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Starting March 22, 2016, American Airlines will replace its current award chart for flights on American Airlines and its airline partners. Some awards are going up, some are going down, and a few will be removed completely.
There are also a couple of additions!
I’ll let you know what’s changing. And what you can do about it!
What’s Going On?
View From the Wing reported changes to the American Airlines award charts. Effective March 22, 2016, there will be different prices for flights on American Airlines, and for their airline partners. And off-peak awards are being updated, too.
I’m NOT happy about this. But that’s how it goes with miles and points. There will always be good deals, so it’s best to take advantage of them while we can!
Here are the major changes.
1. Off-Peak Awards
I called American Airlines off-peak awards 1 of the best deals in travel.
Off-peak awards are only available in coach.
American Airlines Off-Peak Awards
Certain changes apply to flights on American Airlines’ own flights, and do NOT include partner airlines.
The awards going up in price are:
- Hawaii from 17,500 miles each way to 20,000
- South America (Region 1 which includes Ecuador and Peru) from 15,000 miles each way to 17,500
- Europe from 20,000 miles each way to 22,500
- Asia (Region 1 which includes Japan and Korea) from 25,000 miles each way to 32,500
Awards NOT going up in price are:
- The Caribbean & Mexico will remain 12,500 miles each way
Awards going down in price are:
- Central America from 15,000 miles each way to 12,500 miles
They’re also adding a new off-peak award:
- Asia (Region 2 which includes China and Hong Kong) is being introduced, and will be 32,500 miles each way
The off-peak award dates are changing too. They’re very particular, and depend on where you fly, which direction you’re heading, and feature many gaps whereas before, there were mostly 1 (or 2) defined periods of time.
Partner Off-Peak Awards
American Airlines in eliminating its off-peak partner awards except for those to Europe.
The new price will be 22,500 American Airlines miles each way, and the dates are from January 10 to March 14, and from November 1 to December 14.
Before, the off-peak awards were from October 15 to May 15 each year, so American Airlines is cutting the dates from 7 months out of the year down to under 4.
Instead of 40,000 American Airlines miles for a round-trip award flight in coach, you’ll need 45,000 American Airlines miles.
This was a great deal. And in our hobby great deals don’t last forever!
It’s still a good discount. But now they’ve eliminated the former sweet spots of traveling to Europe in early Autumn and Spring when the weather is warmer.
2. Business Class and First Class Awards
Under the new award chart, coach award prices are changing modestly. All-in-all, they’re going either up or down by 2,500 American Airlines miles (or not changing at all).
Business Class award prices are mostly stable throughout North America, and are going either up or down by 5,000 American Airlines miles, which isn’t too bad.
But Business Class awards to Southern South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific are taking a leap up. And if you think that’s bad, First Class awards are going up even more, especially on American Airlines’ partners.
I’ve had a lot of fun using American Airlines miles on partner airlines to get First Class trips I wouldn’t otherwise want to pay for! Like when I flew with Emily on Etihad First Class.
That flight cost 90,000 American Airlines miles at the time. But if you book this flight on or after March 22, 2016, it’ll cost 115,000 American Airlines miles.
Hit the hardest are First Class awards on partner airlines to Asia, India, and the South Pacific.
But even First Class awards here at home are going up too. You’ll soon have to pay 50,000 American Airlines miles for a 1-way First Class award within the mainland US. And 55,000 American Airlines miles to fly 1-way to Canada or Alaska!
3. A Good Deal for Short Flights
The 1 positive change is the addition of lower-priced awards on short-haul flights of 500 miles or less. You’ll pay 7,500 American Airlines miles each way to fly within the mainland US or Canada.
Another option for these short expensive flights is British Airways Avios points. As of February 2, 2016, you’ll pay 7,500 British Airways Avios points for all flights under 1,150 miles. Here are some other ideas for flying short distances with Small Money!
What Can You Do?
These changes put American Airlines mostly in line with the competition, like Delta and United Airlines.
- Stop earning American Airlines miles and pay for flights a different way
- Switch to the competition if it makes more sense
- Earn more American Airlines miles to pay the new prices
Let’s look at each option.
1. Pay for Flights With Other Points
Link: Citi Prestige
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
If you usually fly coach, you might decide to pay for your flights with points from the Citi Prestige card.
When you have the Citi Prestige card, you can use Citi ThankYou points to purchase tickets at a rate of 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines through July 23, 2017.
With Citi Prestige, 50,000 Citi ThankYou points gets you an $800 towards a flight to Europe, or to anywhere American Airlines or its codeshare partners fly without any blackout dates.
The same round-trip coach award flight to Europe will cost you 60,000 American Airlines miles during peak times, plus taxes and fees.
You also may find it easier to earn Citi ThankYou points because with Prestige you’ll collect 3X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on airfare, hotels, travel agencies. And 2X Citi ThankYou points on dining and the broad category of entertainment.
Remember you can earn even more Citi ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou Premier card. Or the Citi AT&T Access More card, which earns 3X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on all online retail shopping.
When you’re flying on American Airlines or American Eagle, the Prestige also gets you into the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge with your immediate family or 2 guests.
And into Priority Pass Lounges with up to 2 guests.
Or you could use Chase Ultimate Rewards points worth 1.25 cents each when you book travel.
If you mainly fly coach, Citi ThankYou points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points might be your best option, because you could end up paying fewer points for your flights.
2. Switch to United Airlines
Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Link: Chase Ink Plus
I like United Airlines miles better for most folks who are new to miles and points because:
- They have more airline partners
- It’s easier to find available award seats
- United Airlines miles are easier to earn because United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer partner
- They’re the best airline for avoiding fuel surcharges
You can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines at a 1:1 ratio if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus, or Chase Ink Bold. And the United Airlines award charts will be comparable to American Airlines after new changes take effect.
If United Airlines serves your home airport, and they or 1 of their partners fly to where you want to visit in the class of service you prefer, you might consider switching.
Plus, their miles are much easier to earn than American Airlines from everyday spending. That’s a big reason why Ultimate Rewards are my favorite kind of points!
As always, do what’s best for you. Check out my guide on how to decide which miles to collect for your trip!
3. Earn More American Airlines Miles
For some folks, American Airlines might be the best option for award flights. If you want more American Airlines miles, the fastest way to earn them is with credit card sign-up bonuses.
With the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, you’ll earn 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening your account. I also like that you get free checked bags. Here’s my review of the card.
And with the Citi AAdvantage Executive card, you can earn another 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 within the 1st 3 months of opening your account.
This Citi Executive card has a higher minimum spending requirement and the annual fee of $450 is NOT waived the 1st year, but it comes with lots of benefits.
If you sign-up for both American Airlines credit cards, you’ll have at least 100,000 American Airlines miles to use for award flights. And because they’re considered different card products, it’s possible to get both.
Note: Citi will only approve 1 credit card application per day, and no more than 2 every ~65 days. And you should wait at least ~8 days between applications.
Boost Your American Airlines Balance in Other Ways
Remember that can transfer your Starwood points to American Airlines. The 5,000 bonus airline miles when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points might really help you!
I’ll also alert you to lucrative offers outside of opening new cards. For instance, I wrote about how you can open a Citigold checking account to earn 50,000 American Airlines miles!
I’m disappointed by most of these changes, especially the higher prices for Business and First Class flights. And it’s a bummer that off-peak flights won’t be as good a deal.
That said, things always change in our hobby. And I’m grateful for all the Big Travel with Small Money we’ve had using American Airlines miles! And that we still have ~4 months to book new award flights.
Folks who mostly fly coach may consider focusing on earning Citi ThankYou points earned from Citi Prestige to fly on American Airlines.
Others might switch to another airline like United Airlines or Delta. United Airlines is my top recommendation for beginners. Because you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines, those points are relatively easy to earn, and they’re the best airline for avoiding fuel surcharges.
Or, if you have your heart set on luxurious First Class flights with American Airlines’ partners like Etihad, you can earn more American Airlines miles the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card or Citi AAdvantage Executive card.
And watch for limited-time offers like opening a Citigold checking account to earn 50,000 American Airlines miles.
Will American Airlines’ new award charts change your travel plans?