Earlier this week I wrote about how airlines are free to exercise any amount of discretion (or bias) they may choose in allocating award seats to their partner airlines. Specifically, I noted how American Airlines is getting the short end of the stick from a European-based carrier, and how this makes using AAdvantage miles more difficult for upper class international travel. Since American gets access to fewer upper class seats than other partner airlines, maybe they can make up for that by offering more upper class seats on their own flights to their loyal customers?
Unfortunately, I found a similarly disheartening result. Searching American’s non-stop flight from Dallas to London in September, each day showed ample availability in coach. But when I searched for upper class seats on the DFW-LHR flight, here were the results:
Obviously, upper class seats on long-haul flights are very desirable, so I checked the seat map for one of these days to see how many seats had been taken:
Well, there goes that idea. This Boeing 777 has 52 business class seats. Only two of these are taken, and yet American has no saver-level award availability for this flight. Just to prove this was no fluke, I checked a domestic flight from Phoenix to Chicago for the same time period. I was not surprised to see that these flights also showed no saver-level award availability. Nor was I terribly surprised to see this as the available seat chart for one of these flights:
You can see 16 seats up front on their Airbus 321, with all 16 being available. Yet none are available for saver-level award redemptions.
It is understandable that airlines may want to hold on to many/most of these seats to try and sell them for full fare to business travelers. After all, this is a business and they are in it to make money. But to not give any of them up for saver-level awards nine months in advance? This certainly flies in the face of the term “loyalty programs” that have long since been used to describe the frequent flier programs with which we are all so familiar.
Seriously, what gives, American? Where is your premium cabin award availability?
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel.