Why Last Week’s American AAdvantage Debacle Eroded So Must Trust, and How They Can Win It Back

Last week American AAdvantage made several changes to its program:

I wrote a post framed as my still trusting AAdvantage.

The argument was more nuanced that that, but the title detracted from understanding my argument rather than summarizing it. That’s my fault.

My point was that American AAdvantage has deeply eroded trust with its changes this week, and was very much on the brink of doing real damage right as they’re about to make many more and more significant changes such as to upgrades and their overall saver and partner award chart as they align programs between American and US Airways.

I titled the post that I still trusted American AAdvantage, and explained that I still had a modicum of trust yet, when the point and argument of the post was that I’m on the verge of not trusting them; in other words that there’s only a small amount of trust left.

Now, I am not as excised about last week’s changes as some because they weren’t that surprising — I’m mostly focused on the lack of notice. But I do understand why they’re a big deal to people who used international gateway stopovers and distanced-based awards, especially those who were saving up for a distance-based awards. If the changes hit you closer to home than they did to me (and to the vast majority of members) then it’s fair for the changes to alter your perception of the program so much the more.

My perspective in writing the post though was that it does no good whatsoever to say AAdvantage is already and irredeemably burned, otherwise there’s no reason why they should change their future behavior. My intention was to channel my anger and public shaming at the future. I wanted to communicate to American just how important it is to give notice of changes in advance. They absolutely must give ample notice. And that failure to do so will make them totally untrustworthy

Clearly seeing how that message got lost in so many comments on the blog, in discussions on other blogs, and even over at Flyertalk, I clearly didn’t do a good job in making it. That’s on me.

I love that my comments section is an open forum, and I do not mind — I appreciate even — when the comments are highly critical of me. In this case there were suggestions that I was either evil or stupid, that I was on American’s payroll, and that I was out of touch. I found that odd when, among people who commented on these changes in the mainstream media, I found my comments to be the most critical that I saw.

But it’s precisely because these were no-notice changes communicated in a way that came across as disingenous, it hit hard for many members.

I actually do think — rather surprisingly — that the changes seemed minor to American since it’s a small portion of their membership that uses the awards they changed (regarding stopovers and distance-based oneworld explorer awards) and they saw themselves as taking steps towards aligning AAdvantage and Dividend Miles.

I’m not saying that was a fair read, just that it was likely a genuine one. The best thing for them to do would be to retract and offer a grace period, but I do not expect they’ll do that. They’re focused on moving forward and likely just hope the uproar will pass (it likely will).

Fortunately this is my blog, and I get to spill as many words as I wish (this isn’t an op-ed in USA Today limited to 500 words!). And I get to repeat myself as much as I wish (though you get to choose not to continue reading).

And since I do think the argument itself is important, I hope you’ll indulge me by allowing me to repeat it here.

“No Notice Changes Are the Worst Thing a Program Can Do”

The worst thing they can do, on the other hand, is what they did — pull the rug out from members who may have spent years saving up miles for a specific award they’ve now not given any last shot for those members to book.

…Members are flying all year this year, giving American and US Airways their loyalty in exchange for promises of benefits in the future. No matter what program terms and conditions say about a legal right to change rules at will, and notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s ruling that consumers have no state law remedy against frequent flyer programs, their is a basic offer and acceptance and moral obligation to deliver on promises which is fundamentally breached when changes are made without meaningful notice.

And members save up for years for those dream trps on the basis of descriptions of what’s possible.

“loyalty and product differentiation are going to matter less at American Airlines as a whole in the future”

[T]his has nothing to do with stewardship over the AAdvantage program. It's what I expect for inflight product, and for service standards. It's about mission and focus and the message from the top. I think the DNA that came over from Arizona believes that frills are boondoggles.

Scott Kirby is a numbers and spreadsheet guy, and if you can't quantify it and show a revenue stream attached to it you're going to be hard pressed to make an investment.

…I do expect a natural skepticism from US Airways American leadership that customer investment is warranted, in terms of winning incremental business.

“They Only Get One Screwup With a No-Notice Change.”

It’s desperately important they don’t do it again with a material change. If they do it will fundamentally alter my view of the program.

They’re at a turning point. Certainly they know it. And we’ll all be watching.

How a Program Should Make Changes, If It Must

Changes to an Award Chart — Best Practice is Six Months’ Notice; Bare Mininum Three

For an award chart change a program should give six months’ notice. That’s what United gave for its October 2006 changes which significantly increased redemption prices.

At a bare minimum a program should give three months — that’s what United gave on November 1 when it eviscerated its premium cabin partner awards effective for the beginning of February.

The same holds true for significantly changing awards being offered by a program, or tightening up of award rules.

That gives members enough time to top off their accounts if they’ve been saving points for years. They can sign up for a credit card, or an investment account, or take some additional flights to earn the miles they need to reach the goal they’ve been working towards. And it provides enough time for those miles to post. And then to actually find the award space and make the booking.

Anything less is disingenous, pulls the rug out from under members who have given a program their loyalty.

Elite Benefits Changes Should Give A Year’s Notice.

Members are flying all year, on the promise of the benefits they will receive in the next year for reaching an elite tier.

Giving just six months’ notices for major elite benefits changes is unfair because the airline has already gotten six months of business based on a false promise of benefits. And it’s unfair because it’s ‘too late’ for a member to just change their mind about who they want to fly based on the mix of benefits on offer. (Some programs may offer status matches, but usually not to top tier.)

American Should Revert to Best Practices to Rebuild Member Trust

In a separate post I called out not just the lack of notice about these changes but also how American communicated those changes, and I said I hoped American learned its lesson,

There are lots of changes to come, everyone is going to be unhappy with something. The key going forward is to communicate with members honestly, and with respect, with an explanation for why choices are being made, and with advance notice.


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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Pingbacks

  1. […] Wow, I was just misunderstood (and I helped you misunderstand me). Or, the disadvantages of internet reporting, especially when unlike newspapers, you're the one in charge of writing the headlines–that led people to misunderstand (?) the point you were really trying to make. Despite my criticism in this thread, I like VFTW, but this is now just backing and filling as a result of being way behind the curve on this story. And, no real reason to be behind it, because as we all expected, there would be some changes in the AA program as Parker and the gang moved in, but the real story here was that given the expectation of changes, the changes were dropped with no real notice. […]

Comments

  1. Gary, thanks once again for this post and the many other ways in which to inform many of us about various programs, as well as how well you push for such programs to perform better.

    Having said that, I am afraid that the lack of notice from American is part of a much larger trend regarding the US legacy airlines’ frequent flyer programs: The emergence of an oligopoly and its decreasing competition means that the programs will continue to deteriorate in ways large and small. Lack of notice is just one, relatively minor manifestation of that trend. With less and less competition, these business need not be as customer-friendly as they used to. Thought the trend was apparent beforehand and would have continued to some extent regardless, the real nail in the coffin was the DOJ caving on the US-AA merger.

    Contrast that with the hotel industry’s membership programs. Though they too have deteriorated in some regards, that decline has been uneven and in some cases has been counterbalanced by some modest program improvements. The difference? Far more competition.

    The upshot? Keep up the good work of informing us of good deals and the airline (and hotel) programs’ negative actions. There are still some nice perks and trips to be had. But the big picture is that these programs will continue to deteriorate.

  2. I see you’re still on the theme of “it’s a small portion of their membership that uses the awards they changed”.

    But of course, that’s not true.

    For years, VFW and Lucky as well have said the real value of a miles program is premium International travel.

    This is the second unannounced devaluation for that. The first is that pairs of premium awards on a flight have been virtually eliminated. Up to two years ago, if one’s dates were flexible, one could book an August FC TATL Saver level trip for two in late Spring. As of last year one could only book that Saver award a year in advance.

    This year one simply cannot book two Saver premium TATL at all. I just did a search on AA com for 2 seats ORD LHR, starting today thru end of booking next March. Zero Saver seats in Bus, Zero FC seats in FC. For the entire year !

    It used to be that if you waited awhile, AA would eventually open up chunks of space. I’ve been searching for a year now, and as a Lifetime Gold with AA I’m very skilled at this, and have seen virtually nothing. Aside from a few slots last April, with only about 6 weeks notice between booking and departure, and the single dates of depart Feb 10, return Feb 24, 2015, there has been nada.

    Whether or not one has previously used Anytime bookings in the past, for a pair premium TATL award tickets that is all that is available now.

    So in two years the devaluation has gone from 125K RT at Saver, to 250K at Anytime; and now with no notice RT Anytime TATL is up to 350K/420K per person.

    Put simply and clearly, the cost of a FC TATL award has increased by at least 280%, and often 344% in just two years. Despite which AA has given no public mention, much less advance notice, of any devaluation whatsoever.

    Saw your post today on “sharing” US miles, for a substantial fee, and all I could think of was: the deal ends today, the US partner award chart is probably going to be gutted tomorrow. 🙁

  3. “The argument was more nuanced that that, but the title detracted from understanding my argument rather than summarizing it. That’s my fault.”

    That’s not all you’re at fault with so don’t try and make nice with all the people you upset. And please don’t try calling it an AA ‘debacle’ now because it’s far too little too late buddy. I don’t really think it’s about AA losing our trust now for you because I think you lost our trust man.

    You used to be okay Gary but I’m all for Ben -better known as Lucky- of ‘One Mile at a Time’ now and have been for a while.

    TEAM LUCKY!!!

  4. @Robert Hanson I am not saying these changes do not matter, they do matter for me and for you. I’m trying to wrap my mind around what was going on at AAdvantage, to try to predict future behavior.

    There’s a difference between understanding and excusing, I think the former is important and I try to pass along what I’m seeing even when it isn’t pretty.

  5. They should know that, we’ll lose but in the end people will turn away from their program and they will eventually lose. After all we are the one using their mileage program. And why use it if there is no advantage. I was about to use AA 100% but now I’m not so sure!

  6. Also it’s worth noting in fairness to the folks who think this is just the new way of doing things, it’s certainly been the US Airways way of doing things in the past. US Airways implemented their new mileage upgrade system without notice, not just this week but the last go-round too. They put their 2010 award chart into place overnight without notice. So maybe that’s right.

    Personally I don’t think this was a conscious directive from the top (Scott Kirby or Andrew Nocera) but a result of being too insular, hearing only the echo chamber, and having a tin ear to the membership as a result.

    That’s why I’m hopeful that this reaction has shaken them out of the insularity. Time will tell.

  7. @Jeff for Ben – Lucky and I 98% agreed in our reaction to the changes, it’s just a difference in tone not substance. So extreme reactions to me or to him is more about mood affiliation than substantive disagreement…

    But our differences aren’t about this issue, you’ve posted under at least 7 different names over the past 2 months with some pretty vitriolic stuff on a multitude of issues.

  8. @leslie – you’re correct, not just because of the mileage program of course but united has been losing ~ 250k customers PER MONTH over the past year…

  9. “I’m trying to wrap my mind around what was going on at AAdvantage, to try to predict future behavior.”

    And that’s where you should draw the line. No offense, but you should not try to predict how AAdvantage will act. It’s one thing if you have inside word from AAdvantage, but it seems that you don’t. Predicting how AAdvantage will act or how they should act (as opposed to recommending how they should act) is uncertain at best and misleading at worst. For example, we (including you) have no idea when AAdvantage and Dividend Miles will combine. You think it will be in 2015. But you don’t have any information to support that. Maybe you will be right, maybe you will be wrong, but an educated guess is still that, just a guess.

    You really know your stuff when it comes to the miles and points game, but there is no need for speculation.p

  10. @Truthiness – I always say when I’m speculating, and the basis on which I’m speculating. There’s a difference between p=.8 or higher and p=.4 and I try to be clear which one I’m writing about.

    And I *need* to try to begin understanding where this program is coming from now to begin to get a handle on recommendations. Because we’re necessarily talking speculatively about the future, but having to act today.

    At least that’s how I think about it, and I write whatever’s on my mind. You might want me to have more of a filter, but I don’t 🙂

  11. I have a different perspective.
    I had been saving for an Explorer award for some time. As a lifetime Gold it was a stretch to fly AA out of SFO but I did it because of the Explorer goal.
    So yes AA this will blow over and it will blow into the lap of UA and LH and even AF from SFO because they have the non stops and I’ve never had an old plane with wind coming thru the exit door like I had on your SFO-MIA flight…….I’m placing my AA Gold card in the same plastic trash can as my Hilton Diamond card……….and with the consolidation you will be bad for at least another 2-3 years if you get lucky………American Scareways…..what a merger………

  12. Gary – I truly appreciate all your posts and info, both facts & speculative insight. As for the vitriolic remarks written to you – if you weren’t at the top of understanding this game, you would not be so targeted. Know you must have a tough skin, thank goodness, as I hope you continue your blog with your insights. FWIW, I truly understood your first posting about the AA changes.

  13. I think all this talk about “trusting” airlines is ridiculous. These airlines are soulless corporate entities whose primary function is to increase shareholder value at all costs. Couple that with shrinking competition and there’s no end in sight to the devaluations. If every US carrier has lost your “trust”, then there’s no where to turn; that’s what they’re banking on.

  14. Well, it makes sense to frame your complaint in a way that at least holds open the possibility of causing AA to want to change their behavior. Alas, like @steve I don’t believe that an oligopoly has any real reason to care no matter how loudly (or strategically) we squawk. Nor do I believe that “lack of notice” is the worst thing a program can do to the consumer. Gutting the program so that consumers lose the hundreds if not thousands of dollars of savings they enjoyed every year is the worst thing a program can do. The lack of notice was bad for the procrastinators out there, but at the end of the day procrastinators are used to missing out on things and they’ll get over it and AA probably understands that as well as anyone. Notice is nice, but promotions and programs are abruptly shut down without notice in the casino industry all the time if they bleed too much money. I don’t quite see why the airline industry is required to act differently, now that they have decided they’re in business to make a profit. But that’s just my opinion, not the word of God.

    I’ll say this: If people are going to call you evil or stupid every time you phrase something not exactly to their satisfaction, maybe just don’t feed the trolls by allowing their comments to remain. Being open is a beautiful thing, but you don’t have to let every troll under the bridge have their say when it begins to detract from the real conversation.

  15. I agree that more notice should have been given but I think the whole points game has gotten out of hand. It is an industry in and of itself and the airlines took their eyes off the ball when they went down the road of selling points off to anybody and everybody. It was only a matter of time before they had to change tactic as the liability was becoming too great.

    I for one am glad to see the programmes become more restrictive because I think it will require the airlines begin to compete on service and hard product which I think they are doing. Delta is leading the way on this as their product and service has improved at the same time they were devaluing their frequent flyer programme. United and AA are now following that strategy.

    Cash is king and always will be so begin reaching in your pocket and paying for the tickets with the airline offering the best value and service. JetBlue was the domestic carrier that really put the airlines on notice to up their game and hopefully we will get the equivalent of JetBlue in an international airline at some point. By far JetBlue and possibly Virgin America offer the best value for money in MHO regarding domestic US air travel.

  16. No worries, Gary. There are always ill-tempered (read: frustrated, usually hideously fat or otherwise sexually undesirable) jerks out there just looking for something to vent about. It’s how an entire political party props itself up with policies that no modern nation would even consider, or would laugh off the stage like the opening on Saturday Night Live last night.

  17. Good post, and while I don’t trust AA/US (other than to do what is in their self interest), I do trust the sincerity and integrity of how you conduct this blog, and your other activities. I may not agree with you on a position or comment, but I have never questioned that you’re a straight shooter.

    One other point: the “few members” who used stopovers and Explorer awards. They may be few as a percentage of the tens of millions of AAdvantage members (are there really 90 million AAdvanatge members?) but they are the main audience among readers of your blog and others. These are not small matters to them.

    I agree with the analysis Robert Hanson posted in the comments section above regarding the real world ongoing devaluation of the AAdvantage award chart.

  18. As one of the biggest critics of your posts in the past few days, I want to clarify one point. To me, your original AA update article in itself wasn’t worthy of an uproar (yes I was annoyed you said ‘awards you never book’ as it was condescending), but it was the combination of that article and then a few hours later your Chase scare tactic advertisement telling us they are ‘too valuable’. BA bloggers seem to want the best of both worlds- write thoughtful pieces that garner respect, and the next minute try to peddle cc’s to those same educated readers. I understand the revenue from cc links is and will decline, but you don’t need to insult your readers who look for insightful writing by pushing junk cc ads.

  19. Great post Gary.

    I did not see you as an AAapologist, but merely someone who can see the forest for the trees. They are not going to change their mind about these benefits which, if we are honest, affect less than one percent of Advantage members — if not 1/1000th a percent. Of course, I was one of those .001s who got screwed by this change as I had a few international stopovers in gateway cities built into a few upcoming awards that start after June 1 (e.g. MEL-LAX (stop) – HNL that now are useless.

    What I am most concerned with are the Milesaver awards and the upcoming devaluation. I would welcome your thoughts on where we are heading —

    — my personal speculation is that it will be more United looking and less Delta, but who the F knows? We know Parker tends to count every peanut in the ramekin so maybe he will make the Advantage program milesavers more United like, but impossible to redeem like Delta, so that everyone just holds tons of miles (hello 1.1cent share deals) and has to redeem at Anytime levels all the time (doomsday scenario!).

    Thoughts?

  20. @Gary your position now seems to be that you say you ‘still trust them’ as you feel this will persuade them to avoid further misbehavior. NO! all this did was get dbaAA further softball treatment in the mainstream press. when the ‘go to’ guy for quotes doesn’t express outrage, the clueless mainstream media writes accordingly. as such, it just looks to all like a vocal minority of the ‘rarely used’ cancelled programs are actually angry.

    IN CONTRAST, if you, with your media clout, had joined Ben and others in saying flat out and without exception that dbaAA had LOST your trust and the trust of their best customers with the shameful corporate behavior of making major program changes in the dark of night- AA would have gotten a lot more heat. you should have further said that dbaAA did this after basically using a ‘trust us, we’re not going to blindside you’ type campaign towards their members regarding the merger. you should have stressed that this was done with such disregard for members that the changes were announced 5 hours AFTER they took place! and that the most severe changes were not even announced- you had to ‘find’ them on AA.com when you tried to redeem awards and only then learn the shocking news that AA had discontinued with no notice.

    You would then end interviews by saying AA had LOST your trust, the trust of their members and that nobody holding AA miles can go to bed at night with any knowledge of what their value will be when they wake up. This FACT is not the case with any other major travel reward program and that AA should not only take a step back and give members 2-3 months until these changes take place, but also announce that no further changes will take place without the advanced notice AA’s loyal customers are accustomed to.

    if THIS is what you had said, AA would have had real pressure on them. as it is, between your blog and your media quotes, THEY GOT A PASS. this doesn’t encourage them to behave better, it encourages them to do a repeat performance- which is exactly what they will do.

    please tell me where i am wrong (hint: i’m not and, being a smart guy, i’m pretty sure you know it).

  21. @Grey “No worries, Gary. There are always ill-tempered (read: frustrated, usually hideously fat or otherwise sexually undesirable) jerks…”

    WOW. just wow. somehow, inexplicably, Greg believes thru this comment he is describing OTHERS, and not himself, as ‘ill-tempered’. again, wow.

    got that Gary: perhaps you should require a certified authentic photo attached to all comments so you can determine whether the poster has the body type and ‘sexual desirability’ to comment (or even be alive, for that matter…

  22. Gary, at the risk of reading between the lines, my understanding of your position from the beginning was not so much that you _expect_ AA to give advance notice next time, but rather that you _desire_ them to. Trusting AA implies the former. That’s where I believe your statement of trust was either an exaggeration or Pollyannish.

    A related but different issue is whether AA will respond to your professed trust more positively than they would have responded to excoriation. There I agree with abby’s comment 20 that the latter would have been at least as effective. Probably nothing customers say will make any difference, but I believe that a large corporation takes notice of condemnation more readily than of warnings not to do it again.

    Gary, I respect you greatly and I’m sure you believe that your approach has the best chance to succeed. Time will tell.

  23. Gary, I generally agree with your take here, just as I agreed with your take in your first post that got everyone pissed. It’s your blog, you can write what you want, don’t worry about the pitchfork carrying mob.

  24. AA offered me a 40% bonus to buy miles on April 7. Then they lowered the boom.

    It’s like a fancy restaurant offers you a $140 gift certificate for $100. The next day you go down there with your wife and want to order the lobster dinner.

    “Oh, sir, not that many people ordered the lobster, so we took it off the menu this morning. And we don’t have trained chefs to make it anyway, since so few wanted it.”

    “OK, well then how about the Chateaubriand?”

    “Not that either anymore. But we do have pizza. And sorry, you cannot get a refund”

  25. @Tyler I believe you have now changed what you are annoyed about. Earlier it was that I wasn’t giving you a list of things I expected to change at AA/US, I gave you that, and now your annoyance is that I somehow condescended to you (I never would have gotten myself as having done that) and identifying for readers other areas that are currently giving extraordinary value (It’s what I do, the programs that do it know they do it, and extraordinary value will not last independent of my highlighting it).

  26. @RD Delta’s strategy really isn’t to intentionally invest less in their frequent flyer program and more in product, remember that the programs themselves are profitable on a standalone basis rather than being a cost center so do not tradeoff with inflight.

  27. It’s kind of funny to hear all the shock from people who have been touting Aadvantage as the next best thing to sliced bread following the DL and UA devaluations. Did you seriously think that’s somehow AA management was different from all the rest? Or perhaps failed to notice that USair was now in control? The end result for most flyers is no different than it was yesterday – these changes are but a minor tweak for 99% so notice is irrelevant. Without proper disclosure (which no miles-based program offers) your reality is only as good the award inventory on any given day, which has no relation to the award levels touted in the program guide.

    Hopefully you get it now – they are all racing for the bottom, your days of flying on nickel fares and cashing in for F seats to Europe and Asia on partners are coming to an end. Adjust to the new reality.

  28. I doubt that the weasels at the helm of AA care to win back the trust.

    @Brian L, the only reason the pitchfork carrying mob was not happy with the blog is that AA seemed to get a pass with their changes and the only negative thing mentioned was the lack of notice given, whereas in the case of other airlines, there was much ink spilled (or many more keystrokes used) in disparaging them for their changes also. As becomes evident since then is that the blog owner does not use the things taken away – one world explorer awards and NA gateway city stopovers – so he can afford to look the other way.

  29. @Ram – to be clear I do and have booked international gateway stopovers and distance-based oneworld awards. I can take my own interest out of my analysis.

  30. @Boraxo “It’s kind of funny to hear all the shock from people who have been touting Aadvantage as the next best thing to sliced bread following the DL and UA devaluations.”

    No, you ride the good programs while they’re good and you adjust as-needed.

    AAdvantage HAS BEEN better than United and Delta for the past couple of years, by a lot. It’s made sense to focus on them when possible.

    And to the extent that changes, strategies need to be re-considered.

  31. Gary, you seem to have the media clout. If I’m correct, I think you got “Sky Pesos” to catch on with the mainstream media. May I suggest that the time is ripe for you to unleash “DisAAdvantage” to the main channels?
    On a more serious note, like others, I have a foreboding that AA was just testing the waters last week to see how much and how far they can get away with before deciding to go for the jugular – the Saver awards.
    And even though I agree that AA will not rescind the massAAcre they did last week, I feel that we shouldn’t relent so easily or quickly because, you’re right, they’re simply waiting for the anger to die down.
    True that the changes aren’t as bad compared to other FFPs; however, the move they did (very little to zero grace period, depending on the change we’re taking about) is GRAVE, because IT HAS SET THE TONE for the rest of the loyalty programs. I bet they’re all watching how this is playing out, and depending on how mild or short-lived the negative reaction is, will influence the likelihood of them following AA’s zero grace period on future changes. This is the one that concerns me the most. And will be most thankful if I’m proven wrong.

  32. Gary:
    Thank you for your comments. Here are few things I would like to add:
    1) Clearly, the decision to make the April 8 changes was made by AA in a hurry. The timing was wrong, communication pathetic, and the reaction of the traveling public was rather negative. This was a marketing failure and we are only left with discussing its magnitude.

    2) AA devaluation has been very big and now they have a mechanism to make it even bigger. The pricing of some of the any time awards is sky high without any reasons. For example, let’s try booking the lowest cost coach award DFW-HNL-DFW on Jan 1 returning Jan 4. Non-stop AA flight will cost you 180,000 of AA miles. Or you can purchase the AA ticket for $1,218.
    For comparison, booking ATL-HNL-HNL non-stop on Delta would cost you only 77,500 of Skyles for the same dates.
    So, which miles now deserve the SkyPeso name?

  33. Go Norwegian! Go Air Berlin! Let them in to ATL, DEN, LUV and DFW and let the carnage begin. If customers deserve fee and loyalty program “enhancements” don’t the airlines deserve some cutthroat competition “enhancements?”

  34. @Gary- Changed my complaint?? Below is the complaint I posted on your Chase scare advertisement. Seems to be exactly what I posted earlier today..

    ‘Are you kidding me?? First you stubbornly tell us ‘and now with no-notice changes to American AAdvantage awards you probably don’t book’ even though many have responded we do book Explorer Awards, and then you try and throw in Chase advertisements? ‘

  35. @Ram – “the only reason the pitchfork carrying mob was not happy with the blog is that AA seemed to get a pass”

    So the pitchfork carrying mob is pissed because Gary’s not saying what they want him to say? Yeah, that sounds right. It’s his blog, he can write what he wants.

  36. I completely agree from last week’s recent AA FF program devaluation, the main takeaway is the lost trust. I cannot trust knowing in advance if/when the next MileSAAver devaluation occurs. In the evening on 4/9, after the devaluation announcement from AA, I booked an award trip from LAX-BKK for early 2015. I called the AA reservation line (cannot book AAdvantage award travel online for Cathay Pacific) to make the booking. Interestingly, the telephone booking fee was $25, not $35. Perhaps not all the changes have been implemented, or that charges can be arbitrary.

  37. 2 points.

    1. AA and others including this blog are still repeating that most changes are no big deal because most members aren’t affected by these changes, few people use stopovers or Explorers awards or whatever. The reality is that most members don’t fly much! Few make elite status. Most probably have an occasional vacation or family visit. The people who want those benefits are often AA’s best customers. Finally, some products create loyalty even if the customer never buys it.

    2. If you continue to state that you still have a smidgen of trust for AA they will continue to slap you.. If you get the chance to interview Rubin and play verbal footsie, then dissatisfaction won’t even register on their radar.

  38. Let’s be honest. The so called “pitchfork” carrying contingent is acting as if they have leverage. Obviously they’ve never been involved in real down in the dirt negotiations before or at least if they have, they’re not very good at it.

    And I know some wacko out there will read my comment and think I’m on the airline’s side or I’m Dougie Fresh himself. Nonsense. I’m just going to give it to you straight. The lay of the land.

    You’re in an era of CONSOLIDATION. Where 10 years ago there were 11-14 competitors, now there are basically 4 with some stragglers, one or two of which if you checked the filings are actually owned and controlled by subsidiaries of the final four.

    Ok now out of THOSE four. You have the Deb at the prom who talks a good game and smiles a lot but when it comes to $ she sticks it to you just as good but tries to make it better with a fancy jingle. You have the evil biatch who at this point knows she’s outright Angelina Jolie bat s#$% crazy and who has decided that she has a minimum price if you even want to call her escort service, One who is an old worn warrior who tries to listen when you speak but who basically went tone deaf 10 years ago and still doesn’t know where to find ANY of the files that Mr. Montague left on the desk prior to the bankruptcy and she too is bat#%&$ crazy but is only asking for the money because she sees Jolie pimping it.

    And then you have American. And you think you have leverage?

    Get Real.

  39. I wonder if there’s anyone to tell Mr Parker that some cuts can’t be made to a major airline like AA. Did he learn anything when he started charging for soft drinks and water on US, or stripped out the in-flight audio while leaving the jacks? What flies on Ryantran will cripple a major when there are other ready choices. It’s already stretching it to call domestic without TV’s a “new” anything, so he’d best change his approach from that of a liquidator.

  40. Gary, on a bit of a side note, I do appreciate that you treat these comments as an open forum. Several other bloggers would simply censor them out.

  41. If you had to choose *today* between 160,000 free AA miles or the same number of free UA miles – but you wouldn’t receive them until September 1, 2015 – which would you choose?

    Today, you can use 160,000 UA miles to fly from WAS-JFK-TPE in BR J, TPE-BKK-CDG in TG J, and CDG-FRA-WAS in LH J. You can do much better with 160k on AA: fly WAS-HKG-WAS on CX F, and still have enough miles remaining for a roundtrip Y milesAAver ticket.

    Come 9/1/2015, I’m pretty confident those 160,000 miles will be similar in value on UA, given their very recent mega-devaluation. As for AA, I have no idea. How much is AA likely to gut its partner F award chart in coming months/years? The traditional answer has been “probably not by much, because there’s already YQ on BA.” Does this prediction still hold true in light of the events of the past week?

  42. @Ryan Radia – given my preference for F awards, and my belief that AA’s F awards won’t become as bad as UA’s, I’d take the American miles (see my upcoming post on likely worst-case award chart guess).

  43. Shouldn’t this be called:
    Why Last Week’s VFTW Debacle Eroded So Must Trust, and How He Can Win It Back?

  44. I no longer trust AA! I have been saving miles to FINALLY use THIS year, TWO gateway stop over tickets, and an Explorer Ticket and then they do this to me!!

    Where is the best place to complain to airlines? or publicly?
    I hope this topic stays alive and bothersome for AA so they know how giving NO notice ruins trust and desire to use an airline!

  45. I wonder if the clueless Doug Parker who tried charging for soft drinks on US Airways to stone silence and ripped out their audio while leaving the jacks, actually thinks we will just put up with this and stay with American, instead of look for other choices like we did when he marred US Airways? I will use UA rt overseas now just to get the stopover. Who says these are perks only used by a few? Anyone who knew about them likely used them.

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