Why I Left 500K AAdvantage Miles In My Account Despite the Devaluation

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aadvantage devaluation booking

500K AAdvantage & Counting

March 22, 2016 was the big day. It was the long feared AAdvantage devaluation. Many of you no doubt cleaned out your accounts in a spree of last minute bookings. Since American is fairly generous with their award change rules, a lot of people locked in routes and days with space in the hopes that they can change their bookings later if need be.

I personally burned hundreds of thousands of miles, but left so many more to devalue in my wife’s account. Why? There is one rule that American is fairly strict about. All travel has to be completed within a year on award tickets regardless of changes. This means that tickets booked before the devaluation would have to be used by March 21, 1017. The unfortunate (or perhaps fortunate) thing is that all of my travel is accounted for between now and then. I even have a bonus ticket booked for a trip that probably won’t happen.

Cathay First Fun

Of course like many of you I did have a little pre-devaluation fun. I booked two Cathay Pacific First Class tickets from LAX-HKG-MNL for a trip I am planning later this year with my dad. There wasn’t any first class space from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, but I was able to get a first class segment from Hong Kong to Manila. Since this award is priced as first class, if first class space opens between LAX-HKG, I can book us into it. I’m saying my prayers since I know my dad will really enjoy the experience.

Some Awards Are Still Good

There are also some upcoming trips that I did not book. Tentatively early next year we are considering a visit to Costa Rica. American didn’t really do much to those awards (actually they lowered the cost of Business to Central America) so it wasn’t a priority to book. Similarly I want to jet down to Mexico and while I would probably use Southwest anyway, American didn’t really devalue there a lot either. In other words, I really didn’t worry about locking in flights where the new redemption costs are similar to the old ones.

Etihad First Apartments

One area that I struggled with was Etihad First. I know those awards jumped up, but I will be flying Emirates First later this year and can’t see myself flying halfway around the world again before next March. While booking all of my miles and forcing myself to take trips sounds nice, it isn’t really a possibility given my current situation with work and my family. I didn’t book one of these awards, because I wanted to leave the space for others and also because I didn’t want to be tempted to force it.

Having Some Left Over

Of course, there is another main reason I left some miles in our accounts. We are a family and thus will have a need for these miles in the coming years. Plus, from time to time I am definitely willing to fly coach, which is still a good value in many cases with American. I also like that we have a nice stash of miles sitting around for future trips and there are some redemptions that are decent even in business class. With that said, I can’t see myself paying 110,000 one-way in Cathay first class so I am glad I got one last award locked in!


If you didn’t burn all of your AAdvantage miles then don’t worry you are not alone. Yes, AAdvantage miles are worth less than they were previously and in some cases significantly less. With that said, there is still value and having a nice balance of these miles will serve me and my family in the future so I’m not worried. I am sure many of you are in a similar situation.

What awards did you get locked in before the devAAluation and how many miles did you keep? Let us know in the comments!

Shawn Coomerhttps://milestomemories.com/
Shawn Coomer earns and burns millions of miles/points per year circling the globe with his family. An expert at accumulating travel rewards, he founded Miles to Memories to help others achieve their travel goals for pennies on the dollar. Shawn also runs a million dollar reselling business, knows Vegas better than most and loves to spend his time at the 12 Disney parks across the world.

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  1. When I saw the title at first, I was thinking “what?!?” – and then I saw they were in your wife’s account 🙂 Since I also got ExPlat through the challenge, I just burned all my miles on routes/destinations I would like to visit in the next year. I know that I will end up having to redeposit some but being able to do that for no fee is the only reason I emptied my account. If I didn’t have ExPlat, I would have held on to several hundred thousand for sure.
    I figured it was better to have the trips now than wish I could have done them later. Still, like I said, I am sure some will get canceled and I am ok with that!
    Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  2. In the same boat with you except I don’t have enough miles this time and I am waiting for the Citigold 50K miles. However, I can’t see myself making any definite trips in the future, but I do want to visit Central America and other sites where the awards became cheaper, so I will be using my AA miles for that. 🙂

  3. Redeemed 2 million AA miles before the deval..Multiple F and J flights…if you left miles on the table you are an idiot…

  4. Like you, I decided against making “speculative” bookings although finding CX F space made it very tempting. In the end, I’m happy I was able to book F to HKG, J to SIN, and J back from PVG – all over the Christmas holidays. Ringing in the New Year at the Bund! Safe travels Shawn!

  5. I booked West Coast to BKK via HKG on CX F, but only the HKG-BKK is F. So I too am hoping an F long haul seat opens up. If not, I got the first row window in CX J 777, I’ll be able to use F HKG lounges, Pier, Wing, and a short haul F seat in CX’s 777 as compensation for the 12K AA mile difference paid. CX F seats can still be had, but release is pretty close in, like about 4-8 days on avg. Changing AA awards is not a problem and fee free if only the date, time changes, but routing can also change. However, one problem is with changing carriers: E.G., if an F seat opens up in YYZ I can’t get to it because Alaska Air doesn’t fly there, but AA does and if I change to an AA flight to get to that CCX gateway then that’s a cause for a fee, reinstatement of miles and one has to pay the new higher award miles level. LAX, SFO, YVR, ORD are gateways I can get to with Alaska,; NYC is possible, but rare, it’s usually AA to there from where I’m flying from.

  6. Sean, I am fairly new in this game of miles and points and I also was looking in the near future to book a trip to Manila using Cathay Pacific on that exact route. (LAX-HKG-MNL). I too will be looking to use AA Miles. I will probably be looking to fly this route maybe once every year. Do you still see this Airline and route as a great use of AA Miles to get to Manila even after the devaluation? Thanks for all your insight !

  7. The only flight I booked was a BA A380 flight JNB-LHR since I hope to fly all the A380s at some point and that award price was 50k one-way predevaluation. I saved the remainder of my miles for a future trip. What I’m hoping to see is more availability open up after the devaluation similar to what I saw with UA’s partner award availability after UA’s devaluation a few years ago.
    I think you’re doing it right by flying EK F first. I always thought it’s a bit unfair to compare EK’s A380 F product from back in 2008 to Etihad’s apartment that was introduced in late 2014.

  8. I booked a couple one ways LAX-HKG-SGN for family members in CX business class. I saved miles and got back the 10,000 for having the Citi AA card. The HKG-SGN route lists an A350 as the aircraft.

  9. Shawn, I was looking at booking a trip to Asia 2 before the deval but it didn’t happen. I am now looking at Argentina and possibly Chile in the next year as that doesn’t seem to have devalued too much (relative to Asia!) Any thoughts on AA business vs first product or LAN? We will be flying from West Coast.


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