American Airlines and US Airways have become the latest U.S. carriers to make a dramatic shake-up to their frequent-flier programs, instituting new award levels for frequent-flier awards.
As with other changes made recently by Delta and United – the country’s other two big “legacy carriers” – the changes made by merger partners American and US Airways increase the number of miles needed for certain award tickets.
And, mirroring Delta’s changes, the new award charts at American and US Airways will add new redemption levels – adding complexity for fliers figuring out how many miles they’ll need to use for an award ticket.
American and US Airways also changed their bag fee policies, moving to reduce the number of free bags for most customers outside those flying to South America.
As for the frequent-flier changes, they take effect immediately and apply to all award tickets used for itineraries beginning June 1 and after. New award itineraries prior to June 1 will be subject to the previous award-ticket thresholds.
The changes at American appear to be the most complicated. The carrier is keeping its “SAAaver” and AAnytime” award categories, but it’s tweaking the tiers.
There will now be two redemption levels for SAAver tickets – Level 1 and Level 2 – on most routes. Domestic routes, however, will continue to have a single level. On AAnytime routes, American is going to three levels – Level 1, Level 2 and an unusual Level 3. The third level is unusual in that American is not listing what the threshold is, saying only that those awards will be “offered on a few select dates and will require higher number of miles to redeem.”
In a release detailing a broad set of changes, American says those Level 3 awards “will fall on the busiest travel days of the year. On those days, American will offer a higher award redemption option, which will be available starting at 50,000 miles one way.”
US Airways also is adjusting its thresholds, going to four redemption categories – Low, Medium, High Level 1 and High Level 2 – on domestic routes. On international routes, US Airways will now have five redemption levels: Off-peak, Low, Medium, High Level 1 and High Level 2.
Reaction on frequent-flier blogs has been mixed, though most echoed concern about the changes.
“The good news is that the MileSAAver level of awards is not affected from what I’m seeing,” Seth Miller writes on his Wandering Aramean blog. “For those with flexibility and who can search for the cheap award seats that should be comforting. For those who use the AAnytime awards on occasion, however, the news is mixed. AAnytime awards are now split into three tiers and only two of the tiers are published. The third tier is represented on the chart simply as a star with the fine print…”