My Thoughts on the American Airlines Devaluation Fiasco

By now, most people in this hobby are aware that American Airlines “accidentally” began adding fuel surcharges to award tickets booked. That meant that for flights that would normally cost 50K points plus $50, they would cost closer to 50K points plus $500. It was a shocker when I read this on One Mile at a Time, and I literally got out of bed at 1:15am to start burning my AA miles.

But today, American Airlines made a statement saying that “This change was intended for revenue tickets only, but the surcharge was erroneously added to AAdvantage award redemptions on other airlines as well.” Essentially, they said “oops my bad” and things are back to the way they were before.

Something doesn't add up here...

Something doesn’t add up here…


I want to point out that I’m a pretty cynical and skeptical guy. I’m of the opinion that American really did add the fuel surcharges to awards and backtracked after getting extreme backlash. There are a couple of reasons for me to think this:

  1. Reports are that the original memo said specifically that fuel surcharges were to be collected on award tickets. There’s no real gray area there.
  2. Their explanation says surcharges were intended to be added to just revenue tickets. Well, they already collect that charge.

Here’s what I think: I think this is absolutely a change that’s going to happen in the future, but someone had an itchy trigger finger. Memos do not write themselves, and we know big changes are in store for award charts after the merger between American and US Airways. Normally these changes don’t occur until after mergers (why upset elites beforehand for both airlines?) so it was surprising that they announced something last night.

But after this, I’m very skeptical that they’ll wait until after the merger to make changes. Maybe they’ll wait until the Department of Justice gives their blessings on the merger before making this change, or maybe they’ll wait a bit longer. Either way, I think the change is coming….so make use of those miles sooner rather than later.

Oh, and that doesn’t even take into account the worst case scenario (now you’ll see how big of a conspiracy theorist I am). What if they did this to indicate to United, Delta, and US that they’re willing and ready to make this change, so that the others will follow suit. We call this collusion. Not saying this happened, or happens, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this were true.

It’s also worth noting that American Airlines has had a couple of really major fails the last few weeks. The first one was that they offered the fast-track promo to top-tier Executive Platinum status in a supposedly “targeted” invite. Except they put it on LinkedIn for the world to see. They came out with an ambiguous statement saying people that were “eligible” for the promo would be allowed to take part. They clarified a day later saying that if you registered and got a confirmation, you’re eligible. Was that so hard to say the first time?

This is the second fail, and I think their statement today again does little to clear up anything. If anything, it invites more questions regarding adding the fuel surcharge to revenue tickets, which they already do. Maybe I have too much of a conspiracy theorist mind, but I’m not buying it. I think there’s more to it.

What American Airlines should do is be completely upfront and honest (I know, I know…hold your laughter). If Hilton and Delta can give advanced notice of their devaluations, you’d have to think that American Airlines would do the same…especially for a change of this magnitude. In all honesty, short of going to a revenue-based award chart, this is the worst change that could be made in my opinion. And you just know other US carriers would follow suit.

Or, maybe it really was an honest mistake. Maybe there’s some kind of adjustments that AA was making to their revenue tickets and somehow the award desk was given a memo they shouldn’t have received. I can’t wait to hear a more detailed explanation…if we ever get one.

But for me, this all sounds fishy right now. And American Airlines has done little to clarify the situation for us, but perhaps I’m simply asking too much. Just be cautious if you’re booking mileage runs on AA or manufacturing spend on AA credit cards!



  1. I was just going to put another $10K on my AA card tomorrow. Now it’s headed to Chase or Amex to get points I can transfer to a zillion different partners because who would trust these guys now?

    These airline program changes are supposed to reward loyalty? Ha! It does exactly the opposite…everyone should be a free agent and just build MRs and URs.

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