HomeAirline LoyaltyAmerican Airlines AAdvantageThis was my 'panic' American Airlines award booking

This was my ‘panic’ American Airlines award booking

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On Monday afternoon, I wrote that I was looking at different ways in which I could spend the 170,000 AAdvantage miles that were sitting in my account and I mentioned a number of options that I had been considering. At the time, I had no idea which option (or options) I most wanted to go for and I was prepared to keep thinking things through for a few more weeks. A tweet that I saw on Monday evening quickly changed all of that.

On Monday evening I was quietly running through my Twitter feed and catching up on the day’s travel news when I noticed a tweet from Doctor of Credit that made me sit bolt upright and reach for my Macbook.

a screenshot of a computer

Anyone who’s been paying attention over the past few weeks will have known that rumors of a significant (possibly catastrophic) AAdvantage devaluation have been gaining momentum and here I was looking at a tweet that said that whatever AAdvantage was planning may hit as early as the very next day. More importantly, the information that led to this tweet being posted had come from a source that usually (often) gets solid information on what American Airlines is planning to do.

As there was no way that I was going to allow American Airlines to destroy the value of my miles overnight (something that I have no doubt the airline would be happy to do), I quickly started thinking about how to empty out my account.

I already had a Europe – Middle East round trip Business Class award booked (a booking  I had made just in case American caught me off guard and devalued its miles before I had a chance to act) so I only had 85,000 miles left that I needed to use up before American Airlines announced its plans for AAdvantage.

Well, it turns out that what I’ve heard said many times in the past is true. Sometimes you only really figure out what you want when you have to make a very quick decision and don’t have time to overthink things and procrastinate (which is what I had been doing up until this point).

As I headed to the American Airlines website to search for award availability, I suddenly knew which one of the options that I had been considering that I most wanted to do. It was the option that I realized I would be most annoyed about losing if American Airlines devalued its currency and ruined its award charts.

I had to get back to Sydney.

The other options that I had been considering were fine, but at the moment I realized that  I had to make a quick decision, I also realized that these were either trips that an AAdvantage devaluation would not necessarily postpone for a very long time or that they were trips to do something that I wouldn’t be very disappointed if I didn’t get to do it.

Not doing the Middle East trip may see me miss a chance to say a final goodby to the Qatar Airways A380, but I’ve flown in that aircraft before (in Business Class and in First Class) so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get to fly in it one more time.

A trip to Sri Lanka would be great, but I could probably do a very similar trip at some point in the near future by using a heavily discounted Qatar Airways Business Class fare out of one of the Nordic countries.

I can live without flying Cathay Pacific or JAL First Class – I’ve flown both before and flying them again would just be an extravagance that I don’t have to have – and while I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo and Hong Kong to enjoy the amazing food that both have to offer, I know that given a bit of time, I’ll find a great Europe – Asia Business Class fare to get me there in comfort.

Sydney was the outlier out of all the options because it’s miles away from anywhere (except for New Zealand and the rest of Australia) and that makes it an incredibly expensive place to get to in comfort if you’re not booking an award.

As I have no intention of flying that far in any kind of discomfort and as I was sure that any AAdvantage devaluation would be the end of one of the most economical ways of getting to Australia in comfort, the trip to Sydney was the one I had to book…so I did!

This is the booking I have on hold:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

An this is the breakdown of the flights:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

On the outbound journey, I’ll get to review two Cathay Pacific Business Class cabins (one of which I haven’t reviewed before) while on the inbound, I’ve guaranteed myself the Qatar Airways Qsuites all the way. The return journey may not give me a new cabin to review but it will be a very nice end to what could be a fantastic trip.

The only question now left is this: Do I go ahead and ticket this award even though American Airlines didn’t end up destroying the AAdvantage Award charts after all (it chose to reinvent how elite status is earned instead), or do I let the award expire and continue considering my options?

Well, I think that the moment that I thought I had to make a quick decision told me what I really want to do so I’m almost certainly going to go to Sydney – I don’t need to think things through anymore. I may take another look at all the other routing options available to me and if I find anything better or more interesting I may change my booking to whatever that may be, but as long as the Aussies don’t mess up their reopening, Sydney is where I’ll be going.

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  1. Of course they didn’t eliminate the award chart as many expected. Also, I’m a little surprised you felt you had to make a “panic booking” with only 170,000 miles in your account. I still have over 950,000 miles (have earned close to 4 million miles over the 35 years I’ve flown AA) and am in no great hurry to use them. I can always find something that gives me over 1.5 cent a mile and will continue to use them selectively. My wife and I are planning a trip to Italy next fall some am looking at business class awards then but the entire fall hasn’t opened up yet. However, I can’t imagine a panic buy just to use the miles. If you plan to go great but just don’t get all the anxiety people seem to have over this type of stuff.

    • 1) You say “of course they didn’t eliminate the award charts” like you were very sure they wouldn’t. Delta has no award charts, United has no award charts and AA has a history of following the pack so what made you so sure? Inside knowledge or are you trying to sound clever after the event?

      2) I paid cash for almost all of those miles so as I’m not in the habit of throwing money away, and as the possibility of AAdvantage destroying the value of its currency was a very real one (despite what you appear to think), making a booking that I could easily get out if the sky didn’t fall was a prudent thing to do. Where was the downside? I would have been an idiot NOT to have made the booking.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful use of AA miles. I used 220K on 2 1 way F class flown Feb 2020 and don’t regret my current almost nonexistent AA balance. Life is short, things change and miles are meant to be used. I hope you’re able to enjoy Sydney in 2022!

  3. I have asked this question before but with no response. Is it worth. Transferring 80,000 miles from Citi Premier to American before 11/13 or should I wait and use them with another airline that may not devalue?

    • Sorry if you’ve asked this question here and not had an answer – I can honestly say I haven’t seen it.

      Anyway, to your question itself: If you have an immediate use for any AAdvantage Miles that you generate, a transfer to AAdvantage would be fine. Trasfering points across to AAdvantage and then just on sitting on the miles you generate is not a good idea. AAdvantage may not devlaue its award charts tomorrow, next week, or even next month, but it *will* devalue them. That’s as nailed on as death and taxes.

      Transferable currencies like ThankYou points should always be kept as they are until you’re ready to use them with whatever airline/hotel you’ve found an award that you want to book – that’s the way you give yourself the best chance of avoiding sudden (and often horrendous) devaluations.

      I hope that helps.

  4. I hope the actual dates for your speculative booking are not too soon, as tourism to Australia is nowhere near having a firm commencement date. Limited international travel for Australian citizens and PRs commences in a few days, but that’s it.
    Airline schedules can disappear in a puff of smoke, as Qantas well knows!

    • If Oz hasn’t reopened by the time these dates come around we’ll all have a lot more to worry about than my failed award booking 🙂

      • As you’ve blotted out the dates in 2022 I don’t know whether you are booked early in the year, or towards the end.
        No prospective date has been floated for travellers like yourself, but as a rough guess I’d say it would be in the first quarter.
        Like everything here at the moment it would have to be a point where the Government perceives the best electoral advantage, with an election date before June 2022.

        • The original dates were for April but I’ve now moved these into September. I’ll move them even further towards the end of the year when flights get loaded into the systems as I’d like to make the most of Sydney’s weather while Europe and most of the US are dreaming of a bit of warmth.

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