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The Downside Of American Airlines Web Specials – A Sneaky Devaluation

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American Airlines Web Specials

The Downside Of American Airlines Web Specials

American Airlines has been the toast of the town the last few weeks.  Did I really just write that?  This is the airline that stranded my sister and then were completely inept when dealing with seat assignments.  But yes it is true that American has gotten a lot of publicity on the miles and points blogs lately.  That is mainly because of their awesome Web Special deals. First it was Auckland & Sydney then Hawaii and just this week they have transcontinental flights all for 5,000 AAdvantage miles each way.  That is insane value.  I wrote about one issue with these web specials when they first came out, AA hides their best pricing. I have discovered there is another downside of American Airlines web specials too.

Downside? What Downside?

How can there be downside?  American is offering expensive routes for $150 worth of miles? There is nothing but upside there! That is true, when you are dealing with these 5,000 mile bookings it is all upside.  Those types of deals even create FOMO, even though it is okay to miss out on them – I promise!

But these web specials are not being used just for 5,000 mile flights.  I found one to Vegas last minute when I thought all hope was lost for 8,000 miles which was another great deal.  But I am not talking about that either.  I am talking about when American Airlines labels a flight a web special when it really isn’t.

The day I found the 8,000 mile flight to Vegas was also the day that the 5,000 mile transcon flights were just launching.  I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find any awesome deals for checking out some baseball stadiums.

This is what I found looking at Philadelphia:

That is pretty much the saver rate for a flight from DTW to PHL but it was labeled a web special, and there is the bad news.

Why Does It Matter If The Flight Is Marketed As A Web Special?

American Airlines web specials are only available for AAdvantage members.  Even though they are saver level or below that means they are not released to partners.  Let’s take a look at what British Airways shows for the same date as above:

American Airlines Web Specials

American Airlines Web Specials

The flights are not there.  Even though it is a saver priced award ticket British Airways does not get access to it.

That may not seem like a huge deal but it does devalue British Airways Avios and other partner award bookings.  Before realizing that I still had Gold status with American from the Hyatt match I checked BA’s site for the Vegas flight.  I was trying to avoid the $75 close in booking fee.  And even though the flight was cheaper than the 12,500 saver award level it did not show up on BA’s site.  That meant that I would have had no option but to pay the close in booking fee if I didn’t have status.

People also like to use British Airways for speculative bookings since their cancellation fees are only the price of the taxes and fees.  That plus avoiding close in booking fees makes this a great option for American flights.  I haven’t even mentioned transfer bonuses that make the prices often cheaper than AA’s own bookings. But if American continues to label these flights web specials we will not get access to the best flights.

Final Thoughts

Is this a huge deal? Probably not.  But it is a sneaky little devaluation of British Airways Avios. Hopefully these 5,000 mile deals keep popping up because they are complete awesomesauce. But if American continues to label saver level flights “web specials” then one of our favorite currencies (Avios) could be in trouble.  Only time will tell!

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. “Web Specials” introduce another error. When trying to position to a different city to get a Saver level business class partner award, I couldn’t book all the way through because AA wouldn’t link a web special economy flight to a partner saver business award. To get the positioning flights to link into one booking, they are required to be all web special, all saver, or all everyday.

  2. This is the same playbook they used for introducing basic economy fares.

    “That is pretty much the saver rate for a flight from DTW to PHL but it was labeled a web special, and there is the bad news.”

  3. I was wondering about that. I learned the other day that Avios could help with avoiding AA’s close-in fees (paid 2-3 in the last couple months). In fact, one just last week… and I couldn’t find any availability or showing when going through Avios.

    You’re right, definitely sneaky to keep all of those fares within the AA ecosystem so you have to go through them sans status.

    • Hopefully they don’t have them cannibalize too many of their routes otherwise it will really hurt Avios going forward.


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