A bit over a month ago I wrote about how American was realigning their fare codes for first class on domestic flights. With this recent adjustment we saw the following changes:
- The “F” booking class (full fare first class) changed to the “J” booking class
- The “A” booking class (discounted and upgraded first class) changed to the “D” booking class
- The “P” booking class (discounted first class) changed to the “I” booking class
In practice this doesn’t mean much for American AAdvantage members. This was a logical change, since previously there was no differentiation between first class on a three cabin plane and first class on a two cabin plane in terms of the fare codes. It makes a lot more sense for two cabin first class to be aligned with three cabin business class, since the pricing of those products is more similar.
What American’s fare class changes mean
Perhaps the biggest implications are for those earning and redeeming partner miles for travel on American. For example, British Airways Executive Club awarded Avios based on first class, though they also charged first class prices for domestic first class awards on American. So this change is good news for those redeeming Avios for domestic American flights, while it’s bad news for those who largely earned British Airways status based on domestic American flights (where mileage earning is decreasing from 150% to 125%).
Anyway, now that British Airways has reduced the number of Avios required for domestic American flights I thought it would be worth looking at whether it’s worth it to redeem Avios for domestic first class, which previously represented a horrible value.
Is it now worth redeeming Avios for American domestic first class?
Here’s how many Avios are now required for domestic economy and first class on American, based on the distance flown:
Number of Avios Required (Economy/First)
1 – 1,151 miles
7,500 / 15,000
1,152 – 2,000 miles
10,000 / 20,000
2,001 – 3,000 miles
12,500 / 37,500
In other words:
- For flights of up to 1,151 miles, you pay a 7,500 Avios premium for first class
- For flights of 1,152-2,000 miles, you pay a 10,000 Avios premium for first class
- For flights of 2,001-3,000 miles, you pay a 25,000 Avios premium for first class, which is the point at which it’s not worth it for a domestic flight, in my opinion
Still, for flights of less than 2,000 miles the cost of domestic first class is now double the cost of economy, which I consider to be a reasonable deal. I guess it all comes down to how much you value domestic first class over economy.
Personally I value domestic first class over economy at ~$40 per 500 miles (or roughly per hour), since I can actually be productive in first class, while I can’t really be in economy. There’s no science to that number, but that’s the closest I can get to providing an estimate.
That means there are now some circumstances where I find it worthwhile to redeem Avios for first class.
For example, between Chicago and Portland you’d pay 10,000 Avios for economy or 20,000 Avios for first class. I value Avios at ~1.3 cents each, so to me it’s worth paying an extra ~$130 to be upgraded on a roughly four hour flight.
Similarly, a Tampa to Chicago flight costs 7,500 Avios in economy or 15,000 Avios in first class. That flight is almost three hours gate to gate, so I’d pay ~$100 for that upgrade.
Everyone’s numbers will be different, though, based on how much they value Avios, how they’re acquiring them, and how much of a premium they’re willing to pay for first class.
Perhaps the bigger barrier to this redemption is that American’s domestic award availability is pretty terrible nowadays, especially in first class. So even though the value of redeeming for first class might be decent, the availability is still tough to come by.
Keep in mind that you can also redeem British Airways Avios for travel on Alaska, and they often have better award availability than American. However, their first class award fare class hasn’t been changed, so first class redemptions on Alaska through British Airways are still prohibitively expensive.
While this hasn’t opened up some amazing opportunity for redeeming Avios for American first class, it’s at least worth being aware of the improved value proposition here. In the past I would have almost never considered redeeming Avios for American’s domestic first class, while now it can represent a good deal.
Ultimately it comes down to how much of a premium you’d be willing to pay for first class. Personally I’m happy paying ~7,500 Avios to upgrade an ~1,100 mile flight, or paying 10,000 Avios to upgrade a ~1,900 mile flight, especially if for a loved one.
Would you consider redeeming Avios for American’s domestic first class with the improved redemption rates?