A Comparison Of AA, Delta, And United Saver Award Space: Is AAdvantage The New SkyPesos?

Last Tuesday I showed in 23 bullet points just how far American has fallen as the USAir merger has dragged down their airline operations and mileage program. One of the points was that, in addition to a massive mileage devaluation and a ridiculously bad elite status devaluation, they also have cut back saver award space. Not long ago American had the best saver award space, but anecdotal evidence has been that American may now be the worst.

To make matters worse, AA has also massively increased the cost of a standard award. On United a standard mileage award is typically about double the cost of a saver award. On American that cost can be 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 times as much as a saver award!

Historically Delta has long had the crown of the worst saver award space availability. Have things changed?

So I put it to the test last week and checked out nonstop saver award availability on several routes from June 19, 2016-May 12th, 2017.

Of course saver award availability can change dozens of times per day, which is why it’s always critical to just keep checking. But over the course of a year it gives a snapshot of how things look.

Take for example the NYC to Los Angeles route. The chart below shows how many dates had saver award space on nonstop flights for each airline.
When I performed the search, American didn’t have a single coach saver award in 2016. The chart below doesn’t show it, but all of their business and first class awards on this route were only available on Saturdays.

American is the only airline that still operates this route with 3 classes of service. When only 2 classes of service exist I called the higher class of service “First” rather than DeltaOne or United BusinessFirst.

United offers expanded award availability for Chase United cardholders, so I made that a separate category.

For example, at the time I performed this search last week, in August AA had no dates with coach saver award, no dates with business saver awards, and 1 date with a first saver award. Delta had 10 dates with coach saver awards and no dates with first saver awards. United had 9 dates with coach saver award space for general members, 10 dates with coach saver award space for cardholders and elites, and 6 dates with first class saver award space.

I’ve included the totals as well. American only had 11 dates with saver award space through the end of scheduling next May. Delta had a surprisingly good 149 dates, and United had 194 dates for general members and 205 dates for elites.

 American JFK-LAXDelta JFK-LAXUnited EWR-LAX
JuneCoach: 0
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 2
Coach CC: 3
First: 7
July Coach: 0
Business: 0
First: 1
Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 1
Coach CC: 1
First: 7
August Coach: 0
Business: 0
First: 1
Coach: 10
First: 0
Coach: 9
Coach CC: 10
First: 6
September Coach: 0
Business: 2
First: 4
Coach: 18
First: 0
Coach: 29
Coach CC: 29
First: 8
October Coach: 0
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 14
First: 0
Coach: 27
Coach CC: 27
First: 1
November Coach: 0
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 12
First: 0
Coach: 22
Coach CC: 23
First: 0
December Coach: 0
Business: 0
First: 3
Coach: 13
First: 0
Coach: 14
Coach CC: 15
First: 0
January Coach: 5
Business: 3
First: 3
Coach: 22
First: 0
Coach: 26
Coach CC: 27
First: 0
February Coach: 6
Business: 2
First: 2
Coach: 20
First: 0
Coach: 22
Coach CC: 22
First: 0
March Coach: 0
Business: 4
First: 4
Coach: 18
First: 0
Coach: 17
Coach CC: 18
First: 0
April Coach: 0
Business: 5
First: 5
Coach: 13
First: 0
Coach: 13
Coach CC: 18
First: 0
May Coach: 0
Business: 1
First: 1
Coach: 9
First: 0
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 12
First: 0
TotalCoach: 11
Business: 17
First: 24
Coach: 149
First: 0
Coach: 194
Coach CC: 205
First: 29

 

For American the following includes LGA and JFK to Miami. For Delta it includes LGA or JFK to Fort Lauderdale. And for United it’s Newark to Fort Lauderdale:

 American NYC-MIADelta NYC-FLLUnited EWR-FLL
JuneCoach: 0
First: 4
Coach: 6
First: 0
Coach: 3
Coach CC: 5
First: 13
July Coach: 0
First: 20
Coach: 21
First: 14
Coach: 17
Coach CC: 18
First: 27
August Coach: 0
First: 30
Coach: 31
First: 29
Coach: 23
Coach CC: 25
First: 27
September Coach: 0
First: 28
Coach: 30
First: 21
Coach: 30
Coach CC: 30
First: 22
October Coach: 0
First: 29
Coach: 29
First: 21
Coach: 24
Coach CC: 25
First: 18
November Coach: 0
First: 27
Coach: 25
First: 22
Coach: 17
Coach CC: 19
First: 12
December Coach: 0
First: 26
Coach: 14
First: 17
Coach: 9
Coach CC: 12
First: 6
January Coach: 19
First: 27
Coach: 30
First: 28
Coach: 18
Coach CC: 27
First: 13
February Coach: 20
First: 28
Coach: 22
First: 23
Coach: 10
Coach CC: 15
First: 8
March Coach: 14
First: 25
Coach: 27
First: 30
Coach: 7
Coach CC: 9
First: 3
April Coach: 15
First: 27
Coach: 16
First: 20
Coach: 18
Coach CC: 20
First: 10
May Coach: 8
First: 10
Coach: 12
First: 12
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 12
First: 8
TotalCoach: 76
First: 281
Coach: 263
First: 237
Coach: 188
Coach CC: 217
First: 167

 

All 3 airlines fly nonstop from Los Angeles to Honolulu:

 American LAX-HNLDelta LAX-HNLUnited LAX-HNL
JuneCoach: 0
First: 9
Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 12
First: 12
July Coach: 2
First: 5
Coach: 1
First: 0
Coach: 28
Coach CC: 30
First: 16
August Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 23
First: 5
Coach: 30
Coach CC: 30
First: 14
September Coach: 2
First: 2
Coach: 20
First: 0
Coach: 27
Coach CC: 28
First: 13
October Coach: 0
First: 5
Coach: 17
First: 1
Coach: 26
Coach CC: 30
First: 10
November Coach: 6
First: 1
Coach: 14
First: 4
Coach: 23
Coach CC: 23
First: 8
December Coach: 4
First: 3
Coach: 8
First: 4
Coach: 13
Coach CC: 14
First: 5
January Coach: 1
First: 1
Coach: 25
First: 3
Coach: 29
Coach CC: 29
First: 15
February Coach: 16
First: 0
Coach: 22
First: 2
Coach: 25
Coach CC: 28
First: 11
March Coach: 3
First: 0
Coach: 8
First: 1
Coach: 18
Coach CC: 27
First: 10
April Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 14
First: 4
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 28
First: 12
May Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 11
First: 4
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 12
First: 6
TotalCoach: 34
First: 26
Coach: 163
First: 28
Coach: 255
Coach CC: 291
First: 132

 

NYC to London:

 American JFK-LHRDelta JFK-LHRUnited EWR-LHR
JuneCoach: 13
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 13
First: 1
Coach: 15
Coach CC: 15
First: 0
July Coach: 31
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 30
First: 26
Coach: 31
Coach CC: 31
First: 5
August Coach: 23
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 28
First: 29
Coach: 28
Coach CC: 28
First: 8
September Coach: 24
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 27
First: 21
Coach: 25
Coach CC: 27
First: 9
October Coach: 27
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 29
First: 21
Coach: 28
Coach CC: 29
First: 10
November Coach: 30
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 30
First: 27
Coach: 29
Coach CC: 30
First: 13
December Coach:10
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 30
First: 29
Coach: 25
Coach CC: 31
First: 12
January Coach: 24
Business: 1
First: 0
Coach: 27
First: 27
Coach: 27
Coach CC: 29
First: 12
February Coach: 28
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 28
First: 27
Coach: 27
Coach CC: 28
First: 13
March Coach: 31
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 31
First: 31
Coach: 31
Coach CC: 31
First: 14
April Coach: 19
Business: 8
First: 0
Coach: 24
First: 19
Coach: 29
Coach CC: 29
First: 12
May Coach: 10
Business: 0
First: 0
Coach: 12
First: 6
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 12
First: 5
TotalCoach: 270
Business: 9
First: 0
Coach: 309
First: 264
Coach: 307
Coach CC: 320
First: 113

 

NYC to Tel Aviv (American no longer flies to Tel Aviv and they have no partners that fly there nonstop).

Delta didn’t actually have any nonstop saver awards at the lowest mileage level, but their level 2 award is 50K miles, so I included them with an asterisk. Note that partners won’t be able to book awards for that level. Still with zero true saver awards, it’s hard to totally ditch the Delta SkyPesos moniker, but as shown above, Delta does deserve credit for massively improving SkyMiles saver award space from what it was not long ago.

 Delta JFK-TLVUnited EWR-TLV
JuneCoach: 1*
First: 0
Coach: 5
Coach CC: 7
First: 0
July Coach: 5*
First: 0
Coach: 13
Coach CC: 16
First: 1
August Coach: 1*
First: 0
Coach: 12
Coach CC: 14
First: 3
September Coach: 6*
First: 0
Coach: 10
Coach CC: 21
First: 5
October Coach: 2*
First: 0
Coach: 7
Coach CC: 12
First: 0
November Coach: 4*
First: 0
Coach: 3
Coach CC: 15
First: 0
December Coach: 5*
First: 0
Coach: 0
Coach CC: 6
First: 0
January Coach: 9*
First: 0
Coach: 2
Coach CC: 22
First: 0
February Coach: 2*
First: 0
Coach: 0
Coach CC: 14
First: 0
March Coach: 1*
First: 0
Coach: 0
Coach CC: 9
First: 0
April Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 0
Coach CC: 3
First: 0
May Coach: 0
First: 0
Coach: 0
Coach CC: 0
First: 0
TotalCoach: 36*
First: 0
Coach: 52
Coach CC: 139
First: 9

Useful post? Interested in seeing other routes? Hit the comments!

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52 Responses to “A Comparison Of AA, Delta, And United Saver Award Space: Is AAdvantage The New SkyPesos?”

  1. Anonymous Says:
    1

    Without even looking I would have to say yes!
    They not only raised rates making it harder to book but even if you follow no a more expensive award saver ticket it’s still might be stop over. Delta is actually better domestic to go to Florida especially since they opened up 7,500 flights.-from ny

    ReplyReply
  2. Yitrap Says:
    2

    How about NYC-ORD that’s been a horror recently, can’t find anything with AA

    ReplyReply
  3. Nathan Szpilzinger Says:
    3

    I would like to see comparisons between aa and jet blue and Caribbean air to the Trinidad,Grenada, St Lucia

    ReplyReply
  4. Dan Says:
    4

    Pretty much every route with AA has turned into zilch.

    ReplyReply
  5. Mikey Says:
    5

    On every post about BA miles that you’ve posted recently commenters complained of total lack of availability on partner AA. Thanx for listening !

    ReplyReply
  6. Dan Says:
    6

    @Mikey:
    It’s just stunning how AA award space went from being amazing to being nil.

    ReplyReply
  7. ruben Says:
    7

    Dan, when I’m searching United EWR-TLV, where do I put in that I’m a CC holder to get more availability ?

    ReplyReply
  8. Achshell Says:
    8

    This is a very interesting post. I wish you were able to figure out AA’s pricing and saver award availability rollercoaster like behavior. Any post planned in the future? I’ve whittnessed them fly half full and still not having saver space. Thanks

    ReplyReply
  9. casualchurner Says:
    9

    Thanks Dan!
    I’ve actually been searching for a few weeks already for NYC-LAX for mid-August. I have tons of miles with BA and AA that I would love to use but AA has literally NOTHING direct in saver award!
    I guess UA is the better bet.

    ReplyReply
  10. Deal guy Says:
    10

    Besides points.com, is their any way for me to get Rid of my AA miles at a decent rate. At least 1CPP. I have almost 200K

    ReplyReply
  11. Mikey Says:
    11

    @Yitrap:
    I flew Ewr-Ord last Sunday with AA (using BA miles). Availability opened the Friday before so I swapped my Southwest ticket for AA in order to get rid of my One world miles. Returned from Chicago with Southwest as AA had nothing (in economy, plenty in first! ).

    ReplyReply
  12. casualchurner Says:
    12

    @ruben: You have to log in to your MileagePlus account on the United home page. Once you do that, then the expanded space should show automatically.
    Check to see if your CC is correctly linked to your account by floating the mouse over your account balance. If the message that pops says “Thank you for being a United Chase cardholder,” then the expanded space should be there.

    ReplyReply
  13. ilherman Says:
    13

    Thanks Dan for taking the time. Now I know what happened. For the past couple of weeks I kept on checking the NYC-YYZ route for July and not even a single date with saver award space! For anyone who knows this route this is a complete 360 turn. There used to be availability almost every day. Oh well.

    ReplyReply
  14. Elchay Says:
    14

    Been sitting on a lot of AA miles and have never been able to use them when I needed them. Have used Delta and UA for J to Europe a few times in 2016 np

    ReplyReply
  15. Ejb Says:
    15

    Aa recently has opened award space in batches. You just have to be quick when they open.

    ReplyReply
  16. Lakewood guy Says:
    16

    How can we hold them accountable who would have jurisdiction over this ? I mean taking people’s money (credit card users) and cheating them off. Can we start a change.org petition or call our congressman ?

    ReplyReply
  17. itsyehuda Says:
    17

    @casualchurner: I recently had a card linkage problem and the solution was to add the mileage plus visa as a saved payment method in the profile.

    ReplyReply
  18. Hopeful Says:
    18

    Can consumer pressure help? If yes how?

    ReplyReply
  19. Anonymous Says:
    19

    @Lakewood guy: I was thinking the same thing. We should start a petition on change.org. I’m sitting on 200k miles and have nothing to do with them.

    ReplyReply
  20. Dan Says:
    20

    Best pressure is to complain on social media.
    Retweet and favorite this post. Tweet about the issue with hashtag #AAwfulAAirline, etc.

    ReplyReply
  21. Ari Says:
    21

    Excellent post Dan!
    It’s well researched insightful posts like this that keep us coming back to your site!
    Perhaps some of this might be not decreased inventory, but increased demand since AA and citi has given lots of miles away recently with the citi aa cards that were being churned, as well as the citi checking account funding loophole while it was open.
    Probably doesn’t account for all of this, but a bunch more people now have lots of aa miles to use than a couple of years ago.

    ReplyReply
  22. Jordan Says:
    22

    There isn’t a single first class saver available through the end of the schedule UA EWR-HNL which is a bummer because last year I was able to grab 3 on one and 4 on another flight for my family.

    ReplyReply
  23. Mike Says:
    23

    This basically also kills the Avios short haul domestic options as those are primarily through AA. Do you still think Avios is the best short haul option? (I remember you constantly posted how great this was about this a year ago).

    ReplyReply
  24. Ydad Says:
    24

    @ilherman: +1. I’ve been hoarding my Avios specifically for this route. What a bummer!

    ReplyReply
  25. Dovid Says:
    25

    Just booked 3 seats on EWR to TLV in July in Business class. Thanks Dan.
    For August there is 5 dates available with at least 3 seats on each flight.

    ReplyReply
  26. SearchGuy Says:
    26

    With every AA post, please post an update on your refund claim…

    ReplyReply
  27. yy Says:
    27

    In the past, I never had a problem booking LGA-DTW with Avios, but now there’s practically nothing.

    ReplyReply
  28. Andrew Says:
    28

    This sadly makes avios worthless too

    ReplyReply
  29. david Says:
    29

    would love to see a chart of TLV-EWR for UA

    ReplyReply
  30. Ralph Says:
    30

    DTW – LGA nothing available even till Jan!!!! British Airways is Over!

    ReplyReply
  31. Anonymous Says:
    31

    @Ralph: Fly Southwest! They have unlimited availabilty. As an exaple I’m flying to them NYC TO Chicago for 4,680 each way. It was higher when I booked but I kept checking it and eventually you’ll find it when it goes down.

    ReplyReply
  32. Lori Says:
    32

    We don’t fly much, but our last flights were on American Airlines, well on the way to our cruise it was US airways by the end of the cruise it was AA and those two flights were horrible. The stewardress’ were the most un nice people ever, the carry on that was accepted on the 3 flights, so far, was not accepted as carry on. We don’t want to use them again. Going their one deplane for a small layover, coming back a plane change that we almost missed do to their ineptness.

    ReplyReply
  33. Ralph Says:
    33

    @Anonymous:
    Southwest doesn’t fly direct from DTW to NY

    ReplyReply
  34. Leana Says:
    34

    @Deal Guy If you have a co-branded AA credit card, you should be able to liquidate your AA miles at a penny each on hotels. Without the credit card, it’s not worth it. You may want to look into signing up for one, but make sure it’s 50K miles. There are working links, just do a Google search. Just make sure to log in as a cardholder, and the rates on hotels will be displayed accordingly. Of course, getting 1 cent per mile is nothing to write home about, but it’s an option.

    ReplyReply
  35. Rod Walsh Says:
    35

    Would love to see LAX/LAS-LHR OR wider: SoCal/LAS-Europe

    But, the charts were interesting and revealing!

    ReplyReply
  36. Doc Says:
    36

    This is what Doug Parker and company have wanted all along. The AA pilots put Parker in power. They must be so proud of the “New” AA.
    On the other hand, let’s not go into catastrophe mode. I have been at this 30 years, it is cyclic in nature with constant erosion of benefits. Reminds us of the seven fat cows, followed by seven skinny cows, followed by seven anorexic oows.

    ReplyReply
  37. ABC Says:
    37

    @DoC followed by 7 dead cows.

    ReplyReply
  38. Bruce Says:
    38

    I met that February “fly 35K and get ExPLT”, and even with their completely useless, and I mean useless “enhanced availability” for ExPLT on Milesavers, I can’t use my miles for flights from SFO or LAX to NYC. It’s shameful, and all the CS agents can say is “we hear that all the time”. Pathetic

    ReplyReply
  39. Jessica Says:
    39

    I love this post and would love to see more routes just to bring more awareness to how awful the availability is on AA. I’ve been waiting for months for 2 AA first class tickets from DFW-OGG or DFW-HNL and there is literally nothing. It is ridiculous.

    ReplyReply
  40. Annie Says:
    40

    I have close to 600,000 points. What can I expect if I sell them?

    ReplyReply
  41. dale m Says:
    41

    …and the availability of seats to LHR you spotted are almost certainly on BA if you click through and really check – so not even really on American, and then with the obscene surcharges.

    GOOD HARD DATA. Hope you’ll keep unding this drum long and loud.

    ReplyReply
  42. Moe Says:
    42

    @Annie,

    Expect AA to shut you down if your caught selling and they are very good at catching AA Sellers.

    ReplyReply
  43. sam Says:
    43

    @Dan what co branded credit card would recommend? British Airways, United? or rather than an airline card, an Amex or something else?

    ReplyReply
  44. bob schect Says:
    44

    Dan
    How about including Phoenix in your airline and deal notices.

    ReplyReply
  45. Charnie Says:
    45

    Another AA hoarder here – was hoping to use them to bring my kids in from Israel for a simcha. Is there any benefit(other than using them up) to booking them to an AA location in Europe and then flying them from there with the AA miles?

    ReplyReply
  46. United Breaks Guitars Says:
    46

    Dan, you’re forgetting one major point: UNITED BREAKS GUITARS! Delta/AA don’t.

    ReplyReply
  47. iahphx Says:
    47

    I fly all the US airlines A LOT (100 plus flights a year) and your other complaints about AA are wrong. It’s actually a pretty decent airline, and US Airways management has been improving it. But you are correct that their award availability is quite poor. This is NOT a “US Airways management” thing though — it had gotten poor in the last couple years of the old management. Is it worse now? I’m not sure, but for at least the last 2 years UA availability has always been better. DL availability seems to be getting better these days since they went to revenue accumulation, and I do think AA is now the worst in availability of the 3.

    This is not to say you can’t use your Avios/AA miles. I use them all the time. For example, just a few weeks ago I booked 4 coach seats to HNL transiting LAX for Easter: I see from your chart that there are no such seats for all of April now. Things change. What you really need are miles in all the programs. For example, to get back from Hawaii, I booked with DL miles — no AA or UA seats available. It’s foolish not to get the credit cards to get you miles in all the programs.

    ReplyReply
  48. ThanksDanfromSFO Says:
    48

    Dan–

    Just a compliment. I like this site because it is facts, facts, facts. I don’t want anyone’s opinion–but I love facts.

    keep it up!

    ReplyReply
  49. OMG Says:
    49

    I just got off the phone with American after 3 HUCA’s. Their policies are very clear.

    I booked a flight last year for one ticket. I called within 24 hours to cancel it and they were only willing to send me a voucher. I used it in the airport to book tickets for the summer. Then it came out that the unveiling for my father’s grave was three days later.

    I had tickets one way with Westjet and Delta, and the return was only with American.

    Westjet gave me a fully usable credit in 5 minutes. Delta wanted the name and address of the funeral home and the name of my father. Then they transferred all five tickets to the date I needed and were even willing to change the routing for only fare difference.

    American had me on hold on average for 20 minutes each call, and were not able to do a thing with the thousand dollars I spent on their flights. They were not apologetic or sympathetic. And their complaint system doesn’t work. Last time I complained, they begrudgingly gave me a thousand miles. That might get me down the block if seats are available.

    ReplyReply
  50. OMG Says:
    50

    Update: My wife called them about reinstating miles that were credited with a fee but didn’t post to the account. After realizing the sheer incompetence of the previous reps, the customer service agent on the line credited back all of the miles, taxes and fees. She then told the same rep about the five nonrefundable tickets. She applied an unconditional waiver to the account, and we got full credit back, spendable until February.

    ReplyReply
  51. frustraated Says:
    51

    American award space has deteriorated astonishingly; good luck trying to get a round trip Saver award. The new management has finally got around to crushing the life out of the Aadvantage program.
    For instance why do they push to sell so many miles to credit card companies and even more often directly to their Aadvantage members, when they have consciously reduced availability and increased the ‘price’.
    This is a bait and switch tactic that begs for government intervention and I would welcome it. Selling miles are a major revenue source for American. Giving less than promised in return is immoral and should be illegal.

    ReplyReply
  52. tassojunior Says:
    52

    Last few years I’ve been using airberlin on AA miles to avoid BA ridiculous surcharges. Now they are very rare showing up; all that usually shows is BA flights with surcharges higher than ticket prices.

    ReplyReply

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