American Airlines Web Special Awards Explained

Elina GellerApril 24, 2020
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If you want to book award tickets on American Airlines for as low as 5,000 miles, then you need to know all about Web Special awards. These awards are available on select dates to certain destinations, and Web Specials can be significantly cheaper than American’s standard awards.

These awards were introduced in late 2018 for economy seats; in December 2019, the airline added Web Specials on business and first class award seats. This was American’s introduction of dynamic award pricing, similar to Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. By shifting the focus away from award charts, airlines can align the price of award tickets with the cash cost. So when there’s more demand (e.g., December holidays), flights will be more expensive in miles and in money.

In this article we explain Web Special awards, discuss how they differ from American’s published award chart and show you how to find them.

What are Web Special awards?

Web Special awards are offered on certain dates and routes and can be as cheap as 5,000 miles. Though these awards come at a discount, they generally don’t allow changes and include various restrictions. They are not published anywhere.

This contrasts with American's other two forms of more expensive reward options:

  • MileSAAver awards are standard awards, but they usually sell out during busy periods (like holidays and weekends). When people refer to American’s award chart, they are usually talking about MileSAAver awards. These start at 7,500 miles one-way.

  • AAnytime awards are available on any seat on any American Airlines or American Eagle flight. Typically, these awards are much more expensive (starting at 20,000 miles), and we rarely find them worth the miles they cost. They are also published on American’s award chart.

Nerd tip: If you have an American Airlines credit card, check the reduced mileage award list to see if you can find a ticket that’s even cheaper than the Web Special. You can save up to 7,500 miles on a round-trip ticket depending on the card you have.

How to find American Airlines Web Special awards

Go to aa.com and fill in your departure and arrival airports. Select the “redeem miles” option, input your travel date and click “Search.” Do not use the advanced search option because that launches American’s old calendar, which does not display any Web Specials in business class.

The basics: economy Web Specials

As an example, a search for a nonstop, one-way award ticket from Los Angeles to Philadelphia on May 14, 2020, is 10,000 miles in economy and 27,000 in first class.

If you click the “calendar” option in the top right corner, you will see that awards are priced from 10,000 to 15,000 miles.

Given that American’s award chart prices economy tickets within the continental U.S. at 12,500 miles at the MileSAAver level, the 10,000 mile award is a Web Special.

You can also see the comparison when you choose the 10,000-mile award for the flight above — American will display you two award options.

The Web Special award is 2,500 miles cheaper than the MileSAAver, but American clearly lets you know that the ticket comes with restrictions. A Web Special award is best used when you feel confident that you won't need to make any ticketing changes.

Next level: business Web Specials

You can really maximize your miles when you book a Web Special award in business class. Take, for example, a flight from Miami to Madrid on July 16, 2020.

When you select the business class award for 46,000 miles, you’ll be able to choose from the following options:

The Web Special is 11,500 miles less expensive than the MileSAAver award at 57,500 miles. Although the Web Special is more restrictive, it's an excellent value.

Although Web Special awards could really extend the life of your miles, it's important to know the restrictions on these tickets so you don’t get stuck paying a fee if you need to change your flight.

Restrictions on Web Special awards

Web Special awards do not permit any changes to the origin, destination or airline. You can cancel the ticket and reinstate your miles, but you’ll have to pay a $150 fee. Any additional tickets canceled at the same time on the same account will cost $25 each. Only Executive Platinum elites (American’s highest elites) are exempt from these fees.

Comparatively, MileSAAver and AAnytime awards allow varying degrees of fee-free changes. For example, if you have a MileSAAver award ticket, you can change the date of the ticket free of charge as long as the cabin class and origin/destination airports remain the same. Starting June 1, 2020, only changes 60 days prior to the flight date will be free (unless you are Executive Platinum).

The bottom line

Although American Airlines continues to publish an award chart, the increasing prevalence of Web Special awards illustrates that the airline is testing out dynamic pricing. Web Special awards can offer significant savings on standard MileSAAver tickets. As long as you don’t need to make any changes to your ticket, Web Special awards are your best bet for finding discounted awards on American.

Have you booked a Web Special award before? How much did you save in miles compared to a MileSAAver ticket? Tell us below in the comments!

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