American Airlines makes it harder to book with Avios via new controls on inventory
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A few weeks ago, American Airlines made some changes to how it offers its seats for award travel. This has an impact on you if you were planning to use your Avios to book an American Airlines ticket.
My mate Dave, who runs LGBT travel site The Ginger Travel Guru, wrote an excellent article about how this works. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I asked Dave if we could publish an edited version of his article and he was happy to agree.
This is a slightly more technical article than we usually run on Head for Points but I hope it is easy to follow. The original version was published in January which is why the screenshots show flights from dates which have now passed. Over to you Dave …..
“Just before Christmas, it was reported that American Airlines had made a change to the way that they make award inventory available. They’re now using a revenue management technique which airlines called “married segments”.
What are ‘married segments’?
When an airline is using married segments, the availability of seats on a flight involving a connection – for cash or miles – may be different to the availability of the individual segments themselves. I may be offered a reward ticket from A to B to C but I may not be able to book A to B or B to C on its own.
Let me illustrate this effect with a flight from London to New York, but flying Lufthansa, and thus leading to a connection in Frankfurt. If I search from London to New York and look at flight LH404 , I can see the business class is showing the following availability:
Note that it shows D5 i.e. Lufthansa will sell up to five ‘D’ class tickets. In addition, it’s showing as N9, their cheapest premium economy fare bucket, meaning they will sell up to 9 of those.
Where as if I search from Frankfurt to New York, on the exact same day, on the exact same flight, I get the following:
It shows as D0. That means if I want to be on that flight, I need to buy a more expensive ‘C’ class ticket to travel in business. Also note that the cheapest premium economy fare bucket shows as N0 meaning I’d need to buy a more expensive ‘E’ class premium economy seat.
This is married segments in action.
Why do airlines do this?
Typically, non-stop flights tend to command a revenue premium; airlines can charge a higher price for the convenience of the passenger not having to connect.
Due to the inconvenience of me having to connect in Frankfurt to get to New York, Lufthansa is making it cheaper for me to fly on an indirect itinerary so as they can better compete with airlines that do fly non-stop. However, at the same time, they don’t want to risk lowering prices for when they can charge a premium on their own non-stop flights, in this case Frankfurt to New York.
So how does this impact Avios tickets?
In short, the changes that American Airlines have made by introducing married segments have broken the ba.com search engine. For example, let’s use the example of London to Lafayette, LA as an example. ba.com shows no availability on a particular day that I searched.
Whereas if I go over to aa.com it does show reward availability:
Diving into the detail, it’s the second segment, from Dallas TX to Lafayette LA that appears problematic. Looking at Dallas to Lafayette by itself, also on the 12th February, shows no availability as an AA mile-saver award by itself. Where as in the screenshot above, flights AA3654 and AA3598 were available if I was coming from London.
Clearly the logic that ba.com is using to find available seats is incompatible with the new married segment availability that American Airlines has introduced.
It’s ironic that the 5,000 mile journey from London to Lafayette costs fewer miles than the 350 mile flight does from Dallas.
Where does this leave me?
There are a couple of things you need to do if you are struggling to book American Airlines flights on ba.com.
Firstly, if you’re looking for availability and you might want to travel with American Airlines, do not use ba.com to search for availability. Head over to aa.com and use that instead. You are looking for flights with MileSAAver availability.
Secondly, search for your entire journey and don’t look segment by segment.
Once you have found what you want, call British Airways. Tell them to search for the entire journey and not segment by segment. I spoke to a Gold Guest List agent and they were able to see availability for the entire journey that aa.com showed whilst ba.com did not. However looking segment by segment the agent was not able to see the flights.
Once they have found what you want, they should be able to book it for you. Avios pricing is still segment based, so you’ll still be charged the standard Avios price. Don’t forget that domestic US flights under 650 miles are priced at 7,500 Avios one-way in economy instead of the 4,500 Avios price which applies everywhere else in the world.”
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2023)
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:
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard is doubled to a crazy 50,000 Avios! Apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 30th May, the sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard is doubled to 10,000 Avios. Apply here.
Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard
CRAZY 50,000 Avios for signing up (to 30th May) and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review
Barclaycard Avios Mastercard
10,000 Avios for signing up (only to 30th May) 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.
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 13th June, the sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card is doubled to 60,000 Membership Rewards points – and you get £200 to spend at Amex Travel too! Apply here.
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
60,000 points AND a £200 Amex Travel voucher until 13th June! 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
40,000 points bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus 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.