American’s First & Business Class Web Special Awards

Filed Under: American, Awards

Earlier this year American introduced a new booking interface, though their rollout has been slow. This new interface has been especially bad for award tickets, as the calendar function with the new interface mostly hasn’t been working properly.

Recently American has seemingly rolled out the full functionality of this new award search, including the calendar feature. This seems to have introduced some interesting opportunities.

American Has Award Charts, But Dynamic Award Pricing

American has historically been known for how stingy they’ve been with saver level award availability on their own flights. American still publishes award charts (unlike Delta and United), though for travel on their own flights pricing is still rather dynamic:

  • Since American rarely has saver award availability, the pricing we see above that can vary significantly
  • While American has a distance based award chart, they seem to use married segment award logic for many awards, which can impact pricing and availability

American’s First & Business Class Web Special Awards

It’s interesting to note that recently we’ve seen some instances of very attractive award redemption rates on American flights, significantly below the standard saver level award costs.

For example, they have some first class awards between the US and Hong Kong for just 61,000 miles one-way in first class, compared to the usual saver cost of 110,000 miles.

The best way to find availability is to search your origin and destination, and then click on the “calendar” button on the right of the page.

Then you’ll see a calendar that shows you pricing across a variety of dates.

Then when you select the date you should see the lower pricing, though you may need to do some scrolling (since filtering by price only seems to go based on economy pricing, best I can tell).

There are similarly attractive priced awards in other regions, like flying business class one-way from the US to Europe for just 50,000 miles, compared to the normal lowest cost of 57,500 miles.

For the most part I think this is exciting, though there are some things I find particularly noteworthy, and in some cases concerning.

Restrictions On Web Special Awards

When you book a web special award, you can’t make free changes. But don’t worry, this isn’t like a basic economy ticket:

  • You can still pay to redeposit the award (and if you’re Executive Platinum that’s free)
  • The only thing you can’t do is change the dates and times for free, but in practice that would probably not be possible otherwise anyway, since you’d need to find another date with saver space

These Awards Aren’t Even Bookable At The Saver Level?!

This is the part I find the most bizarre. See the above screenshot? You can book the flight either as a web special for 61,000 miles, or the normal award cost is 210,000 miles.

So while I totally get the concept of discounting some awards below the normal cost, I find it really strange that these aren’t even otherwise priced at the saver award level. You’d think that if the award were bookable for 61,000 miles, it would also be bookable for the standard 110,000 miles, rather than a higher award rate, no?

American Is Aggressively Using Married Segment Logic

American nowadays is very aggressively using married segment logic on award tickets, and that’s kind of frustrating.

For example, in the above cases that 61,000 mile first class award to Hong Kong isn’t available if you just want to fly from Dallas to Hong Kong, but it is available if you want to originate in Fort Lauderdale, with that same Dallas to Hong Kong flight. The same is true in the Europe example.

Married segment logic is widely used in the airline industry. The concept is that airlines will make different inventory available depending on where you’re originating, where you’re connecting to, whether you’re traveling nonstop or with a connection, etc.

However, it’s only in recent years that we’ve seen this widely used on award tickets, and it sure makes things tougher.

So with awards you’ll consistently find a lot more availability if you’re on a connecting itinerary, rather than flying nonstop. That’s worth being aware of, since it can have a huge impact on availability.

What This Means For The Future Of Dynamic Award Pricing

Even though American hasn’t gone as far as Delta and United in fully eliminating award charts, there’s no denying that American is headed the direction of dynamic award pricing. We’re increasingly seeing awards priced below the lowest published costs, and we’re also seeing awards priced above the highest published costs.

The writing is on the wall…

Bottom Line

It’s cool to see American offer first & business class award tickets below their published saver award costs, since usually I’d be thrilled just to see any saver award space, but that rarely even happens.

The way American is going about this is odd, though it seems like it definitely pays to use American’s award calendar feature to see if you can find any of these promo.

Unfortunately, though, long term this no doubt points to dynamic award pricing.

What do you make of American’s new first & business class web special awards?

Comments
  1. Selling these without saver equivalent makes sense. They don’t have to market to their partners. This is great for people who actually fly American a lot. Not good for people who like to transfer amex miles to Etihad for cheap American flights.

  2. @Lucky Do you think your blog had anything to do with American reducing the award price for first class flights to HKG? 🙂

  3. What’s confusing is that the website sends me to either the old or the new award listing screen, apparently at random. The web specials do not appear on the old-style page.

    Just to highlight how absurd it is: I just booked a web special, and then when trying to search another, I keep getting the old screen. Strange.

  4. 1. The old interface is still avail. When searching for a flight you need to click at the top “plan travel” then “fights”. However the old interface only shows economy web specials not bus.
    2. I just booked 25k west coast to east coast in bus. So hopefully we will see some more of those tkts

  5. Yep, was looking for a short haul AA flight to book with Avios lately. Tons of 5k “web saver” availability on AA but 0 BA Availability because there is zero “saver” inventory.

    Avi and Alex are correct, I’m afraid

  6. They need to just rip off the bandaid and copy southwest’s program…which is where this is going. All of these web special and other deal contraptions probably cost then a WHOLE LOT MORE money to configure and administrate than just going with a fixed ratio of points to fare values. Put any remnants of the former AAdvantage out of it’s misery and let it be done. Loyalty died a long time ago.

  7. “The only thing you can’t do is change the dates and times for free”.

    Not totally accurate. I recently booked a web special award under my wife’s maiden name and requested to update it to her married name. I was told both by the gold desk and a twitter rep that absolutely no changes are allowed, even minor name corrections that would otherwise be allowed for free, specifically because it was a “web special”.

  8. After what you have gone though, I’ll save my miles for some other applications. My parents gave me a name and even they don’t call me “woohoo”.

  9. Interesting, some of these web specials appear to book into J and F. I wonder if there’s a way to credit the mileage to another program? Hypothetically, of course!

  10. Does anyone know how often “dynamic pricing“ changes? Hourly? Daily? Would be nice to know so we wouldn’t have to keep checking the computer minute by minute .

  11. Good morning, I just came across your blog. I am an international aadvantage reservation agent retired 10+years . Fyi married fares/mileage were in existence years ago. I don’t travel often and I’m sorry to see such unhappiness withAA. I was there during the end of the Campell years. Such a
    difference.

  12. No more saaver tickets (economy or business) for flights booked under a week before departure. Instead, everything is a “web special” at a higher rate than Saaver.

    This SUCKS. No more last minute BA redemptions for AA domestic flights. Was always the better deal and was a favorite redemption of mine for last second trips home.

  13. Lucky – What will happen when trying to redeem for AA on BA? Can you still book AA like that and if so, at what rates?

  14. Lucky,
    Any suggestions of how to search for availability with the married segment logic? For example, if you want to determine whether the DFW-HKG flight is available what city do you choose as your origin since simply searching DFW-HKG probably won’t show anything.

  15. @ James — For the most part I find that American’s married segment logic isn’t that sophisticated. It seems like just about any market will show the availability, as long as there’s a connection. So if you want to get a general sense of availability I’d probably choose a high frequency route that’s not from a hub.

  16. My wife and I enjoy first and business class but like being together and playing cards and after 53 years still enjoy holding hands. We do not like the “pods” most first class offers. Which planes would be best , which airlines are still old fashion for others like us

  17. TBH, I’m tired as most are of the endless changes and machinations on all airlines, especially AA. But perhaps someone could kindly explain the redemption fees. Until I gave up chasing last year thanks to diminishing returns, I’d been EP for 6 years running. Even then anytime I tried to redeem miles, the international fee was much higher than $5.60 each way(one Caribbean redemption was roughly $38/each way). So how does Lucky (and for that matter, the good folks at TPG) consistently show $5.60 even for flights to Asia?!?

    Thanks for any explanations…

  18. I have just booked Santiago Chile to Miami Direct flightin November the awards appear around 1 am for business class for 150 k but generally fall to 57,5 k after a couple of days then increase again to 110 150 170 a week latter Ps if you like economy there are some 15 k awards!

  19. You guys moan about AA and their award redemptions. . There are smart guys their making the most of it behind this yelling. I just landed here at DFW and I was in C class . Tried to use EVIp to move to F class . It was minus 1 in F class on sold out flight. So people relentlessly moan about AA.still they all love to fly AA . It was 777-300 fully booked!!!

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