If you thought the elimination of close-in award bookings fees on American (to match Delta and United) was simply a gift, you have not been paying attention. Have you seen what “AAnytime” awards are suddenly pricing at?
American Airlines Eliminates Close-In Booking Fees On AAdvantage Awards
Earlier this week, American Airlines eliminated the pesky $75 close-in booking fees for non-elites. You’ll no longer have to drop an extra $75 per ticket if you are booking travel within 21 days of departure.
The move matches what Delta did years ago and United did last November. United may have cut the cash close-in booking fee, but added a mileage surcharge for close-in bookings ranging from 2,000 to 3,500 miles. I’m still fuming about that, since elites were exempted from the prior fee but everyone now pays the close-in booking mileage booking fee.
American is walking a tightrope between dynamic revenue pricing and fixed priced awards. Unlike Delta and United, it still publishes an award chart for so-called “saver” and partner awards. The removal of the close-in booking fee did not accompany the removal of the award chart…thankfully. And to American’s credit, its so-called “web specials” do occasionally offer tremendous value under saver prices.
But in case you missed it, the other shoe has already dropped
Exponential Inflation On “AAnytime” Awards
More and more at Award Expert, my award consulting firm, we are booking AAnytime awards, American’s pricier awards which offer greater access to American flights.
Up until earlier this week, these awards were within reason. Many, however, have more than doubled in price overnight.
For example, I’ve got a client in Philadelphia who is very particular about travel dates and flying nonstop. They need to go to Rome and we’ve been waiting for them to make a decision on an upcoming trip.
After pricing at 175K one-way for weeks, a one-way award in business class between Philadelphia and Rome is now pricing at 400K each way!
So let’s see. We save $75 but now pay 400K miles instead of 175K…nice.
These numbers are even worse than Delta, though I expect both Delta and United to soon start marching lock step.
By the way, that 800K trip to Rome is about $7,000 round-trip, meaning AA is valuing its miles at less than a penny each. That’s pathetic.
We see it this week with American Airlines but we’ve seen this a general trend: the next frontier of devaluations is not on so-called “saver” awards (though those are going up in price too). Instead, more flexible “standard” awards have essentially quadrupled in price over the last four years….that’s a huge devaluation that again calls into the question the value of loyalty.
As for American Airlines, while it is great that last-minute saver awards will no longer carry the $75 fee, nothing ever comes for free. I expect we’ll also see AA eliminate award charts altogether later this year, leaving Alaska Airlines as the lone holdout.
> Read More: American Airlines’ Devaluation Without A Devaluation
image: American Airlines