As nice as redeeming 5,000 miles to fly from Los Angeles to New Zealand using AA miles sounds, please don’t take your eyes off the bigger picture. These gimmicky redemptions come at great cost.
Last night, American Airlines ran a web special that was quite compelling; flights between Los Angeles and New Zealand were as low as 5,000 AAdvantage miles each way. This morning, the space is all gone.
But I’ll tell you what isn’t gone. Higher prices across the aboard on AA flights. A lack of premium cabin saver fares. A broken award search website. Put simply, we were thrown a scrap last night. Think of Stromboli giving Pinocchio a metal washer and keeping all the gold coins for himself.
American Airlines, like Delta and United, is in the process of transforming its loyalty program. Fixed-price awards still exist, but its new award search website undeniably foreshadows an era of dynamic pricing.
I’ve always said that dynamic pricing will help some people on some days. Part of the concept of dynamic pricing is to offer occasional deals like 10,000 mile round-trips to New Zealand. Such promos provide cover to the more pernicious changes going on, namely that if you want to use your miles for premium cabins or to travel during peak times, it will cost, on average, more than ever before. Significantly more.
See, American was happy to unload some economy class seats that would have gone empty anyway. But how about if you want to travel in business class on the same 5K LA to Auckland flight? 375K miles for a one-way ticket.
American is now approaching Delta pricing and United is not far behind. It will only be a matter of time when award charts are altogether gone and our AAdvantage miles are worth even less than they are today.
All hope is not lost. There are still sweet spots in every loyalty program, including AAdvantage. But let’s be realistic when thinking about the occasional very cheap fares using miles. Those come at great cost. As for me, I’d rather pay more, knowing that a fixed award chart sets the upper bound for how much an award will cost. But that is no longer the world that we live in.