We have all known an American Airlines award chart devaluation was coming for a long time, since United and Delta devalued in 2014. I thought I’d have a little fun with predicting the American Airlines devaluation, so in early February, I asked other bloggers to answer a few questions about the devaluation and fill in a chart predicting all the award prices from the United States mainland to the rest of the world.

The devAAluation was announced last week.

Here’s how our guesses fared.

The Guessers

The Questions and Answers

1. Exact date of new AA award chart announcement:
  • Average: September 3, 2015
  • My guess: November 1, 2015
  • Correct Answer: November 17, 2015
  • We all thought the announcement would come sooner.
2. Exact date new AA award chart takes effect:
  • Average: December 9, 2015
  • My guess: February 1, 2016
  • All guessers believe a new American Airlines award chart will be in place by February 1, 2016 at the latest. All but one guesser believed the new chart takes effect in early 2016, with one guesser in late 2015
  • Correct Answer: March 22, 2016
  • We all thought the old chart would die sooner.
3. United’s new chart took effect for bookings after a certain date. One of Delta’s charts was for travel after a certain date. Will the new AA chart be for bookings made after a certain date or travel after a certain date?
  • 100% of respondents said that the new chart will be for bookings–not travel–after a certain date.
  • Correct Answer: For bookings made after a certain date (3/22/16). (This implies you can travel through February 16, 2017 at the current prices as long as you book by March 21, 2016.)
  • We all got it right.
4. What percent chance is there that off peak economy award bookings will be eliminated?
  • Average: 11%
  • My guess: 20%
  • One guesser thought the chances of off peak awards being eliminated were very low, but thought we’d see tightening of the very generous off peak date ranges.
  • Correct Answer: Off Peak awards to Southern South America were eliminated, but all others remained, and Asia 2 was added. Hawaii and Asia 1 must now be bookable on AA metal to get off peak price; only Europe remains as an off peak destination when flying partners. No date range tightening has been announced.
5. What percent chance is there that American makes booking partners more expensive than booking its own flights (a la United)?
  • Average: 16%
  • My guess: 5%
  • Correct Answer: American made flights to Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico more expensive on partners’ planes than on American’s. (Also most off peak awards must now be flown on American’s planes.)
6. What percent chance is there that routing rules will be changed at the same time as a new chart is introduced?
  • Average: 31%
  • My guess: 5%
  • Answers ranged from 0 to 100%. I think I worded the question poorly because I think there will probably be at least one new rule, but I was trying to get at major rule changes.
  • Correct Answer: The only award routing change at the time of the announcement is that off peak awards to Hawaii and Asia 1 must fly American Airlines planes for awards booked after March 22, 2016.

The Chart Predictions

Here is the average of our predictions. This chart shows the average predicted price of a one way award beginning in North America in thousands of American Airlines miles. I’ve noted in red the awards we thought would go up by more than 5,000 miles one way on the next chart.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.54.19 PM

Here’s my guess, for reference.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 3.33.39 PM

Note that I was smart enough to break Alaska out from the US 48 + Canada. Getting to Alaska, which had previously cost the same as an award within the continental USA does go up in price on the new American Airlines chart. I wasn’t prescient enough to split Canada from the mainland United States. Canadian awards also go up in price on the new chart.

Results

I summed the absolute value of the error of each guesser to find the average error. As an example, if a guesser predicted that Asia 1 in First Class would be 70,000 or 90,000 miles, that’s the same error of 10,000 (since the actual price is 80,000.)

For off peak awards, we all missed that Southern South America would lose its off peak award, so we were assigned an error or 30,000 miles minus our guess for the off peak price. As an example, I expected a 20,000 mile off peak award in the region, so I got an error of 10,000. We also all missed that Asia 2 would get an off peak award except Angelina.

Best Overall

Me with an average error of 5.64k across the four charts (off peak, economy, Business, First.)

I even beat the average of our guesses, which registered an average error of 6.39k. As you’ll see, we all did a good job forecasting the off peak, economy, and Business Class charts and a terrible job with the First Class chart.

We all greatly underestimated how bad the new American Airlines First Class award chart would be. I underestimated the least, which led to my overall win.

Best Off Peak

AAdvantage Geek best forecasted the off peak chart, correctly seeing price increases to Hawaii, Northern South America, Europe, and Asia 1. His average error was 2.81k.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 2.19.50 PM

Best Economy

Julian “The Devil’s Advocate” from Travel Codex had the best guess for the economy award chart with a ridiculously low average error of 1.07k. He got 9 of the 14 regions correct including several that changed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 2.20.11 PM

Business

The Devil’s Advocate and I tied for best Business Class guess with an average error of 3.21k. He got Hawaii, India/Middle East, and Africa right. I got those plus Asia 2.

First

I had the best First Class guess despite an average error 14.5k. I was also the only person to get even a single guess correct, since I had Asia 1 (Japan, Korea) at 80,000 miles one way in First Class.

Every single region’s guess from every single person was too low except my correct guess and Angelina and Gary from View from the Wing expecting Asia 1 to be even more expensive than it turned out to be.

Obviously that shows that we made bad guesses, but I think it also shows that American Airlines devalued its First Class chart much more than informed people expected.

Bottom Line

I had fun putting this little contest together to see whether my fellow bloggers and I could predict American Airlines’ devaluation. We did a good job overall other than badly whiffing on how big American’s First Class devaluation would be.

I was hoping that our average guesses would be very close to the final chart, but since we all guessed the devaluation would be smaller than it was, the “wisdom of the crowd” wasn’t so wise.

Thanks to all the other guessers!

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