American Airlines has announced a massive devAAluation of its award chart for awards booked on or after March 22, 2016. (It also announced negative changes to status and revenue-based award mile-earning on paid flights.)

The only two things I like about the announcement are that a few prices go down slightly and that we were given solid notice. You have just over four months to book awards on the current American Airlines award chart. On March 21, 2016, you will be able to book awards at the current prices for travel through February 16, 2017.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

(That means you have time to get the  Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® and spend $3,000 on each in the first three months to earn 106,000 American Airlines miles you can spend on the current award chart.)

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This is, however, a massive devaluAAtion, especially in the premium cabins, in line with United’s bloodbath that was announced Halloween 2013 and took effect in February 2014. American has also, for the first time, started to charge different prices for awards on its own planes versus awards that fly partners like United does. So far there are only a few such differences and for not many miles, but I do not like that precedent one bit because partner flights are often much nicer.

Let’s look at the changes.

American Airlines Economy Chart

This left half of this chart shows the current one way prices in thousands of miles for flying American Airlines flights in economy compared to the prices for booking the same awards on March 22, 2016. Good differences are in green, and bad differences are in red. The right side shows the price for off peak awards now and next year.Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.40.05 AM

The best change is that direct American Airlines flights that are 500 miles or less will be bookable for 7,500 American Airlines miles next year. Of course you can book those same awards for 4,500 British Airways Avios now (going up to 7,500 Avios in February), so that isn’t even that great of a deal.

I do like that Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico are getting cheaper, and that American’s flight to Hong Kong will have an off peak price next year.

Price increases are mostly minor except that off peak awards to Japan and Korea are getting 30% more expensive and that off peak awards to Southern South America are going away completely.

You will notice that flights to Canada and Alaska, which used to be the same price as flights within the continental United States now have their own more expensive price. United made this change for Alaska in 2014.

Partner Economy Chart

This chart is set up just like the last one except that it shows the prices now and in March 2016 to book partner flights with American Airlines miles.

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The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent were too expensive, and they are getting cheaper. That’s good, but it hardly makes up for the elimination of most off peak awards on partner metal (only Europe remains, and it gets more expensive.)

You can also note that the drop in price we see to Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico on the American Airlines metal chart does not apply to partner awards.

Business Class Chart

Since there is no off peak Business Class award, this chart has American Airlines metal awards on the left and partner metal awards on the right. The prices are identical except that booking partners doesn’t get the discount for sub-500-mile domestic flights, and you pay extra to fly partners to Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

The higher price on the slashes within the continental United States and to Canada are only if you fly a three-cabin plane. Three-cabin planes operate between New York and San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver (Cathay Pacific), and occasionally on other routes like Los Angles to Miami. Three-cabin Business Class features a flat bed. Two-cabin flights operate all other routes and price at the lower price.Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 7.39.28 PMBusiness Class awards go way up in price, mostly in the 15-30% range. Australia and New Zealand awards are the worst hit, going up 28%.

First Class Chart

I saved the worst for last. This chart is like the previous one with AA-metal awards on the left and partner-metal awards on the right. You may have picked up that my color coding has red numbers when a change is negative and a red box when it is really negative. This chart has 100% red boxes.

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  • American Airlines First Class from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco is going up 54% to 50,000 miles one way.
  • Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Vancouver is going up 69% to 55,000 miles one way.
  • American Airlines First Class on its 777-300ER to Brazil or Europe is going up 36% to 85,000 miles one way.
  • Japan Airlines First Class from the United States to Japan is going up 28% to 80,000 miles one way. Relatively that’s a better deal than awards to Europe or Southern South America.
  • Cathay Pacific First Class from the United States to Hong Kong or Southeast Asia is going up 63% to 110,000 miles one way.

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    Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Qantas First Class from the United States to Australia is going up 52% to 110,000 miles one way.
  • Etihad First Class was already expensive to the Middle East or India and now it goes up another 28% to 115,000 miles one way.

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    Etihad First Class

Aspirational products just got put out of reach by American Airlines. What a bummer!

Other Sweet Spot Awards

I wrote about five sweetspots on the American Airlines awards chart that don’t touch the USA. How did those fare?

1. Europe to Middle East/Indian Subcontinent/Maldives in First Class

  • Is 40,000 miles one way
  • Will be 62,500 miles one way, +56%

Bye bye, cheap awards in Etihad A380, Qatar A380, and Qantas A380.

2. Middle East/Indian Subcontinent/Maldives to East Asia (Asia 1 or 2) in Business Class

  • Is 30,000 miles one way
  • Will be 40,000 miles one way, +33%

3. Korea/Japan to Australia/New Zealand in First Class

  • Is 60,000 miles one way, no change on March 22, 2016

Still a cost-effective way to fly Japan Airlines First Class

4. Southeast Asia to Australia/New Zealand in First Class

  • Is 45,000 miles one way
  • WIll be 50,000 miles one way, +11%

5. Africa to Europe in First Class

  • Is 50,000 miles one way
  • WIll be 80,000 miles one way, +60%

Bye bye, cheap British Airways A380 First Class awards.

Two bonus devAAluations:

  • Australia to Middle East (Qantas or Etihad A380) in First Class goes from 60,000 to 100,000 miles
  • Australia to Europe (Qantas or Etihad A380) in First Class goes from 80,000 to 115,000 miles

Bottom Line

American Airlines has massively increased the number of miles you will need to book Business and First Class awards starting March 22, 2016. Its chart will go from far better than Delta’s and United’s to just being in the same ballpark.

There is still time to earn and burn at current priced.

Earn

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Burn

Book by March 21, 2016 for travel through February 16, 2017 at the current award chart prices.

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