American Airlines offered an outstanding deal in long haul first-class and great prices on business class fares. As much as we all want to hate airlines eliminating award charts, this example shows excellent advantages to doing so.
American Airlines Hasn’t Fully Eliminated Award Charts
While Delta and United Airlines have done away with award charts and scared their most loyal customers, American has stated that they won’t eliminate award charts. But that’s not entirely true either.
American Airlines has some base pricing but pulling up nearly any route will show myriad of prices for any route. They have acknowledged that they do not need to switch to a dynamic or variably-priced award chart, but have essentially done so anyway. Usually, this means awards cost more, not less. More importantly, it makes it impossible for consumers to save their points for a trip.
American’s Web Specials Offer Value
American Airlines has been running award redemption specials that mostly provide a small discount on coach awards with restrictions for those without Executive Platinum status. The Web Special awards are valid only on specific flights with specific dates, and the dates cannot be moved.
These awards can be placed on hold for up to five days, can be cancelled and refunded for a fee, or those with status may be able to redeposit the awards for free as the program allows. However, the great flexibility most American Airlines awards have do not apply.
None of the coach Web Specials has been entirely inspiring until this week. American offered roundtrips to the Hawaiian islands for 28,000 in coach, 56,000 in first-class. That’s a small discount for either class but flies in the face of the trend of American Airlines Advantage program.
But true value can be found in their first-class Web Specials for Hong Kong last week. In July of 2020, fares to Hong Kong in true first-class was made available for 61,000 miles in each direction. It’s hard enough to find business class awards on the Dallas-Hong Kong route from American, to find first-class for nearly the saver business class price is a steal.
American Is Showing Customers How Dynamic Awards Can Be Good For Consumers
The point of dynamic award charts is to add value for both parties. Airlines can occupy seats on flights that are empty, clear off some liability from the books and add restrictions that protect the carrier from offering wholesale discounts to customers.
For consumers, however, flexible travellers can gain significant advantages. For example, European business class roundtrips from as far as the west coast were offered recently for less than 88,000 miles/roundtrip. Prices haven’t been that low in a decade, and points are cheaper and easier to come by than they ever were before. These first-class awards on American’s 777-300ER to Hong Kong are also their longest flight in the system, there’s not a better possible redemption than this.
There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about dynamic, variably-priced awards, but American is showing there are some strong advantages for consumers who are looking for great deals. American Airlines still needs to repair a lot with its Advantage program, including releasing space with regularity and advance notice. But for all of the reasons I, and many other travel writers, are concerned about dynamically-priced awards, this seems to be a case of the carrier adding a compelling reason to have miles with American.
What do you think? Is American demonstrating value with their Web Special deals? Is this just a flash in the pan for an untrustworthy program?