When Delta decided to eliminate award charts about a year ago, I thought that was one of the worst decisions an airline had ever made with regards to its award program, not necessarily from a business standpoint, but from a customer relations standpoint. However, that pales in comparison to what American Airlines often does with regards to its award chart, which is acting as if it does not even exist.
You see, American Airlines has this longstanding rule that you cannot route via a third region. In other words, you cannot fly from Region A to Region C via Region B. Nonetheless, as is the case with most rules, there are exceptions to this routing rule. Even though these exceptions are not published officially by AA, they are commonly known. Among the most popular exceptions to AA’s third region routing rule are North America to Asia Region 2 via Asia Region 1 and North America to Africa via Europe or Doha (with Qatar Airways).
On the other hand, while you cannot travel on an AA award from North America to South Pacific via Asia Region 1/2 or from North America to South America Region 2 via South America Region 1 because of the third region routing rule, both absurd restrictions, at least it is possible to travel from North America to South Pacific and to South America Region 2 without having to connect in a third region. But what happens when a connection in a third region is necessary for a specific routing and AA does not recognize any third region routing rule exception? That is exactly the predicament I found myself in last week while working on a de-facto around-the-world award booking for a client.
This client needed to fly from Nairobi, Kenya to Melbourne, Australia. I found availability for an one-connection itinerary with Etihad (Abu Dhabi) and a two-connection itinerary with Qatar and Qantas (Doha and Dubai). As evidenced by their award chart, AA requires 50,000 miles per passenger on this route in business class:
I did not recall ever booking an AA award for this routing, so I did some research to see if there were any third region routing rule exceptions given that no AA partner flies non-stop from NBO to South Pacific. Unfortunately, I could not find any. However, I figured that if AA publishes rates for this routing on its award chart they had to allow us to at least book the Qatar/Qantas itinerary as a single award considering the impossibility of not connecting in a third region if traveling from NBO to South Pacific.
I spoke to four different people at AA, including two supervisors. They were mostly sympathetic with the situation, but none of them budged: if we wanted to book either of these two itineraries, two separate awards would be required for each, which meant that instead of paying 50,000 miles p/p, 90,000 miles would be required.
The fact that AA publishes an award rate for this route on its award chart cannot be considered anything other than deceptive advertising. Either AA has to remove rates from its award charts for routings that are impossible to book without connecting in a third region for which no exception is recognized or they have to eliminate the third region routing rule.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar predicament with American Airlines?