American Airlines confirms imminent move to dynamic pricing

The senior vice president of revenue management for American Airlines confirmed today, while speaking at the Bernstein’s 35th Annual Strategic Decisions Conference, that American Airlines will soon be moving to a dynamic pricing model.

This is being heavily reported on a number of leading travel blogs, including The Points Guy. Importantly, the move to dynamic pricing may happen as soon as July 31, 2019, so if you are holding onto American Airlines miles, you may want to consider them using right away since dynamic pricing almost always leads to a drastic devaluation of miles/points held.

American Airlines is following in the shoes of Delta and United, the latter just announcing the switch to dynamic pricing in April.

I definitely expected American Airlines to make the switch, but wish they had given customers more time. I absolutely love their current business class redemption rates to Asia (I was recently able to score a 70,000 point business class ticket on Qatar Airways, in their QSuite), which I’ve found to be one of the best deals around.

For now, we’ll have to wait and see what these awards will look like after they make the move. But I’m not at all optimistic.

American Airlines keeps getting worse and worse

Less than 2 years ago, I held Gold elite status on American Airlines, despite being based in a non-American hub (San Francisco).

Flash-forward to today, where I’ve not only gotten rid of my American status, but I’ve also canceled two of my American Airlines co-branded credit cards and where I’m actively avoiding the airline.

Why? Well, a few reasons.

The first was American Airlines eliminating its partnership with Alaska Airlines. While I totally understand that this happens, my issue here was that American Airlines announced the change in July 2017, which was a big deal to me, since I had already spent 7 months earning miles on Alaska Airlines (I was going for status on Alaska with my American flights because, up until American cutting the partnership, status on Alaska was basically the same as having as status on American, and vice versa).

Another reason is that customer service on American Airlines has gone completely downhill. One of my favorite travel bloggers, Lucky at One Mile at a Time, has written a ton of blog posts about this (and so have many others in the travel blogging community). If you don’t have status and end up needing to call American, except to speak to someone who is completely unfriendly, unhelpful, and trying to get you off the phone completely.

Third, American Airlines award available has quite recently turned to crap. I had 140,000 miles to use and couldn’t find reasonable routing to Europe or South America over the last 2 years (which I know is such an awesome problem to have, but it’s still an issue). If you want to book something using miles with American, particularly if it’s a “Saver” route, expect to be routed to 2-3 different airports, even if there are more direct flights generally available. Also, when you try to book business class, you’ll often get a mixed cabin award, with the longest flight actually being in economy (so, for instance, I wanted to book a business class flight between SFO and Sydney, and while the rate they wanted to charge me was full-fare business class, only the flight between LAX and SFO was in business, and the flight from LAX to Sydney was in coach).

Finally, American Airlines has completely slashed its credit card benefits and has made it almost impossible for travelers like myself (who find awesome deals) to get anything above Gold status. They even eliminated the ability to earn EQD through their famous Red Aviator card.

Just 2 years ago, I would have ranked American Airlines as the 3rd best in the U.S. (below Alaska/Virgin and Delta). Now, I rank it 6th, below Alaska, Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest.

American Airlines limits EQD waiver through Barclaycard

In recent years, Delta, United, and American have instituted a rule that in order to qualify for elite status, you need to spend a certain amount of money on flights through the airline. American Airlines calls these Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD).

Below is a chart for how to qualify for American elite status:

American Elite

So, for example, if you wanted to earn Platinum status, you would need to fly either 50,000 miles or 60 segments and you would need to spend $6,000 EQD’s.

The EQD requirement is a major hassle for travelers like myself who are able to amass this much travel by spending very little (I’ll get 50,000 miles on United this year with EQD’s of around $1,200).

But, luckily, all three airlines (Delta, American, and United) had a workaround — if you spend at least $25,000 on a co-branded credit card, the EQD requirement would be waived until at least the third-highest-level status (Platinum Pro on American and Platinum on United).

I’m trying to decide if I want to keep my American Airline Barclaycard, so was looking at the benefits and noticed a major change from American: now, if you spend $25,000 on the Barclaycard, you will only be given an EQD of $3,000 (enough for the lowest Gold status), but nothing more.

American sucks

This is a disappointing move from American and will make it so many loyal American customers will no longer be able to obtain status above Gold.

I’m still going to keep the card because of 3 other benefits that it offers: priority boarding, 10% back on miles spent on award flights, and great award travel availability. But my fear is that those benefits may disappear in the coming months as well.

Will American slashing the EQD waiver on the Barclaycard affect you? Let me know in the comments!

NAACP issues travel advisory for American Airlines

Citing a “pattern of disturbing incidents,” the NAACP is warning African Americans not to fly on American Airlines.

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the press release said. “Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The organization then gave an account of four incidents which “suggest[ ] racial bias,” according to NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. An account of these incidents can be found here.

For a full write-up on this developing story, check out the NY Daily News.

Portland Trip Deal: $271 round-trip from PDX to Quito, Ecuador on American Airlines

American Airlines is putting flights from Portland, Oregon to Quito, Ecuador on sale! Flights start at $271 round-trip, after taxes with availability in September and October 2017.

This is an incredible deal to South America and if you’re thinking of going, this deal won’t last long!

To find this deal, use Kiwi.com or Google Flights and search for flights between PDX and UIO.

Alaska Airlines slashing elite status and earning benefits with American Airlines

Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines ended its partnership with Delta. Today, the airline announced that its partnership with American Airlines would be changed dramatically beginning January 1, 2018. A great guide to the change in benefits can be found here.

If you regularly read Josh Trips, you know that I’ve been trying to status on Alaska Airlines this year based on the merger with Virgin America and the partnership with American Airlines. In fact, I am currently an American Airlines elite Gold member, and I was working to trade that for Alaska elite membership this year.

The most striking change, for me, is that you will no longer receive elite benefits when traveling on American Airlines if you are an Alaska Airlines elite member – something I relied on while going for status with Alaska.

Some other bad news? Alaska is devaluing the value of its award miles. See below for an updated chart:

Alaska updated reward chart

Although some routes have the miles required dropping, most routes are going up (some, significantly).

I think it’s pretty shady for Alaska and American to be announcing this change in July, when over half the year has passed and customers have made flying decisions based on the partnership. I called Alaska to express my concern about this, and how I never would have flown Alaska (or, at least, would have credited those miles towards American) if I had known about this, and the customer service representative accused me of being “sneaky,” saying that’s never how they intended their elite program to be used. I found this comment to be pretty rude and offensive, and after a bunch of complaining, was credited with $75 miles towards a future flight.

I asked for help getting my Alaska flights this year credited to American instead, but was told it’s too late.

With this change, I am officially (and again) stopping my quest for status on Alaska and will end up without status on American next year as well.

Will the change in American and Alaska’s partnership effect you? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

How I scored a lie-flat bed on American Airlines for $106.20

Did you know that American Airlines uses lie-flat bad in its first class between New York City (JFK) and Miami?

When I was looking at booking a flight between these cities, American Airlines has the best deal, coming in at $106.20 after taxes for June travel. When I went to pick a seat, I noticed that the plane had lie-flat beds (notably, the flight on American leaving later in the day did not), and decided that I would request a 500-mile upgrade for the flight.

For those who don’t know, American Airlines has a unique feature where, once you obtain premier status on the airline, you’re given around 500-mile upgrades to use for future flights (with Gold, I was given 10). For each 500 miles that you fly, you need to use 1 of your 500-miles upgrades. If you want to purchase more upgrades, it costs $40 for each one.

I generally like this system, as it makes it so you only request an upgrade when it’s most beneficial to you – and I’ve found I’m much more likely to get a 500-mile upgrade when I use it, compared to complimentary upgrades on United, where I also have status.

Unfortunately, the flying distance between JFK and MIA is 1,090, meaning it cost 3 500-mile upgrades (if it was just 90 miles less, it would have been 2!). Still, I decided to try for the upgrade because of the flat bed.

The flight was fairly empty, and I got confirmed for my upgrade at check-in. Because I’ve yet to go through all 10 500-mile upgrades (and I’ve upgraded on 3 flights now, including Turks & Caicos to Charlotte), I was able to score a flat bed for cheap!

The flight wasn’t particularly amazing, but, despite the short flight time, I actually used the bed and took a nap. Since I doubt I’ll maintain my American status, the good news is that the flight was around $300 to book directly for the flat bed; which, although not ideal, isn’t totally unreasonable.