The blogosphere has long predicted when an American Airlines devaluation would occur. While yesterday’s announcement of “changes” coming to the Aadvantage program tries to discount the negative effects on the program, there is no doubt that this is a devaluation.
Perhaps the biggest issue with these changes is the fact that they come with no warning at all. Wake up in the morning to an email and it is too late to book under the old rules. This is a poor way to treat loyal customers, but it seems to be the direction that many companies are taking these days.
While the email I received only mentions changes to AAnytime redemptions and baggage policies, the biggest two changes were the elimination of Explorer Awards and Gateway City stopovers. Explorer Awards were distanced based awards which often times allowed for a cheaper redemption depending on the route.
For me, the biggest thing that hurt was the elimination of free stopovers in an International Gateway City. While this wasn’t anywhere in the email, it has been confirmed by many at AA that the free stopover is done. Additionally, the website splits awards into two when trying to schedule a stopover.
For those who are wondering, American used to allow you a free stopover for up to one year in the city that you either arrived to or departed from North America/Caribbean in. For example, you could fly from NRT-LAX (stay 10 months) and then fly LAX-LAS. Now the NRT-LAX & the LAX-LAS segments will be priced as two awards. Boo.
Another of the changes implemented today is to their baggage policy. Gold elites are now only allowed 1 free bag, while Platinum elites see their baggage allowance reduced from 3 to 2. Full fare passengers and those who book an AAnytime award don’t receive a baggage allowance anymore.
As for AAnytime Awards, American has introduced a 3rd redemption level. While they haven’t announced the amount of miles required for that level, I am sure it will be significant. Thankfully, very few people I know use this level of redemptions, but it is nice for a last minute emergency booking.
The major positive thing to come out of all of this is that Saver (lowest level) redemptions remained the same. While it is quite possible that we will wake up one day soon to an email detailing changes to that part of the program, they survived for today. You can still book some amazing awards including 25,000 one-way to Japan, 20,000 one-way to Europe and 20,000 one-way to South American during low season!
While most of yesterday’s changes will not effect the majority of AA’s customers, the fact that they made the changes with absolutely no notice is troubling. For me, the loss of free one-way awards will hurt, but I don’t usually check baggage or book Explorer and AAnytime awards, so those changes won’t hurt me too much. I am more worried about the next devaluation that comes down the pike. It can’t be too long now.
You can find the updated award chart and new baggage policy on American’s website. Additionally, Gary Leff has an interesting interview with Aadvantage President Suzanne Rubin about all of the changes and the reaction to the lack of notice. It is definitely worth a read!