The American Airlines and US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts!

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American Airlines and US Airways implemented big changes to their award program.  Depending on the type of traveler you are, many of these changes are negative while a few are positive.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

Award Chart Prices and Checked Bag Policies Are Changing

Don’t Be Suprised

No one should be surprised by these changes.  Airlines merge to make money.  There’s nothing wrong in that, but mergers almost always result in less competition.

And less competition means that there is no incentive to offer you benefits which other competing airlines don’t offer in the hopes of retaining your business.  Less competition usually means that you have fewer choices which means that you’ll settle for paying more and getting lousy service (kinda like shopping for cable).  I’ve never been a fan of airline mergers.

Doug Parker is an ambitious CEO, and we’ll see lots of unwelcome changes as the merger gets underway.  It would have been nice to have advance notice of these changes, but American Airlines didn’t feel that was necessary.

There are 5 main updates to the American Airlines award program.

5 New Policies With American Airlines Awards

1.   No More Stopovers at the North American Gateway City

American Airlines no longer allows stop-overs on award flights.

On international awards, American Airlines allowed stopovers at the North American gateway city, even on 1-way awards!  If you lived in or near a city with international service on American Airlines or 1 of its partner airlines, you could essentially book 2 flights for the price of one.

For example, if you lived in New York, you could book a 1-way trip from Honolulu to Europe with a stopover in New York (the North American gateway city for your flight to Europe).  As long as you completed your travel within a year of booking, you could make your stopover in New York (your home city) for as long as you wanted.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

You Can No Longer Book 2 Separate 1-Way Flights on 1 Award Ticket

You were able to book Honolulu to Los Angeles to New York, stopover in New York for days, weeks or months, then continue from New York to Europe – all for the price you’d pay for 1 Honolulu to Europe trip.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

The New American Airlines Award Chart Closes Some Loopholes You Were Able to Use for Big Travel

In coach, a 1-way from Hawaii to mainland USA would cost 22,500 miles, or 17,500 miles during off-peak season (January 12 to March 8 and August 22 to December 15).  A separate 1-way from North America to Europe would cost 30,000 miles, or 20,000 miles during off-peak seasons (October 15 to May 15).

By using the stopover rule, you could book both 1-ways together, and pay only 30,000 miles TOTAL for a 1-way award from Honolulu to Europe with a stopover in New York.

And if you began the award during the European off-peak season (October 15 to May 15), you would pay only 20,000 miles total!

And if you wanted to book just a 1-way award ticket from Honolulu to the continental US in the winter, you’d pay 22,500 miles.  But if you added a segment to Europe, you’d actually save 2,500 miles and pay only 20,000 miles!

It’s no wonder American Airlines stopped allowing this kind of award booking.  But it was fun while it lasted!

2.   New Names for MileSAAver Awards

MileSAAver awards are the lowest priced award tickets with a limited number of seats available.  American Airlines used to refer to the different levels within MileSAAver as “off-peak” and “peak” awards.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

American Airlines Former Award Chart, With the “MileSAAver Off-Peak” and “MileSAAver Peak” Names

Off-peak awards, which are still only available in coach, are now called “Level 1″ awards, while Peak awards are now called “Level 2” awards.  None of the prices in miles have gone up or down, so the name change is purely cosmetic.  Here’s the new American Airlines award chart.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if American Airlines eventually restricts those low level MileSAAver awards to only certain days of the year and makes you pay more for flights on other days.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

American Airlines has replaced the terms “Off-Peak” and “Peak” With “Level 1″ and “Level 2″

3.   New AAnytime Award Levels

While there were not any changes to MileSAAver awards, American Airlines did make major changes to their AAnytime awards which allowed members to book the last seat on a flight with miles.

It’s always best to try to book flights at the MileSAAver level because you pay fewer miles, but there are occasions when you absolutely must book the last seat on a plane, like when you want to surprise someone with a proposal!

AAnytime awards are only available on American Airlines flights.  (You can NOT book on partner airline flights).  Before the changes, most AAnytime awards were double the price of a MileSAAver award to the same region.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

American Airlines Former AAnytime Award Prices

However, American Airlines has not only raised the price of the lowest AAnytime award, but they’ve created 3 new levels for AAnytime awards, naming them Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5.  The award prices for Level 5 are not even published yet!

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

AAnytime Award Level 3 Is Still a Mystery

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

The New AAnytime Award Levels

To compare, when I booked the last Business Class seat for Emily from Chicago to London, I paid 100,000 miles in Business Class each way.  With the new award chart, I could pay either 110,000 miles 1-way, 135,000 miles 1-way, or an award price even higher that’s still not published!

If you only book MileSAAver awards, then this change will not affect you.  But being able to pay double miles for the last Business Class seat or First Class seat was a great benefit that likely cost American a lot of money.  That’s because if you booked the last first class seat with 125,000 miles, they could not sell it for $10,000+!

4.   Fewer Checked Bags (or More!) Depending Upon Where You Fly

American Airlines also changed the number of free checked bags certain passengers can have, effective immediately.

The following changes apply to anyone who books a ticket on or after April 8, 2014.

Note: None of the following changes affect the free checked bags you get when you have an American Airlines credit card.

So if you have the:

A) If you are an American Airlines Gold elite member (meaning you fly between 25,000 to 49,999 miles each year, or have 1 million lifetime elite miles) or a oneworld Ruby elite member, you now only get 1 free checked bag instead of 2 bags.

I never really understood why all elite members got the same amount of checked bags for free, and I’ve been expecting airlines to limit the free baggage allowance for their lowest level elite members.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze StartsAmerican Airlines Platinum members (including 2 Million Milers) and oneworld Sapphire elite members still receive 2 bags for free.

In addition, American Airlines Executive Platinum members and oneworld Emerald elites still receive 3 bags for free.

B) If you book a full fare ticket or AAnytime award in coach, you no longer get a free checked bag.  This was useful when you booked AAnytime awards.

But it seems American Airlines realized they didn’t need to give any additional benefits to people who had so few options that they had to pay extra miles for an AAnytime award or full fare ticket!  If you’re paying a ridiculous price for a ticket, what’s an extra $25 for a checked bag!

C) Flights from the USA to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America no longer receive a free checked bag.  The price to check the 1st bag goes from free to $25.  The price for a 2nd bag remains the same at $40.  If you have an American Airlines credit card you still get the 1st bag for free!

Some folks might consider switching to Southwest for certain flights to Mexico and the Caribbean because you get 2 free checked bags.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

You No Longer Receive a Free Checked Bag to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean

D) Flights from the USA to South America now allow 2 free checked bags, an increase from the previous 1 free checked bag.  It used to cost $70 to check a 2nd bag from the US to South America but now it’s free for all passengers.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

Passengers to South America Now Get 2 Free Checked Bags Instead of 1

5.   American Airlines Eliminates the Oneworld Explorer Award

One of the best values with American Airlines were oneworld Explorer Awards.  You could book round-the-world trips with up to 16 flight segments with stopovers at each city and did not have to following any routing rules.  But there were a number of restrictions, such as a minimum number of oneworld partners.

The mileage price you paid depended on the number of miles you flew.  Travel Codex has a good summary on the oneworld Explorer Award.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

The Old Oneworld Explorer Award Chart

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

You Could Book This 19,252-Mile Journey With Stopovers in Each city for Only 100,000 Miles in Economy Class; 130,000 Miles in Business Class; or 180,000 Miles in First Class

American Airlines has eliminated oneworld Explorer awards.  In general, these awards were complex to research and book, and had many restrictions applied to them.  However, for those who wanted to book a round-the-world ticket, they were valuable awards.  American Airlines did not allow stopovers on international awards (except at the North American gateway), so Explorer Awards were a great way to see multiple places around the world on 1 trip.

The toughest part about the sudden end of the oneworld Explorer award is that people would often save miles for a long time for a round-the-world ticket but now it’s gone.

US Airways Changes

1.   No More 90,000-Mile Business Class Award to North Asia 

US Airways used to charge 90,000 miles for Business Class awards from the US & Canada to North Asia (which includes China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan).

Overnight, US Airways changed the price for Business Class awards to North Asia from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles.  However, the price for every other award (including coach and First Class to North Asia) remains the same.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

US Airways Business Class From North America to North Asia Increased 20,000 Points but There’s No Change to Other Awards

While this is a negative change, it’s understandable.  US Airways allows you to fly from North America to Asia via Europe, and unlike American Airlines, you can have a stopover in an international city as long as it’s a partner airline’s hub.  However, some agents allow stopovers anywhere.

So you could have flown from North America to Europe, stopover, then continue to North Asia, and return to North America for 90,000 miles in Business Class.

To put this into perspective, it had cost 100,000 miles for a Business Class round-trip from the USA & Canada to Europe, which meant it was cheaper to add a trip to North Asia on your European vacation.

The new 110,000-mile cost matches what American Airlines charges for Business Class trips to all of Asia, but US Airways still allows flights via Europe (for now!).  It is still a pretty good deal if you want to visit Europe and North Asia in 1 trip.

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

It’s Still a Good Deal to Fly to Both Europe & Asia in Business Class for 110,000 Miles

2.   Free Checked Bag on US Airways Flights With Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard Starting April 30, 2014

One positive change is that if you have a Barclaycard US Airways card with an annual fee of at least $79, you’ll get 1 free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 4 companions.  This begins on April 30th, 2014.

This benefit is long overdue, but much appreciated.  You already get free checked bags with a credit card on American Airlines, Delta, United, and Virgin America, as well as free checked bags for everyone on Southwest and JetBlue.  It’s good to see Barclaycard and US Airways match what Citi gives to folks with American Airlines credit cards.

3.   No Blackout Dates on Standard Awards 

Starting June 1, 2014, Standard Awards will no longer have blackout dates.  So you can book any seat on any US Airways flight with miles.

However, just like American Airlines, US Airways has introduced multiple Standard Award levels.  And just like their merger partner, they have yet to publish the highest standard award level prices.

Two regions which saw standard prices decreases are Mexico/Central America and the Caribbean:

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

The Old Medium and High Award Level Prices for Flights From the US to the Caribbean or Mexico/Central America

The American Airlines And US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts

New Medium and High Level Award Prices Are Now LOWER. But “High – Level 2″ Prices Are Still Unknown

It’s worth noting that “High” prices have now been split into “High – Level 1” and “High – Level 2” with level 2 prices still a secret.

Bottom Line

With a merger between 2 very different airlines, there were bound to be changes, both good and bad.

I don’t like that American Airlines got rid of the free stopovers at North American gateway cities when flying on an international award ticket.  And some folks won’t be happy now that there’s no longer a oneworld Explorer award or that AAnytime awards are more expensive.

And now depending where you fly, you may get NO free checked bags or MORE free checked luggage.  If you have the American Airlines Citi Platinum card, American Airlines Citi Executive, or Barclaycard US Airways Mastercard  you still get to check the same amount of free luggage as before.  The same goes for American Airlines Executive Platinum members and oneworld Emerald elites.

It can be frustrating when changes happen without advance notice.  So it’s an important reminder to use your miles sooner rather than later!

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34 responses to “The American Airlines and US Airways Merger Squeeze Starts!

  1. I suppose you still want us to sign up for these ridiculi credit cards?

  2. I appreciate the roundup, but I think you are way too gentle in not forcefully denouncing the total lack of respect for customers shown in announcing these changes with no notice. While they can do that legally, this shows they are a company with no interest in maintaining the trust of their members and with no class. The email I received was an absolute insult to my intelligence, highlighting one minor improvement and ignoring the devastating devaluation they did to their program in general. I’ll be saying goodbye to my American co-branded cards. It’s time to go entirely to cash-back except for cards that offer useful category bonuses.

  3. The Masked Poster

    I’m a little confused, but I hope you can clear it up for me. In your example of the “old” stopover, your passenger lives in New York, but is leaving from Honolulu, flies to L.A. and N.Y., then onward to Europe. How did he get to Honolulu to begin with? Please give another example of a more realistic journey.

  4. thanks for the run-down of the VERY bad news Daraius. But that’s where my thanks stops.

    you are being far too kind to the company that (as you admit up front) pays you commissions to spread details of their cc’s (or some of them anyway)

    So AA put out this huge promotion for many of us to fork over the big 10K spend and $250 annual for the AAdvantage CC Executive Card — to get the 100k miles. I had in mind to combine it with previous miles earned to go for the round the world pass. Almost have the 150k.

    And now we find out, without notice, that AA has killed the entire award process for the round-the-world fares.


    So very like the arrogant US Airways I grew to resent over the years…. I still remember our beloved Piedmont Airways…. which USAir destroyed when it swallowed it.

    This IS a “surprise” — and your characterizations of these horrendous devaluations as “not” surprising is really disappointing.

    For the first time, your writing reads like that of a mere and very low “shill.”

  5. Let me put my anger (at you) differently. Your writing reads like you’re applying to become a business journalist for Rupert Murdoch (Faux news) or Sheldon Adelson. Your attitude that these slime ball, greedy corporate masters exist merely to make money, so that we shouldn’t be surprise when the rip away previous benefits they’d offered…..

    makes me very cynical.

    We should all henceforth never trust ANYTHING we read here.

    Because these slime ball corporate masters have every right you say to change their minds, to take away benefits…. to laugh all the way to the bank.

    And shills like you will be here to tell us why we should be “unhappy” — but to keep playing the game like little sheep.

  6. do you have a current link to a no annual fee US Airways card – and how long do you think this can still be churned – especially now that we have to fork over even MORE miles that before!

    So much for the good ole Justice Department, who quickly approved this deal when it first appeared to be DOA after they switched their thinking by saying that prices would not raise or that there would be a negative impact on the industry….I wonder what they’ll say when Delta and United merge!!!

  7. I’m liking Southwest more and more, even after the devaluation. Their reward flights are simple and straight forward, two free checked bags, and most of all, they sure beat the snakes from AA and US Airways.

  8. Nice summary. My take is different from others that have posted. I appreciate that you provided a nice summary of the changes rather than getting all emotional about the changes. I understand that eliminating the free stopover hurts, however once everyone started exploiting the loophole, AA was forced to close the loophole, as it was not being used as it was originally intended. The changes don’t impact me very much, and I will continue to collect AA miles to allow for 2 or 3 great trips with my family each year (by booking 11 months in advance for the lowest level awards in coach).

  9. Thanks, Daraius. It seems that some people are misdirecting their rAAge at the messenger (in this case, you). Don’t let their frustration stop you from being objective. Trolls will be trolls, but you are not a shill. The points game is just a game, which requires being nimble and adaptable. Thanks for the pointers on how we can keep on our toes. Lots of changes recently, not just with loyalty programs but with manufactured spend (bye bye Vanilla)…we all look forward to your tips on how to adapt!

  10. Ditto to Todd’s comments and traveltogo. Darius provided a summary of the changes. Sorry you don’t like the changes, but I appreciate the information! Like Todd, I book a few trips per year for my family, 11 months out, in the lowest level. I’m disappointed my gateway city perk no longer applies, but I’m not going to stop acquiring and using miles because of it. In the words of Albert Einstein, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle”.

  11. Thank you for not using a whiney, self-entitled tone when writing of these changes. Sure, they’re an inconvenience but the miles and travel are still free, afterall. Now, if only some of your readers would follow your lead…..

  12. Some people are taking these changes WAY TOO SERIOUSLY. Will…. its not like you just got cancer or something. This whole credit card racking up miles deal is a game. Sometimes the rules change and as a famous pathologist once told me, “You adapt or die”. Dariaus is giving us the info we need to continue playing this game and win at it. Thanks to Dariaus, my family of five has traveled like rockstars over the past two years to Kauai, Vail, Park City, Puerto Vallarta, Orlando, Vegas, Oahu, Maui, Lake Tahoe staying in 4 or 5 star accommodations FOR FREE!!!! (Of course I have about 30 credit cards in my desk drawer as a result!) And sure he gets “something” for his services….. but do you think he is Mother Teresa and putting in all this work as a purely philanthropic purpose? He is entitled to be compensated just like you when you clock in at your job. Lots of people have benefited from Dariaus so for you to call him out as a “shill” is a total joke. Its not like Dariaus “forced” you to open up the credit card and spend $10,000. Keep writing Dariaus and don’t let the ingrates discourage you!!!!

    • @DaveS – I agree that they could have communicated the changes better.

      @The Masked Poster – That’s why it was called a “free-one-way”, because you only got one way free. You still had to buy another 1-way.

      @Will – I don’t get a commission for any of the Citi AA cards or US Air card in the post.

      @ToddC @Jason @Cupcake @HoustonRobert @Robert @Scott – Thanks!

      @Jon – I’m sure they will add a 4th frequent flyer tier soon!

  13. Well said, Robert. Seriously, people… if you don’t find this site helpful then go somewhere else and stop whining.

  14. I have now felt the effects of the merger. I looked at RT flts from Denver to Curacao a few days ago and now those flts are either unavailable for AA rewards, or they are 50% more (Business/First AAnytime). I’m cancelling my AA credit cards and will try to donate my miles to friends/family. VERY DISAPOINTED!

  15. Anyone notice that Gold on AA just keeps getting worse and worse? Reduction in checked bags. No more free MCE. Now the gap between Gold and Platinum is getting quite large. Makes me wonder if they’re looking to add that 4th Frequent Flier tier soon as well.

  16. Its good to see AA has not changed the mileage needed for first and business to s.e. asia ( yet)

  17. I look at the new Delta-like 5 level award prices and assume that the eventual change is that sAAver (or whatever newspeak they use) awards will jump to half the highest (as yet unpublished) anytime rate.

    I’m leaving tomorrow on a 90k N Asia award with a stop in Europe on the way back. Hopefully, they hold off on any more changes for 1 more month so I can book a 2015 trip at the current rate. Might as well go first class, since it’s only a 10k premium now.

  18. I agree with the past few posters. Stop the whining. I have always approached this as a game/hobby. My family loves to travel to hawaii for 10 cents on the dollar (I would gladly pay 20 cents, but don’t tell anyone). I always assume that my miles/points will be worth less tomorrow than they are today. I know that some of my sweet spot redemptions will eventually cease to exist. I know that the airlines/hotels are in this game to make money. They are going to consistently devalue their award programs. Unfortunately for them, I am in this game to enjoy their services for the least amount possible…let them make their money on other people willing to pay retail. I view every credit card approval as hitting a blackjack in vegas. I appreciate Daraius and hope he continues to make money doing what he enjoys. He has certainly helped my family enjoy memorable trips that I believe my children never forget. Among all of the the trips, we have made 4 trips to hawaii in just the last 2 years (3 grand hyatt Kauai stays – my favorite place on earth). There is no way we would have traveled around the country as much as we have without bloggers. Let them earn a living and only read the blogs that you find valuable.

    Your passion for travel and helping people shines brightly through your blog. Thanks!

  19. To those who say some of us are overreacting, I reiterate that I do not deny their right to make changes. That happens all the time. In the past, though, this company has been generally honest and straightforward, making its changes with notice, so that people have a chance to make rational decisions based on them. Past behavior does in fact influence people’s level of confidence in a company. Gutting their program with instant changes in the middle of the night and then sending silly emails taking us for idiots is just unworthy of them, or any serious company. If they had said, “Here are changes that we’re making for business reasons that will take effect in 90 days,” I’d have been disappointed, but accepting. And I think if they’re trying to market a “New American” this sort of slap in the fact to their customers is really a bad way to do it.

  20. I agree with past comments of DaveS, Chris G…. Robert said it best, “Daraius is not Mother Teresa”!! This is a game and Daraius helps us win this game and as rules change he tries to educate us. Imagine if we did not have his and the other similar blogs. I can bet more than 90% of us who enjoy almost free FC travel would never be able to do it without the help of bloggers like Daraius (unless of course you want to spend $$$ to buy FC tickets). In fact I sometimes wonder why Daraius does not ban some people from commenting, end of the day its his blog, i.e. his opinion, he is not forcing anyone to do anything and yes he gets paid for doing what he and his wife love (which may not be true for most people!)…

    Enjoy the game as long as it lasts, end of the day these are points and they are bound to be devalued as businesses look for ways to save money. Hell, if one cannot save US $$ from depreciating overtime, how can anyone expect points to hold value. My Mantra is earn it and burn it as soon as you can – if you cannot use them gift it to your family and friends!

    Keep it up Daraius and thanks!

  21. Will a Business/First Award ticket continue to get a free checked bag?

  22. I wish bloggers would stop repeating what AA is spewing.

    Yes, strictly speaking there are no “blackout dates.” In reality they put a ridiculous price on those blackout dates which no one will pay, so they are virtually unchanged. They are still blacked out.

  23. Not surprised Parker implemented these changes with no notice. Not surprised the North Asia J went to 110k.

    This was the appetizer folks, wait until end of year when this merger finally completes itself, then we’ll see the massive devaluations!

  24. Daraius: in your opinion, does it still make sence to share US Airway miles (100% offer now for 1.1c/mile)?

  25. Thanks Darius, unlike some who seemed to take umbrage with your writing style I appreciate the unemotional style and just lay it out there as SGT Joe Friday used to say “Just the facts”. Something that is clear as mud to me, perhaps you or others could clarify, I have both the AA and US card do I have to use the card to purchase the tix or is just having the card enough? As LT Gold I get a free checked bag anyway, but I often travel for work with at least one co-worker. I used to check their bag with mine, to save money. Now wondering can I do the same having the CC’s.

  26. I love how comments go way off track. Really – comments on writing style, it is supposed to be informative, not a Noir Drama.

    I am nearly a 2 Million Miler on American and Executive Platinum. I used to fly US Air but began to book away from US Air because of an attitude of “We piss you off – but you keep flying us.” I am glad to see – my apprehension about US Air staff – is no longer the case. Whew! I genuinely dislike the leather or naugahide seats as they are very warm and uncomfortable, much prefer the fabric. As for frequent flyer miles and programs, – It is a gift to those who fly a great deal – a way of recognizing those who patronize an airline. So the programs change, so do the price of seats from day to day – so we should celebrate our status on quick checkins and shorter security lines and the joy of consuming those hard earned (yes I said earned ) miles.

    Good part now – even more destinations for both programs.

  27. Pingback: All the Ways to Earn American Airlines Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  28. I was just wonder about the two mileage programs. If you have points in both programs and haven’t used it, will the two mileage programs merge or do you transfer the us airway points to the american airline when the merger is finally complete?

  29. Pingback: US Airways 100% Buy Miles Promotion (Targeted) | Million Mile Secrets

  30. I also greatly miss the 90k north Asia biz class redemption opportunity.

  31. If you only have the us air Barclay card is it true you only get your one free checked bag on us airways flights or do you now also get the one free checked bag on an American airline flight as well with just the us airways Barclay card

  32. AA doesn’t allow stopovers, and round the world trips anymore…however Us airways still does since it hasn’t merged completely with AA right? Can you tell us more about that? I’m looking to take advantage of it before it all goes away, but need more insight. Thanks!

  33. Pissed Consumer

    I work in eMedia and am well aware of how company use clicks and data to control the content presented to users. I recently signed up for a CC for AA. Obtained the 50k points. Was planning a flight to Europe. Located a flight for 30k milesaaver pts. Click to reserve the flight. 1 min into the reservation screen after entering the data the seat was no longer available…interested. Picked a completely different flight and city. Same experience “flight no longer” available. Ironic, or I believe this company is using data to control what milesaaver seats are available and if you are planning a flight will use the data to prevent a free booking and in my case attempt to force a 65k miles seat (in which i would need to make up the points). Appalling and probably fraudulent use of data…