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american-awrad-availability-logoAmerican award availability is awful.  There’s just no other way to say it!  An airline frequent flyer program has 3 components.

  1. How easy is it to get the miles (whether that’s through credit card signup bonuses, shopping portals, or actually (gasp!) flying
  2. What’s the award chart.  How many miles does it take you to get to where you want to go?  That is… if your airline actually PUBLISHES an award chart!
  3. What’s the award availability like? How easy is it to find a flight to use your miles

There’s a reason that Capital One has all those commercials with Jennifer Garner talking about “disappearing” award seats!


Disappearing award seats?!?!?

It used to be that the only time you really had to worry about award availability was if you were trying to find premium travel (first or business class seats) or if you had zero flexibility on your destination or timing.  And then, if worst came to worse, sometimes you just gotta suck it up and book a “Standard” award

Historically, I haven’t had much of a problem finding economy seats for domestic travel, but lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend especially on American Airlines of having zero award availability for huge stretches of time.  View from the Wing also posted recently on this, though he was focusing mostly on premium cabin travel.

Investigating American award availability

I first ran into this disappearing American award availability when trying to book a ticket for a friend of mine, to pay her back for watching our kids for a weekend.  She wanted to go to Portland on a particular weekend for a friend’s wedding.  Date flexibility was non-existent, but she was willing to fly from Cincinnati or any nearby airport (Columbus, Dayton, Indy, Louisville).  Searching for Thursday and Friday, there was literally ONE flight with award availability out of any of those airports.

On the return trip, there was NOTHING to ANY of those airports! Here’s an example of what I was seeing


Now I do understand that Thursday-Sunday are the prime “business traveler” times, but I wouldn’t think Portland – Cincinnati would be a prime business traveler route, though I could be wrong!

Not only are there no SAAver awards, there aren’t any AAnytime Level 1 (20K) awards – all the way up to the Level 2 (30K awards). Amusingly, you can actually fly business class for less 🙂

Compare the awful American award availability to much-maligned Delta, where I was able to find EIGHT seats on a flight from Seattle to Cincinnati (and multiple different options on the same day!)

One other interesting note was that the bottom flight (the red eye to Dallas leaving at 12:30 a.m.) was selling for only $117 cash!


So rather than redeem those miles at a 0.39 cents per mile valuation (ugh!), in the end, I used ~8000 ThankYou points to book the cash flight home.

Am I alone here?  Have you noticed disturbing (negative) trends with American award availability?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments

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