American Airlines Is Offering More Award Flights In A Very Interesting Way

Finding cheap award availability on the flights on your choice has been difficult over the past few years. This problem isn’t unique to American Airlines. Delta Air Lines hasn’t even had award charts the last couple of years. That makes it incredibly difficult for customers to know how many miles they need to save for their dream trip.

The problem for American Airlines is that they used to have really good award availability. When the merger with US Airways happened, things slowly started drying up. Unsurprisingly, sparse availability became the norm on popular routes and on popular travel days.

At the recent American Airlines media day, the head of the AAdvantage program, Bridget Blaise-Shamai told us that better award availability was on the way by the end of the year. It appears she’s delivered on that promise in an interesting way.

The respected Cranky Flier brings to our attention a new strategy American is employing to make more award seats available. The new saver availability seems to be focused on connecting flights.

Brett and his team use the example of Richmond to Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia. Their searches yielded availability on the RIC-PHL-LAX route even though there wasn’t inventory available on the individual legs.

My home airport is Washington-Dulles. American has very few nonstop destinations from there. Accordingly, if we want to fly to Europe we normally have to depart DCA. Philadelphia and JFK are typical connecting airports for us. With the reduction in international flights out of JFK, Philly is the most reliable option. However, finding award availability to get from DCA to PHL has pretty difficult. We’ve even had to drive round-trip to PHL for family vacations like our Greece and Paris trip.

I decided to check Cranky Flier’s theory on those routes. Sure enough, the dates I checked yielded no availability nonstop between DCA and PHL that would make a logical connection to the evening London flights.  Does anyone really want to wait in Philadelphia for 10 hours just to connect on a short red-eye?  Ugh.

Then, something happened when I checked to see if I could find flights to London.

That’s just awesome! As you can see, that 5:40 pm DCA-PHL saver inventory wasn’t available when we searched just for it. The one flight that used to be a problem for me (DCA-PHL) is now available.

This is Good, Right?

This is great news for people who had trouble finding flights from non-hub cities. What about people who live in hub cities? It’s unclear whether American plans to open up award inventory on nonstop routes.

To some degree, I understand this strategy by American. They would rather not give a seat on a nonstop route to a customer redeeming miles, especially one where they can command a premium.  On the flip side, they need to allow for redemptions so that the credit card companies keep buying lots of points.

I’m sure someone will shame me for giving American credit here.  But, kudos to American for finally adding some additional award inventory.  I hope to see this in premium cabins soon.

The post American Airlines Is Offering More Award Flights In A Very Interesting Way was published first on Pizza in Motion


      1. AA officially has the ‘drop a segment’ rule on awards between two regions.

        In the example I use in my post this is explicitly permitted rather than somehow being in a grey area.

        1. I side with Gary here. If AA didn’t want the behavior, they can certainly prohibit us from doing so. It doesn’t appear right now that they have any issue with it. Like all things loyalty, that could change.

  1. For someone in a hub city wouldn’t it be possible to just book from elsewhere, connect in your home-hub city, place the award on hold then call AA and drop the initial segment?

    1. Michael, that’s what Gary is suggesting. I don’t know if AA will allow that long-term. But, they appear to allow it right now. I imagine most customers won’t try this, so AA might be okay with it for a while.

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