American Airlines Announces New Zealand Service. Are New AAdvantage Policies A PLUS Here?

American Airlines announced earlier this week that they’ll be launching new service to New Zealand from Los Angeles in June.  That’s good news, especially on top of the new service to Sydney from LAX and Qantas spinning up SFO-SYD as well.

Here are the times for the New Zealand service:

Depart LAX at 10:45 pm

Arrive AKL at 6:35 am +2

Depart AKL at 1:20 pm

Arrive LAX at 6:30 am

The 787-8 flying to Aukland is supposed to have 28 business class seats.  New Zealand is the definition of a long, thin route, the ones the 787 Dreamliner was built for.  And, the American Airlines 787 business class seat looks like a good one.

This announcement was rumored, so it didn’t come as a terribly big surprise to me.  It’s a great plus to the oneworld network, and good for American Airlines loyalty program members.  It’s especially good for Executive Platinum  (EXP) members.  And, the recent rumored AAdvantage changes might actually work with flights like these to be a benefit.  I know, I know.  Most A few of you think I’m nuts, especially after declaring that American Airlines didn’t really have a choice in making the decision to move to a revenue-based earning scheme.  Work with me for just a minute.  It’s not an iron-clad thesis.

  • When I first qualified for EXP my systemwide upgrades (SWUs) used to clear much earlier in the process.  I can recall one flight where I was able to use SWUs to upgrade 2 passengers and miles to upgrade 3 passengers when I took our family to Italy.
  • Things have gotten tighter, and I don’t think it’s because of massive growth of the EXP database.  Planes are more full, revenue management has gotten better.  Not perfect, but the airlines have all gotten better at making sure they have enough premium seats to sell to people who want to pay for them.
  • The airline just got much bigger with the US Airways merger.  That means more total EXP members.
  • While there are a lot more flights, US Airways didn’t have a massive international footprint.  That means more elites fighting for more seats using SWUs on premium routes.
  • American Airlines is adding international service.  Sydney, Haneda, Aukland.
  • They’re reducing the number of SWUs they award EXPs starting next year (allegedly).

Capacity growth isn’t all the same when it comes to award seats.  The number of people who want to redeem miles to go to Detroit is much smaller than the number who want to go to Australia.  That’s not to say that the number who actually redeem for Detroit is smaller than Australia.  That depends on yield management.

When United merged with Continental, the upgrade waitlists were disgustingly long.  They’re still pretty bad, sometimes 50 deep.  But, not as bad as they once were.  And, I’m guessing the increase in revenue requirements this year will further thin the herd.  The merger of American and US Airways creates the largest airline.  In theory, that could also mean too many elites fighting for too few award seats.  SWUs might not actually clear at a higher percentage next year relative to last year.  But, it may be better than it would have been if all EXPs had 8 SWUs instead of 4.

In 2016, EXPs will have the same number of SWUs early on, but as requalification happens those numbers will tighten up.

The only silver lining there might be a greater chance that the 4 SWUs EXPs receive are upgrades you can rely on.




  1. I’d gladly rather have 8 in the current situation than 4 in the new one. This argument doesn’t make much sense.

    With this argument, why not give everybody just 1 SWU with a guarantee policy that if a seat is open you can use it?

    1. Tyler, I’d rather have 8 too. My post said this “might” be the only silver lining. But, if I had 8 SWUs and the chances to clear an upgrade were like United after the Continental merger, I’m not sure I’d feel wonderful either. In short, the upgrade instrument is only as good as the availability. And, I don’t think we have good data on how Scott Kirby (mad scientist) intends to manage those buckets.

  2. This is just a ridiculous post. I will take my 8 over 4. Little impact will be had on whether you clear or not and AA still will my clear you ahead of time. You just need to pick the right routes / dates. This post is just ludicrous. 8 is better than 4, didn’t you learn that early on?

    1. Ryan, 8 appears to be a reality, so it doesn’t really matter whether 8 is better than 4 now. The reliability of SWUs clearing has dropped over the years, and with a much bigger airline, a larger group of elites that like premium international travel are fighting over a pie that hasn’t grown much. If you don’t think that there’s a reasonable chance SWUs will be tougher to clear next year, you’re not considering all the facts.

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