Big Changes Ahead: American Airlines Vows To Shake Up Partner Rewards

During the American Airlines fourth quarter earnings call, Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja said that customers would soon earn miles differently whether they book directly with American versus through a third party.

I had shared that this was coming a month ago, and also noted several other changes that were in the works that weren’t announced as part of 2024 program upgrades.

One of those is changes is redemption price changes for partner awards. American eliminated their ‘saver’ and ‘anytime’ award charts last year for flights on their own aircraft. Basically that means all of their awards for travel solely on American are now dynamically priced (what used to be called web specials). They did publish an award chart showing ‘starting at’ pricing but actual prices don’t seem to be reflected by that chart at all.

Cathay Pacific First Class On An AAdvantage Redemption

At the time they did not make any changes to how partner awards (and awards that include both American Airlines and partner airlines) work at all. That requires changes to contracts with their airline partners.

Raja shared last month on the American Airlines employee podcast that “We’re going to make redemption cheaper and higher volume.. than ever before, not just on us but on our partners.” This sounded like he’s saying partner redemption will follow the model they’ve laid out for American Airlines award travel pricing.

While this wasn’t included in the 2024 program change announcement, there’s no reason it has to be. That was an update to how status and benefits work, and American might make changes to redemption at any time.

Vasu Raja doubled down on saying that partner price changes are coming in his presentation to employees at the airline’s “State of the Union” following its fourth quarter earnings call this past week, a recording of which was reviewed by View From The Wing.

Etihad First Apartment Cabin On An AAdvantage Redemption

He explained that not only are oneworld alliance upgrades coming to the AAdvantage program, but partner award pricing is coming as well.

We’re going to make it really easy for people to become our best customers by giving more miles when they go shop with us directly. We’re going to make it more rewarding to become our customer. Miles will go farther. We are able to go do things where people are able to get upgrades on other partners, redemption at a level that they’ve never seen before which will make it more attractive.

We don’t know when these changes or coming, or what exactly they will look like, but Raja’s December mention of partner award pricing changes was clearly not an aberration. He frames this as a positive for customers, but that’s no different than the framing on changes to pricing of American’s awards for their own flights and those haven’t been better for customers. It’s now a lot cheaper to redeem travel on American Airlines using miles from partner airlines rather than using American’s own miles.

Qantas First Class On An AAdvantage Redemption

The best value in the AAdvantage program is using miles to travel on partner airlines in premium cabins. Business class to Europe is 57,500 miles each way, Japan 60,000, and India and the Maldives 70,000. Changes here are unlikely to be positive.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is it currently possible to book a partner business class award ticket to Asia? I was looking to do so in the Alaska program, and I gave up. There are too few seats for too many passengers now on those routes, and — from my experience — award availability is slim to none. Even finding coach award seats is challenging.

  2. Let me guess…these changes are for the benefit of the customer and will provide an elevated experience.

  3. @David: You said, “these changes are for the benefit of the customer and will provide an elevated experience.”

    These changes are why American Airlines is my premiere airline of choice for their flight excellence in worldwide travel.

  4. @gary “ best value in the AAdvantage program is using miles to travel on partner airlines in premium cabins. Business class to Europe is 57,500 miles each way”

    British Airways charges outrageous fees for the award fees, so using AA miles for flights to/from Europe is not a good value at all.

  5. At the moment, I value AA miles more than other airline mileage currencies, but I guess it won’t last…

  6. Business class to Europe is 57,500 when you can find it. Usually its British Airways with 700.00 a ticket in fuel surcharges. I have redeemed alot of AA miles in recent years after going through a long drought. My goto are AA and United. I have done well on United usually once every year or two for a big trip. I have not redeemed a mile on Delta in years. I used to find some sweet spots.

  7. I don’t buy it. In this world change is not good. Airlines will tell you devals are “enhancements to simplify your experience” after all. I’ll burn my AA miles sooner rather than later.

  8. So yet another in a string of articles in which the headlines promises news and then the article is just speculation based on a single quote from Vasu…. yawn. Wake me up when there’s actu

  9. @Bob – it is not ‘a single quote’ it is Vasu saying this is coming in December and repeating it in January.

    It’s important to know it’s coming because it influences how members decide to accrual their miles – and when they decide to spend them.

  10. Here is what I can share about AA changes in the past couple of years now that it is easier to earn status with miles. My spending on AA cards has increased from an average of $40,000 a year to more than $150,000 a year—my spend on the United card since they eliminated 1.5 miles per Dollar has dropped from an average of $10,000 a month to maybe an average of $1,000 a month. My spend on Hyatt has increased significantly in the past two years.

  11. Get in line for another devaluation. Of course to be followed by a jump in the number of miles for the sign-up-and-use-bonus for a new AA credit card.

    Probably just a matter of time until Citi TYP are again convertible to AA miles.

  12. Partner redemptions are the last worthwhile aspect of Aadvantage. Once they kill that, I’m well and truly done. To a large extent this part of the program has already been gutted – 2 weeks ago I couldn’t find a single J seat on CX or JL available for redemption on Aadvantage from JFK to Asia through the end of the schedule, and of course we’ve never been able to redeem to Asia through the middle east on Qatar or Etihad despite the fact that its the shortest route to many destinations from the East Coast.

  13. Get ready for 500k skypesos….errr AA miles to Europe!

    I wonder how much longer the over-inflated US3 will even pretend to offer partner awards.
    When you manufacture so many miles (credit cards, obscene dollar-based earnings for OPM flyers), the inflation was bound to catch up with unsustainable pricing like 70k in biz to Africa.

  14. Constant tinkering, almost always negative.

    When will someone create an app so members can enter the time they spend on all this and the benefits received. The hourly return would surprise many.

    « Free travel ».

  15. Well they better do something about the outrageous number of miles they are now charging for first class awards. Flights from the west coast to the east coast are now generally priced at 100,000 miles one-way unless you take an overnight flight. That is ridiculous and is just a recent change.

  16. @gary Business class to Japan for 60,000 AA? Where do you see that now?
    It’s long been gone, with awards from the East coast is even more devalued at 80,000 miles. And good luck finding JAL flights at this level, with most AA metal awards cost 2-3 times of that.

  17. Thanks, but no thanks AA, on any given day try to book a flight to Europe without paying a ridiculous fuel surcharge on a partner and zero available seats on AA metal.

  18. @Jean-Luc —> Simply presented in the FWIW mode…

    Just last week I booked a flight using American AAdvantage miles: FCO-LHR-JFK for 57,500 miles in Business. The first leg was on BA; the second on AA. Certainly AA is not the greatest in J across the Atlantic, but for 57.5k…and my total cash out-of-pocket was only $96.80 (USD)

  19. I have been with aa advantage since it started, it continually gets worse. I want to scream when the flight attendants try to push the aviator card by saying you get 40,000 miles which is like a free flight….yes, if you connect 3 times and arrive at night on a domestic flight. I do not say anything as I know they get $50 for every app that a person fills out, and they work hard for the jobs, I am
    up to almost 4 million ff miles on aa, which will get me about 5 flights, compared to 40 intl biz flights in the past. AA, I will forsake EASIER if you go back to how it used to be .

  20. @Jason Brandt Lewis That was an excellent deal! Unfortunately it’s fairly uncommon. For example, I’m looking to book flights from Eastern Europe to Boston, seven months from now, and there’s no partner availability. Same for November flights from Italy to Boston. Also, in your case, you will be flying AA across the Atlantic, that’s why the taxes are very reasonable. If it was BA, they’d have asked for $300-400 if leaving from Europe, and a lot more ($1000 ?) if leaving from USA.

    Gary, I agree with you that AA can provide excellent value for partner awards, esp. for Asia, Middle East etc. Not Europe, in my experience. I live in Boston and the availability on AA for Iberia flights to/from Europe is very poor. BA is the same and they charge enormous fees, as you know very well. Finnair doesn’t fly to BOS.

  21. It was a running joke for the last few years that whenever Qantas announced some screw-over of their FrequentFlyer customers as an “enhancement” it was always quite the opposite.
    Other airlines. coming late to the game, seized on this to dress up their own deceptions and bad news.
    Due to widespread public derision this chimera seems to have been shown the door in 2024. Good riddance!

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