Why I Don’t Trust American AAdvantage Anymore. Do You?

As everyone and their brother knows by now, American and US Airways made some huge changes to their respective mileage programs on Tuesday, including the following:

  • American eliminated distance based oneworld Explorer awards
  • American eliminated stopovers at the gateway city on AAdvantage awards
  • American created multiple tiers of AAdvantage standard award levels
  • US Airways created multiple tiers of Dividend Miles standard award levels
  • US Airways raised the cost of Dividend Miles business class redemptions between the US and North Asia from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles

But the worst part wasn’t the changes themselves — which were somewhat anticipated, and are forgivable if announced in advance as far as I’m concerned — but rather how there was no advance notice and how poorly everything was communicated.

Gary still trusts American AAdvantage

Gary had an interesting post yesterday entitled “Here’s Why I Still Trust American AAdvantage. Should You?”

Our interpretation of the situation is identical — American is totally within their rights to make the changes they did, and these changes were the “low hanging fruit,” and we’ll likely see worse changes in the future. As Gary says, changes without notice are the worst thing a program can do.

But Gary still trusts AAdvantage because in his mind, they now have a fair warning as to how customers will respond to this type of situation in the future:

For me they get one screw-up.

How they behave next time — advance notice of changes and clear, transparent communication about those changes — will factor much more into my own opinion about the trustworthiness of the program than this one-off incident.

I don’t necessarily disagree with this.

I’ve long been American’s biggest cheerleader/fanboy and I agree with where Gary is coming from about American and the AAdvantage leadership deserving to get one “screw up.”

I just don’t see this as their first big mishandling of the program, and I don’t think the response from American or AAdvantage over the past few days can count as one screw up, so I’m not quite as forgiving.

Why am I not as forgiving?

American AAdvantage has already had the opportunity to see the impact of changes without notice

Last August I broke what I thought at the time was news about American beginning to impose fuel surcharges effective immediately for travel on OneWorld carriers.

This was based on a memo an AAdvantage agent read to me word-for-word, and was even confirmed by American’s Twitter team. As it turns out it was a huge miscommunication, and was intended to apply to revenue fares and not award tickets (even though the fuel surcharges were appearing on award tickets as well).

Some wondered whether American actually was planning on implementing the changes and reconsidered due to the crazy amount of negative feedback they got in a short period of time.

I don’t think that was the case, I do believe it was just a huge failure of communication across all channels.

But American’s reaction was prompt, and impressive. Leadership quickly got to the bottom of the issue, the actual policy was quickly communicated, impacted customers were refunded, and it was handled well.

What I took away from that experience is that there’s no doubt American took note of our response, all the way up to their top executives. They knew how customers would respond to a major mileage program change without advance notice.

The unfortunate thing for a loyalty program (or any company, really), is that it can take years of hard work to build credibility, all of which can be destroyed overnight.

So as far as I’m concerned this week’s changes aren’t strike one, they’re strike two, even if the first instance was a “fire drill.”

American AAdvantage didn’t screw up the changes in just one way

Let’s give AAdvantage leadership the benefit of the doubt on not having “remembered” what happens when you make changes without notice. We might as well.

American still screwed up these changes in more ways than one. It’s one (poorly conceived) thing to give absolutely no advance notice of program changes, but how they communicated these changes to members is embarrassing on it’s own.

This is the email they starter sending out to members relating to the changes, more than eight hours after the changes had gone live in American’s systems (some members only got the email ~24 hours later):

Redeem for less. Effective today for travel starting June 1, 2014, a one‑way AAnytime award now starts as low as 20,000 miles plus applicable taxes and carrier–imposed fees. Plus we’ve lowered the minimum number of miles needed for AAnytime awards to popular destinations like Hawaii, the Caribbean and Europe. Our lowest AAnytime mileage levels are available for more than 50% of the year. Don’t forget we still offer MileSAAver awards that can be redeemed for as low as 12,500 miles each way, plus applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees.

No blackout dates! Continue to use your miles for any seat on any American Airlines flight using an AAnytime Award. Award levels vary by date and a few select dates throughout the year are now offered at higher mileage levels.

This is so deceptive I can’t even begin to wrap my head around it.

So AAdvantage eliminates stopovers on award tickets, eliminates Explorer Awards, and adds award tiers which raise award costs under a vast majority of circumstances, and the two headlines they use to communicate these changes are “Redeem for less” and “No blackout dates?”


Even if we give American the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t realize how negative a devaluation without notice would be, can anyone, with a straight face, argue that email constitutes honest communication from a program we should trust?


Can big companies admit they’re wrong… or even meaningfully acknowledge feedback?

I’ve never worked for a big company. I’ve only ever been self employed. And when I screw up (which happens a lot) I don’t mind admitting it. I think it’s important.

I’ve adjusted my expectations sufficiently so that I don’t actually expect big companies to apologize. Is it too much to ask, though, that they acknowledge the feedback and try to take it to consideration in the future?

Yesterday I posted about a huge American customer relations fail, where a reader sent American an email about the award chart changes, only to get a response explaining the new baggage policy.

That sucked, but sadly it gets even worse than that.

Another reader shared the response he received from an email he sent to American, also expressing his disappointment in the AAdvantage changes. Here’s the response (bolding mine):

As an AAdvantage Executive Platinum® member, your feedback is always appreciated. Thank you for your candid remarks and for believing in us enough to share your thoughts. Please allow us to share our perspective:

Although it is true that the terms and conditions governing the AAdvantage program allow changes with or without notice, we prefer to provide as much advanced notice as possible. The most recent changes were designed to harmonize several policies between our two carriers. Making these adjustments quickly ensures that our customers know what to expect when traveling on either American Airlines or US Airways, which helps them better plan their travel. As such, it was not feasible to delay enacting action that bring US Airways and American Airlines even closer together.

Thank you for participating in the AAdvantage program. We appreciate your business.

I barely know what to say to this.

So after American screwed up by not providing advance notice, and screwed up the way they communicated the changes, their response to concerned customers is to tell them that making the changes the way they did allows us to “know what to expect when traveling,” and that “it was not feasible to delay enacting action.”


They’re basically telling us to go f*&$ ourselves, and that we’re wrong.

I sure would prefer a one line response that simply says “we appreciate your feedback and will certainly take it into consideration for future changes.”

But there’s none of that. Not even a hint of it. Just that we’re wrong, and that it wasn’t feasible to do it any other way.

No regret, no sincerity, nothing.

And this isn’t a one off response. It’s clear that this is a copy & paste form response to everyone, so this message is being communicated from a high level.

Bottom line

Companies should know it’s just not right to make changes without notice, particularly loyalty programs.

I’m also not someone who considers one service failure to be the end of the world, and I agree airlines deserve at least one screw-up. But we’re way past that point with American:

  • Strike one was that they should have known better due to the “fire drill” involving fuel surcharges
  • Strike two was the email they sent out which was completely misleading, with incomplete information and a spin that no one could possibly interpret as genuine
  • Strike three was how they’re handling this after the fact, telling customers they didn’t have any other choice, and that they’re doing this so that we know what to expect when traveling

I’m forgiving, but I’m not that forgiving.

In 24 hours I went from trusting AAdvantage more than any other airline program, to putting them in the same league as the other legacies.

I’m not changing my behavior yet, necessarily, but I am now very cautious. And that makes me sad, really, because I’ve felt like American has done a phenomenal job of garnering the support of their frequent fliers throughout the bankruptcy and merger, and truly created a sense of “we’re in it together.”

And within the space of a week, that feeling is gone.

If anyone running American has any common sense, could we please have some executive tell us in no uncertain terms that they see where we’re coming from, that they’ve recognized our feedback, and that they’ll take it into account going forward?

Or is that really too much to ask for? I’m not even asking for them to promise us advance notice going forward, but just that they actually see where we’re coming from, and especially that the way they’ve handled the communication of this leaves a lot to be desired.

I just don’t see why we would trust a program to do anything differently in the future when the way they respond to criticism of this change is to say that it wasn’t feasible to do it any other way. If they couldn’t have done it any other way, sounds to me like they’re keen on repeating it in the future…

How about you? Do you still trust American AAdvantage?


Filed Under: American
  1. As I explained further in the comments on my post, it does me no good whatsoever to say they’re irredeemably burned. Otherwise there’s no reason why they should change their future behavior.

    There are many more bigger changes to come, probably more bad than good but certain to make some members mad either way.

    So my point, perhaps too subtly made in the post, is that since there are going to be many next times American needs to do much better with those and not repeat what they did this time.

    And if they do not do better they will totally untrustworthy.

  2. And the fuel surcharge issue last August or thereabouts really was a screwup, not a testing of the waters and a pullback. When I contacted someone at AAdvantage directly, not the PR folks or the leadership but a middle manager via text they had no clue what was up (and they would have known, on the implementation side) but were quickly on it as the first thing that business day.

  3. unrelated to this subject but I believe it could have something to do with AA, since end of February I have been asking Citibank with the miles from my business card will post to AA, they keep telling me soon and that AA has some issues with their system so miles can’t be posted, I have about 80,000 miles waiting to be posted, has anyone else have similar problems? I am wondering if AA is holding up posting miles till they make changes so they have lower value

  4. I don’t trust them anymore. I hope there is a huge backlash that costs them lots of money and people responsible for this lose their jobs. But that won’t happen and they’ll continue to screw us over like this. If there were good alternatives to AA I would boycott them forever.

  5. @carlos, i am also waiting for my citi AA exec miles to post. both citi and AA telling me to just be patient. very frustrating.

  6. This is a wayyy over-dramatic post.

    The fact is you could see this coming from a mile away, with the merger and Doug Parker at the helm.

    Your Interview with Eric Mueller on MilepointTV. You predicted some dramatic changes ahead for the AAdvantage program and clearly implied rough waters were ahead. So why are you acting so surprised? You talk about the authenticity of AA handling, yet you don’t remember your own words from past events.

    Advance notice is only needed for those who are NOT in the know which is the total opposite of you.

    Agree with bmvaughn that you should have sticked with flying the friendly skies.

  7. @ PD — Ultimately yes. At 1.1 cents per mile it’s tough to go wrong, so personally I think that promotion is still worth taking advantage of. Even if they devalued their program by 50% (which I don’t think will happen), that’s still a great price for miles.

  8. Yes, I wish Lucky would tell us why hasn’t set foot on a United plane in years!

    Anwyay, I agree that we can’t trust AA anymore. I was so hopeful that the DOJ would stop the merger, but this is only the beginning. Doug (fat face) Parker wants nothing more than to make AA a LCC and take away any joy that might be left in flying.
    Tom Horton did a wonderful job of improving the hard product, but let’s face it, with less competition, why would AA want give people things that other airlines don’t. Where are people going to go?

    If you want to look at the positive effects of competition, look at what has happened with cell phone industry. After T-Mobile and AT&T weren’t allowed to merge, T-Mobile has started a price war, and now AT&T and Verizon have had no choice but to lower prices.

  9. @Carlos – my AA business card took 3 1/2 months to post. My wife’s still hasn’t posted, and it’s been 3 1/2 months as well.

  10. Lucky, you nailed it, 100%. Gary’s post (and the response from much of the blogosphere) has been so disappointing. If AA gets away with making these types of changes without notice then frankly I think we’re headed for uncharted waters where programs will feel free to devalue at will. Where is the collective action here?

  11. I agree completely. Again, you elevated yourself while Gary continued to sell out. And I love how Gary keeps smugly telling us how many more bad changes are to come.

    Gary, if you are so sure of this, why not tell us these changes and then we’ll give up on loyalty programs altogether and focus on price and using foreign carriers?

  12. Lucky,

    You are absolutely right, and thank you for pointing this out. As I see it, AA had the opportunity to ask their members about potential program changes – by focus groups or surveys – and chose not to do so. AA had the opportunity to phase out whatever awards they did not want to support, and chose not to do so. There is no way that this was not decided over many months in many meetings. They knew this was coming and decided proactively to give NO notice, NO heads up, NO warning.

    AA has instead decided to lead the industry in breaking trust with their customers. Look around at other airlines and loyalty programs – NO ONE DOES THIS.

    We can only assume this is the new MO for AA. For me, at least, the trust is gone. I don’t even trust that the benefits of EXP I am in the middle of qualifying for will even be there next year. Or even this year! Without trust, flying on AA as an EXP is borderline pointless.

    We can only assume that the new culture of lying and dishonesty will extend to other parts of the business, and AA will be investigated accordingly.

  13. This is why consolidation is a bad thing.

    Gary – how much is AA paying you and how much have you made off commissions from hawking AA and US credit cards in the last year?

  14. PS – If AA were genuinely remorseful, it’s an easy fix.


    To all those people who still trust them, you are simply idiotic sheep. Now I for one never trusted any airline and have played this game without being loyal to anyone…

  15. As I said on Gary’s post, it’s hard to see why AA or any other airline would change their future behavior. By giving advance notice, they give us two chances to witch & moan about program devaluation instead of just one. Clearly, we’re not going to stop flying AA on those routes where they have the best price/product/schedule…there are too few choices now, so they have no sound business reason to be all that polite to those they view as high maint. I do think airlines want to shed the high maint customers. Really, it seems like the 21st century way of doing business is to actively seek out ways to shed high main customers. This is not unique to the airlines. It’s inevitable anyplace you have a near-monopoly and the business is now in a position to pick and choose their customers. Many hospitals wouldn’t treat emergency or low income patients if it wasn’t mandated by federal law. At some point, when you have a near-monopoly, you can’t rely on the kindness of the business.

  16. I think any change without notice is never good for the flying public. But i can see if the % of people who actually use the award is as small as they say, maybe they really didn’t think too many people would care. I think they should have atleast given people until the end of April to book these as it would have saved themselves alot of the deserved complaints. It was obvious i think to everyone that these changes were coming at some point, they were just TOO generous. I think we all thought that they would wait until after the programs were intergrated. As far as trusting them, i think people are too emotional about it. As someone who trades the airline sector..i’m confident it’s only going to get worse.

  17. Nice post Ben, and no I dont trust AA either. Then again I dont trust any big company wether it be related to Airlines or non airlines. Every big corporation is greedy and yes none of them give a fk about client services in todays market conditions. All I know for now is that Im missing that 90K spot really bad, I almost teared when I so the increase even though the increase was somewhat justifiable. Sometimes when ppl stress out they eat, me on the other hand buy miles @1.1 cents on all my accounts. Have a happy weekend all.

  18. Tyler nailed it.

    I think it’s naive to attempt ‘advocacy’ by either throwing a tantrum OR ‘giving them one more chance.’

    The paradigm of frequency programs is shifting. Nothing customers can do will change that.

    Help your readers understand how to start preparing now for the future of frequency programs. Help us know when it is time to cash out before it’s too late. Help us understand what the FUTURE of frequency programs will look like so we can shift our habits. You guys are the ‘experts.’ Give us some advice we can USE.

    Or don’t.

  19. Lucky, you are right – it’s tough being a blogger (from your post few months back). You are getting blasted again for no good reason. Good post as always. All the negative comments are unnecessary. Keep the good work up.

  20. It seems there are those who are AApologists for bad practices by American. It is American whom should AApologize for its actions for changing the rules of the game without any advance notice. I had considered changing from UA to AA, and I am glad I did not do so.

    American has a great new international C & F product and could actually capture market share from UA & DL by pursuing truly flyer friendly policies. It appears HPdbaAA or USdbaAA has gained the ire of its customers at a time when they should be seeking to retain their elites and gain more clients like them. What other changes will there be to AAdvantage? Will the frequent flyer program mirror US and reduce Platinum’s RDM bonus from 100 to 50 percent? What about Executive Platinum’s 8 SWUs, will they only award 2 SWUs as for Chairman’s Preferred?

    The big three US based airlines oligopoly are on a race to the bottom of reduced benefits and devaluation. DL seems to be the impetus and paradigm of the new airline business model requiring revenue thresholds and now implementing a reduction of 50 percent fewer frequent flyer miles for many customers by changing from a distance traveled mileage earning basis to a revenue mileage earning basis.

    Lucky, I am glad to see you are leery of American and do not trust them any longer unless they take redemptive action. A larger question is why bother to be loyal to a business and program, if the program does not take the right practices to engender loyalty?

  21. You can only trust yourself Ben certainly not some big company that is trying to make money above all else.

    Does it really matter if you can trust them? You are still going to accumulate their miles. Whats your alternative? Fly united and delta? U know those are worse options at this time.

    I know you have several thousand AA miles banked, better get to burning them because tomorrow that cathay F redemption one way could be 110,000 miles!! Keep up the good work btw you have a great blog!


  22. Ben said: “And when I screw up (which happens a lot) I don’t mind admitting it. I think it’s important.”

    This is called Accountability. Companies large and small that have this as part of their culture integrity perform very well because they strike the balance between ‘The Customer is Always Right” with “It’s Our Way or the Highway – Take your business elsewhere”.

    The bigger point to make however, is AA’s complete disconnection with their customer base, and especially their loyal customer base. They are completely internally-focused on their own needs as a company and their merger that the have completely forgotten what keeps them in business. That’s never a recipe for success.

    Can’t agree more with those comments from other about consolidation to 3 or 4 mega legacy carriers. Bad news for us. I steered clear of United years ago, sampled DL through the partnership with AS and found they were no better and even arrogant thinking they are the greatest when they clearly aren’t so vowed to avoid them as well, and now AA is giving me no real reason to give them any of my business. Thank goodness we have AS/VX/B6 to bring some balance to this mess.

    The lesson here for all of us as consumers: vote with your wallet. The legacies and their shareholders are only concerned about profits. Their behavior proves it. They only way they will listen is if those revenues and profits fall. Sorry – pick a different airline with perhaps less frequent or convenient schedules or choose to be stomped on: your choice.

  23. @kokonutz- Thanks for the kind words and agreement. I’m a fan of yours on FT so it’s good to know others thing the same.

  24. My 2c: it has never been about trust for me when it came to award redemption. my pts and miles mostly come from credit card signups which citi allows the consumer to take advantage through multiple bonuses for the same card. i go to bed each night hoping for the best but expecting the worst. with the hope that i can redeem my miles for an int’l biz class seat before a program is devalued. unrelated to AA, my current “hope” is that avianca does not change the NYC-GUM classification as domestic. *wink*

  25. UA had a massive deval, but they gave ample time for anyone to adjust and do last minute redemptions.

    UA doesn’t pretend to be on the moral high horse. AA (with their lack of notice) and DL (with skymiles2015) are hypocrites.

  26. I agree completely…. where do focus mileage earning now? I don’t want to have lots of orphan miles.
    Anyword if Didvend miles can be poured into an AA account?
    I am glad I started heeding earn and burn.
    And yes, I did just by three rounds of 100% bonus US miles….
    Thanks for all your posts and work. You are my #1 blogger!

  27. It’s one thing when you’re dealing with miles earned BIT which you you didn’t “technically” pay outright for, but with the way they heavily promote buying miles directly these days, why aren’t they liable for failure to deliver on a product that you purchased? Lots of people purchased miles for the sole reason of being able to plan a summer trip and use the stopover or distance awards. Or people who bought miles to top up so they had enough for the whole family. Why isn’t this fraudulent selling?

  28. The management team HAS CHANGED from last year.
    So you are not talking about same people

    This is a company
    It is made of people who have changed

    This is not your father’s AA

  29. I don’t trust them, I believe they are just starting to show their true colors. Run for the exits people – or at least hedge your bets.

  30. I’m really frustrated, as I had upwards of 100 in each program, and in under 2 months would have had enough for my husband and I to take explorer awards. I could have booked them by June if I would have had notice. Really demoralizing more than anything else. 🙁 I wonder if we’re going to have a MasterClass at the FTU on AA?

  31. I had been saving for an Explorer award in FC and was extremely close to the 50k FC award even though I strongly perefer the Star Alliance……..now I will burn AA miles on Hawaii and perhaps save for one Cathay trip………but in SFO the game is UA and LH and that is what I will focus on……AA and Hilton cards are in the trash……lifetime benefit or not………

  32. The real benchmark here, Lucky, that I am curious about is whether you will be attempting to re-qualify for status on AA. Actually, if I remember correctly you already have or are nearly re-qualified, yes? But, *assuming* you weren’t, would you say you are put-off enough to abandon re-qualifying? I am not saying economics and trust are heavily aligned because clearly AA does not believe they are; however, there must be a tipping point where trust guides ones economic choices when dealing with corporations. I’m just curious whether you’ve gone over the edge.

  33. Finally! A voice of reason! This action was preplanned, thought out and rehearsed. There are no regrets from doug and he plans on doing it again, soon. Any hope of changing behavior for the next time is just naive (hint: Gary). American is the new Delta!

  34. @Tom: AMEN!

    Our government really, really let us all down by allowing the CO takeover of UA and now the US takeover of AA.

    Some criticized the government scrutiny of the mergers. Those who did were NOT on the customers’ side.

    With the oligopolization of the airline industry complete, prepare to take it on the chin. Repeatedly.

  35. “Transparent communication” is really kind of an empty expression when they hold all the cards. If they were a five year old they could just pick up their toys and leave if they felt like it.

  36. Big companies do apologize. The biggest in fact do– Apple for instance — with their maps issue two years ago.

    AA is FAR FAR from being a good corporate citizen, much less a company I want to do business with.

    Their ‘communications’ clearly convey contempt for their customers. I won’t willingly interact with anyone companies included who hold me in contempt.

  37. I do not trust American Airlines anymore and will avoid them wherever practical (if it continues to fester, then I will avoid them wherever possible). I know of lot of people who read travel blogs are constant travelers and will find ways to adapt. But for me, I was gearing up for a “trip of a lifetime” using OneWorld Explorer Awards. I had done so much mileage gathering (going out of my way to fly AA), preparation, and planning and was about to take a sabbatical from work so that my wife and I could do this… In one morning, that was all gone. If they would have given me a month of warning to book this trip I had planned for so long, then I would not have been angry that they did away with it (it is obviously not very profitable for the airline to fund these trips).. But they roped me in and then left me with a ton of miles that I will realistically never use.. Damage done for travelers like me.. Best of luck to the constant adventurers

  38. I don’t buy that they were surprised to hear customers were upset. When I called to voice my concern to the exec plat desk the person actually started arguing with me and said they had to sign a confidentially agreement about the changes taking place with their program.

  39. Many good points by Tyler, peachpit and others. It’s naive to believe that a company cares about you. They care about your money/business. There isn’t real competition so they no longer need to compete(improve programs). Companies are amoral it seems to me will continue to deval programs as they work toward doing what they are supposed to do – Make More Money. I think another valid point to remember is that bloggers are businesses as well and to take their posts with large grains of salt. What gain is there for Gary to bad mouth AA? I’m kind of surprised that Lucky is. I’m a bit new to this but can anyone point out real improvements to programs? Maybe AA rewards they added last year for reaching different levels but other than that?

  40. Spot on. Again, thanks for having the cojones to speak your mind. I agree and this is very upsetting, given that I really trusted them and gave them most of my business even when other airlines had better routing or lower prices. I am seriously trying to figure out whether to go for EXP or not now. If they change the way the systemwides can be used, that will make it much less desirable. I have no trust that they will leave those alone or not make other changes that disrupt how valuable high status currently is with AA.

  41. The three blogs that I read are this one, Brian Kelly’s, and Gary’s.

    – I like Ben’s for the variety and his genuine excitement of new products and friendly voice, but sometimes Ben is a bit too excitable.

    – I like Gary’s for his in-depth experience, but I feel that he is a little too cozy with the industry insiders.

    – I like Brian’s since he is a nice balance of the two, but his blog feels too commercialized. Yes I know all three makes good money from traffic but Brian’s feel more like a business.

    After this whole fiasco, this kinda confirms my feeling for all three:

    – Ben is flipping out by the changes. Sure, we all are, but I think more than a few of us are like “Well. Figures.” and moved on. Ahh, the vigor of youth. I’m too old to be THAT pissed.

    – Gary, after that last “I still trust AA” article, is like I said, too cozy with the industry

    – Brian, on the other hand, haven’t had too much personal commentary. He is still enjoying his EXP and not fueling the flame.

    I guess there is no real point to this. I’ll still read all three, but this whole episode just confirms my feelings and I know how to weigh the commentaries from each.

    As for AA, they are still my primary as there are no other better options. I like them because they seem to be the least customer hostile of the big three, but this is just a nice reminder that they are still a large business and I’m still a nobody. If more people get the DYKWIM mentality out of their head and realize their EXP doesn’t make them any more special than the thousands other EXP out there, everyone can calm the fuck down.

  42. @Gary: Delta has made no-notice changes, yet people still collect Skypesos. The no-notice parts concerning CPUs on Fifth Freedom routes for United struck me as too insignificant to care.

    @abcx: That would be too hard to do! Think about how they’re disrupting your expectations of the travel experience by charging you fewer miles, letting you have stopovers, and giving you back Explorer awards!

  43. Hey @Ben (not lucky),
    Maybe you should calm down. You have the longest post of anyone on here ranting about other people’s blogs. I hope you feel better now.

  44. @abcx insinuates..

    “Gary – how much is AA paying you and how much have you made off commissions from hawking AA and US credit cards in the last year?”

    Zero and zero.

    I have never done any consulting for, acted as a spokesman for or — for avoidance of doubt — taken payment of any kind from American. I am a paying customer, period.

    And I haven’t received any referrals for the American Airlines or US Airways credit cards because the best offers haven’t come with any referral fees. I try to only promote the best offers, so that’s meant 50k and 100k for the American card, 40k or 35k/fee waiver for the US Airways card and not the lesser offers (30k each) for the cards that offer money to me.

    Hopefully that answer satisfies.

  45. I’ve agree with above comment about you are no longer dealing with old AA. When executive management changes with a takeover, expect the business to be ran like how the management team ran the other company. So, we are really dealing with US Airways so expect things to continue forward like how US Airways have always done things.

    As such, I’ll continue to diversify my miles (even Delta, gasp) but credit my elite status with Alaska (and maybe Silver @ United) instead as I fly out of Seattle. As usual, the lesson is “don’t get too attached to one FF program” and “earn and burn”

    To folks who have bee having trouble with CC miles getting credited, I’ve had the same issue for last 4+ months. Finally, I’ve had it and asked Citi to manually credit the miles and they showed up in AAdvantage account next day. So, it looks like the issue is on Citi’s side.

  46. I totally agree with Ben’s interpretation of AA’s actions here. And despite Suzanne Rubin’s attempts to calm the situation, I think these decisions were made over her head, and they were intentional and show management’s philosophy, and she’s just the messenger.

    The changes didn’t need to be rolled out without notice. In fact they must have been made a while ago to get the technology ready to implement them. AA owed its members some advanced notice so they had a last chance to redeem on the old terms.

    I found the letter AA sent out absolutely offensive since it treated me as if I am stupid. It wasn’t honest or forthright in the slightest. I want to do business with a company that respects me and communicates directly, even if it is news I won’t like to hear.

    As for the customer relations comment – well, on the one hand they aren’t trained very well. And on the other hand, it shows you that this was an explicit decision by management to act this way, and they see no need to apologize.

    Doug Parker spoke to the attendees at SMD2. On the one hand, I thought he was remarkably direct and blunt, which I appreciate. On the other hand, he doesn’t have much use for elite members nor the Flyertalk and Milepoint community. So expect more of the same from him. Still interesting that he came to speak to us.

  47. I mean between you and Gary are the most infuential bloggers out there and it doesnt have any affect on AA policies. I dont know if we as an individual can do anything to get AA attention or reaction.

  48. Controversy drives traffic… Fan the flames, get in each other’s face a little. All good for traffic on the site. I agree to some extent with Ben (not Lucky), sans the expletive). Gary is in the bag for AA, no question. I am furious with AA even though I will not be impacted one iota by the changes. It’s the how no the what that makes me angry. Bottom line: I will not leave AA or US Air because they are convenient. I still pay for most of my tickets and award travel is nice perk. If it all goes away will I die? Unless we organize some very specific boycotts that hurt AA financially (they might not care about the customer, but they do care about the bottom line and their bonuses), which we won’t, this will blow over and we will still be flying AA. So this goes into the “nothing I can do about it” column. We don’t have to like it, which is why I have a strong visceral appreciation for Lucky’s bravado. But my living does not come from travel. Thank God!

  49. Hey Suzie… did you get the message? Ben wants to be paid the same as you’re paying Gary. Got that? You can send the check to a hotel in Seattle. Or India. Or Tampa.

  50. Just trying yo understand the new situation here, so, with no explorer award, does it means I can not use my miles for explorer rtw ticket anymore? 🙁

  51. Actually, I do feel better. Everyone is airing their grievance in a public forum, and I did exactly the same. You are not happy about the change and said “American is the new Delta!”. I am not happy about it too, but I’m more annoyed about what (in my personal opinion) an overreaction to this from everyone, so like you, I said my piece, and I felt better. I hope you did too.

    For the record I was not ranting about the blogs. I pointed out what I personally thought are the pros and cons of each. They all provide me valuable info, and return I give them traffic. I find them all to be valuable and I will continue to read them all, and every once in a while, when everyone is worked up, jump in here and vent a little like everyone 🙂

  52. “Trust”?? A company with one of the worst records in airline management? An airline that ran itself into the ground under successive teams? Really, the naivete is astounding.

    Here’s what you can trust, Lucky: that the newly merged AA/US will do whatever it can to raise its profits and value for shareholders. That is what it SHOULD do, but has failed to do for the past two decades (despite your love for their frequent flyer program). You, the passenger, are only the means to profitability and shareholder value. DL has shown how it should be done – good service, worst FF program, biggest profits. Has their crappy SkyMiles program hurt them? I think not.

    Everyone should stop pretending that your loyalty or opinion matters. Where are you gonna go?

  53. Lucky,
    We won’t see any apology from AA, or acknowledgement that, going forward, they realize the importance of advance notice before changes. The reason is that AA knew exactly what they were doing. By devaluing sans notice, they saved money (vs letting people redeem a bunch of award bookings at the old rates). They weighed that cost saving vs their estimate of “lost loyalty” costs, and we all know which cost they consider to be lower.

  54. Yes I do trust the new AA. I trust them to totally screw us over, as much as possible. With the only consideration being how badly can they do it without totally destroying their FF program.

    You and Gary say the worst thing is that they did this devaluation without advance notice. I’ve been saying for months, without much response from anyone, that AA had already done a devaluation. And one without any notice at all.

    In the past, if you wanted 2 premium award seats on an International flight, you had to be flexible on your dates, and work at it fairly skillfully. If so, you would eventually get your flights at the Saver rate.

    3 years ago, you could book a August award flight at the Saver rate in the late Spring. Two years ago that changed, and you had to book it a year in advance. Over the last year, you simply could not book 2 premium TATL award seats on the same flight.

    3 years ago, RT FC TATL cost 125K miles in Saver. Over the last year, needing to go Anytime, it cost 250K miles. An unannounced 50% devaluation. Now with the new Anytime rates, it will cost at least 350K miles, and possibly 430K miles. With a few dates being sky high beyond that.

    Recently, AA sold miles, and as other above have mentioned, has blocked the transfer of Citi cc miles to AA accounts, all the while knowing they were about to spring this on us. Its a Ponzi scheme, where instead of not paying out the promised miles, they devalued them before anyone could redeem them.

    So Yes I do trust the new AA. I trust them to totally screw us over, as much as possible.

  55. I think you’re being generous, Lucky – I now rate them the same as LifeMiles as far as trustworthiness goes!

  56. AA’s actions are simply disrespectful. Loyalty is a virtue that requires mutuality and is not simply a business strategy.

  57. Lucky,

    Thanks for being willing to honestly and constructively criticize the unacceptable behavior by American’s new management. Providing no notice of such drastic award changes is completely unacceptable. When we can have no expectation of when our miles might be greatly devalued without prior notice, how can we realistically plan for award travel?

    I must admit that I have been extremely disappointed in Gary/View from the Wing. I have been a long-time reader of his blog, just as well as yours, and in this instance, he seems to be unwilling to take the courageous stance that you are taking. Thanks again for being willing to do what is right.

  58. The next action will be that AA eVIP’s require a valuable economy booking class (probably V or H) and that the partner chart will be ‘enhanced’ by ~ 20% upwards. I don’t expect much notice under the current circumstances to be honest.

  59. A better question would be – why you such a fool to trust them before? Oh, the credit card referral fees clouded your judgement just a little?

    Anyone who had 2 minutes to search for award space over the past year would easily see that there was already a tremendous (but quiet) devaluation months ago. Yet bloggers – yourself included – continued to say “oh, don’t worry, the limited award inventory must be a temporary thing….sign up now for a 100 mile credit card!”.

    And that was BEFORE this more overt devaluation.

    Everyone who has been gleefully piling up AApesos over the past year – when AA was handing them out in huge buckets – was a sucker. Good luck using those AApesos now.

  60. @ Oddjob — I’ve never earned a dime on a credit card referral for an American Airlines card. Not a dime. The 100K offer isn’t my affiliate link.

  61. Is there any airline we can trust? I am very disappointed with all the customer unfriendly decisions of both Delta and AA but I don’t see how I can dump them. I am based at MSP so for all I hate Delta I am stuck with them. I also have lifetime Gold with AA which after the changes they made this week is close to being worthless. However, if I decide to dump both airlines I may end up traveling by Greyhound. We should never have trusted any airline loyalty program because they are not loyal to their customers. Both Skypesos and DISAAdvantage are only in favor of the airlines and never in favor of the customers.

  62. All of us need to realize the playing field has fundamentally changed relative to how and who we do business with relative to airlines.

    We can decide to concede defeat and *accept* poor service, rude treatment, etc or put our feet where our mouths are and take our wallet share somewhere else or use other methods to amass miles.

    @Santastico – you’re only stuck if you decide you are. Last I checked, AS, UA, AA, B6, WN, Allegiant and Sun Country (I could be missing others) all fly to/from MSP. Don’t know where you typically fly to but bet AS can get you there on the West Coast and B6 on the east coast. Yes, you’ll get there through a connection, but you’ll be giving less or none of your business to DL/UA/AA or doing your part to marginalizing their stronghold on dominating hubs.

    From a financial perspective, the legacies (UA/DL/AA/WN) all get it, and do it well. From a people and customer-service perspective, they clearly do not get it, and thus do it poorly.

    There are a couple of smaller carriers working hard to earn our business, but even then, we have to approach taking our business there cautiously.

  63. There are two reasons you shouldn’t trust the NEW American…ever:

    Doug Parker

    You’ve been warned.

  64. Wow, Gary has been getting torn a new one. A bunch of people on his blog just laid into him too and not just on FT. It was pretty brutal but also real spot on for the most part. Some lady just ripped him up too like all V for Vendetta style or something. it was pretty rad.


    He always sounded like kind of a prick but I never realized that many people thought that too or worse.

    Well, that’s cool cuz Ben (Lucky) is the best anyway. Screw that jerk face Gary.


  65. Ben, I believe you’re on the right side of history and Gary is strangely clueless and out of touch (and now DEFENSIVE). Onemileatatime takes the lead.

  66. Like most people, what was so disappointing was the lack of notice. I posted a very professional response on AA’s Facebook page and adding insult to injury, the people from AA’s FB team used my exact wording in subsequent responses to other posters. Any chance they’ll reconsider due to “overwhelmingly negative public outcry”?

  67. Wait, you literally haven’t set foot on a united plane for years??? Why not?

    And would this make you consider going back to them?

  68. Trust is an interesting concept. I wonder what the airline industry thinks of trusting us… finding every possible way to game the system (sometimes using deception), finding every possible way to avoid fees and lower fares which all result in reducing their profit. I don’t know.. from their shoes… we aren’t exactly a trusting group. We do bring them business.. but it’s not the business they want. If an airline doesn’t keep itself above water financially, there will be no frequent flyer program for any of us to game.. I mean enjoy. An airlines’ job is to get people from point A to B safely. If it accomplishes that… everything else really just a benefit.

    The only trust I have is that in a tightened economy, competitive market and incredible constraints (such as union regulations, fuel costs, etc…) an airline is going to make decisions to keep their planes in the air. People have to fly and points just aren’t that important to most people. I also trust we will continue to find ways to maximize the ever decreasing benefits that are offered.

  69. Well articulated. Completely agree.

    Many readers have also come to realize that Gary may be a bit disingenuous with his take. To be sure, its defensible in some respects because, well he has a vested interest in his position. At the same time, he lost credibility in my opinion, which is equally defensible.

  70. @Jeff Winger,

    Wow, Michelle (comment #60 over there) really let loose.

    While I may or may not agree with some of the critical sentiments voiced over there, that one sort of crossed the line. I hope I never make Michelle mad. 🙂

  71. I have a simple analysis. US Air now runs AA. Devaluing the milage program is the single easiest way to turn a profit. We should be looking at the US Air chart FOR US AIRWAYS FLIGHTS to see where AA will be within a year. The Standard rate into multiple levels is just the beginning. Availability is already quite limited, but just wait. Even without inflating the saver fares, which all will agree are now the cheapest out there, just severely limited saver rates without changing the saver rates is expected. If you had to use US Air miles without the partner chart, they little value

  72. This is not related trust or not trust, nowadays all of us just bank ton of miles by credit card sign up bonus and spending, and then use the frequent flyer programming as the premium cabin redemption machine only, seldom see you guys paying premium cabin by real cash. We are just finding the sweet spot on every frequent flyer program, if we find there a good deal on no matter Alfursan of Saudia or Egyptair plus we will just transfer the exact miles into them (if they are credit card transfer partner) and redeem once time reward ticket on their sweet spot premium cabin route, and then say goodbye to those frequent flyer programme forever. Will you do? I think so, and this is not base on trust or not. We treat those programme just the free ticket machine only. From the others point of view, if I live in Mexico if I want to go Thailand (South Asia) with still cost 90K roundtrip on Business Class travel on AA/CX will you say hello to US Dividend Miles? I think so.

  73. Perhaps now the US Airways/Doug Parker cheerleaders can begin to understand that American is no more! The day the merger went through, American died in everything except name. The corporate culture has changed totally as you can finally begin seeing with these “customer unfriendly” procedures! RIP AA.

  74. @Ben (not lucky) you don’t think my loyalty matters? What about the tens of thousands of dollars in pure profit they made off me in the last 5 years? Oh wait, that was only CEO bonus, that contributed nothing to their success. Just chewing up and spitting out the ones who made them money.

  75. AA is essentially the new US Airways because AA is now runned by US Airways management. Merger should have been blocked, this shit wouldn’t have happened under the previous AA management that was forced out by the merger.

  76. I agree with Lucky and others here. All the changes were bad enough but what puts it over the top was the completely deceptive email — not a word of all the negative changes.

    I could understand if they’d spent 90% of a letter on “good” changes and then snuck all the “bad” stuff in last 10% of the letter but they couldn’t even do that!

    Lastly, while it’s certainly nice that Ms. Rubin was on hand to be interviewed by you and Gary, she came across as completely tone deaf. There’s just no way to spin these changes in a positive way.

    P.S. People need to lay off Gary — just because he’s willing to give slightly more benefit of a doubt than most of us, doesn’t mean he’s in Doug Parker’s pocket.

  77. The response that I got was a good one – basically the agent decided to tell me what they thought I should value:

    Although it is true that the terms and conditions governing the
    AAdvantage program allow changes with or without notice, we prefer to
    provide as much advanced notice as possible. The most recent changes
    were designed to harmonize several policies between our two carriers.
    Making these adjustments quickly ensures that our customers know what to
    expect when traveling on either American Airlines or US Airways, which
    helps them better plan their travel. As such, it was not feasible to
    delay enacting action that bring US Airways and American Airlines even
    closer together.

    Our customers are important to our success, and one of our goals is
    always to provide the best travel experience possible. Given this, we
    have an obligation to our customers and our shareholders to make the new
    American both strong and stable. By doing this, we can continue to
    invest in the things that matter to our customers — that is, our
    technology, people, fleet, network, and loyalty program. The changes
    outlined in our most recent announcement were designed to align the
    policies of our two carriers and to ensure continued success in today’s
    competitive environment.

    We know that necessary change is sometimes difficult at first, we want
    you to know that our ultimate goal is to be the best airline possible
    for our customers, both now and in the future.

    Thank you for participating in the AAdvantage program. We appreciate
    your business.

    What a load of rubbish!

    Good one AA.

  78. 1 or 2 years ago Lufthansa (Miles&More) devaluated their miles without notice from one day to the other. People went to court and won.
    You should all go and fight against AA in court. Good luck!

    Nevertheless AA still has the best intl business class (the new business class) product in the industry going from the US to Europe or South America.

    P.S. I hope the next step will be to take away those stupid credit card bonuses. Miles should be earned for flying – nothing else!!!

  79. I can’t believe all of the childish complaining. AA is in business to maximize their profits – they don’t care about your feelings. We get miles for FREE. Every 50,000 mile sign-up bonus costs the credit card company at least $700. Basically we are traveling on the CC companies dime. so what if they devalue by 20%. What have we paid for the 20%??

    If you need more miles just get more cards.

  80. @ Joel —

    1) In case you missed the point of the post (including the title), the complaint isn’t about the devaluation, but rather about the lack of advance notice.
    2) We don’t get miles for free. There’s a direct opportunity cost. People could be putting their credit card spend on a cashback card.

  81. Agreed on both points, Lucky. Also those of us living elsewhere are lucky to have even half the bonus and earning rates!

  82. @lucky

    “We don’t get miles for free. There’s a direct opportunity cost. People could be putting their credit card spend on a cashback card.”

    I almost posted the exact same thing. Nothing is free. The cost of the points is built into the price of the ticket, the annual fee for the credit card, the purchase of the miles by consumers, the purchase of the miles by the banks offering the cards, etc. The miles and points are never, ever, ever free. And they never will be.

    It’s like when some airlines allow first bag “free.” No, actually, it’s not free, it’s included in the price of the ticket. But that’s a different conversation…

  83. You are assuming that the airline companies care about their customers, especially the ones flying for free using air miles. They give no notice so no one can act quickly and take advantage of possible advanced notice.

    They just don’t care! The miles we get (or cash back) from Credit card companies are paid for by the credit card companies as an incentive for us to run up large monthly balances.

    The more people who sign up for credit cards the more points that are issued, the more airlines try to devalue the points to save themselves money.

    As signup bonuses become more popular (aided by newsletters like yours) the more devaluations we will see. Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy your newsletters and all the work you put into creating them, but I think you know that the future will bring lots more devaluations.

  84. I feel very fortunate to have accumulated 1.3 million miles last year through credit card signup bonuses and credit card shopping malls. The counter the points devaluation the signup bonuses seem to keep getting larger.

    After Hilton’s 40% devaluation they began offering 2500 point bonuses for stays using the Visa Reserve Card. The additional points make up some of the devaluation loss.

  85. Ben, I’ve been reading your blog for years and always enjoy your posts. However, I know you penned this post to answer Gary’s question, but your reaction to AA’s news comes as a bit of a surprise. I don’t fly anywhere as much as you nor do I have as many contacts in the airline industry, but I did work in management for one of the legacy airlines and I’m familiar with the fundamentals of macroeconomics. Here are my thoughts:

    1) There’s a huge oversupply of miles, a problem which was created by the airlines or their holding companies. For a while now, airlines have become addicted to the compensation they receive from credit card companies who give the miles to their cardholders. During the 2001 recession and the 2008 Great Recession, compensation from cc co’s was a huge boon. I don’t have the number handy, but there’s an obscene number of miles issued and only a small fraction are redeemed every year. This extreme abundance of unredeemed miles makes airline execs very uncomfortable and they’re probably actively thinking of ways to make it harder for folks to redeem.

    2) the global economy is relatively strong now. I don’t have any statistics, but it’s fair to say that RPM is higher and that more passengers are paying in dollars, not points, for access to premium cabins. The airlines are rabidly trying to capture as many paid tickets now. You may have been the one to point this out in a previous post, but airlines are protecting their premium paid seats by making it harder or more expensive to redeem miles for the same flights. Frequent devaluations will be the norm. And, AA needs to start seeing a return on investment in all those new C and F seats.

    3) When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised by a big company? Both you and Gary are business-minded, so why did you have such high expectations for AA? As you pointed out, AAdvantage has had multiple screwups. I was surprised that AA didn’t give any advance notice, but not shocked.

    4) One possible explanation for not providing any advance notice is that AAdvantage management believes these changes will only alienate a very small percentage of account holders. Most folks didn’t even know explorer awards existed. I agree that thr follow up emails were deceiving, but most folks don’t even know they’re being duped. The sad thing is, AA will get away with this.

    Sorry this was so long!

  86. @Lucky,
    Can not agree with you more. I will try my best to avoid AA, going forward. AA is ashamded to abuse customers!

  87. Looks like there will be more seats on AA for me. Your complaint should be lodges with CitiBank not AA. They are the ones who probably paid for and gave you the miles as an incentive to getting your credit card business.

  88. AA miles for round trip USA-Hong Kong (HKG)in First Class just jumped from 135,000 to 180,000 miles. 33.33 % jump!
    Similar for other classes.

  89. Why would you have ever “trusted” them in the first place? Youthful naivety or maybe just feeling guilty because you’ve been touting AA ever since UA and DL devalued?

    This is an airline not a charity and it’s now being run by USairways mgmt. So expectations need to be adjusted if you haven’t done that already. The old Aadvantage is gone, just like the old Mileage Plus, Skymiles and RR 1.0. Cash in those miles now because they will be worth much less in the future. Guaranteed.

  90. Remember when UA, as part of its last merger, screwed over their frequent flyers and so many of them got so pissed? AA took great advantage of the situation by offering instant status matches with SWUs. Doing so pissed of a fair number of AA top-tier elites but reportedly netted AA a nice share of former UA top-tier elites.

    I thought AA would have learned from that how important it is to NOT screw over your top-tier elites. As others have said, likely this was a high-level decision that shows the “new AA.”

  91. The fact that, even now, AA has not sent email nor made any official mention of the negative changes speaks volumes. AA is playing us for chumps. I’ve spent a lot of money (my own and my company’s) on AA over the years. For personal trips, I buy business internationally, and first domestically. The DoJ really failed in allowing the merger.

  92. So dissapointed
    I’ve been an American Advantage Airline Member since 1987. I painstakingly paid $75. a year to own a credit card with high interest to earn American Advantage Awards – rationalizing I was earning points toward a free flight.
    Many times I wondered should I switch credit cards and get a percentage of cash returned back to me instead.
    Once we became a two card holder family, we let mine go, but I was assurred by American I wouldn’t lose my miles. Kids came and a buys life – 18 months later of inactivity, wrong email; phone and address – American took my miles away from me without any contact.
    The worst part is, – when I took the time to make repeated phone calls trying to get through high volume msgs and time zone hours of closed offices – finally spoke to someone, and asked for my miles back.
    Their response was, sure if you take a trip and pay $30. we will give them back.

    SO DISSAPOINTED – I guess Customer Service is a thing of the past.

  93. Customer service has nothing to do with it and no reason for a contact…. especially if no way to contact you. AA’s terms clearly show that 18 months of inactivity-even not getting a magazine with miles-will cause loss of miles. // It is news to me that there is a way to get them back.// You were paying high interest?

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