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Question 562

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by Mark Levitt, Jan 29, 2015.

  1. Mark Levitt

    Mark Levitt Reader

    Dear Lucky:

    It was front-page news in Wednesday's Dallas Morning News that American has emerged from bankruptcy to become the largest, most profitable airline in the industry. Now would you kindly examine how they've recently robbed their best customers overnight? I'm talking about the sudden, drastic devaluation of American's frequent flier mileage.

    Without any forewarning, the airline named after our nation has grayed out (read: made unavailable) their "MilesSAAver" fares for months and months on end. In fact, two of their agents and one of their managers proved unable to find A SINGLE MilesSAAver redemption available for a DFW-Tokyo itinerary. Not for December, November, October, or September. August was even less worthwhile to check, they explained, since that's a still busier time. Meanwhile their sales agents on the telephone feign incredulity: "Keep checking back, sir; some MilesSAAver seats could open up."

    Many loyal CitiCard users are accumulating one American mile per dollar they spend on their credit cards. They dream of flying internationally for redemptions of 125,000 miles (First Class), 100,000 miles (Business Class), 65,000 (Coach Class), or 50,000 (off-season Coach Class). Unfortunately they will wake up to the cruel reality that only AAnytime Awards (costing at least twice as much mileage as MilesSAAver) are available.

    To verify for yourself, just check online or challenge some of American's telephone sales reps to find you ANY ways to redeem miles for international flights on a MilesSAAver award or with a miles/dollars upgrade. Fliers hoping to upgrade from a purchased Coach Class seat, I discovered, experience similar unavailability.

    On American's Facebook page at, Jim Justice objected to similar tactics with domestic flights: "You really more than doubled the amount of miles to claim a business/first award ticket? I have been flying AA for almost 30 years! No more! You obviously do not value your customers."

    American's reply on Facebook sings the same company line that I heard repeatedly: "We have different award levels for different times of the year, Jim. We're sorry for your disappointment. We hope to see you flying with us again." But they're not not sorry enough, of course, to undo their scammy, disappointing slight-of-hand.

    Jim did some across-the-board checking similar to mine and posted this follow-up inquiry: "I checked from April to October and could not find a MileSAAver award for PVG to NYC. What time of year is available?" American's public relations wordsmiths have yet to answer Jim's question, perhaps because MileSAAver awards have become extinct.

    Isn't it deceptive marketing for American to continue showing their perpetually greyed out MilesSAAver award columns? Why don't they just come clean and declare that they've cleverly slashed their balance sheet's liability for billions of unredeemed miles?

    I appreciated the dismay you expressed in your April 2014 article entitled, "American and U.S. Airways Award Program Changes Without Notice." You observed: "The way these changes have been handled is even sleazier than anything Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus has done in the past year ... and that takes hard work!" Your complaint then was that they "raised the cost of [AAnytime] awards from double the cost of a [MileSAAver] award to in some cases almost triple the cost of a saver award." What do you have to say now that American has made it all but impossible to even get a saver award?!

    Last December, my wife flew First Class Dallas-Tokyo-Dallas for 125,000 miles with a MilesSAAver award. This year she'd have to spend 400,000 miles (3.2 times as many!) for the same trip since only the AAnytime Award is available. Before American's mileage devaluation maneuver, a Business Class Dallas-Tokyo-Dallas trip would have cost 100,000 miles. This year, the AAnytime Award would cost 310,000 miles (3.1 times as many!). Roundtrip coach seats would cost 50,000, but only connecting flights are available. Unlike before, only AAnytime awards work for direct flights in coach--to the tune of 160,000 miles (3.2 times as many!). Now my wife and I are evaluating whether to trash our Citibank-American credit cards and switch to ones that offer cash rebates.

    Since 2009, Dave Carroll's hilarious YouTube video "United Breaks Guitars" has garnered more than 14.5 million hits. I adore his refrain: "Some big help you are ... I should have flown with someone else or gone by car." Now maybe he should produce a follow-up music video: "American Breaks Hearts."

    Best regards,
    Mark Levitt

    P.S. On January 25, DMN columnist Tom Parsons observed that American's last-minute weekend "fares still exist, but now they cost double." He attributes such price doubling to US Airways' management taking over pricing in the two airlines' merger. Is it diminished competition that is causing the remaining airlines to behave so monopolistically?
    Laurie likes this.