Looks Like American Airlines Is Blocking Most Partner Award Tickets

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Looks Like American Airlines Is Not Sharing Partner Award TicketsLooks Like American Airlines Is Blocking Most Partner Award Tickets

American Airlines partner award travel should be simple. You go to the website of any AA partner and search, then book what you want. It USED TO BE that simple. More data points will help, but it looks like American Airlines isn’t sharing partner award tickets. Here’s what an airline told me after I couldn’t find anything.

American Airlines Partner Award Travel

AA has a ton of partners, both inside and outside the oneworld alliance.

Looks Like American Airlines Is Not Sharing Partner Award Tickets
American Airlines partners

Theoretically, I should be able to book a ticket using miles through any of these partners. However, that only works if AA shares the award space.

Is AA Not Sharing?

Over the past few days, I could not find American Airlines flights through any of their partners. The problem is, I know the flights exist. Not flight. FlightS. In fact, look how many options AA returns for an award search on this route from Chicago to Phoenix.

Looks Like American Airlines Is Not Sharing Partner Award Tickets
American Airlines award search – 58 options

58 different options!

Problem is, I don’t have American Airlines miles after they shut down my account previously. When I search on their partners, I find nothing.

British Airways has nothing, including day before & day after

Day of, day before & day after, British Airways can’t find anything at all.

Asia Miles can’t find any routing

Asia Miles got confused and can’t find anything with less than 6 flights in the route!

Alaska Airlines search results for AA award flights

Alaska Airlines at least found something, but they only have first class availability. I value my Alaska miles higher than this and don’t want to use 50k MileagePlan miles for one-way flights within the U.S. for my wife and I.

Etihad Says Something Interesting

People often forget that you can use Etihad Guest to redeem miles for an American Airlines partner award. You can book Etihad via AA and can book flights on AA via Etihad. You can’t book these partners online with Etihad, so I called them.

The phone rep told me he couldn’t find anything at all, business or coach. In fact, he said they can’t see anything from American Airlines past May 30. In his understanding, American Airlines is only sharing 10% of its partner award availability that it used to share.

Why? He said they were told that AA isn’t sure what’s on the horizon with travel, so they don’t want partners gobbling up all the seats on their flights. Thus, American Airlines is, in most cases, only sharing seats to partners for flight awards that are less than 30 days away. This applies to popular routes, expensive routes, or to peak travel dates–according to the phone rep. He told me to call back when it’s less than 3 weeks to my intended travel date.

I know airlines tend to hold more of their seats for themselves. They don’t share 100% of the seats with “the other guys”, but nothing? Across multiple days and multiple different partners? What the Etihad rep said sounds believable. And searching closer to date is showing results.

British Airways results for a search within the next 2 weeks

Final Thoughts

More data will flesh this out. Have you booked an award flight on American Airlines recently using miles from a partner program? What was it? Did you get what you wanted? Or did you have a hard time finding availability, which could mean AA is limiting what it shares to partners?

Let us know, so we can help everyone build a bigger picture.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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32 COMMENTS

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32 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve noticed AA shows more Web Special than regular Saaver availability on recent searches. Those are not available to partners, right?

    • Nope, web specials can always only be booked with AA miles….which for me, are the hardest currency to earn.

    • Jose – correct, web specials can’t be booked via partners. However, the dates and examples shown in this article are not web specials but standard awards that SHOULD be available to partners. I clicked all the way through on several bookings with AA to make sure. However, the partners can’t find them. 1 or 2? OK, I could buy that. Finding nothing, even when they’re standard awards? That’s suspicious.

  2. As much as I hate to admit it but the reason I still spent on my AA Biz is because most of the time I can only find availability via a web special using AA miles.

    Plenty of options that way since my BA to AA transfers have all but dried up.

  3. Doesn’t surprise me. Do third party apps like ExpertFlyer agree with these data points? Frankly I’m surprised that AA offers nonstops at all instead of routing you through 2 other cities in my experience 🙂

    • Some of my options were to stop in both El Paso and in Minneapolis when flying between Chicago and Phoenix. Um…no!

  4. Assuming this isn’t a glitch, the response seems simple enough: AA loses all joint ventures while this policy is in place. Since AA wants to remove the part of the arrangement that favors the customer, the parts that favor the airline should be removed as well.

  5. I think there is just a system issue because there was nothing with AS as well. And there are always ORD-JAL flights.
    This too shall pass…

    • This seems similar to what Singapore Air is doing and blocking partner redemptions at the moment, since they’re uncertain which flights will operate.

      • With Singapore, all of their flights are international. I guess that makes a little bit of sense. AA has a ton of domestic flights that they KNOW will operate, so that point seems strange here. I’ve never thought AA did things that made sense, and that would be par for the course with them.

  6. Three weeks ago, l was able to book two flagship first class tickets on AA 50 from DFW to LHR using Alaska Airlines miles. This award booking also included first class on AA 1667 from SEA to DFW. Maybe I got lucky.

      • Booked on April 18th. We depart SEA on June 22nd and arrive LHR on the morning of June 23rd. Maybe this was my welcome to oneworld gift. I shoulda bought a lottery ticket that day.

        • I don’t know what I was thinking…too much multi-tasking. I had that leg already booked, don’t know why I said I had problems with it. Now I just have to get from Chicago to Phoenix and get from San Diego to my parents’ house in FL later on. 1 down, 2 to go! I wish there were good connections on UA or DL, which would make this easier by not relying on just 1 carrier for so many legs.

  7. Booking AA with BA Avios for domestic flights is my most frequent use of miles/points (I fly out of PHX). I haven’t really noticed the lack of availability you’re seeing. Maybe fewer flights/seats available per day but I attributed that to the fact that they have fewer planes/seats in the air.

      • Your ORD->PHX example is pretty striking (I’m only looking at the non-stops, no one is flying that route booking the 9+hours options). It looks like there should be plenty of partner availability of some of the flights as they’re priced with AA miles. Also, they tend to be pretty competitive in terms of availability into those shared hubs like ORD, SEA, LAX, etc.
        I did notice something similar a couple of months ago when I was looking at booking PHX->SAN, there was NO partner availability for the entire months of July & August, now there’s partner bookings available pretty much every day. When it comes to AA I usually just assume incompetence rather than bad intent- they’re just not good at their jobs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see your Chicago flight suddenly be widely available for partner bookings at some point with no rationale as to why or what changed.

        • Funny you mention PHX-SAN, since I’m having issues finding that one as well. The results for mid-June have been “no one will fly that”.

          • I see the 08:22am departure from PHX available almost every day in June (checked with Qantas & BA) & a few days with multiple departures available. All economy. Jumping to August (when I’m looking at escaping the heat) I see few flights but lots of Y & J seats available per flight. Better book now!

  8. I have seen a huge increase in web fares myself. The lowest fares often seen on AA site wind up not being traditional saver awards but non-changeable web fares (luckily one can cancel them) and often at lower prices than pre pandemic, but of course not available for partner mileage which I have tried to use at times also, so instead i just use AA and get them at a discount. It must be that AA receives less compensation from the partners than how it values its own FF liabilty or it wouldn’t make sense.

  9. For AA you need to look for the awards priced as traditional saver awards. The easiest way is to use Expertflyer to search for T (coach) and U (domestic first). Just looking around your dates June 12th EF shows the 7:34pm ORD-PHX as U4 T7. The 8:56pm is U3 T0. When you then go to BA they show the exact amount seats on those exact flight.

    So I think AA is still making saver awards available to partners….just not on the dates and routes you are looking.

    • Which could confirm the “only sharing 10%” theory from the Etihad phone rep, since availability is way too scarce to be normal.
      I searched multiple routes over the past few days, as part of a multi-city trip. ORD-PHX is just 1 leg, and I couldn’t find AA seats that were anything normal for any legs. Availability I did find involved things like 10hr layover in DFW or 2 connections to get from San Diego to Arizona, etc.

  10. Is it possible that AA is pricing more and more award seats as “web saver” (i.e. dynamically priced awards) in lieu of saver awards? I believe partners only get access to saver award inventory, right?

    • Possible, but the few tests I did on AA’s own site to confirm this weren’t web specials. It’s not all or overwhelming, even if that number is increasing.

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