Should You Redeem Your Avios on American Airlines Flights ASAP?

As Nancy has mentioned last Friday, it was announced that in a near future AAdvantage program will undergo some significant changes. I imagine that our readers will mostly care about the redemption side, AKA removal of sAAver-level awards. As of now, it will only affect American-operated flights, which makes sense. After all, it would be very hard to implement variable pricing on partner redemptions.

If you have a stash of AAdvantage miles, I don’t think you should significantly adjust your travel plans due to this announcement. In reality, most American flights are already priced dynamically these days, and Web Specials are often cheaper than what you would find via sAAver-level pricing. I’m not saying you should hoard your miles, of course. In the long run, they will likely lose value.

Naturally, if you’ve been planning to redeem your AAdvantage stash towards JAL business class to Japan, you should do so sooner rather than later. I doubt that 60k pricing will stick around indefinitely. But that was already true before this latest announcement. The same goes for flights to Africa on partners like Qatar.

But as far as American-operated flights go, this is a non-event IMO. What you should be concerned about is Avios and other programs that partner with American Airlines. I suspect that our readers are mostly familiar with British Airways Avios due to its favorable pricing on short-haul flights in the US. So, lets focus on that program in this post, though the same principles apply elsewhere.

As of now, we don’t know how the American Airlines award seats will be handled by Avios program

And that’s the problem. The AAdvantage announcement didn’t address this issue and I doubt that they will. In all likelihood, some American award seats will be released via Avios, just enough to say that the partnership is alive and well. But I suspect those will be few and far in between.

In reality, American/British Airways mileage partnership has always been kind of fragile. I’m saying this as someone who has been redeeming Avios for 12 years. In this span of time, there were periods when all American Airlines award seats would suddenly disappear from British Airways website, despite sAAver availability on AA.com These periods would sometimes last for several months or longer, and calling British Airways would accomplish nothing. Also, redeeming Avios on connecting AA flights would often be hit or miss, though calling would usually solve the issue.

So, my point is, hoarding Avios with the sole idea of using them on American flights was never a good idea to begin with. But it’s even less so now.

Again, we don’t know how easy it will be to find seats on American flights via Avios program, but United does give us a clue. You may have noticed that ever since it started variable award pricing, low-level awards all but dried up. As a result, it’s very hard to redeem Lifemiles on United-operated flights, especially within the US. I don’t expect American/British Airways situation to be any better.

Personally, I’ve been trying to burn my Avios even before this latest announcement. I’m happy to have booked American flights from Miami to Liberia, Costa Rica at 18k Avios per person. This is a tremendous value, since the same revenue flights run at $800. This example is a reason why in the past I was willing to speculatively transfer Amex MR points to Avios via 40% bonus.

I was also shocked to find sAAver award availability from Orlando to LAX, and used Avios for that flight at 13k points per person. Going forward, these type of redemptions will likely be much harder to find. That’s why if you only intend to use your Avios on AA flights, my advice is to redeem them soon if at all possible. You can always cancel the award and lose only $5 on domestic itineraries.

Other good uses for Avios points that are here to stay… for now

Of course, BA/AA partnership is not the only game in town. Over the years, I’ve gotten a ton of value by redeeming Avios on other Oneworld airlines. When my husband and I went on our South Pacific adventure in 2018, I used Avios on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney at 4,500 points per person, with no fuel surcharges. It now costs 6k Avios, which is still a decent deal. I’ve also booked a flight from Auckland (NZ) to Melbourne for only 10k Avios (now costs 11k), also a very good value. Those awards are easily bookable on BA.com, so if you plan to visit Australia and New Zealand in the near future, you should keep them in mind.

Another decent option is redeeming Avios on flights within Japan, which don’t have fuel surcharges. I’ve just booked a flight from Hiroshima to Tokyo for 7,500 points+$2 per person. To be sure, United program is technically a better deal on this route, since ANA flights cost 5.5k miles. But I’ve decided to burn my Avios stash instead, since United program is far more valuable to me in general.

Also not to be ignored are British Airways flights within Europe or even to US. While the latter come with hefty fuel surcharges, I’m still planning to go this route. The fact that it’s now possible to use more Avios to offset the fuel surcharges, is actually a positive development for my situation. However, as I wrote in the post last week, make no mistake, it’s an overall devaluation, especially for economy flyers. I’m not sure why this is ignored in the blogosphere.

Final thoughts

Despite some obvious value that Avios points still present, I’m currently bearish on the program. It’s still useful in certain situations, but finding “unicorn” redemptions is getting harder and harder. And fuel surcharges on some partners like JAL (except for domestic Japan flights) basically kill the deal. Redeeming points on BA flights can still make sense, especially if you are flying from (not to) London, but even then Virgin Atlantic program is almost always a superior choice.

And now with the potential decrease of AA availability, Avios program will likely become even less compelling. Think twice before transferring your points speculatively.

How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.

 

 

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