Nutmeg Avios

First Class domestic redemptions on American now (permanently) half price

Last month I wrote about changes to the way that American Airlines codes its flights which impact how you spend Avios and how you earn British Airways tier points.

Two class American Airlines domestic flights in the USA are sold as ‘First’ and ‘Economy’.  More importantly, the premium seats are coded as First Class.  This has two consequences, one good and one bad:

Avios redemptions on AA which book into two-class domestic First Class require 4x the standard number of Avios, which makes them ludicrously expensive compared to what you get (see the photo below of A321 First Class seats)

Cash tickets booked on AA in domestic two-class First Class earn First Class tier points.  This means that flights under 2000 miles earn 60 tier points whilst flights over 2000 miles earn 210 tier points.  A dedicated tier point runner could construct an itinerary via numerous 2000+ miles segments to maximise the tier points earned.  Note that such tickets must be booked with an AA flight number and NOT a BA codeshare flight number for this to work – BA codeshare bookings earn Business Class tier points.

For travel after 12th January, AA has changed the way it tickets First Class flights on two class aircraft.


Whilst the front cabin is still be called First Class, tickets now book into J, D, I or R fare classes.  These are all business class fare buckets.

This means:

You will ‘only’ need to pay 2x rather than 4x the economy Avios price to fly up front

You will only earn 40 or 140 tier points, depending on distance, on cash tickets

There are no changes to how international flights or three-class AA domestic flights are ticketed.

These changes are now reflected in Avios redemption pricing for travel after 12th January.

Here is a flight from Washington to Miami in March, for example:

Avios redemptions on American

….. which shows 15,000 Avios and £4 tax for a one-way First Class redemption.  Note that now shows these seats as Business Class but the cabin is the usual AA domestic First Class one.

Going forward, the cost of a redemption seat in American Airlines First Class on a two-class aircraft will be:

15,000 Avios (was 30,000 Avios) EACH WAY for flights up to 1,150 miles

20,000 Avios (was 40,000 Avios) EACH WAY for flights of 1,151 – 2,000 miles

You can argue about whether AA First Class is worth it even at just twice the price of Economy, but as the taxes on American Airlines domestic Avios redemptions are virtually nil, anyone who is Avios rich will probably now decide to splurge.

Before you rush off to to book, you should note that AA First Class redemptions are currently VERY difficult to find – you may end up in Economy after all ….

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  1. It’s worth noting that AA domestic economy redemptions are hand-baggage only whereas first include up to 3x hold-luggage. This might tip the economics in favour of first class for many people travelling from the UK.

  2. Domestic first award space used to be easy to find… funny that

  3. Gutted on the Tier Points earning, was planning my first TP run for March 2017 and this happens 🙁 . Another door closed.

    • 140TP in a better than club-cattle-Europe seat isn’t too bad, and the cash prices of the sectors can be really reasonable especially when travelling with checked luggage, again unlike CE…

    • Yes, I’m not entirely happy about this. MMB for a trip I’m taking in Mar 17 now says 520TPs will be earned, previously it said 600TPs. I was prepared for this so saved a screenshot of the original total. Am I entitled to submit a claim after the journey for the missing 80TPs on the basis that these were part of a contract?

      • Surely a company must deliver what it promised when the contract was agreed between you? And if it doesn’t surely you have the right to redress?

        If BA arbitrarily decides to move the goalposts, as it has here, I believe it must honour what it promised to give you what the time of booking.

        I believe it did so when it cut the TPs on the CWLCY service, and it gave 1,000 Avios (reluctantly) to those who complained about the imminent withdrawal of free food & drink in ET. So I’d expect it to do the right thing here.

        • BAEC T&Cs note “8.2. British Airways may, from time to time, alter the rules for earning Tier Points (for example, by altering eligible flights or fares or the number of Tier Points earned for specific Sectors). Members will be notified in advance of any changes.”

          Its certainly not clear if they change tier points what the process is for any redress in these T&Cs that you accept. Id certainly argue my corner.

        • BA has not moved the goalposts, AA has. You have no contract with BA – unless you booked through them.

        • Sorry, I disagree. Yes, AA has changed its fare codes, as it’s perfectly entitled to do.

          But it’s BA that decides how many TPs to award for each fare code and it’s decided to take this opportunity to devalue its FF scheme again.

          If BA wanted to keep awarding 60/240 TPs for AA F flights, it could – by changing its own fare codes for example. But it’s chosen not to, and customers who booked in good faith expecting to receive a certain number of TPs risk being short changed unless it agrees to make up the shortfall.

  4. Any chance this is a pricing error? Domestic QF redemptions in J are still 3x the Y price…

    • By any chance are you looking at a redemption over 2k miles (eg Sydney to Perth)? If so, remember that bookings on partner airlines always book at peak rates, which is 37,500 Avios in business for flights just over 2k miles, vs 12.5k in economy. By comparison shorter flights such as Melbourne to Sydney are still at 4.5k o/w economy and 9k biz. Nothing to do with business vs first, just the fun of the peak date award chart above 2k miles!

      • I hadn’t appreciated that 2x vs 3x distinction revolved around 2000 miles. You also guessed correctly that I looked at per-syd! Mel-syd is 2x!

  5. Is there actually redemption availability in Biz on routes such as NYCBOS?

    I tried dozens of dates on 2017 and can’t see any Avios seats in Biz.

    • 21st Jan – 1 J seat on AA85 BOS-JFK.

    • Not sure what’s happening at at the moment. Maybe it’s taking time to make the changes in avios redemption pricing. I saw plenty availability on the Atlanta – Miami route a couple of days ago at 60k pp in biz but everything has gone – the availability has been there for weeks but I didn’t want to jump in at 60k each for a domestic F class flight.

  6. OT – there’s an offer for Harrods on my Amex Gold card which might well be useful to those of you based in London – £30 back for spending £100.

    • Everything is overpriced there to begin with so you might break even vs shopping elsewhere. Not on my gold but on my BAPP.

      • Harrods do sell expensive stuff but theyre often competitively priced. I bought a Barbour jacket from there recently and they were actually the cheapest place I could find.

        • Some items seem to carry a 10% premium, others are the same. I am in there about 50 times a year, for better or worse, most recently last night.

        • Does anyone know if the £100 has to be in one transaction?

        • gift cards work if ur spend is below 100… I did it last year or one before

  7. Peter Taysum says:

    When I search my n it would NT let me search for anything in USA it returns “error” and BA does not have the traffic rights to operate between these two cities… Any advice?

  8. Thanks Rob for that news. Hopefully they will code and charge similar prices for AAdvantage points earned with our mbna cards. Noticed when l was pricing up HNL recently, they were flying the mainland sector to HNL on Alaska in Y, which defeats the purpose of our award tickets. Had planned this trip for three years, and the costs were very high now to travel in their Jor F cabins. Very good news.

    • I suggest that you try BAEC for the flights on Alaskan, I have just booked Seattle to Vancouver BC on Alaskan via BA for 7500 points. On Alaska Mileage plan it was 20,000 and 30,000 on AA, all with tiny tax. You can also bring back a box of pineapples at no extra charge at least as far as LAX.

      • of course this may be a special case; YMMV

        • Tnx Mark2. We were hoping to do HNL via SEA or SFO J/F n AA from LHR, as HNL prices up same as mainland USA. We had our 120k miles pp , but then noticed it’s now 140k for HNL route in F. Big jump, but now it might be back to normal pricing. Must check ASAP. Once we have done this trip am out of the AA program, it’s just too hard to collect, apart from card spend. Or allocating a QR J seat to Asia, which we did before their devaluation last year.
          Yes we found that avios link to SEA too on avios, v g pricing, agree AA taking the pxxx On that routing. Baec v good on int USA routes anytime….

  9. Does this mean that cash flights booked before 12 January still earn the 60/200 TPs regardless of travel dates?

    • No only travel before 12 January will earn 60/200 TP’s. See post from Pjh981 above where his MMB is showing the new TP earning rates for an existing booking for travel after 12 Jan. Hopefully BA will come good and credit the current TP earning for existing bookings.

  10. Barry cutters says:

    This is good news for me , I always thought it was a lot of miles to Hawaii for example from la. 12500 vs 50,000. We did it a few weeks ago and couldn’t justify the 200k vs 50k, the economy seat were ok though and did include a checked bag. For 100k I would take the first seat.

  11. Looks like there is an issue with avios mapping AA seats. Seeing flights that have plenty of AA biz milesaver seats, but they are not appearing on BA, which they should.

    Example wed 25th JAN LAX-LAS, AA has 3 different MileSaaver biz flights available @15K. BA only has economy.

    • Availability seems terrible! Even for economy I struggled to find redemption seats mid week in January.

    • Let’s hope it’s a (resolveable) mapping issue – since I can’t find anything in 2-class “First” for Avios on several dates in March on high-frequency short-haul routes such as LGA-MIA, BOS-ORD and DFW-LAX that used to have plenty of seats in First (for 4X Coach).

  12. As stated, AA Domestic First at its worst is way better than Club Europe. At its best, you can end up with a flat bed on an international plane that is repositioning. AA 235 for example, the 17:00 from JFK to MIA uses an international 767 with 1-2-1 flat bed seating (Thomson Vantage). All forward facing and all with direct aisle access.

    You’ll also get this on Domestic First from DFW to HNL.

    No IFE though on these planes for domestic flights. (They give you a Samsung tablet when these planes fly TA).