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One of the unique features of the Citi Prestige Card is the ability to book American and US Airways flights with a special value of 1.6 cents per Thank You point, 60% better than the value you’d get if you used your points for gift cards.
When you use your points to book, it’s like buying tickets in cash. You earn AAdvantage miles as if it’s a paid fare, and you don’t have to deal with any award ticket restrictions.
And, presumably, you get the same fares you’d see if you booked elsewhere, like on AA.com.
That’s the case most of the time.
But for some discount First / Business class fares (mostly domestic), it’s currently impossible to book via the Citi ThankYou travel site, or by calling a Citi concierge.
Here’s an example.
A run of the mill New York to Sacramento flight in First Class, one way during July.
AA.com shows an option for $767.
But if you use the ThankYou.com travel booking site, the lowest you see is $1,339 one way for the very same flight.
And it’s not just an issue with American Airlines fares. Here’s an example with United for an Atlanta to Las Vegas journey.
Citi shows $678 as the lowest fare…
Which is correct for that particular flight.
Yet United has another flight available the same day, at a similar time for $462 which is not visible via Citi.
To confuse things even more, a discounted Delta fare *is* being picked up properly on the same day, for the same route.
So what is happening?
Conexions Travel, a loyalty outsourcing firm, handles travel bookings for the Thank You program.
And unfortunately even calling them directly via the Citi Prestige concierge line doesn’t yield the proper, lower fares. They simply aren’t visible to their agents.
It appears there is a filter that isn’t capturing many discounted First / Business Class fares that are ‘UP fares.’
These ‘UP fares’ are coded as Economy class fares behind the scenes, but actually book into Business or First Class. Most travel booking sites know to interpret them as Business or First Class fares.
But for whatever reason, the Conexions Travel system that Citi uses isn’t consistently displaying these fares.
The fact that it’s not happening only on American Airlines fares leads us to think it’s an oversight or technical issue. They aren’t blocking all discounted first class fares outright. And the issue isn’t limited to American Airlines flights.
But for now, don’t plan on using your Thank You points for domestic First Class tickets, as it’s not reliably offering the lowest fares. Economy Class fares appear OK though.
This issue impacts travel booked via any Thank You product, whether with the Prestige, Premier, or any other Thank You product, so you should double check fares on other sites before you book.
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