American Has 6 Award Price Levels. Here’s How They Work

American AAdvantage used two offer to levels of award pricing: saver and anytime. Anytime awards were double the cost of saver, but gave access to any seat on the plane.

That changed April 8, 2014 when without notice American introduced three tiers of anytime prices, and the third tier was unpublished.

They introduced highest-level holiday prices for anytime awards in 2015.

American’s award chart says “There are select dates that require a higher number of miles (in addition to Level 1 and 2 awards).” What they do not disclose that there are three levels of prices beyond level 1 and 2 anytime levels that are not revealed to customers in the award chart.

Except for some fine print you might think the award pricing in the chart is all there is:

There are five levels of AAnytime award prices and that’s on top of saver award pricing. So American doesn’t have a three- or four-tier pricing chart. They have six tiers. That one-ups even Delta when they still published their award charts.

Some airlines will price extra mileage awards based on how full a flight is, or how expensive it is. American prices its extra mileage anytime awards based on date. And in the case of flights between New York JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco also on flight time as I first noticed in mid-2016.

For premium cross country flights between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles you’ll find the Sunday after Thanksgiving is ‘Level 5’. I’m surprised by some of the things that warrant ‘Level 4’. Here are some examples:

  • October 19 – November 11 this year is just ‘peak fall’, so is November 26 – December 2
  • November 15 – 19 is level 4 for LAX only due to the American Music Awards
  • The Grammys, Academy Awards, and ‘Upfronts’ get level 4
  • JP Morgan’s Health Care Investor Conference gets level 4 for San Francisco

Normally the premium cross country market is priced based on day and time of departure, recognizing that if American releases saver award space (cough) that lower price would trump.

JFKLAX JFKSFO Level
Monday 7am – 5pm 8am – 5pm 3
Other times Other times 2
Tuesday 10am – 7pm 3pm-Midnight 4
Other times Other times 3
Wednesday 8am – 8pm 3pm-Midnight 4
Other times Other times 3
Thursday 11am – 8pm 3pm-Midnight 4
Other times Other times 3
Friday 9am – 5pm 3pm-5pm 2
Other times Other times 1
Saturday 8am – 5pm 7am – Noon 2
Other times Other times 1
Sunday 9am – 5pm 8am – 7pm 2
Other times Other times 1

Outside of this market American does have peak dates by city. For the most part that just designates whether Anytime price level 3 is in effect, and applies to events like the Indy 500, Burning Man, Austin City Limits, and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. Presidents Day is level 3 throughout the Northeast.

Internationally Oktoberfest in Munich is level 3, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin to name a few.

The only market that currently reaches level 4 or 5 based on special events is Atlanta around the Superbowl.

I appreciate that American still has an award chart that they are willing to publish. I appreciate that they mostly stick to it. However they stick to it only as long as there isn’t an exception, that they do not tell customers about.

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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Comments

  1. Thank you Delta for turning American into a clone and in the end ruining a once
    Iconic program
    The Sky Pesos effect
    Sad

  2. 7 levels with the new web specials, and those seem to fluctuate with pricing based on day as well. Toss in the reduced mileage awards and it’s up to 8.

  3. Maybe I’m not understanding, but right now and for some time aa.com has listed an economy one-way seat from Portland, ME to New Orleans on 2/22 at 50,000…shouldn’t the maximum be 30,000 for this?

  4. So, as AA begins to deviate more and more from their award chart, how practical is the award chart?

  5. Tried to book AA award flights to Maui for this Thanksgiving. AA wanted 90k miles EACH WAY in ECONOMY. That’s 180k miles per person round trip in coach. I’ve never seen that published anywhere. And that’s much higher than they used to charge for first on the same dates.

  6. @ Dwondermeant

    Yes, it’s totally Delta’s fault that American is choosing, voluntarily, to be a warmed over clone.

    Definitely right to blame Delta!

  7. I’m looking at Anytime to Europe first week of June and some days of the week are 110k while other days are 135k. I’m trying to find out if it’s possible the 110k days could convert to 135k days as more people book. Or will they stay 110k?

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