers is the most profitable business strategy. I don’t think that’s the case — I think sucky redemption experiences drive loyal customers to be disloyal — but I don’t have any empirical data to prove this.

  4. Glad that this issue is getting more attention. I’d like to book an international award for about January 10. No problem at all finding the Cathay availability I want — but no saver availability for the domestic AA flights. I’ve sent a couple of tweets to AA, and got basically non-response responses (“they aren’t loaded yet” — duh, I know). Very frustrating.

  5. Interestingly, I just checked first class save availability from NYC to LHR in early January and there’s broad availability on the AA site using BA non-stops.

  6. Good timing for this post as I was wondering if something was up. Earlier today I was searching for LHR to OGG flight combinations over NYE and was (somewhat) surprised to find zero AA metal saver awards for the return.

  7. It’s not just saver awards. At least for some routes, AA hasn’t even loaded any AAnytime awards for 2017. I’ve been looking for LHR-LAX AAnytime awards in early 2017, but not a single space has been loaded.

  8. @iahphx really? try to find any reward flights from BOS to Alaska. Gave up and used for BOS to SFTO UA only wants you to spend 2X to to get these seats in June, July or August! Is cheaper to pay for a seat then use miles

  9. I recently booked a flight from PDX to LIH in January, 2017, on the American Air site for 17.5k miles – the flights are on Alaska Air.

  10. Found plenty of F saver space (old F product) on AA to Japan. However, Europe is difficult to find, and when it is available it’s usually on BA metal, meaning atrociously high fuel charges – never mind that the price of oil has dropped to 2003 levels! And AA is very stingy in releasing F and J space on their 77Ws. As for United, they are almost as bad. The last two years I noticed the almost total absence of J and F award space to Europe on UA metal. Even partner awards are few and far between at the saver level. I think this is in line with the big squeeze: i.e. to eventually end the existing awards structure and convert to a revenue-based dollar-valued voucher award system to use in the purchase of tickets.

  11. In the case of Buenos Aires, AA Saver availability is far, far better than UA availability especially in C/F. The few C/F award seats available on UA almost always involve an extra connection on a partner via Panama, Chile, or Brazil and the domestic connecting flight is almost always in economy. I’m sure capacity is a big part as AA operates more flights from more gateways than UA but the “availability is better on UA” story does not jibe with my experience.

    Don’t even get me started on UA basically knocking out partners as a C/F option with crazy premiums over awards on UA metal. I’ve abandoned trying to earn UA points and have switched my cc spend to Chase, Citi, and AMEX points instead. If airline points are the only option, then Alaska is my first choice as SEA is my home airport and they already get most of my spending.

  12. Sources tell me that Aadvantage is going to make all seats available at Saaver level to all passengers that can prove they have closed all non-AA credit cards.

  13. You can’t find saver award space for 2016 either, especially from my departing airport. And for anytime award space, the price is ridiculous even for business. My searches result in 140 to 180K for a business class ticket when the award chart says it will charge only 85K. American is NOT being honest with us regarding how many miles it will take to get a ticket. CONSUMER FRAUD!!!

  14. I’m hoping that when the devaluation hits on March 22, AA drastically changes their strategy for releasing award seats. If it stays the same and awards continue to be very hard to book it would be a nightmare for AA’s reputation. Personally, I would gladly trade a devaluation for drastic changes in availability of awards. The points are no good if I can’t use them!

  15. Yes its fraud if they only list saver seats for a day or two and then upgrade to get more bucks.

    Had I known about this phenomenon , I would never have joined their mileage reward group. Shame on you American Airlines. I will take my loyalty back to United and Alaska Airlines.

    Sick of empty promises!!!

  16. American Airlines is the worst! The company is very stingy with award seats. I never had issues with award travel when I was with US Airways.

  17. I don’t see a single SAAver reward for business or First from JFK to NRT or HKG. Is it too late for me to book for next April 2017? Did someone take the spot or AA is just not opening SAAver seats?

  18. I have been a loyal customer of AA for decades. I use paid 90% of the time and award travel 10% of the time. In the last 6 months I’ve noticed it becoming INCREASINGLY difficult if not IMPOSSIBLE to get any lower mile awards to travel during regular weeks….ie. NOT during peak….during peak FORGET ABOUT IT!!!!!

    I understand that they need to make a profit but it seems that it has gone completely to the other side of the pendulum…..and I am NO LONGER going to have any allegiance to them.

    VERY DISSAPOINTED

  19. It appears to me, American Airlines has a software program that makes it nearly impossible to travel to Europe except on British airways. Using BA makes it
    not worth using airmiles due to the amount of surcharges from BA. Why use airmiles when you are spending 600-800 on a $1200 ticket. Using a credit card with less than.a 1-2 cent return on your dollar is not really a wise investment.

  20. I am checking for International Business Saver Awards. I have not checked every market but as of December 21, 2016, I have found no Business Saver Awards to overseas destinations for all of 2017. I checked Asia destinations and European destinations. Do we have any update from American on this? Right now they are asking me to pay $700.00 to retain my Gold status beyond February 2017. It would be helpful to know if they are no longer offering business savers to overseas international locations before I make that decision.

  21. In February 2017 I looked at American Airlines Business saver award travel to London and there were available outbound & return flights at 30K award miles nearly every day from May through October. But I logged out to check some other dates and when I returned to the AA site just a few minutes later nearly all the 30K flights had disappeared (apart from a few Sunday flights once or twice a month) and the available flights were at 57.5K miles!!! I even logged onto the AA site from another computer – same result. Evidently AA are keeping a track of your searches.

  22. Situation looks simply atrocious right now. Did some searches for DAY/CMH/CVG – AUS and DAY/CMH/CVG – BDL in plain old Economy around my B’Day (mid/late May) and came up entirely empty handed. Mostly showing at 30K to 50K…for a 1-way short-haul domestic! Also tried DTW – SEA (possible Alaska cruise, and knowing that AK flies that route), finding that from May 2nd to Sept. 5th there are a grand total of 4 dates showing ANY SAAver space at all on the outbound route. I have a sinking feeling that my remaining 161K or so AAdvantage miles are effectively worthless now. Maybe I can convert them into VEF (Venuzuelan Bolivars) or something….

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