Last Chance: Redeem Your American Miles Before They Devalue

Filed Under: Advice, American

As was first announced last November, American AAdvantage will have a huge award chart devaluation for bookings as of Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

This post is a reminder that you have less than two days to lock in American awards before the devaluation kicks in. Don’t wait until the last few hours to do this, as I expect phone hold times will get quite long.

Remember that award prices are based on when you confirm your reservation, and not based on when you hold it. In other words, holding an award before March 22 and then ticketing it after won’t get you the pre-devaluation price.

However, you’ll get the old price as long as you confirm the reservation before March 22. It can take American a while to ticket reservations, so as long as you pay for it before March 22 you’re good to go, even if it only ends up being ticketed after.

As a reminder, here’s a comparison of American’s business class award rates originating in the US before and after the devaluation:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Current AAdvantage CostNew AAdvantage Cost
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 25,00025,000
Canada & Alaska25,00030,000
Central America30,00027,500
South America Zone 130,00030,000
South America Zone 250,00057,500
Middle East / India67,50070,000
Asia Zone 150,00060,000
Asia Zone 255,00070,000
South Pacific62,50080,000

Meanwhile here’s a comparison of their first class award rates originating in the US before and after the devaluation:

Contiguous 48 U.S. To:Current AAdvantage CostNew AAdvantage Cost
Contiguous 48 U.S. States 32,50050,000
Canada & Alaska32,50055,000
Central America40,00052,500
South America Zone 140,00055,000
South America Zone 262,50085,000
Middle East / India90,000115,000
Asia Zone 162,50080,000
Asia Zone 267,500110,000
South Pacific72,500110,000

See my previous post for details on some of my favorite awards which are going up in price the most, which I’d recommend booking.

Also check out my post from a bit over a week ago about my recommended strategy for looking in awards before the devaluation, with the intent of making changes later.

One of the best awards to book before the devaluation kicks in is Cathay Pacific first class, given that one way award costs between the US and Asia are increasing from 67,500 miles to 110,00 miles. Cathay Pacific is also great about making last minute first class awards available.

Cathay-Pacific-The-Pier-Lounge - 13
Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge in Hong Kong

If you’re wanting to book Etihad awards, consider calling the Australian call center (based in Fiji), as they have access to all Etihad award availability. But first you’ll want to use Etihad’s website to find award availability for yourself.

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 79
Etihad’s A380 first class

Bottom line

It’s sad to see American finally devalue their award chart in such an extreme way. Unfortunately it’s not surprising, given that they’re basically following United’s lead from their devaluation a couple of years ago. On the plus side, I have so many amazing memories from the trips I’ve taken using American miles, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

If anyone has any specific questions about redeeming AAdvantage miles in the next couple of days, let me know and I’ll do what I can to help in the comments section.

Have you booked all the awards you plan on booking before March 22?

  1. My EY F AUH-JFK is still on request for ticketing and has been since early January. Do I need to do anything or just keep waiting? I know EY awards take a while to ticket and I’ve been reassured that it’s been fine but I cant help but freak out a little

  2. Ben!
    Just got in on ethiad first for next year from JFK to Syd. Used your several times and working with Alex is great. Thanks !

  3. Are you aware of any Ethiad flights with multiple business or first class seats available to the Maldives routed through the Middle East? I’ve had zero luck even finding seats to the Middle East.

  4. I’m reluctant to mention this-you bloggers pimp credit cards enough-but the AA 10% miles back (up to 10K a year, I believe) for having the Citi card will credit immediately.In the past, they have credited during the next calendar year.

    I thought AA made a slight mistake in my favor, but when I saw my summary, I realized it was just that the discount applied immediately. This was especially important since I brought some miles for another redemption almost immediately after.
    I’m not sure if you can book the award with fewer miles than the full listed price, though.

  5. “I’m not sure if you can book the award with fewer miles than the full listed price, though.”

    I meant, I’m not sure you can book the award you want with only 90% of the miles needed in your account, relying on the discount to get you the rest of the way.

  6. Ben:

    Can I use the Australian call center to book an award originating in Hong Kong? Because of the obvious time difference, I can hit the 331 day window 18 hours before the call center in the US. Wondering if each call center uses their own time for the 331 day cut off, or if they all use US time.

    Thanks, Matt

  7. Ben,

    If I book last minutes tickets today on CX in F for flights tomorrow or the next day ,then just cancelled the tickets online at AA’s website using their cancel button icon -will that allow me to lock in the rate and use the ticket anytime I want within one year (assuming availability is there) ???

  8. The explosion of miles and points blogs the past few years, such as this one, with their promotion of large sign up bonuses with credit cards caused “miles inflation”. plain and simple. It is funny that bloggers benefit from these sign ups and business they generate, then complain about the devaluations!

  9. David W, you need to call them and have them force ticket it. My EY award flights never book in the 72 hours they are supposed to, but I just call AA back after 72 hours and they force the ticketing through. There is no reason you should have been waiting since January, and don’t let them tell you that is normal, call and force them to get it ticketed.

  10. If I ticket in Business class by 3/22 and switch to F afterwards, would that be priced at the new level? You once mentioned that class of service is an allowable change but I’m not 100% how it would price.

  11. Can i change return to a different date for same mileage after march 22nd? Have a ticket with ba to london, hoping the aa flight opens later for day after to save on taxes.

  12. For Australia: I’m only seeing 140k and higher for Biz class next fall! Where are these 62,500 awards?

  13. @ Susan — you should be looking fo MileSAAver availability which, as you may have guessed it, is going to be very limited. It was already hard getting tickets to Australia but it’s going to be especially hard with the devaluation as people are making speculative bookings.

  14. Was booked in Y for a CDG-MIA-MEX flight in a couple of weeks, and yesterday afternoon, a business saver award opened (previously there were only BA awards and I wasn’t willing to spring for the fees) for the both flights, which I was completely shocked by. Why would AA open inventory right before the same award would cost me more miles just two days from now? I do not know, but I’m obviously not complaining. I’m excited to try the 772 product – I chose 7L as that specific seat isn’t attached to another seat, so there won’t be any rocking that’s been documented on the 772 J seats…

  15. I’ve been trying to book a trip in Business class from AUS to MEL in June. It shows availability on AA’s website, but when I try to book, it says that it is not more available. It happens on different dates.

  16. @ David W — While a couple of weeks isn’t unusual, that’s a really long time. I’d definitely call and try to have them force it through.

  17. @ Bart — Space isn’t loaded exactly at midnight, or at least not exactly at midnight EST. It can take many hours for availability to be loaded for the furthest day out.

  18. @ Tim — You checked all the gateways through Etihad’s website? Availability shouldn’t be that bad, in my experience.

  19. @ A — Hmmm, in my experience they usually posted within a few days/weeks, and not the following year. How quickly are you finding that they’re posting?

  20. @ Matt — You can use the Australian call center for any award, though they only have access to inventory the same time as any other call center.

  21. @ adam — It’s a good question, and unfortunately something I’m not 100% sure about. I’d try to keep the ticketing date in the future whenever possible, rather than just having a canceled ticket. It might work, but I can’t guarantee it.

  22. @ john — I’m not sure how long you’ve been in the miles & points world, but these kinds of devaluations have been going on for more than a decade. And ultimately it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The opportunities to earn miles keep increasing, and the costs for redemptions increase as well. So we’re not really coming out behind, all things considered.

  23. @ Bobby — You can change the date, but you can’t change the award type. If you’re switching entirely from BA to AA, that would be changing the award type (you’d be going from a partner award to an American award).

  24. @ Susan j — At this point it might be tough to find saver level space to Australia, given that it’s already a tough destination to get to. In theory you could try to find space on Air Tahiti Nui to the region, though they don’t have a very good product. But I suspect most American and Qantas space has been snagged at this point.

  25. @ Keith — I think people to be conspiracy theorists when it comes to airlines blocking award space around the devaluation. That’s not to say that airlines don’t sometimes play games, but I don’t think airlines are quite as strategic as people think when it comes to opening up award space (or not) around the time of a devaluation.

  26. @Lucky. My miles posted immediately. As in, I had a 100K miles. Book a 72.5K F award on AA , and was excited/confused because within a matter of hours it went directly to 34K instead of 27.5K. I initially thought it was a mistake and that they might’ve booked me in business or something.
    Then I bought just enough miles to get another award, and instead of leaving me with like 300 miles, it went directly to the 300 + the AA discount. And that was a partner award.

  27. Ben,

    I want to use my AA miles on CX in F from JFK–> HKG. Clearly, nothing is available in F at the moment on CX. Can I book on another one world member airlines which prices at 67,500 and then change it to CX in the future if when it opens up?? If so, any ideas which routing I should look at ???

  28. Ben,

    Also forgot to ask.. Can I mix JAL & CX (jfk->Nrt–> hkg) while having just the nrt–> hkg in F just so award that prices in F at 67,500. then switch it CX non-stop in jfk–> hkg in F after the devaluation?????

  29. Have the Citi AA card. Booked two Asia Z2 trips, and after each one as soon as the tickets confirmed, the 10% miles posted. Was counting on this in my calculation, as it seemed to be standard based on searches I did to know how many top-up miles to buy.

  30. I booked 3 AA in biz to SJO about 3 weeks ago for NYE at 30k a piece. Wonder if AA would be willing to refunding me 2,500 miles per ticket as the cost to Central America went down.

  31. Hi Lucky, I tried to book CX or JAL from Jakarta to LAX but the searched for 1st class only shown JAL from Jakarta to Tokyo and AA flight from Tokyo to LAX. Is that a way to make all Jal?

  32. Lucky –

    I have a North America / Asia 2 F award on hold. The routing is
    LAX – PVG – on AA in first
    PVG – HKG on Dragon Air in first
    HKG – BKK on Cathay in first.

    Would this be considered a partner award and as such, would I be able to update the LAX – HKG portion to CX F is something opens up after March 22?

  33. Every single rep I’ve talked to (over 5 reps) has said that as long as I have a ticket on hold before the devaluation the miles required is confirmed as pre deval miles. Even if I call to book the hold on March 24. Do you have confirmation of the fact that we need to get award issued before the 22?

  34. @ Shar @ Matthew — I’m holding for an AAdvantage supervisor for something else, so I’ll ask. I can’t imagine that’s correct though, as the miles and taxes aren’t finalized until the credit card information is provided and everything is sent to the ticketing queue.

  35. @ Tiffany — I was told on Friday that I had until 3/22 to finalize the hold but when I put two reservations on hold right now the lady said that I had until 3/25 because the price (miles & $$$) was locked-in.

  36. Hi Lucky,
    First I love your blog. I visit your site regularly and appreciate your articles. Just like you mentioned, Cathat Pacific first class is an excellent redemption before March 22nd. If I have a ticket from LAX to NRT ticketed for AA first class, would I be able to change the airline to Cathay Pacific for alternative dates when room opens up? The issue is there would likely be a Hong Kong layover and I’m not sure if the AA reps will give me an issue with that minor change in itinerary. Thank you!

  37. @ shar @ Ivan Y — We’ll see if we can get any additional info. We’ve been operating under the assumption that everything has to be ticketed before the deadline. It doesn’t make systematic sense otherwise.

    For avoidance of disappointment, I would plan on ticketing before tomorrow evening.

  38. As an update, an agent just read me their memo:
    “We’re changing existing award levels redeemed on or beyond March 22…”

    She said she thinks “redeemed” means ticketed by, which would make sense to me as well.

  39. Hi Lucky/Tiffany – my reservation was just ticketed for CAI-AUH-DOH-NRT in business. Right now my AUH-DOH flight is in Qatar, but i want to change it to Etihad so i can access the Etihad Lounge in Abu Dhabi and not the crappy Qatar one. I’m trying to change my reservation before the deadline but they want to charge me a change fee for going from oneworld to a partner (qatar to etihad). Is this right? Should i just hang up and keep calling?

  40. @Jorge

    The agent is correct. You can HUCA a doz time and will still be the same answer.

    You will pay $150 for that change because EY is NOT OneWorld Member.

    Only free changes on routing among OneWorld Members. Is $150 worth the admission price to EY lounge?

  41. Are we sure Etihad ticket can be changed (date only) the same way AA ticket can?
    I have booked EY tickets assuming I will change the date when the availability opens up later.
    Same itinerary, same class, just change the date.

  42. @FLL @ Tiffany – I called once, just to give it a shot, was nice to the rep, and the lovely rep did an “even exchange” and made the change with no fee

  43. RE: ticketing by 3/22 – I called and booked an EY flight on Saturday night (did not put on hold, but actually asked the agent to make the booking). Is it possible that the flights don’t get ticketed until after 3/22, and I’ll get charged the more expensive rate? Do I need to call back to force the ticketing?

    Also, FWIW, I’m in Malaysia, and I had a good experience with the agent I called on the Malaysian number. I’m not sure if there is a separate call centre or if it is the same as Australia.

  44. Most of us have booked future award flights or still searching for that last minute seat availability. I just had my 6th and 7th one-way phantom bookings ticketed earlier today. The agent mentioned that even if it’s just a date change after 3/21 will require additional miles on routes like LAX-HKG. Is she correct? I had seen a couple of comments regarding the same conversation with phone agents.

  45. “I thought AA made a slight mistake in my favor, but when I saw my summary, I realized it was just that the discount applied immediately. This was especially important since I brought some miles for another redemption almost immediately after.
    I’m not sure if you can book the award with fewer miles than the full listed price, though.”

    @A I had the same experience with the 10% applied immediately. I didn’t have the full miles needed for the award and also thought they had made a mistake in my favor until I realized that, as a result of their applying the discount immediately, there WERE enough miles to cover the award.

  46. I called AA Australia last night and was told that everything is fine, still on the ticketing queue but could force the ticket if I wanted to, which I did. Overall the call took less than a half hour including hold times and within an hour, my card was charged for the taxes and miles deducted.

    Thanks @Lucky & @Russell!

  47. @John (March 21, 2016 at 12:42 am)

    As long as the origin and destination remain the same, date changes should be fine. I’ve changed dates of an AA award for travel on EY multiple times.

  48. Lucky,

    We booked a 90K milesaver from DFW to DEL that routed DFW-CDG-LHR-DEL, and the return was DEL-LHR-ORD-DFW. We were first all the way, but the LHR-ORD leg was in U class where everything else is Z. Last night we noticed that the direct flight from LHR – DFW on BA was available as milesaver, so we called trying to move the LHR-ORD-DFW leg to LHR-DFW for the same day.

    What a mistake!

    So many threads about same origin and destination will keep the same award proved false according to agent and super. We ended up having to push the return award to 115K to get that LHR-DFW leg since any change to an award will be re-ticked at new rate. UGH.

    No pleading helped and they were very obstinate about the whole thing. Sent a note to their customer service, but no response yet.

    Love you blog and advice!


  49. @Kevin-

    I suspect your LHR –>ORD leg in U was on AA when you first booked it and then you attempted to change that to BA in F… Is that correct??? If so, that is where the problem lies for you-because your changing from AA to OneWorld and they can’t do that without a reissue.

  50. @adam

    The ticket was deducted as a OW reward since the London-Delhi segments are all BA
    But then it changed to the following, once deducted.

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