Sometimes you don’t have to officially devalue a loyalty program for a real devaluation to occur.
American Airlines, at least for now, still has a saver award chart with fixed-rate award prices to each region in the world. This “saver” space (X for economy, U for business, Z for first class) is capacity controlled, but has historically been available, especially if you planned travel in advance.
I’ve been trying, for several weeks now, to book an AA saver award in first class. This is one first class product I have yet to review (I last reviewed AA’s now-retired 777-200 first class a few years back) and a product long overdue for inclusion in my trip report library.
Foolishly optimistic, I started by only checking space between Los Angeles and London. Depending on the time of year, American operates 1-2 flights a day on the 777-300 featuring an eight-seat first class cabin.
But there was no saver space. Not tomorrow. Not next week…or next month…or next year. Nothing at all. Thus, earlier this week I dramatically broadened by search. Instead of only focusing on the London to Los Angeles route, I checked out all AA first class routes, including:
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to London (LHR)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to São Paulo (GRU)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to London (LHR)
- Miami (MIA) to Buenos Aires (EZE)
- Miami (MIA) to London (LHR)
- Miami (MIA) to São Paulo (GRU)
- New York Kennedy (JFK) to London (LHR)
- New York Kennedy (JFK) to São Paulo (GRU)
And guess what? No space. From today through EOS (end of schedule next April), not a single route above has a single saver seat.
While I am sure pass-riding employees love this, what gives? Why is inventory management so incredibly stingy? I get why AA would hold back space if it routinely sold out its first class cabins. But I’ve been monitoring the LHR-LAX flights and they are often EMPTY a day or two before departure. Again, what gives?
A Stealth Devaluation Is Still A Devaluation
I know I can redeem as little as 140K AA miles for a one-way “standard” award (prices start at 140K and can rise above 300K for a one-way ticket). But isn’t 85K enough for AA first class? What is the point of having a saver award chart when there are NEVER any saver awards available?
It’s a brilliant move, really. The old award chart stays and consumers are duped into thinking they can actually use their AA miles to fly AA premium cabins at a reasonable price.
But AA isn’t fooling many. We see the lack of space, especially in first class. Throw in the new lack of transparency with its horrific new award search interface and I’m wondering what comes next. At least partner award space should still be available.
So can any of you find 777-300ER first class space on an AA international flight? If so, I want to book it. But I doubt you’ll find anything, at least not now. All we can hope for is a dumping of space one day like AA once did in the ever-distant past…
Perhaps my time is better spent searching out cheap AA revenue business class tickets and hoping to upgrade them to first class with a systemwide upgrade. Because I’m done (at least for now) with the time-consuming searches for award space that is not there.