American’s About to Devalue. They’ve Pulled Their Award Space. Here’s the Route to Try.

With American AAdvantage devaluing its award chart March 22 there’s a ton of last minute requests for space.

For quite some time American has been really really tough with award space on their own international flights. However American has been going to lengths to improve their premium cabin award availability. At the end of last year American finally opened pretty good award space on their new Sydney flight. I covered the floodgates opening for award space on London routes. And how they opened up China flying. That was just the start. And they opened up space to Auckland, too.

It seems though that right as the window is about to close to book at current prices, American has shut the window on availability for many of its own flights.

For instance, here’s a search for business class Dallas – Tokyo for 2 passengers. I’m not limiting the search to non-stops.

Here’s Chicago – Beijing, again not limiting to non-stops.

There’s simply not any saver business class availability on routes that had quite a bit up until recently.

American’s transpacific airline partners that fly to and from the US — Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific — aren’t searchable at AA.com. The best thing to do is to search the British Airways site for award space and then call American to book (American won’t charge a telephone booking fee for awards that cannot be booked online).

However for the most part those partners are little help. Cathay Pacific’s first class space is tough to get except at the very last minute if you want more than one seat, or booked far in advance (usually just for one seat). Japan Airlines is tough to get outside of the last minute.

So it seemed worth passing along one route where availability is quite good. This is a search for 2 business class seats, though quite a few dates have more (usually 3). It’s Los Angeles – Osaka.

Japan Airlines serves the route with a Boeing 787. They ordered the planes, which were subject to delivery delays, long enough ago that they still have angled business class seats (both angled and fully flat configurations are six-across, but angled has a full row of 6 seats in row 10).

This won’t be the most convenient for everyone, though you can include flights to and from Los Angeles for no additional miles with American AAdvantage. What it is is a ‘go to’ route when what you’re looking for isn’t available that still lets you fly transpacific in business class.

And you’re not stuck in Osaka, of course (though it’s worth a visit). Japan Airlines has an international route network out of Osaka, though somewhat more limited than out of Tokyo. And Cathay Pacific operates flights to Hong Kong and beyond.

Looking for instruction on how to make the most of your American AAdvantage award? Here’s the Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

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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Comments

  1. This was to be expected. I knew AA was going to pull this right before their devaluation. Don’t waste your time on BA their availability is beyond ridiculous.

  2. Assuming a First class USA-Asia (e.g., LAX-PVG) on AA can’t later be changed to CX without a redeposit?

  3. It seems pretty hopeless to me. I tried searching last night and I couldn’t find any TPAC availability in F or J on JL or CX except this month or January or February of next year. I’d be willing to fly to KIX in one direction but not both. The only option I see is booking something for January and hoping that space on that same route opens up in the last week before departure, then changing to that date. Think the availability situation will be any better after the devaluation?

  4. The fact that a lot of people (myself included) have been burning miles like crazy over the past few weeks will be having a pretty big effect too. If you think how many readers the top blogs have and then remember that a lot of those readers will have AAdvantage miles to burn, it’s not that surprising we’re seeing an award shortage.

  5. It absolutely infuriates me, these games Aa is playing with availability. I was looking for somewhere, anywhere, to go for a vacation and the twits have yanked everything. Thanks for calling bullshit on this.

  6. I managed to book an award to SYD, returning from MEL, for early November.

    Was hoping to change the dates but the business Saver awards all dried up.

    Think after they change the charts or closer to travel dates, they might release more?

  7. I’ve found searching on the AA website to be pointless. Much better luck is to be had by using a site like British Airways, and then phoning in your request. Even when you can see award availability on the AA site, it’s based on a nightly data load, and attempts to book awards are met with the annoying ‘this award is no longer available’. It seems that BA does a better job of providing real-time award flight availability. What happened American? We used to have something special…

  8. Question:
    I booked an AA Award, 2 seats to Europe in Business Class for April of this year. I’m having to cancel this trip, what are the options? Do they charge me? Will they automatically redeposit the miles? Will I lose any miles? Seats were on AA metal.

  9. What burns me more is people believing AA miles are worth more then about 1.3 CPM. It is a lot easier finding a business class to Asia for $2500 then it is find an AA award for 110K miles. Or an award to Europe or South America for less then $2000 then it is finding an award for 100K miles

    Not to worry. AA your miles are just not worth the money to fly your airline anymore.

  10. Gary, I know you are looking at availability closer in but thought I’d mention that I just booked four First Class award tickets on AA to and from NRT in December. There seems to be a fair amount of Z and U award availability still in that month and in November for at least two. Didn’t check other months in the fall.

  11. I looked BA.com and found Cathay seats avaiable (available on Quantas as well), but AA kept saying they don’t see those. The route I searched had 4 seats available, but AA did not see even 1 seat. HUCA multiple times, and even tried calling Australia with same result. Not sure it’s just AA playing game or AA indeed have less award seats than other partners.

  12. Bummer for the folks trying now. I booked First early after the announcement JFK-HKG-FRA on Cathy & ORD-Tokyo-LHR on JAL ✈️ Safe Landings

  13. While I don’t doubt that AA could be pulling space from some routes, there has to be an effect caused by so many members burning miles in the past few weeks. If I were CX or EY, I would probably pull space until the 23rd as well, as this has to be killing space for their own members.

  14. Booked 4 business class tickets 2 weeks ago LAX to NRT in June . Had to work hard to find those flights! AA not making it easy

  15. @SST, the twits are not pulling availability, those who didn’t procrastinate gobbled them up. You procrastinators are SOL.

  16. I had no problem booking CPH-DOH-SIN last week in business on Qatar airways with my Aadvantage points. Round trip first week of August

  17. Surpirsingly, LAX-JFK has predicitible availability in premium cabins, continuing the pattern that you identified a couple months ago.

  18. But, as other commenters have noted, people have been burning miles in advance of the devaluation. So unless you have access to what award inventory has already been released and booked, all that’s being indicated here is that there’s no available award space – which could simply mean that there isn’t space on the margin continually being opened above and beyond what would have been released anyhow. It doesn’t necessarily mean that AA is “holding back” space.

  19. Gary — what is the absolute deadline?

    If I have a partner reservation on hold expiring midnight central on the 21st — if I call in say 10 pm , get through, give a credit card number, and it goes into cue and gets ticketed on the 22nd. — will I still have the old chart number of miles deducted?

    In my case. Japan airlines, found many states on different days for Cathay , for my real destination — Japan does not fly all the way there — and three aa reps could not see any of the flights

  20. RE: Osaka. If you get a First Class Rail pass a lot of Japan can be accessed via Osaka.

    Also, if you tend to bring too much luggage, Black Cat (Yamato Transport Co., LTD at the airport can ship your luggage to the hotel anywhere in Japan or back. I thought the price was reasonable.

  21. I have 2 tickets in C on AA to and from AKL on hold that will be ticketed by 3/21 but the travel dates are in July. I want to find space later on. What happens if I do not find seats to change dates before my July travel dates? Do I cancel the reservation but still keep the award and can travel on it for a year from the ticket issue date to and from the same origin and destination?

  22. What happened to AA? That’s easy. The last of the legacy liars, Parker, took it over. End of story.

  23. With all the bloggers telling everyone to book phantom reservations, no wonder a lot of saver space is gone. Don’t complain now.

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