Is AAdvantage A ScAAm? See For Yourself And Let The DoT Know

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A month ago I wrote a post asking “What exactly is American’s AAdvantage?

Some commenters said I was too harsh. They said that flying NYC-LAX on AA for 11,250 miles as a cardholder was a bargain, even if it required a little flexibility in your travel dates.

So a few days later I researched and posted a comparison between the nonstop saver award space of American, Delta, and United that you can view here. While Delta and United performed quite well, American’s saver award space was abysmal.

I figured I’d take another look today at the nonstop saver award space on several routes for travel from 7/13 through 12/31.

Here are the results:

-From NYC to Los Angeles there were 99 available dates on United, 107 available dates on Delta, and only 3 available dates on American. All 3 of American’s dates were Saturdays.

-From NYC to San Francisco there were 107 available dates on United, 104 available dates on Delta, and only 2 available dates on American.

-From NYC to San Diego there were 133 available dates on United, 109 available dates on Delta, and only 2 available dates on American.

-From NYC to Las Vegas there were 75 available dates on United, 125 available dates on Delta, and only 2 available dates on American. Both of American’s dates were Saturdays.

This is simply #unAAcceptable

Shortly after USAirways took control of American, AAdvantage award space fell off a cliff. Even though American devalued their award chart earlier this year it didn’t improve their saver award space woes.

Banks like Citi pay American billions of dollars for their miles. American has no problem taking in those fees, it’s making saver award space available for reservations that seems to be the issue…as Jerry would say, these pretzels are making me thirsty.

It’s time to let the DoT know about the games that American AAdvantage is playing. Click here to file an official DoT complaint against American and let the DoT know that you accumulated miles (state if you earned the miles from credit cards, purchased miles, and/or from flying) to redeem for saver awards. Explain to the DoT just how scarce American’s nonstop saver award space on your preferred routes have become compared to their competitors and compared to what American’s saver award space was like before they merged with USAirways. Feel free to send your own research to the DoT or link to posts like the one you’re reading or to this post. You can attach screenshots like this to show how bad things have become:



Tweet your displeasure and vote with your wallet. American is devaluing elite status, miles earned from flying, award space availability, and just about everything else to levels far worse than their competition. Let American know that that you’ll vote with your feet, Delta and United will be happy to match your status.

I’m not saying be a fool about it, I’ll still fly American next month thanks to a $42 ticket I got from Kansas City to Los Angeles (ironically even with fares that cheap on that route, they are still incredibly stingy with saver award space). But if you’re remaining loyal and spending extra to fly American based on the airline they were before USAirways took it over, just realize that they won’t reciprocate that loyalty.

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74 Comments On "Is AAdvantage A ScAAm? See For Yourself And Let The DoT Know"

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We should let the FTC know as well, especially those who purchased miles.


Stop complaining! If you dont like them, dont fly them! Nobody is making you! How do you like it if someone came to you and told you how to run your business and called it a scam?


We get it. You don’t like AA since the whole LHR fiasco. Just stick with UA and every thing will be alright.

I agree

A little OT. However, I just flew PHL-MAN in J. Service was lazy and lathargic to say the least. Old plane that rattled throughout the flight. Just an overall bad experience.



I didn’t say it was a scam.
I’m saying look at the facts on the ground and decide for yourself.

@Reb Yid:
I don’t like AA, you’re right.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back as they devalue their program to the Nth degree.


Wasn’t it Kramer who said, “… these pretzels are making me thirsty?”


I can totally relate to your post.
I’ve been searching for award availability on a specific route, and it almost doesn’t exist.


I travel often between SF and Miami, and noticed that the only availability on AA’s nonstops (even as AAdvantage Gold) is 1-3 days in advance. Beyond that there is never an opportunity to book their nonstops using miles; clearly they are only releasing seats at the last minute on flights certain to have space. AA is a total scAAm especially since team America West (Doug Parker) assumed the helm. Remember those ‘flying under the influence’ pilots at America West? Parker should be barred from ever controlling an airline, let alone the biggest in the country.


Click on the link for the reference I was going for.

Don’t sit back, complain!

Parker is doing a great job killing AA.


The fact that you have to pay a fortune for landing in LHR when using miles is horrible. Is that what ur reffering to @reb yid?


Time for revenge, Dan. Hah…?


On the short haul routes to Toronto, the situation is the same. This time last year, there was no shortage of last minute award availability between YYZ and Chicago or YYZ and NYC. If you booked more than a week in advance, it was even more open.

Now… nothing. For months.

I have platinum status on AA and reached out to them about this, carefully noting the year-over-year decline for summer availability and my own experiences. I was told by AA that more space would become available after the summer was over, which I interpreted as a non-answer to a very specific question.

I flew AA a couple of weeks ago on these routes and the planes were about 2/3rd full. Which comes as no surprise, considering the fact that American charges $800 for a round-trip flight between these cities (for a flight that’s around an hour long) when booked less than a week in advance. As United improves its service, the idea of switching loyalty programs is becoming more and more appealing.


You’re definitely right. It’s been extremely frustrating to redeem AA recently..

Thanks for doing the research Dan.

What’s been frustrating is that Saver is blocked even on flights that aren’t even that expensive at all. Booking a flight back from CUN-BOS was way cheaper using TYP than AA miles because for some reason the entire month of September was blocked off. We paid 17K each ticket, which is obviously cheaper than Standard.


Can we let the DOT know as well about the mileage brokers and people who sell and barter miles which violates the airlines t&C?


Dan, for once, I think you are wrong.
I hate what AA is doing, but that’s their prerogative.
I don’t recall ever seeing a promise from AA saying you will be able to fly nonstop from A to B for X miles. They imply it when they push credit cards, put that’s all.
I see this ( and sorry for the extreme example) as someone being disappointed because they spend 2$ in a lottery ticket that showed the picture of a convertible, but they didn’t get one.

Sam Finkelstein


I’m totally with you on this one, but how can the DoT enforce it?

Scott Reich

What do you mean by “United or Delta will be happy to match your status”? I am currently a participant in all three programs and have a United credit card and a AA credit card


For my flight back from CA last week I couldn’t find any direct sAAver awards at all. (I was looking at a period of about a week and a half,) On united I found direct flights available almost every day.


@Mike: Are you the same Mike with the annoying comments all the time? I think it’s time for you to have a nice day somewhere else!


Never mind the fuel surcharge you charge to fly on BA…

Yup, it affects most of their routes. I just don’t have time to research them all.

It’s pathetic.

American has the most robust auditing department out there, they’re more than capable of that all on their own, but feel free to let the DoT know.

And I see it as bait and switch, but to each their own.

@Sam Finkelstein:
Let’s let the DoT figure out how to enforce it. They are expressing an interest in looking into it as it is.

@Scott Reich:

Not long ago AA was the best in saver award space. Talk about from first to worst!


Honestly I don’t think the DOT would care. They don’t mandate rules for FF programs: (Last paragraph)

Does it suck? Yes. But they’ve made a decision as a company to be much more stingy about FF benefits. They’ve done their cost benefit analysis and figure the customers they’d lose aren’t worth the benfits they’re paying out.

Of course, they’re able to do this because of the mergers over the last decade. But until this sort of thing is viewed by the FTC as a violation of the merger agreements (it isn’t), then they won’t be interested either.


No, it’s more like winning the convertible in the lottery then being told you can only drive it on the 3rd saturday of every even numbered month.



The more complaints that come in, the most power they’ll have to investigate.



@Dan: It’s time for you to personally attack Doug Parker. I see it helped with United’s Jeff…


I don’t like AA since Parker took over (haven’t liked it when he came to us airways either.. The old American west..) that said, I recently travelled from NYC to
LONDON and there was plenty of award availability in July and it was (surprisingly!) a rather pleasant flight.

Your general sentiments are correct though.. Unfortunately 🙁


This is wAAr.
But AA really does s*** bAAlls recently. Delta has shown how butchering your award chart won’t necessarily kill your popularity, and they seem to have interpreted that to mean that butchering their airline in general won’t affect them. HAA hAA hAA.


I am going to blame AA too for my jet lag as my husband sleeps away next to me and I’m in Sydney on an award. I had a nice flight. No turbulence to me is key. Way to go #Qantas and #Alaska 🙂 At any rate, it looks like you have done a lot of research, but I’m happy and before I booked my award, I could have used my miles in a million other ways too. But….I’m flexible and used to utilizing many different airports.


I agree. I have really noticed a difference in award availability. I am no longer making a big effort to get AA miles as a result. My husband is platinum/million miler and we have been pretty loyal to American but its been ridiculous.


Lol, people forget how harsh I was to Jeff and United until they got rid of him and became a much improved airline.

Europe traffic is way down this year, hence the wide open award space.

wAAr indeed. I’m happy to fight this one.

It’s painful to see.


Obviously there has been a radical change in the AA policy of releasing seats under its mileage program. And, it is not simply a case of its flights being full with revenue paying passengers. I have searched availability for various routes and the calendar can be zeroed out for complete months. To add insult, AA is out there selling miles – for what? They are virtually useless. And partners is not the answer as the OW alliance is inferior compared to Star Alliance.

What really upsets me is having spent money qualifying for status with American, accruing its worthless miles and the equally useless Citi AA credit card.

Why doesn’t some journalist get some answers as to what is behind this trashing of AAdvantage.


Nobody has seemed to notice besides me, it’s unreal.

Several of the big bloggers appear to be in AAs pockets and/or are banned from other airlines and need to tread lightly, so you’ll rarely see anything negative out of them.


Shots fired… Smart of you to wait until you got your refund to post this 😉
You are 100% correct though. AA will be flying literally thousands of flights on NYC-LAX route from now through the end of year. To have only 3 with available award seats is a representation of somewhere around .1%, if not less. That’s a sAAd joke.
I submitted to the DOT; hopefully they’ll help make it possible to use the miles that are just sitting uselessly in my account.


i flew with reasonable notice in march JFK-CDG business saver 50,000 +$5.60. and got 10% miles rebated (credit card holder). i also monitor some domestic routes and yes, its been really difficult of late to say the least for popular ones. but like said so many times here, if the DOT did decide to investigate, probably not much going to happen because there are no pending anti trust mergers anymore except alaska/virgin… maybe it time to start flying b6. they seem to value loyalty… and always have availability to use points… and the only way its going to get better is if people stop flying… social media can help that… maybe start an #AAnti AA campaign. side note – although today up 4%, the stock price has been getting #hAAmmered down 35% this year alone before today


All your examples are from NYC. If its any comfort, for the 29 days shown in your screenshot, 7 days have sAAver availability from PHL, with none of them being on Shabbos.


I so agree. I used to be able to redeem Avios for USAir flights with little trouble. The same flights have become almost impossible on AA.


@Dan: become a shareholder and show up at the quarterly/annual meeting… there are some coach saver award seats early in the week 🙂


@Dan: You are pretty much saying it’s a scam. Even if you didnt say outright.(i have no problem with that)


I reported the facts, I’ll let draw your own conclusion 🙂


is this post relevant to Avios as well, is that what you mean by AA or AA direct and Avios you find better?
I ask because I rarely find on Avios as well.


BA Avios has the same availability as AA.
It used to be great and now it’s awful.


@Mike: They are offering you points when you use a CC. It has nothing to do with not using them. What good are the points if you cannot use them. That is a scam


I am amazed at the comment that said: “Stop complaining! If you dont like them, dont fly them! [sic] Nobody is making you! How do you like it if someone came to you and told you how to run your business and called it a scam?”
I am equally amazed at: “We get it. You don’t like AA since the whole LHR fiasco. Just stick with UA and every thing will be alright.”

If we all had this new American attitude nothing would change. The fact is that with numbers we can make a difference. I for one have flown American religiously at the executive platinum level for seven straight years and feel dumped on. I let American know with my pen and beginning in 2018 when my status disappears I will let them know with my wallet. I will sit in coach and fly SAS to Europe before paying American and hoping for an upgrade that is becoming impossible to come by.

I really appreciate the work and thoughtfulness that goes into this blog. Like the old saying, if you do not stand for something you will fall for anything. I am with you. I am not taking American’s changes lying down and urge the other frequent flyers out there to write and show their displeasure.


Where does it say that they have to have Saver awards, hence the name “saver”. When you check they have plenty flights available at ridiculous redemption values however it is still “mileage” tickets


Love these types of posts. I’m not sure how one could even argue this is not a bait and switch. “Earn our miles for free flights!” “OK!” “Sorry, we’re not currently offering any. Boohoo.”

Truth be told, however, the pressure point for AA is not DOT. It’s Citi and Barclay who purchase the miles to award to cardholders. Turn off the money spigot and a dude like Mr. I Destroy Airlines Parker will act pronto. If even a fraction of your readers tweet/contact the banks, they’ll have a hard time ignoring.


Seems like a bad FF program and sour grapes… mostly sour grapes.


I agree, its a total scam. Im so fed up with it. Every flight that ever is available on the AAdvantage, its always a stop-over…american has so many flights every day from NY-Miami..Why cant the AAdvantage include direct flights…such bs


@AJK: You are right! We should all call cancellation dept. and let them know that we’re considering cancelling and switching to Chase United because we have no use for the miles


I agree with the whole post up to the point about a DOT complaint. Parker is destroying AAdvantage in every way, maybe via death by 1000 papercuts, but he DOT has nothing to say about this whatsoever. AA can set the rules of their currency and the market of consumers can choose not to fly AA.


For all the folks looking to get rid of their useless miles: I discovered this site You can book hotels and rent cars there. It’s actually expensive, but if you have a co-branded card, the price will decrease significantly after you log in.


The vast drop in saver award availability with AA has also killed the value of my BA Avios points!


Actually I also recently canceled my citi aadvantage card as I can never find availability on any of their miles flights. I fly coach – it’s not like I’m looking for the best seat offerings or anything, but compared to United or Air France, which I also fly, they have little or extremely unreasonable availability (terrible overnight layovers when flying via Europe abroad, etc).This is not new, it’s been a problem for a few years now. A scam? Not quite as they do have *some* availability, but it’s quite a pathetic choice and I don’t see any point at all in investing in s miles program which barely gives back.


And what’s with all the ‘discounted’ aanytime awards? Are they hoping that due to the lack of saver awards, that I’ll instead shell out 20K miles, for a multi-stop transcon?

On a positive note: Recently when I’ve routed on a ridiculous 3 stop transcon LAX-NYC award ticket, I called customer service to have them reroute me on a more direct flight, at no charge.


How do I get my miles out of AA, given that I signed up for citi cats that were promoted on this site?


There are two planks we can leverage. One is the DoT, as Dan rightly suggests. The other, and perhaps ultimately more effective way, is to do what I did the other day, and cancel most (3 out of 4) Citi AA cards, and give the lack of sAAver award seat availability as the reason. Citi collates this info, and if enough people state that as a reason, it gets noticed, and will ultimately come back to kick Scott Parker in the scro*um

Jack out of the box

@Mike: What would you say if your bank would suddenly make a slight adjustment on the balance in your account? Say they just change your 10,000USD into 10,000HKD. (10,000.00 HKD = 1,289.00 USD)


I actually feel bad for the other oneworld carriers who offer decent availability to their alliance, but can’t even offer decent award space because there’s no available sAAver flights from the gateway city to their final destination. They’re suffering big time as well.


Nothing at all to do with blogs like this encouraging people (via huge banner advertising) to sell their BA/MR to brokers? Is it just a coincidence that BA can only access saver, which is either being actively blocked or gobbled up by said brokers?


It’s great for American Airlines, grab all these people under their loyalty programs then retroactively change things around and screw them. The FTC needs on eyes on this, most definitely.


Where is said banner?
Every partner airline of every airline can only access saver awards, what in the world are you insinuating?

Let em know…


@Dan, You might know better than I do, but my first instinct would be to take this to the FTC rather than DOT. Loyalty program are a form of marketing, and while the terms usually state that they owe you nothing and can reduce the value as they please, it smells like deceptive marketing to me, which is why I think this is more of an FTC issue than a DOT issue.

The real problem is that airlines get away with way too much. See

Some recent experiences by friends and family of how they were treated by the airlines in cases of cancelled flights and missed connections, makes one wonder how those airlines are still in business.

Deregulation is good, but it seems like the airlines are getting away with too much anti trust protections.

The pendulum needs to swing the other way.

That being said, AA is close to the bottom of my list when choosing which airline to fly. (Can it get any worse than a multi leg flight on an AA ticket with a segment codeshared on LY and an actual LY segment? A friend just experienced a horror story on such a ticket!)

Fan of Dan

After flying 150,000-200,000 miles a year with AA for the last 6 years it’s time to say good by…
Major decrease in Milage and upgraded and a huge increase in delays and cancelation. I can no longer be sure that I will reach my destination close to the promised arrivel time.
I am already in the process of status matching to UA.


There are definitely problems with AA award availability. As your examples show, it’s pretty awful on many domestic routes — especially if you’re trying to plan months in advance and book a vacation. It’s a less acute problem on international routes, although AA’s availability is almost always less than UA’s.

As I noted in an earlier post on your blog, this is NOT A “Doug Parker thing.” AA’s award availability tanked long before US Airways came on the scene. Has it gotten materially worse in the past year? I’m not sure. I think it’s gotten a little worse domestically, and not worse internationally. Personally, I’m able to use several hundred thousand AAdvantage and Avios miles every year for travel on AA (100% at saver levels) so the program is certainly not a “scam” if you have any flexibility. Where the program will almost always fail you is if you absolutely have to travel to a certain destination on a certain day at a certain time — especially domestically. You’ll probably fail 90% of the time getting that seat.

I do think your approach of trying to shame management is counter-productive. The DOT isn’t going to do anything. Indeed, they JUST investigated and found nothing they could do. What MIGHT work is engaging management in a productive dialog. These are busy people; they are unlikely to know that their award algorithms produce such horrible results in the NYC-LAX market. I do not think having awful award availability is actually the profit maximizing strategy, since the vast majority of miles are SOLD to third party partners, like Citi. AA makes good money selling these points and, indeed, they’re currently renegotiating their credit card contract to make more money on it. Customers won’t want the card if the AAdvantage program is perceived as a scam. This is the CONSTRUCTIVE criticism you should be making; being a gadfly won’t get you anywhere.


I’m thinking the better approach is to file against the change in mileage earning after a person has already purchased a ticket departing post-deval. Changing the advertised earnings after purchase is pretty low IMO.


the smartest thing i did was close all aa cards (4) and use all ff miles i had with em last year… i needed a few diff flights from nyc-sea and nyc-mia they never had anything avail… awful. perfect time for united to get their act back togather…


This hasn’t really been the focus of the post here but AA has also become extremely stingy releasing last minute seats.

I used to be able to switch an existing award to a different flight within a few days of flying if seats were available. Now they’ll just send out planes nowhere close to full without releasing awards.


I just looked for a ticket to LAX in 48 hours. I can buy a ticket in O class for $120 plus tax, but there is no saver availability. Explain that.

I disagree that AA program tanked a long time ago. It is only post devaluation that it has gotten really, really bad.


DOT just responded to my complaint. If everyone followed Dans advice this could be a big changer


I got AA Citicard in 2000 and mostly used points to upgrade flights to business going to Israel. As they no longer have this flight, I used my accumulated points several months ago for a domestic flight to meet friends to tour. All that was available with points was business/first class. The flight times, flight numbers and routings have changed at least 4 times since I reserved. In addition, even though there are meals served in First class, I was told No “special meals” are available domestically. This means no kosher, but also no vegan, or halal either. I have never travelled domestically above economy before, so is this common on other airlines? I could not even find out if the return flight will have fruit or anything else usually available to business/first passengers on transcontinental flights.
I hope to stop flying AA altogether soon


In response to my complaint filed with the DOT and forwarded to them, American Airlines Customer Relations sent me this email today:

Dear Mr. :

The Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division has forwarded your recent correspondence regarding the availability of AAdvantage® program award seats. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

We know that award travel is very important to our customers and we are committed to helping our customers travel on their miles. AAnytime Awards are offered without any blackout date restrictions and can be used to select travel on any American Airlines or American Eagle® flight with available seats. If your travel plans are flexible, a MileSAAver award offers travel at a significant mileage savings; however, MileSAAver award space is subject to availability and capacity-control restrictions apply.

We do advise our customers that award space is booked in a special class of service and it may not be available on all flights or on all days of the week when you choose to travel. We also encourage customers to “mix and match” award options by using one award type for the outbound portion of the trip, and another for the return. This gives customers the opportunity to get the most flexibility out of their miles. For more information, please visit

Your thoughts matter to us. Please be assured that the opinions of our customers is one of our primary concerns. I’ve documented your comments for review and consideration of possible future changes. Should you have any additional questions regarding award travel, our Reservations Department can be contacted by phone at 800-443-7300 and one of our specialists will be happy to assist you. (Please note that reservations booked through the reservations office or at the airport are subject to a service charge.)

Mr. , we thank you for your loyalty and are working hard to earn your continued patronage. We hope you will give us the opportunity to do so


David Gross
Customer Relations
American Airlines


@Mike: I agree. Ive never successfully booked an award trip on their site.
If you want trips from USA to Asia you need to call them and book it on the phone. you CANT see that from the website! Its crazy. Not to mention the availability is horrible


We are in 2017 seems like AA has only gotten worse never any award flights. Is there anyone to speak to?


does sombdey know how i cud get 2 tickets frm new york to london with 60 k aa points inmidle of jannarey


does anyone ever let American Airlines know how awful their partners are to redeem miles with American to fly to Tel Aviv? if not you should email He is the president of American Airlines. our voices need to be heard by him. currently their partners are; royal jordanian(would rather walk to israel)
Qtar Airlines (NO THANK YOU)
British Airways the taxes are insane plus you have to redeem a ton of miles)
Air Berlin(out of business)
Iberia(probably their best partner however the flights leaving Tel Aviv force you to sleep over in Madrid as you miss the connecting flight.
there are one of 2 things American needs to do. they either have to start flying again direct to Tel Aviv FROM JFK ,NOT FROM PHILADELPHIA, or revisit their partnership with EL AL. Every airline that successfully travels to Tel Aviv leaves from a major NY airport. how many of you have either dropped your Citi AAdvantage card or use it less and less because the miles program to Israel is terrible? Well let Mr. Parker hear it. they will only consider doing anything if people let them know. seriously let your voices be heard. thank you