At the end of last year American finally opened pretty good award space on their new Sydney flight.
And they opened up space to Auckland, too.
American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Will Fly to Auckland
I’m mostly interested in these saver awards. But US airlines used to offer ‘double miles awards’. For about twice the miles as a regular award ticket you could have any seat on the plane.
It wasn’t always double the miles, for instance a decade ago United charged 90,000 miles roundtrip for a saver business class award between the US and Australia. Last seat availability — what United called a ‘standard award’ while Northwest called a ‘RuleBuster award’ — cost 150,000 Mileage Plus miles (there used to be a space between ‘Mileage’ and ‘Plus’ as well).
That was a great deal, considering Delta and Northwest each charged 150,000 miles roundtrip for US-Australia business class at the saver level.
American, Delta, and United still offer extra mileage awards.
- At United there’s still just two levels, but the higher mileage award often costs much more than double. And only elites and co-brand credit card holders actually get ‘last seat availability’ at the higher price.
- Delta has 5 different levels of awards, sometimes still charges even more than that, and doesn’t publish their award chart.
- American now has multiple award levels, though does still offer last seat availability
American was the last holdout offering true double miles awards. That ended with the April mAAsacre in 2014 which brought a no-notice introduction of multiple award price levels.
American is introducing a new award chart March 22 with mostly higher prices for premium cabin awards. Much of the focus has been on changes to their saver awards, but “AAnytime awards” – those extra mileage for last seat availability awards – change too.
And the price of American’s Sydney and Auckland flights are going to become even more expensive at this rulebuster level than had previously been announced.
American spokesperson Laura Nedbal emailed me Monday,
Since the SYD route launched last December, we’ve taken a look at how we control our inventory for MileSAAver award bookings. It’s resulted in some changes to how and when some award fares become available to our customers. We will also be making changes to some international AAnytime Award levels. We’ll be updating our award charts today to reflect an increase to AAnytime Awards for premium seats between North America and South Pacific.
On March 22 we will see the following changes for last seat availability awards in business class between North America and South Pacific:
- Level 1 goes up from 140,000 miles to 175,000 miles
- Level 2 goes up from 175,000 miles to 195,000 miles
On March 22 we will see the following changes for last seat availability awards in first class between North America and South Pacific:
- Level 1 goes up from 180,000 miles to 220,000 miles
- Level 2 goes up from 210,000 miles to 260,000 miles
I’ve booked these AAnytime-style awards many times but I’ve never actually flown on one. I’ve always been fortunate to be able to actually travel at the saver level. But I’ve booked extra mileage awards to get where I’ve needed to go, when I needed to get there, as a hedge.
For instance, during a British Airways cabin crew strike I booked an extra mileage award on United — just in case my BA flight cancelled. When my flight made it out, I cancelled the United award. It was a great hedge.
I don’t love the new higher prices. I already didn’t love the old higher prices. It’s unlikely that I’ll use these awards. But I miss the days of knowing that award tickets were always reasonably priced enough that I could get on pretty much any airline, any flight, if I needed to.
At the same time, in theory an AAnytime award is reasonably likely to trade off with a paying customer. So they’re expensive to offer.
Ultimately I don’t have a problem with American’s pricing as much as I miss a feature of frequent flyer programs that pretty much no longer exist. And I’m happy to see the progress American is making improving premium cabin international award space.