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Last Friday, American Airlines launched yet another points sale which, on the face of things, looked very similar to a lot of the other points sales that we usually see it running. The sale was offering up to 35% off the regular cost of miles and should have priced American’s currency at over 2 cents per mile. But it didn’t. It priced it far lower.
The American Airlines points sale that I’m referring to is still running and if you head over to the sale page and price up the cost of buying between 100,000 and 150,000 miles (the band in which a 35% discount is being offered), you’ll find that the cost per mile comes to just under 2.1 cents.
That’s a vastly inflated price to pay for American’s currency and it’s why the sale hasn’t appeared here on Traveling For Miles – a sensible person would have to be desperate to pay that much for AAdvantage Miles.
Fortunately for me, I happened to head over to One Mile at a Time shortly after the sale started to get some publicity, and saw that Ben had noticed that there was an error in how the sale page was calculating the cost of miles. Within the 35% discount band, instead of offering miles at 35% off the regular price, American Airlines was selling miles at a discount of almost 58%.
What appears to have happened is that rather than discounting the regular cost of miles by 35%, the system took 35% off a price that had already been discounted by 35%. Someone probably got into trouble for that!
I’m not normally a buyer of American Airlines miles, but when they’re erroneously on offer at 1.36 cents each and I know that I can use them to book the Qatar Airways and Etihad Business Class cabins that I’m hoping to fly next year, I’m happy to try my luck.
Despite the fact that I was already running late to meet Joanna (something I subsequently got into trouble for!) I processed a purchase for the full 150,000 miles for my account…
…and immediately tried to do the same thing using Joanna’s account.
The first transaction went through while the second was declined but still appeared as a pending charge in my Amex account (I used my Platinum Card® from American Express to make the purchase) before disappearing a few days later.
Normally, a purchase of American Airlines miles processes within minutes (even though the terms and conditions suggest that the miles may not appear in a member’s account for up to 8 hours) but as I kept refreshing my account as I hurried to meet Joanna, no miles showed up.
After about 5 hours had passed and there was still no sign of any new miles in my AAdvantage account, I began to suspect that the transaction wouldn’t go through. American had already spotted the mistake a few hours earlier and its website was now pricing the sale correctly so I assumed that I was going to be out of luck.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t have had any issue with the airline had the transaction been declined or reversed as I knew that the price I was paying was wrong and that I was taking advantage of a system error but, a little under 6 hours after I had inputted my credit card details, an email dropped into my account confirming that the miles had posted.
Moments later I checked my account and all 150,000 miles were there.
I was amazed and I’ve been waiting all week to receive an email from American to tell me that they’ve clawed back the miles and refunded the cost, but no email has been forthcoming.
I guess that there’s still a chance that American will come looking for the miles that it sold at an overly discounted rate but as it has been a week since the error was published and as American obviously knows about the error (that’s why the error was corrected), I suspect that the airline has decided to let things lie.
I have no idea how many people dived in to pick up some AAdvantage Miles at a bargain-basement rate while the error was yet to be corrected (recent rumors of an impending devaluation probably put a few people off) but considering how well-publicized the error was, quite a few people probably did very well out of this.
Yes, all of us who just loaded up on cheap AAdvantage Miles now have to worry about a devaluation hitting before we get a chance to book any trips (I’ve booked one trip already), but anyone buying miles should know the risks before they part with their money so that’s all just part of the game 🙂
Did you make the most of the American Airlines points sale error? Did you deliberately sit it out? Or were you oblivious to the whole thing?