The percentage of American Airlines seats occupied by award customers has been lower than that of competitor airlines and had been declining ever since US Airways management took over at the airline. American was been filling about 6% of seats with awards compared to nearly 8% at United and Delta and 13% at Southwest.
AAdvantage President Bridget Blaise-Shamai reported in June that they’re “on a path towards putting our availability much more closer to the competitive levels of like a Delta or a United.”
The goal, it seems, isn’t to to better than Delta and United, just not to be worse or at least not much worse (‘closer to’).
The percentage of seats occupied by award passengers isn’t a perfect proxy for availability of saver seats. But it’s one of the better proxies made available to us for delivering value to members.
So how are they doing? According to American Airlines President Robert Isom speaking at this yesterday’s Cowen and Company Global Transportation Conference they’ve “increased allocation of seats up 1.5% of [revenue passenger miles].”
That brings American up close to but not exceeding what their peers are offering. And in American’s case it seems to mean better connecting availability in economy, and to some extent better domestic premium cabin availability. What it hasn’t noticeably affected is premium cabin international awards.
What’s more by offering domestic flights in conjunction with international it hasn’t done as much to make connecting inventory available for international partner awards.
Ultimately most members redeem for domestic coach while the most value comes from international premium cabin redemptions. American is hobbled by awards on their primary transatlantic partner British Airways costing as much as $1000 roundtrip in addition to miles, and a limited number of transatlantic and transpacific partners compared to United.