Overnight American Airlines announced a range of program changes to AAdvantage, and published their new award charts for redemptions for bookings from March 22nd, 2016. They also announced new AAdvantage mile earn rates based on fare revenue.

The cost in miles of travel to and from most regions increases by at least 30% in Business Class. Some of the key routes for Australians and New Zealanders aren’t changed too much, while other routes increase dramatically.

Given AAdvantage’s aggressive selling of miles of late, you may be impacted to varying degrees if you’re sitting on an AAdvantage balance (like me).

Many US bloggers are going a bit nuts (with some justification) over the changes, although most people who had kept informed on the goings on in the loyalty world knew this was coming.

Complaining about it now seems like having a bit of a whinge over the inevitable, to be honest – however some changes are maybe more dramatic than you’d hope for.

Personally, I’m pleased that the Asia Business Class redemption pricing out of Australia is relatively unchanged. This is a key target route for redemptions for many. Heading further afield to Europe or the US and the cost changes are much more marked.

I won’t cover the mileage earn side of the changes as that’s only relevant for a small slice of Australian frequent flyers, and those changes are discussed in a far more informed manner on many other US-based sites.

What are the most relevant changes for Australian travellers?

There are now two sets of award charts for AAdvantage redemptions

  1. One for bookings made up until March 22nd, for travel on American, or travel on partner airlines
  2. Another for bookings made after March 22nd, for travel on American, or travel on partner airlines

American’s charts are zone-based, and priced by originating region (where you start your flight).

To keep things as simple and relevant as possible, I’ll only look at the changes for Australia to/from other regions, and for the partner award chart.

You can click through to see the full changes in the two sets of award charts above if you have a specific change you want to look at outside of these.

I’ve reworked the numbers to look at the changes between the old and new charts for flights from Australia, below.

All costs in the following tables are for one way flights.

Destination RegionEconomy (current)Economy (2016)Business (current)Business (2016)First (current)First (2016)
Contiguous 48 U.S. states ^3750040000625008000072500110000
Canada and Alaska^3750042500625008250072500112500
Central America^4000045000650008250075000112500
South America Region 1^4000045000650008250075000112500
South America Region 2^3750045000500008250075000112500
Middle East / Indian Subcontinent3000042500450008000060000100000
Asia Region 1300003000045000400006000060000
Asia Region 2250003000035000400004500050000
South Pacific2000015000300003000042500
Fiji (internal)750050001250010000
Australia (domestic)10000100001750020000
New Zealand (domestic)10000removed17500removed
Australia - New Zealand10000150001750025000

Digging into Business Class, here’s the difference along with the % change:

Destination RegionBusiness (current)Business (2016)Difference% Change
Contiguous 48 U.S. states ^62500800001750028%
Canada and Alaska^62500825002000032%
Central America^65000825001750027%
South America Region 1^65000825001750027%
South America Region 2^50000825003250065%
Middle East / Indian Subcontinent45000800003500078%
Asia Region 14500040000-5000-11%
Asia Region 23500040000500014%
South Pacific300003000000
Fiji (internal)1250010000-2500-20%
Australia (domestic)1750020000250014%
New Zealand (domestic)17500removed
Australia - New Zealand1750025000750043%

And the same for First Class:

Destination RegionFirst (current)First (2016)Difference% Change
Contiguous 48 U.S. states ^725001100003750052%
Canada and Alaska^725001125004000055%
Central America^750001125003750050%
South America Region 1^750001125003750050%
South America Region 2^750001125003750050%
Middle East / Indian Subcontinent600001000004000067%
Asia Region 1600006000000%
Asia Region 24500050000500011%

And then the relative change in miles cost between the old and the new pricing, for First & Business Class:

Destination RegionBusiness Class % IncreaseFirst Class % Increase
Contiguous 48 U.S. states ^28%52%
Canada and Alaska^32%55%
Central America^27%50%
South America Region 1^27%50%
South America Region 2^65%50%
Middle East / Indian Subcontinent78%67%
Asia Region 1-11%0%
Asia Region 214%11%
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The key changes for travel from Australia…

The good, or minimally affected:

  • Australian domestic goes up from 17,500 miles to 20,000 miles in Business Class
  • Australia to Asia Region 1 and Region 2 are normalised to the same price in Business Class – 40,000 miles, an increase of 5,000 miles for Asia Region 2 and a reduction of 5,000 miles to Asia Region 1
  • Australia to Hawaii in Business Class increases by 2,500 miles only, not that it’s easy to find award space with Qantas
  • There’s no change for Asia Zone 1 in First, and an increase of 5,000 miles for Asia Zone 2
  • There’s no change to the South Pacific region, meaning flights to Fiji or The Pacific Islands more generally are left alone

The bad, for Business Class:

  • Australia to NZ goes up from 17,500 to 25,000 miles. I can understand this for Perth – NZ flights, but for East Coast to NZ, this is bad.
  • Australia – Middle East/India increases by over 75%
  • Australia – Europe increases by over 40%
  • Australia – USA, Canada, Carribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America Region 1, increase by around 50%

Most changes are generally much, much worse for First Class redemptions.

Finally, for Etihad redemption options to the US and Europe, which required combining costs between Australia and the Middle East, the changes look like this:

Old (current) prices –

  • Australia – Middle East is 45,000 miles in Business, 60,000 miles in First
  • Middle East – Europe is 30,000 in Business, 40,000 in First
  • Middle East to USA – is 67,500 in Business, 90,000 in First
  • Total cost for Australia to Europe with Etihad is 75,000 in Business, 100,000 in First
  • Total cost for Australia to USA with Etihad is 112,500 in Business, 150,000 in First

New prices –

  • Australia – Middle East will be 80,000 miles in Business, 100,000 miles in First
  • Middle East – Europe will be 42,500 in Business, 62,500 in First
  • Middle East to USA – will be 70,00 in Business, 115,000 in First
  • Total cost for Australia to Europe with Etihad is now going to be 122,500 in Business, 162,500 in First
  • Total cost for Australia to USA with Etihad is 150,000 in Business, 215,000 in First

These are some pretty massive increases – American must have seen the costs they were incurring on these routes with Etihad (the only partner that needs pricing between these zones to be combined), and adjusted pricing accordingly.

What should you do if you have an existing balance?

First – there’s no need to ‘PANIC’. The changes aren’t going live for bookings until late March.

But I’d maybe say panic a little less strongly, as many members will immediately try and burn their stash of miles to get the most out of their balances before the changes hit. You should consider doing the same.

  • If you definitely want to use your miles within Australia / NZ or to Asia, I’d say you probably don’t NEED to do anything right now. The increases are small, and if you’re dates aren’t firm, any change fees incurred (if you need to make a change) by booking hurriedly will eat up any saving in miles you’ll make by booking immediately.
  • If you had a specific use and dates in mind for your miles beyond travel to/from Asia, get researching award space.
  • If you thought you’d strongly like to use them for travel beyond Asia, firm up your dates, and start looking for award space.
  • If you can’t find award space, draught in some professionals to help manage your search, or consider alternative uses for the miles.

Summing up

Another day, another change in the world of points and miles. There will, inevitably, be a few people with a significant points balance impacted by these changes who will need to get redeeming to avoid the largest price hikes.

Generally for some of the major routes originating in Australia, the AAdvantage pricing changes could have been worse – at least the Asia Business Class and Domestic Australia options weren’t affected, and remain fairly good value. The price increases to the Middle East and Europe though are particularly acute.

AAdvantage announces award chart changes for March 2016 onward – Australia gets off a bit lightly, other regions cop it was last modified: November 24th, 2015 by Keith