Rolling with the punches (Or, Et tu, American?)

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Update: American’s shitty response when I tweeted this post:

Did you feel it this morning? The quake that rippled through the blogs regarding American’s sudden overhaul of award redemptions? They also eliminated the beloved Oneworld Explorer Award AND stopovers at North American “gateway” cities – two features I really loved about the AAdvantage program. It’s a veritable mAAsacre.

I have to admit, I was really down about it. I don’t really care about the new five-tired award redemption system. I only ever booked SAAver awards anyway. The others are pure capacity controls, nothing more.

I was really looking forward to booking an Explorer Award in the near future. American recently introduced an unprecedented 100K bonus on the Executive AAdvantage card, which was enough, or nearly enough, to book a decent Explorer Award. I know a lot of people were looking into it and beginning to plan one of their own, including me.

And now, overnight, it’s gone. No advance notice. No, “hey you might want to book this soon”. Just a complete, unannounced overhaul.

The other thorn was the elimination of the free one-way that you could tack onto an award redemption. I was planning on doing that too, to get back from Oktoberfest, then onward to somewhere else. Now, the “somewhere else” prices as a completely separate award.

This is disappointing because:

  • American miles are the hardest to obtain. They only have Starwood as a transfer partner
  • This could mean American is starting to go the way of Delta with unannounced changes
  • It destroys trust. Lots of people were planning on certain redemptions, and now they are gone. It undermines the point of a “loyalty” program
  • I’d just switched over to American from Delta. I still think they are much better than Delta, but damn

Other things happening in the points and miles space lately have been discouraging. The sudden removal of Vanilla Reloads from CVS, Delta’s complete and utter gutting of the SkyMiles program, and Amex’s changes in lounge access and loss of American/US Airways as lounge partners all come to mind.

But at least CVS gave notice. SkyMiles (as shitty as it is) gave notice. Amex gave notice. American updated a couple of webpages overnight and *poof* – that is the best way to destroy consumer trust. It’s worrying about what other “revisions” they will make going into this merger.

The world at large is changing. The economy is improving, people are willing to pay more for flights, and hotels are at record occupancy levels. Change happens fast. I know many people are starting to feel dispirited with how the points game has been trending lately. I feel it, too, but will continue to solider on.

At this point, United is starting to look like the least likely to change in the near future (a scary thought). But who knows.

Bottom line

I’d recommend having a diverse range of points, banking points in programs with a multitude of transfer partners, and investigating straight up cashback cards (like the Barclaycard Arrival).

The game lives on. But if programs keep devaluing, there will come a point where they’ll be useless. When that breaking point comes, the idea of loyalty will start to die. Really hoping for some good news in the points and miles space, and soon. And still really hoping US Airways doesn’t ruin American’s culture – but it’s not looking good.

We will accept changes – just please give us a heads up.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

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  1. Removing/diluting benefits with no announcement is one of the most consumer-unfriendly things that a company can do.

    A 5-tier award structure (copied from Delta, I think) is needlessly complicated and not friendly to customers.

    I think what we are seeing with the Big 3 (now) getting increasingly worse for fliers is an inevitable result of allowing there to BE a Big 3 in the first place. As their market share increased through consolidation, they grew less concerned with loyalty. Less competition generally leads to higher prices and worse service, and the airline industry is a textbook case.

    I recently tried to book a miles flight to Europe in the summer and it was an exercise in futility.

    My airline of choice is currently United, not because I like them, but because they have a lot of flights at EWR and because they seem to be the least terrible at this moment. Southwest has better service, but their FF program isn’t very good.

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