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First Class domestic redemptions on American now permanently half price

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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.

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.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (35)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Matt says:

    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.

  • James A says:

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

  • AndyR says:

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

    • RichT says:

      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…

    • Pjh981 says:

      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?

      • gumshoe says:

        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.

        • Genghis says:

          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.

        • Rob says:

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

          • gumshoe says:

            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.

  • tony says:

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

    • Alan says:

      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!

      • Tony says:

        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!

  • shd says:

    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.

    • tony says:

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

    • Mike says:

      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.

  • Brian says:

    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.

    • David says:

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

      • Genghis says:

        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.

        • Rob says:

          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.

  • 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?

  • Polly says:

    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.

    • mark2 says:

      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.

      • mark2 says:

        of course this may be a special case; YMMV

        • Polly says:

          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….

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