American Has SKYMILED AAdvantage: Now What?

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12.03: Update for the AA Region List see below (thanks Jig!)

In one of my most popular posts, Delta Smacks United I speculated that American would kill AAdvantage immediately after the merger with US Air. I was wrong.

When DOJ gives its blessing to the sacred union between US Air and American, nothing will matter anymore.”

“But…”

“No buts,” insisted the Second. “When AAdvantage ups their redemption rates, that’s lights out for freeloaders. Those assh… sorry fliers, will have no one else to run to anymore, he-he.”

“But they can’t do this right away,” the Third protested. “That’s too unsightly. It took United two years after the merger to grow a pair and gut MileagePlus.”

Big Boss laughed again as he was splitting the snow with his Platinum Delta credit card. The metal felt really nice in his fingers. Big Boss loved platinum, it was cool and unassuming. Big Boss hated plastic. Plastic was phony.

“You’ve got so much to learn, boy,” he said and licked his lips.

The First scoffed at the Third.

“They won’t have to wait for two years to gut AAdvantage,” he explained patiently. “They’ll go at it right away.”

But I wasn’t that wrong. Of course, the merger between AA and US was not approved yesterday, but the integration of their reservation systems was only completed a month ago. And let’s not forget the partial no-warning devaluation they perpetrated on us in the spring. Nope, these guys didn’t waste any time!

Everything has already been said about the waste that is going to be laid to our beloved AAdvantage come March 22, 2016. If you love pain, go to Loyalty Lobby (the best before-and-after visual among all blogs, IMHO) and download the comparative AAdvantage charts from/to all regions. In my opinion, though, the new reality is not comparing between “before and after”, but comparing the after between the Big Three.

I will try to show you the devastation we are going to end up with in five months in a more relevant way. Here is how.

A while ago, I wrote a series of articles on Delta business class availability. One of these articles had an FF program comparison table between the Big Three U.S. airlines. Good thing I did it back then, because all I have to do now is updating one column: American Airlines. Here is that post:

Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers

The levels shown here are for award flights in economy, business, and first from/to the Continental U.S. Remember that Delta doesn’t let you redeem SkyMiles for first-class travel.

The rest is self-explanatory. When you see the best, this is when AA miles will still take you farther after March 22 vs. Delta and United. When you see the worst, well, you’ve got the idea.

Don’t let the minimal improvements fool you. That’s all for show. They reduced a few levels by 5,000 miles while others are increased by more than 30,000. I asked my 11-year old to analyze these “improvements” and her verdict was lame“. I couldn’t agree more!

Sometimes, determining if the new AA levels are better or worse than the peers’ is not that easy, in which case I don’t leave any comments and let you draw your own conclusion. Example: the new AA first-class level to/from Europe is 85,000 miles for a 1-way flight on both AA and partners. United, in the meantime, will get you there for 80,000 miles on their own metal or 110,000 on a partner. Is using AA miles in this particular case better than United? Well, that depends, of course.

In other cases, it’s really black and white. Or green and red like in my table below.

American has taken the very worst from all previous devaluations, at times outperforming them by a large margin. In addition to the huge devaluation per se, they also added higher redemption rates for partners, the United way. Charming, huh?

Atrocious is the only word that comes to mind to describe this massacre. Thank you, American, for reinforcing the simple notion we’ve always known to be true.

LOYALTY IS FOR SUCKERS!

Anyone who still harbors any illusions at all after what these “good guys” have done, is a hopeless idiot. And I don’t call people idiots for no reason.

Destinations

American Airlines (/*oneworld)

United Airlines (/*Star)

Delta Airlines

Continental US

7.5 (BEST) -12.5

25

50 (WORST)

10-12.5

25

35

12.5

25

 

Alaska, Canada

15: (WORST)

25/30*

40/55* (WORST)

10-12.5

25 (30 to Alaska)

35 (40 to Alaska)

12.5
 25

 

Hawaii

20 (BEST)-22.5/22.5*

40

50/65* (WORST)

22.5

40

50

22.5

40

 

Mexico

12.5-15 (BEST)/ 17,5*  

25/27.5* (BEST)

50/52.5* (WORST)

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

The Caribbean

12.5-15 (BEST)/ 17,5*

25/27.5* C

50/52.5* (WORST)

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

Central America

12.5-15 (BEST)/ 17,5*

25 (BEST)

50/52.5* (WORST)

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

Northern South America

17.5 (BEST)/20*

30 (BEST)

55 (WORST)

20

35

45

22,5

40

Southern South America

30

57.5

85 (WORST)

30

55

70

30

62.5 

Europe

22.5 (BEST)-30

57.5

85 

30

57.5/70*

80/110*

30

62.5

Africa

40*

75*

120*

40

70/80*

80/130*

40/50 S. Africa

70/80 S.  Africa

Indian Subcontinent/ Middle East/

South Asian Subcontinent & Middle East

40 

70

115

42.5 (United: Central Asia)

70/80*

90/140*

40

70

South Pacific /Southwest Pacific

40*

80*

110*

Australia/New Zealand

Oceania

50

80

40

70/80*

80/130*

35

65/75*

80/110*

Asian chart comparison is a bit more complicated, so I did it separately.

AA Zone 1 AA Zone 2 UA North UA South UA Japan DL North DL SE
32.5 (BEST)– 35/35* 32.5 (BEST)– 35/37.5* 35 40 35 35 40
60(BEST) 70 70/80* 70/80* 65/75* 70 70
80 110 80/120* 80/130* 80/110*

Here are region definitions for Delta, American, and United. I’m reprinting them from my older post just so you have all the info in the same place.

 12.03 Update for the AA Regions List: 

  • After March 22, Bolivia moves to South America 1 (from 2)
  • Manaus, Brazil moves to South America 1 (from 2)
  • Venezuela moves to South America 2 (from 1)
American Airlines/One World United Airlines/Star Delta Airlines/SkyTeam
ASIA ZONE 1: Japan, Korea, Mongolia JAPAN  NORTH ASIA: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Micronesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Russia (East of the Ural Mountains), Guam, Saipan. 
NORTH ASIA: China, South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan
ASIA ZONE 2: Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam  SOUTH ASIA: Bangladesh, Macau, Bhutan, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam   SOUTHEAST ASIA: Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Vietnam 
INDIAN SUBCONTINENT / MIDDLE EAST: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan  CENTRAL ASIA/MIDDLE EAST: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Azerbajian, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, UAE, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait   MIDDLE EAST: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates (composed of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras El Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Qaiwain), Uzbekistan, Yemen
SOUTH PACIFIC: Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa.  AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Australia (including Tasmania)  SOUTHWEST PACIFIC: American Samoa, Australia, Christmas Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk
OCEANIA: American Somoa, New Caledonia, Cook Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Fiji, Palau, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Tonga, Guam,Vanautu, Marshall Islands, Western Samoa 

Not all destinations necessarily belong to the same region as far as different airlines are concerned. Here are a few examples:

  • According to Delta, Bolivia is located in Northern South America, while American and United place this country in Southern South America. Conclusion? If you fly to Bolivia outside of AA OffPeak window, Delta gives you a better deal (and it’s always better in business).
  • Delta and American treat the Canary Islands is the part of Spain, while United places it to North Africa. Conclusion? Don’t fly to the Canary Islands on a Star Alliance carrier.
  • United believes that Micronesia is located in Oceania, while Delta puts it in North Asia. Conclusion? I don’t know, it’s a wash.

Sources:

American Airlines New Award Chart

One World New Award Chart

United and Star Alliance Award Chart

Delta chart that is not publicly available anymore

So, Now What?

Now that American is “on board”, brace yourselves for a new round of devaluations from the other two. I don’t expect them to be too drastic, but they might certainly try to eliminate whatever sweet spots they might still have in their charts.

Why? Because business is terrible? Because they are struggling to stay afloat?

Hell, no! They are making money hand over fist.

Then why? Simply because they can! Take another look at this outpouring of love?

AA TWEET

American Has SKYMILED AAdvantage!

 

Clueless consumers = I-the-airline-can-do-whatever-I-f&%king-want!

But really, now what?

1. If you have firm travel plans, book in first and business while you can. Let’s hope that AA won’t block whatever they can and let us use up our miles before the devaluation comes into effect. The least they should do, methinks.

2. If you don’t have firm travel plans, book anyway, and get yourself a good travel insurance to cover the possible $200 redepositing fee.

3. Alaska, Alaska, Alaska!

4. Comes March 2016, quit first class travel (aside from the pre-booked flights). It will only get worse. Business class is still doable for now, but spending that amount of miles on first just to feel important for a few hours is insane.

Seriously, folks, forget this earn-and-burn philosophy. It’s catchy, but even more ridiculous than ever today.

5. Learn to work foreign airline programs for business class. Would you rather pay 70,000 AA miles for a one-way flight to Hong Kong or 80,000 ANA miles for a roundtrip? Of course, it doesn’t mean that foreign airlines do not devalue (case in point).

6. The hobby is not dead, at least my hobby. My hobby is traveling the world, not flying in first. Sure, I enjoy a first class seat as much as the next guy, but it doesn’t get into my head (I think). If your hobby is different, then yes, quit now.

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11 Responses to American Has SKYMILED AAdvantage: Now What?

  1. Great post! TBB worthy…but may have to wait until Monday.

    “Loyalty is for suckers”

  2. Al says:

    This may not affect many people, but what’s up with the 20% increase for coach travel to Canada? Canada has always been treated the same as domestic travel. AA doesn’t have any partners who fly between Canada and the US, so this can only amount to pure greed.

    • Andy Shuman says:

      Thanks for your comment Al. Actually, it does have partners. Both Alaska and Cathay Pacific fly between the U.S. and Canada. That’s not to say, however, that your “pure greed” theory is incorrect.

  3. […] mind can believe for a moment that they are "actually benefiting from this" atrocity. American Has SKYMILED AAdvantage: Now What? __________________ New to Travel Hacking? Read my bestselling books to get started! My blog […]

  4. […] Lazy Traveler gets it “American has SKYMILED AAdvantage: Now What?” […]

  5. Jig says:

    Small correction on the Bolivia region issue. American is moving it into Northern South America after the March 22 2016 change date.

  6. […] AA miles are more valuable than Citi ThankYou points right now (which I’m not sure will be the case after March 22).  […]

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