American's Miles Program Changes – Fewer Free Bags, New Redemption Rules

If you follow the news on FareCompare you know Delta is making changes to its SkyMiles frequent flyer program which are good for some, bad for others. You could say the same thing about the latest tweaks to American’s miles program which will affect members of both AAdvantage and merger partner US Airways’ Dividend program.

Delta miles changes benefit he-who-pays-the-most

LISTEN: Confused?  Rick Seaney explains exactly what’s going on.

Read American’s Miles program Changes – Fewer Free Bags, New Redemption Rules Podcast Transcript

Redemption Level Changes

According to FareCompare CEO and air travel expert Rick Seaney, “Getting free flights when you want to fly is going to be more difficult.” Here’s what’s changing, beginning June 1:

AAdvantage members: AAnytime award travel will be available  for more than half of the year at a lower redemption rate of 20,000 one-way. However, the redemption rate during the remainder of the year will rise to 30,000 miles one-way for last seat availability, then jump to 50,000 miles one-way for the “busiest travel days of the year.”

Note: American does not specify when these travel periods occur and as Rick Seaney notes, the airline doesn’t say how  many seats will be released for redemption, either. “In the in the past few years,” said Seaney, “empty seats have mostly disappeared making it all but impossible to get to popular cities during peak travel periods.”

Dividend members: These members will be able to book last seat availability awards for flights year-round without any blackout dates. Again, this is if such seats are available.

Fewer Free Bags

The following checked-baggage policies are changing for American flights as of today, April 8 and will change for merger partner US Airways flights as of April 23. Bottom line: Fewer free bags for some travelers.

  • No more free checked-bags: For those traveling on an AAnytime award or a full-fare economy ticket
  • One less free checked-bag: AAdvantage Gold members and Dividend Miles Platinum and Gold members will receive one fewer free checked bag than they do currently

But there is some good news, for a few anyway:

  • No second checked-bag fee: On flights to/from South America
  • Card members: Citi cardholders will continue to receive one free checked-bag, and starting April 30, that same benefit will also apply to customers who have the US Airways MasterCard with an annual fee of at least $79

Why American is Changing

Unlike Delta, American announced its miles program changes with no notice. “If you had a Band-Aid on, they ripped it off really quickly,” said travel expert Rick Seaney. He added that some of these changes were made to bring American’s program in alignment with merger partner US Airways. Also because “they can” said Seaney. An American spokesperson told the Associated Press that yes, the changes will increase revenue but declined to be more specific.

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Published: April 8, 2014