A little over a week ago I wrote about a no-notice change that American AAdvantage made to their program: different AAnytime award prices for different flights on the same day.
- A little over two years ago American introduced multiple levels of prices for these higher-priced awards. Occasionally these cost 20% fewer miles, most of the time they cost a lot more miles.
- The price did not vary by flight (how sold out it was, or how likely to sell out) but by date. So some days were more expensive than others. You could still book the last seat available on an almost sold out flight for the lowest extra miles cost if it fell on a lowest price date.
But recently American has started offering different award prices for different flights on the same day, at least for the New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco routes.
American Airlines Airbus A321T Premium Transcon Business Class
While American acknowledged that the screen shots I was providing were not a glitch, they haven’t offered comment on these changes which went into effect without any notice to members. Here I’m not even talking about no advance notice. Rather they’re not even explaining to members that things have changed or what that means.
I dug into this a bit more and think I know what American is doing, and it’s neither as technologically sophisticated nor as insidious as I’d have feared.
American Saver Award Availability Has Gotten Really Bad
There’s actually not a single saver award on American’s New York JFK – Los Angeles non-stops in any class of service for the month. That’s despite 86 flights a week in each direction. There are 357 flights reflected on the calendar below. That’s 36,414 seats. And out of those 36,414 seats looking far into the future there’s not a single saver award.
But what I’m most interest in isn’t establishing “what happened to American’s domestic saver awards.” Sure, American used to have the best domestic award availability of any US airline, and that’s changed dramatically.
The more recent change, though, is how they’ve started to price ‘aanytime’ awards on the route.
American’s AAnytime Prices Vary Not Just By Day But Also By Flight
A majority of weekdays the cheapest one-way non-stop award in business class on this route is 97,500 miles, at least according to the calendar.
The calendar shows that on Mondays there are seats for 82,500 miles one way. In fact the calendar is no longer accurate.
Travel at peak times is 82,500 miles. But travel first thing in the morning, and in the evening prices at 62,500 miles — 20,000 miles less.
If you want to take the 6 a.m. that’s cheaper, but then all the flights in the middle of the day are more.
The price drops back down starting at 6pm. And all of the flights afterward are available at the lower (cough) price.
There’s Nothing Unique About These Flights Except the Time
Since I was looking at awards on May 22, I figured I should also look at revenue inventory on these same flights.
The 6 am flight has availability in the same revenue booking classes as the later flights. If anything, the later flights have more inventory in the cheapest fare classes than the 6 am does. You’d expect there to be the same or less availability at the cheaper level, then, on that 6 am flight if they were managing award inventory dynamically.
The same holds true in the afternoon. There’s no discernable difference in revenue fare buckets between the flights offering 62,500 mile award prices and those offering 82,500 prices.
As a result, all of these tickets price the same. There aren’t fare rules which dictate lower prices available only early or late in the day for instance.
All that’s unique about the flights is their time. American doesn’t seem to be doing dynamic award pricing, just charging a premium for flights based on time of day.
Now, the time of day where prices vary will itself vary.
- On these Mondays where the award calendar shows the lowest price as 82,500 the pattern is the same as above: 6am and 6pm onward flights are cheaper.
- But where the calendar shows 97,500 miles as the cheapest price, there may be flights priced at 82,500. For instance on May 23, the morning is again cheaper but that cheaper price applies to the first three flights and not just the first flight (so up to 8:30am) although price doesn’t drop at the end of the day until 8:00pm.
I’m not going to spend 82,500 miles or 97,500 miles for a $999 ticket (fare basis YA21DNUP). What I’m interested in here is that American appears to be fundamentally changing the definition of an AAnytime award.
When they made their major changes without notice to the program April 8, 2014 — introducing multiple award prices for AAnytime awards, among other things — they explained that a specific price would apply to a given day. Now they’re charging different prices on the same day, which runs counter to how American explained their awards. And so far they’re not offering any explanation of this change at all.
So far at least I’m still just seeing this specific phenomenon in the premium New York – West Coast markets.