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To Suzanne Rubin, head of American Airlines AAdvantage,

In April 2014, American Airlines eliminated the possibility of stopovers on award tickets with no notice.

Previously, one stopover was allowed on one way awards–two on roundtrip awards–at the North American International Gateway City.

That rule gave folks who lived where there were no international flights on American Airlines partners the chance to enjoy their awards more with stopovers in major international cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. And it allowed people who lived in this long list of cities with international flights on American Airlines partners to enjoy two free one ways per roundtrip international award.

A free one way from Honolulu to Los Angeles plus a flight to London five months later for 20,000 total miles

I think that was the problem. American Airlines didn’t like that a small fraction of the awards its members were booking including extra segments on American Airlines flights. That’s the only reason I can think of that would make you eliminate stopovers on American Airlines awards.

  • Why do I think American Airlines eliminated free stopovers to curb free one ways?
  • How do I suggest American Airlines reinstate free stopovers in a way that benefits us while still prohibiting free one ways?

You didn’t eliminate the stopovers to align your program with US Airways Dividend Miles. Your airlines merged in late 2013 and you’ve been working to align your offerings before final integration in 2015. Eliminating stopovers is a step backwards on that front since US Airways does offer a stopover on award tickets (to say nothing of your competitors United, Delta, and British Airways, which all allow free stopovers on awards.)

You didn’t eliminate the stopovers to save money on en route stopovers. My understanding is that you pay your partners for each flight that AAdvantage members book. En route stopovers don’t add flights to a trip. Stopovers that set up a free one way do add flights to a trip.

Consider someone who lives in New York City who wants to take a trip to Naples. If he were allowed an en route stopover in Berlin, that doesn’t add any extra segments. It just separates the segments in time by a few days, which doesn’t cost American Airlines any more money.

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Allowing a free one way does cost American Airlines something. If that same flyer could add a flight from Miami to New York for no extra miles, that would cost American Airlines a little bit to let him fly the flight (though not much of course because MileSAAver award space is only for “distressed” seats that American Airlines doesn’t expect to sell.)

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If I’m right that stopovers on American Airlines awards were eliminated to stop free one ways, I have a solution.

Reinstate stopovers, but with the Lufthansa rule.

On awards between two regions, the Lufthansa Miles & More program allows one stopover per direction anywhere outside your home region. That means stopovers in Berlin would be allowed on trips between New York and Naples. It also means that stopovers in New York would not be allowed on awards beginning in Miami since Miami and New York are in the same region, which means no free one ways for New Yorkers (or anyone else.)

Adopting the Lufthansa rules is a win-win.

You win because it’s an easy rule for your agents to enforce that doesn’t incentivize folks to add costly extra legs. Plus it aligns you with US Airways awards, which do allow stopovers and keeps you from falling behind your competitors which all allow stopovers on awards.

We win because we get a stopover, which means we can stop in twice as many places on our international awards and the value of our miles goes up. We’ll be happier, more engaged AAdvantage members, which is, of course, another win for you.

Scott Grimmer, founder, and avid AAdvantage proponent

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