American’s non-existent transatlantic premium cabin award availability for 2014

Going back a few years, American had phenomenal award availability on their own flights to Europe. That started to change around the same time that American’s anti-trust agreement with British Airways ended. Up until late 2010 you couldn’t earn or redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel on British Airways between the US and Europe, though you could redeem American miles for travel on British Airways in other markets. The upside was that American wasn’t imposing fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways. Suddenly the floodgates opened and you could start redeeming American miles for travel on British Airways between the US and Europe, though the catch was that suddenly fuel surcharges were being imposed on all British Airways redemptions. I’m not suggesting that’s why American reduced their award space, though.

Unfortunately American’s award availability on their own flights has come a long way since then. This morning I was looking at award availability for two seats on American on all their routes between the US and Europe in 2014. Literally every single route for a nine month period.

What did I find? Crossing over the Atlantic there was a single flight on July 1 with first class award space between New York and London, and interestingly on that same date there was a single flight with award space from London to New York.


Other than that I found nothing. Nothing. Not a single seat on their routes to Dublin, Manchester, Milan, Paris, Zurich, etc. And I’m not just talking about peak season, but I was also looking at January, a period where it’s usually easy to snag transatlantic award seats.

I mean, even Delta has saver level award space almost every single day in January for two people between New York and London.


If you have less award space than Delta you’re doing something wrong. 😉

Now in fairness, there’s always Air Berlin and British Airways and Iberia. Though Air Berlin doesn’t release a ton of space, British Airways comes with fuel surcharges, and Iberia space can’t even be searched online (which is probably a blessing). And I can appreciate also that they don’t want to “give away” too many award seats. But surely there’s a middle ground between what American used to do and literally releasing nothing.

Anyone else frustrated by the lack of space?

Filed Under: American, Awards
  1. I’ve largely given up on American for flying to Europe if it’s more than 1 person. I set alerts and hope, but basically it’s pay $1,000 to fly BA or about half that on Iberia if going through MAD is an option. The funny part is, even when you do find it, the product isn’t all that great. I snagged four seats on ORD-LHR out of the blue about 10.5 months out and felt like I’d won the lottery, but there’s pretty much zilch on their new planes in F or C.

  2. Yes please, I am frustrated with availability on CX to HKG at this moment :).

    On a serious note, one segment that surprises me a lot is the TG flight on FRA-BKK segment, which is operated by A380 – all they have going is Coach for so many dates that I checked! It is so not Thai that we have known releasing tons of all cabins for everyone!

    Great place to share the frustration 🙂

  3. Actually, now I am seriously pissed about not a single day of J or F on CX from SFO to HKG despite two flights! Where are all those seats Ben? You booked all your clients on them, eh 😉 ?

  4. Timely post on an under reported issue. AA mikes are pretty worthless for TATL travel at this point, even with a lot of flexibility as to dates and routing.

    You have to wonder when Citi will put some pressure on AA as there is no reason I can think of to.carry a Citi AA credit card in my wallet.

  5. Ben, can you reach out to AA and inquire as to what is going on? Perhaps as a blogger, you can find out something for us.

  6. Typo:

    I think you meant to write that this changed around the time the anti-trust agreement BEGAN.

    “That started to change around the same time that American’s anti-trust agreement with British Airways ended”

  7. @ Nun — Hmm, I’ll admit I haven’t had any coffee yet, but I believe what they had was an anti-trust agreement, and now they have anti-trust immunity, no?

  8. AA miles to Europe is getting really bad. I’m glad I was able to go twice the last two years. I’m onto Asia now!

  9. Oneworld is just a poor choice to Europe.
    Subpar carriers or ridiculous surcharges. I would trade all my AA miles for United miles in a heartbeat…
    Btw. I managed to snag 4 F class AA seats from JFK-LHR on 7/1 a couple of weeks ago. That’s pretty much all there was around that time.

    AA does open more inventory for Exec Platinums on their own flights. Not sure if this is only domestic or also international(?)

  10. @ Michael — I don’t believe they open up any extra space for Executive Platinum members on international flights.

  11. @ Sam — I generally agree, though still LOVE American miles for travel to Asia, and the 10% mileage rebate for having the Citi card makes it worth keeping, in my opinion.

  12. What are the fees like flying on Iberia in business class from Europe (Paris specifically) back to the US?

    I read that they were “modest”, but I don’t really know what that means when compared to BA’s ridiculous charges.


  13. @ Lucky

    With oneworld, other than Cathay what is there from the US? JAL award space has massively deteriorated. MH not a good option. AA is 2nd tier on their old 772s.
    United way way better options.

  14. @ Michael — That’s the thing, you don’t really need anything other than Cathay Pacific. The past couple of weeks have been odd as far as availability on them goes (and I’ll have a separate post about that shortly), but they release an unreal amount of first class award space. Usually two seats when the schedule first opens, and then lots more as the departure date approaches.

    While Star Alliance is extremely strong to Asia as a whole, what do they really have on the first class award front? Singapore doesn’t release first class award space to partners, Thai doesn’t have a first class product to the US, Asiana is rather stingy, and ANA awards can be nearly impossible.

  15. Ben – is your CX post coming up today? Not that I expect seats to open up after your post publishes – but I want to understand whats going on with CX, I really want to book something ASAP but nothing is available!

  16. @Apu

    I was able to book 2 award seats on Thai on this FRA-BKK route (JFK-FRA on LH) around 4 weeks ago. But I guess I was very lucky because I haven’t seen any other availability.

  17. As Sam noted in post #4 Citi may be able to apply pressure. When my $95 Annual Fee was due I called and said I saw limited value as AA was too stingy with award space. Citi waived the fee but I have to think if enough folks complained to Citi things might improve.

  18. @Philipp – Good for you my friend… I am not seeing anything else on that A380, guess everyone is flying that route or Thai just woke up!

  19. Yes!!!!! Though it was a one-off last time I looked, but it seems they’re deliberately pushing award pax to BA instead.

    Is it any difference for EXP’s special inventory?

  20. @ Ben — To the best of my knowledge special Executive Platinum award availability is only for domestic flights.

  21. Yes. I noticed this weeks ago. It is pretty clear what is going on. AA zeros out their award inventory and push all the redemptions to BA where they share the loot that is earned via the fuel surcharge.

    I did the same you did and checked DL and even DL is better.

    Given that CX has been and continues to be the only decent redemption option on AA miles, I am seriously considering flying UA next year and let the EXP status I have held for over a decade lapse…

    I think this strategy will backfire on AA eventually. They have turned what used to be one of their greatest strengths into the greatest weakness.

  22. Ben- Have you noticed it is virtually impossible to get a direct flt using saver miles in first class between DFW and ORD? I could only find one seat from Oct. to April! This makes it really tough to take connecting int’l award flts out of ORD. Surely this can’t be AA’s new policy. This has got to be a bug. I sent them several email’s. Finally they said call AA reservations. AA reservations found seats only on 2 direct flts in first between DFW and ORD using saver miles after searching a 6 month period.

    Surely this can’t be their new policy? ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!

  23. @ John — Yep, there are several domestic routes where I’ve found this to be the case, including also the transcon flights between JFK and LAX. Definitely sad how little space there is.

  24. I spent Saturday looking for a business class seat in September. Found some first class from DFW-FRA, but that’s it.

  25. It’s not just Europe. South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, …) is the same. Really frustrating to be sitting on AA miles with nothing to do (well, we did snag 1st to SIN early next year on CX/JAL/AA – but the wife is getting sick of super hot temperatures…..)

  26. Btw. Premium seats are not the only seats that lack availability. Y savers are nonexistent, too. I wouldn’t even care if at least they would make space available to EXPs or CKs…ya know, those who fly with them frequently. But even that isn’t happening.

  27. And what Scott said: can you reach out to AA for a possible explanation? Would be interesting if they offer something up.

  28. One thing I am now waiting for is a massive devaluation. I suspect if the merger was already done, it would have been announced toward the end of this year.

  29. AA won’t offer up an explanation of substance because it could potentially hurt their argument in the DOJ lawsuit…

  30. @ Scott @ victor @ Wolfgang — I’ll reach out to American and see if I can get an explanation. I assume their response will simply be something along the lines of “we’re constantly analyzing availability to maximize our revenue,” but we’ll see!

  31. Ben-Can you also ask them about what’s going on with saver availability between DFW and ORD in first cl on the direct flt having zero availability.

  32. APU. When you say nothing is available on CX, you mean absolutely nothing from anywhere anytime?

  33. Seriously makes me question my loyalty to AA. I’d pop back to UA in a heartbeat if they had wifi. Wifi>club showers>on board amenities (i.e. catering) are important to me besides miles, so that’s why AA has been ahead of UA recently. Before you mention the SWUs on AA, I have 10 left…I don’t even use them.

    I don’t care about the PQM requirement. UA has pretty decent MR fares. Get something about 5CPM and do 200K+ a year on UA and you end up with 1K (hopefully less 1Ks with introduction of PQD so upgrades aren’t as scarce) and 400,000+ RDMs a year. Supplement it with a Chase card and you can get most places on award travel you can’t on AA.

    Just my 2c.

  34. I just searched for award space JFK-LHR-JFK for June and July and there’s F, J, and Y space available EVERY single day. Were you searching for more than one seat? Maybe clear your cache and try your search again?

  35. I guess we can’t blame Doug Parker for this yet, can we?

    Gary Leff coined the term “SkyPesos” What will AA miles be called if this continues? DisAAdvantage?

  36. @ Ben — Most of it is for travel on BA, which will run you $1,000+ roundtrip. When you search for award availability select “American” as the airline rather than all their partners, and you’ll see much less space.

  37. Maybe they dont know the actual availability until the merger is approved? I seriously doubt those planes are so full not a single Y seat is available….

  38. I find it strange that there is virtually no saver First or Business class Dallas to London. I have been posting about this on flyertalk and the replies are you need to be flexible. Its hard to be flexible when you can not even find 1 First or 1 business seat in a month!

  39. Jorge.

    It has been tightening up for years. This is just the endgame. I don’t think this has anything to do with the merger.

  40. Greg. As a longtime AA fanboy myself, let me be the one to tell you that due to the changes at DL and UA, AA is considered the last bastion of the “old” generous frequent flyer programs. And because so many people have thrown their flying to AA to escape the PQD/MQD requirements, there is some denial about just how crappy the AA award availability is at this point. I did the same thing Lucky did…I checked AA vs DL and DL had MUCH better award availability. What does that tell you? It will take a while for folks to realize that the noose just tightened a little bit more.

  41. I was the ‘canary in the coal mine’ on this, complaining in the comments here a couple of years ago that AA had totally eliminated premium TATL awards. Your response then was just to wait, they would open some up, and a few months later they did. But even as that happened, I could feel this coming, and started booking our FC European awards a year in advance, inconvenient as it is to have to plan so far out.

    Taking to heart your excellent advice to “earn them and burn them”, the two of us have flown FC to LHR and back on AA 777s 3 times in the past two years. But only by searching constantly, booking nearly a year in advance, and going pretty much the only day that AA opened up. We are fortunate enough to be able to plan our trip around that one available date each way, rather than planning our flights around our desired trip dates.

    But now I have been searching nearly daily for 2014 flights, and have only found the July 1st flights you mentioned. Bizarrely, AA has been booking awards for 100 percent of the seats in FC on July 1st on almost every LHR route to/from the US. I’ve seen flights on the new 777-ERs with 6 of the 8 FC seats already booked, but still open to booking the remaining 2 seats as a Saver Award. WTF?

    That had me wondering for a while, but I’ve finally come up with the following conclusion. Since there is NO return availability for that flight, once you book it, you have only 4 options: return with an o/w Anytime award at an absurd mileage price; pay for a one way return ticket at an even more absurd $ price; use AA miles for a BA award and pay the surcharges; or pay $175 to redeposit your miles when you can’t find a way to return. Any one of which benefits AA greatly, while punishing the traveler.

    Adding injury to injury, I’m guessing AA is expecting most of the folks who book the wildly available July 1st flights to eventually cancel and pay that $175 to redeposit.

    This not being ‘my first rodeo’ {I’m Lifetime Gold with AA}, and having seen this coming for a couple of years, we have been busy building up miles with BA, US, UA and Lufthansa, entirely thru cc apps.

    So yes, we are booked in FC on the July 1st n/s 777-ER flight to LHR. But no we are not paying to redeposit, nor are we getting stuck with Anytime rates. We will enjoy our flight over on the new aircraft, and come home with LH or UA. If necessary, we’ll use our Avios to come back with Air Lingus before we’ll let AA rip us off thru their lack of availability.

    Thanks to Barclays and SPG, we will have enough miles in our LH accounts to book LH awards in advance. And due to the absurd British departure taxes, the LH fuel surcharges o/w will not be that much higher than the combined cost of British taxes plus chunnel tickets to get to LHR from the continent.

    Any advice on which LH flights to be searching for, from FRA {we’ve never been to the FCT} to anywhere on or near the West Coast early August 2014?

  42. I largely backed out of the AA mile collecting game ever since the US DOJ granted AA and BA the favor to collude together.

    If AA weren’t so hooked to fuel surcharges on TATL mileage tickets and on other BA flights, I’d probably have spent more money and time on AA flights and on getting AA miles. Instead I felt it necessary to diversify away from AA … because of what AA’s done to TATL “award” availability/pricing.

  43. One can only hope that AA reads this blog/thread. There is a cost to not having award availability. This shell game will only last so long. I already booked a paid TATL trip for next year on UA because AA had no awards for my wife and kids. Now, with award availability being near zero, I am thinking I will take my entire 220k EQMs to UA next year. No need to fly AA for any kind of status given that I have LT Plat from being EXP for over a decade…

  44. In addition, transcon award space in business or first on American has evaporated. Until recently, if I booked far enough in advance I could always find space from JFK to SFO and Lax. Now there is virtually nothing for next summer. A complete transformation into something pretty close to Delta

  45. I think an important question is, how hooked on the money coming in from citi is AA? Does the bankruptcy affect this? I don’t know. But right now several of the airlines are so addicted to the money that they are getting from the credit card banks, they could never pull a stunt like this and reduce availability this poorly. If there ever is pressure to open things up, I would think it’s a good bet it will come from Citi.

  46. Sooner or later, Citi has to start hurting from all of the devaluations. I have 5 Citi AA cards. Two I’ve had forever, {one being the first cc I ever got}, and Citi has waived the AF on them for years since I USED to spend huge amounts on them.

    I have 2 more AA cards from Nov 2012, and another one from this July when Citi briefly waived the rules on apps for them. My spend on all of them combined this year is only meeting the min spend on the new card, period.

    I had recently been putting spend on Citi and AXEX HHonors cards, until the HH devaluation. Now I only use the AMEX Surpass for the supermarket and gas bonus categories that give me 6 points per dollar.

    I’ve got a pile of Citi cards in my sock drawer, but not a single one in my wallet. I can’t be the only one not using them anymore. Sooner or later, that has to hurt Citi’s bottom line.

  47. @ Kevin — Sorry, would what apply? Award space is the same whether you’re booking a partner ticket or a distance based award.

  48. I managed to snag 4 F seats on the DFW-FRA flight for summer 2014. It was odd, as there were 7 seats available (Z7) on this particular flight. Maybe a glitch, but it worked for me!

  49. Due to the fact that AA award space is virtually non-existent, they’re considering renaming it to Aeroplan.

    Welcome to my world.

  50. I can’t believe you compared AA to DL availability charts. Everyone knows that “low/saver” doesn’t mean anything. You want a 22 hr. layover? You want an f**up award chart? See and cry.

  51. @ swag — Yeah, confirmable business class upgrade space is extremely difficult to come by as well.

  52. @ phil — Hah, extremely valid point, though in this case I actually looked at availability and New York to London actually seems to have nonstop saver business class award space for most of the dates showing as green.

  53. @AAEXPlat
    This sucks then, it is my my bad luck I guess.
    Right after I applied to Citi Reserve (using Luckys link), Hilton devalued. I guess I came to this game too late 🙁

  54. Ben-

    I wonder how this translates to profits for AA. Do you imagine they really get enough cash from BA and IB as a share of the fees to offset the cost of having to buy award space from those airlines to begin with? I booked IB in C with AA miles a few months ago and the OW fees to Europe were less than $200 per passenger. Does AA really do better to pay IB for a C seat, then share a $200 fee, rather than just open up its own seats?

    Back to the banking side, it seems Cit is pretty much up the creek now. With the AA lack of available awards, the huge Hilton devaluation and Citi’s kamikaze closures of Thank You Points accounts, what does Citi have left to sell to frequent travelers at this point?

  55. Sam. Think about it. Fuel surcharge on BA for AUS-LHR roundtrip is ~$750. Revenue ticket just under $1000. So by making you redeem one of those, they give up only $200 in cash while wiping between 40-60k miles off the liability books. That is a spectacular deal for them.

  56. @ Sam — My guess is that the answer is “no” with Iberia, though keep in mind Iberia doesn’t release a ton of award space on most routes and also can’t be searched on, so probably isn’t a huge expense for American.

    As far as BA goes, I think they’re sufficiently preventing people from making coach redemptions due to the high fuel surcharges to the point that it actually makes sense for them. As far as premium cabin awards go, chances are those seats would be snagged regardless of whether American released award space or not.

    Ultimately I think they should be releasing some space not because they want to save money, but because it’s the right thing to do and these frequent flyer programs are a cash cow for them.

  57. AA ExPaat-

    My question was about C awards. Coach awardso on BA metal are such a bad deal for the customer, my only question in that regard is why anyone would book one.


    So what you think is that AA just views and treats premium saver seats TATL on their metal as an award that is listed but never really offered on any meaningful scale, right?

  58. @ San — I mean it does come in waves. There are times where they release a good amount of space, and now there’s nothing again. I don’t think that’s fair long term, but at the moment it seems accurate. Meanwhile to Asia they’re still releasing a good amount of award space.

  59. I have to chime in with the “don’t use Citi AA card” crowd. 5 years ago, I have 3 different Citi AA cards, and almost every penny of my spend, business and personal, was on those cards. I’m not rich, but Citi made some good money on me. Today, I’ve canceled one of those cards, called to at annual fee waived on another, and will cancel 3rd when it is ready to renew. I put about $50 per month now on Citi AA, and that’s just because I’ve been too lazy to call and have an autopay changed.

    Citi, are you listening?

  60. I’m staring at loads for ORD-LHR later today (it’s 4AM in Chicago, as I write this):

    AA90 (9:05AM) J7 R7 I7 D7 Y7 B7 H7 K7 M7 L7 V7 G7 S7 N7 Q7 O7

    AA86 (6:05PM) F4 A3 P4 J2 R2 I0 D0 Y7 B7 H7 K7 M7 L7 V7 G7 S7 N7 Q7 O7

    AA46 (7:20PM) F3 A2 P3 J4 R4 I1 D2 Y7 B7 H7 K7 M7 L7 V7 G7 S7 N7 Q7 O7

    AA98 (9:45PM) F3 A2 P3 J7 R7 I7 D7 Y7 B7 H7 K7 M7 L7 V7 G7 S7 N7 Q7 O7

    Meanwhile, there is *no* saver J/F award availability on these flights, while the BA flights have plenty of seats.

    I did the same search for NYC-LON departing today. No AA availablity (yet the flights are relatively “wide open”), but there’s J/F availability on every single BA flight.

  61. Chris. What you are seeing does not surprise me. There is a certain kind of arrogance that ha crept into AA as of late and those stats show it pretty vividly. They aren’t selling any seats, but they are still unwilling to let us use our miles anyway.

    I believe they assume not many travelers have access to KVS or EF and therefore will be more likely to think the planes are full, which may make them more likely to part with a greater number of Aadvantage miles for a given trip.

    AA is definitely trying hard to create maximum breakage at this point. A very consumer-unfriendly move that I have duly noted.

  62. Annoyingly, flights go out with many empty premium seats, nothing seems to be released last minute either.

    And Lucky, I have seen some C space open up when I called as an EXP, when it was C0. A while ago, but I was told it was EXP Expanded Inventory.

  63. Lucky Do you have any idea what is going on with AA and July 1 2014? For the past several months, FC US to LHR and/or return has been totally available, but only on July 1st. Every single US city that AA flies to LHR, and return, has been totally available to book.

    I just checked JFK LHR from today thru the end of booking 2014. Only ONE single day all year is open: July 1st. On flight 104 that evening, there are 16 seats. Ten of then show as already booked. So I “asked” if I could book the remaining 6 seats as awards. Sure, no problem, book every single seat on the flight. WTF?

  64. @Fanch: “Expanded” availability as an EXP doesn’t do me much good if I don’t know it’s there. Having me waste a few hours of time on the EXP line doesn’t seem productive for anyone.

    Of course, AA might prefer I get discouraged and book a AAnytime award.

  65. FYI: I HAVE NOTICED THAT recently, AA DOES have Mile Saaver award space about 1 week in advance. As usual, the closer it gets they often open up at least 1 seat on almost every flight per day. This has just been my observation, 2 weeks out & more, you are right, about 1 per seat per moth if you are lucky.

    Also, and AA was very quiet about this, on 4.8.14 tey “streamlined”, (read: cut away at our benefits for EXP and other top tier fliers.) Among other thing, no stopovers on internatioal trips at N. American gateways, no “in-person revue” cues to yield management, even a day or two before a flight, to open up a seat. The big word they keep using is “streamlining” for the the USAir merger, but what it really is is a decline of our benefits we had become accustomed to for years, and with NO notice on the webpage or no 6 month in advance notice period, etc.

    I think the next year is going to be very thin for customer service, while their profits that top fliers contribute primarily to continue to go through the roof, now that they got rid of all unsecured debt and equity obligations. Errrrrrr

  66. This problem persists. AA and BA have basically blacked out their premium cabins for award redemption – even on day of travel if there are open seats – impossible to find 1 let alone 2 seats across the pond – even on JFK-LHR. Spoke to the EXP check in desk at LHR and they seemed to indicate that I wasn’t the only one having this issue. At least UA and VX release unsold seats on day of travel. Maybe time to switch over to them. What the point of loyalty points if you can never use them?

  67. I could not agree more. You can’t be wait listed for premium flights (like you can with UA, and I am 1 below Exp on UA, 75K Platinum Premier, but I can make waitlist award reservations AND THEY CLEAR.)

    Also, the availability of partner award is unto the partners and most of them suck. Especially Qantas. Maybe in 3-5 years they will be back to their glory, but right now all I see is EP benefits (and all other levels) being stripped away, another example would deb the yield management open reward seat request, which used to be almost automatic, now they won’t even do it for someone who’s flown almost 4 MM Million Miler miles. I could not be more angry wit them, nor wish to divert as much high fare revenue to UA that seems to know how to make things happen and have rules in place that benefit me as if I give them business. AA has lost that luster. How can they be so arrogant coming out of bankruptcy with a fleet that is about 5% decent, the rest terrible. (by decent I am referring to the refurbished (greatly needed and overdue) 777-200’s, 767-300’s and 777EWR’s. If you are not on one of those aircraft, forget it, you are in for a bumpy and very uncomfortable ride, if you can even get the seat. The integaration with US Air is taking too long and will probably give them status that they do not deserve, or that they bought for $3,000 (the price of Chairman’s club if you have at least one segment in your account this year.) YECH!

  68. Since the time this article was written, a year ago, the sAAver availability has become absolutely dismal. Not just on international routes, but, domestic as well. It’s worse than it was last year!

    Can’t even find a single premium cabin sAAver between LAX and LHR for the entire 331 days out. Yes, I know that LAX LHR is a popular route, but, come on… even in January going to LHR??

    disAAdvantage miles indeed.

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