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American Downgrades AAdvantage Awards

AAnytime awards are American’s branded version of the unrestricted frequent-flyer award: award seats that can be booked with no (or fewer) capacity controls, typically for twice the number of miles required for a restricted SAAver award.

Because they’re so much more expensive than SAAver awards, they’re never the first choice for AAdvantage members looking to book award trips. To put it less diplomatically, they’re a lousy deal, and should be viewed as the option-of-last-resort, to be used only when SAAver seats are unavailable for a trip you absolutely must take.

Still, they are an integral part of the AAdvantage program, and today’s announcement that American will make a major change in AAnytime pricing for travel from June 1 amounts to a significant devaluation of the program.

The new AAnytime award chart will have three tiers, dubbed Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. According to American, “Award levels vary by date and will be confirmed during booking. Select dates require higher mileage.” In other words, prices will depend on demand.

As an example, consider the new AAnytime prices for a first-class domestic flight. Level 1 will be 85,000 miles each way; Level 2 will be 95,000 miles; and Level 3 will be, well, whatever American decides to charge. Level 3 award prices are not pre-defined; they’re designated only with an asterisk, indicating that you’ll have to go through the booking process before the price is revealed. Surprise!

That lack of transparency for Level 3 awards is a decided negative, as are some of the published prices for Level 1 and Level 2 awards. That first-class AAnytime award in our example will increase from 80,000 miles currently to at least 85,000 miles (Level 1), and possibly much more.

In other cases, the Level 1 award price will be slightly less than the current AAnytime price, and the Level 2 price will be slightly higher. Whether program members will find themselves paying more or less, on average, remains to be seen.

New Restrictive Stopover Policy

One of the more popular AAdvantage policies has been the ability to make a stopover, for no extra miles, at a gateway city when flying internationally. So, for example, when flying to Europe from Kansas City via New York, you could break the journey for a few days’ stay in New York.

The new policy will restrict such stopovers to 24 hours.

Another negative for the program.

No More Explorer Awards

In the same news release, American announced the elimination, also effective immediately, of the oneworld Explorer awards. Although the Explorer awards were notoriously complicated, they were also capable of delivering great value — a lot of travel for a relatively modest number of miles.

American claims the Explorer awards were never very popular, which is probably true.

Reader Reality Check

How will these changes affect your loyalty to American?

This article originally appeared on

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