American Lets Planes Go Out Mostly Empty Rather Than Letting Members Book Awards

Johnny pointed out just how wide-open American’s new Los Angeles – Sydney flight was last night. I had to have a look for myself.

So about four hours prior to departure I had a look at the inventory for the flight. They were certainly selling plenty of seats.

Gosh, you’d think that on a wide open flight that’s four hours from departure there’s really no chance of selling out. Perhaps they’d make some business class award seats available. It’s pretty much a certainty that any upgrade request would clear.

In fact, I took a look at the seat map. Only 12 seats were even taken on the seatmap. Not a perfect indication of the flight load, but a pretty good one when more than three quarters of the seats are unassigned. This flight is an employee nonrev traveler’s dream.

  • Blue seats are occupied
  • White seats are available for assignment

Since they’re never going to sell these seats, it’s a gimme to use points right?

Not even close. Let’s take a look at the award calendar.

The cheapest business class award option is 215,000 points. That’s this flight:

It’s understandable that on a premium route with their best aircraft they’ll want to be a bit conservative releasing award space. At this time there is not a single day during the entire 11 months of the schedule that there’s even one business or first class saver award Los Angeles – Sydney. That’s absurd. But it’s worse than that.

They aren’t just protecting seats hoping to sell them, not knowing yet what seats are going to go unsold. Even when it is 100% obvious that seats are going out empty, they’re still extorting members for more than 200,000 miles for a one way flight. That’s some dirty pool.

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, 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. […] And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t typically subscribe to the same general attitude with regard to SkyMiles. I just don’t often think to use SkyMiles. I mean, they don’t even publish an award chart. Most airlines at least tell you what the saver price is — even if they don’t often make seats available at that price (I’m looking at you, American). […]

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