This morning American Airlines and US Airways made sweeping changes to their respective loyalty programs but only announced a few of the changes spun as positive changes in their press releases. However they made many other negative changes that appear to have been intentionally omitted from the announcement resulting in an outpouring of customer wrath via social media channels.
The press released basically only mentioned changes to the checked baggage policy and creation of a 3 tier system for AAnytime Awards. While this was big change it did not appear to be as massive as the changes actually are.
To me this shows a complete lack of respect and tact on behalf of the American team. It almost appears as if American was trying to sneak many of the negative changes in without many customers noticing. Then to top it off, the changes are effective immediately today, April 8th giving loyal customers no notice at all.
So what exactly is changing?
1. Oneworld Explorer Awards Eliminated – effective immediately AA’s round the world tickets known as Explorer Awards are no longer available for booking. If you have been saving up for one, well… tough luck. American is not even giving you a chance to book before the discontinuation.
2. Stopovers eliminated on international award tickets – again effective immediately you will no longer be able to add a stopover in the gateway city on international award bookings. This translated into a free one-way award that could be tacked onto a round trip ticket.
3. AAnytime Awards now have 3 tiers – For travel starting June 1, 2014 the old flat rate anytime rewards will be replaced with a 3 tier chart with level 1 redemption’s actually going down in cost to as little as 20,000 miles one-way w/in the lower 48 states. However, the level 2 and level 3 rates significant increases. In fact, as of now American is not even releasing the rates for level 3 redemption’s claiming the exact amounts are yet undetermined. I would assume that this new level 3 will apply to dates that US Air previously had as blackout dates now that the 2 programs are falling in line.
I did do some dummy searches just to see what the 3 tier availability looked like and from the few searches I did, the lower rate level 1 appeared to be available about 75% of the time with the increased level 2 accounting for the other 25%. This actually amounts to savings for those who actually redeem for AAnytime Awards. Although I do not use AAnytime awards it was still nice to see most rates showing at the new lower level 1.
4. MileSAAver Awards are NOT changing – It is worth mentioning that the best rates are not being touched at the present time. The current regular SAAver rates along with the seasonal off-peak awards will stay at their current rates… for now.
5. No more Blackout dates for US Airways – Although the blackout dates will be lifted you will likely be doling out a large pile of miles to redeem on those dates. These previously blacked out dates will likely be the level 3 awards on the AAnytime award chart.
6. Free checked back for US Airways MasterCard holders – Those who hold any version of this card with at least a $79 annual fee will receive their first checked back free along with that of up to 4 traveling companions.
7. US Airways eliminates US to North Asia sweet spot – A major sweet spot in the US Airways award chart was the US to North Asia business class saver award for only 90,000 miles. While we all knew it was coming it is still a bummer to see it go. These awards will now require 110,000 miles to book.
8. Baggage Changes – AAdvantage Gold, Dividend Miles Platinum and Gold will all have their free baggage allowances reduced by one bag. – The free checked back between the US and Mexico/Caribbean/ & Central America is eliminated. Expect to pay for each bag starting at $25 for the 1st bag.
Other minor changes were made as well and I hope the American team at least has the decency to be upfront and honest with us giving us full disclosure and not hiding major changes from us.
As far as the changes themselves, I don’t like them obviously. But thankfully they don’t have much of an effect on me as I only redeem for saver level awards which are not being impacted. The oneworld Explorer Award was cool and a great value but with 4 kids at home there was zero chance that I was going to be able to use that in the next decade.
Now we just have to wait and see what other changes are still coming and see if American decides to be a little more tactful with future changes. So what are your thoughts overall? Do you agree that this was poorly executed? What changes are going to impact you most?