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Several months ago, American released a new 5-tier award chart.  Here is an excerpt of the full award chart – here is the full American award chart.


As you can see, the highest tier “Level 3” are only on select dates.  Well, unfortunately, one of those was a date that I all of a sudden needed to get a ticket for (on super short notice)

Getting awards on short notice

We talked a few months ago about the Traveler’s Triangle, that talks about the relationship between your flexibility in the time and location, and the price that you’ll end up paying (in either dollars or miles).

the-travelers-triangleThis was definitely true for me, as I had a fixed location, and a fixed time, and oh, that time just happened to be in the next week during the most traveled week of the year.  I wasn’t expecting miracles…

In my searches, I logged on to American Airlines, and pulled up my search.  I was able to get from PDX-CLE even at the regular (low) prices, but the return flight to Portland was impossible, even trying several different origins.


If you were wondering how much a one-way domestic flight on Level 3 was going to cost (American’s award chart is silent on the matter), it’s 50,000 miles (one-way!)  It appears to be in place for the weekends (Fri / Sat / Sun) after Christmas and New Years (when everyone wants to travel).  There is also the American AAnytime “Level 2” awards, which are 30,000 one-way for the rest of the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and then the “regular” American AAnytime Level 1 awards, which are 20,000 miles

american-aanytime-exampleIt looks like Saver availability has opened up for travel on New Year’s Day, which wasn’t there a few days ago when I was looking.  Unfortunately this ticket is for my brother, and he has to be back in Portland by the afternoon on the 30th, so traveling on New Year’s Day doesn’t really help us.

Amusingly enough, on many dates, it’s actually a cheaper redemption to fly on BUSINESS class!


Every day from the 26th to the 30th, as well as January 10th and 11th is 25,000 miles in Business Class, and 30,000 or 50,000 miles in Economy Class.  Business class domestically doesn’t really get you much, but if it’s cheaper…

Comparing to United

United Airlines is another option, and in this case a much better option since they only have 2 levels of award.  Again, the outbound trip was no problem finding availability at the Saver level, but on the way back, here’s what I got.


You can see by the calendar that there is no saver award availability any time that I need it, but there are Standard Awards available.  There is actually Standard Award availability on just about every flight.

I should also point out that this is the “special” availability that I have as a United card holder – if I’m not logged in, I get no availability on any flight, Saver or Standard.

Waiving the $75 close-in booking fee

American and United both charge a $75 close-in booking fee if you book within 21 days of departure.  I’ve talked before about how to get around that close-in booking fee by using alliance partners, but in this case it was not to be.

(SEE ALSO: How to book United or American without the $75 close-in booking fee)

(SEE ALSO: Introduction to Air alliances)

But because there was no saver availability, I could not book my flights on a partner airline (such as Alaska, British Airways or Air Canada), since they only get the regular Saver availability.

I tried the only card I had left – I Tweeted out to @United

(SEE ALSO: List of Airline and Hotel Twitter contacts)

In the end, my brother couldn’t make it work on his end to make the flights, so it was all for naught, though it was an interesting exercise on how much the AAnytime availability costs on heavily traveled dates.

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