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Free tickets for fewer miles. Oh my!

The issue of limited award availability continues to cast a pall over frequent flyer programs. As it should. Until the airlines deliver on the implicit promise of the programs, consumers are right to be wary of loyalty schemes.

But let’s take time out from the hectoring and finger-wagging to recognize one airline that is taking steps to address the perception if not the reality of too-scarce awards.

In the past few weeks, American has rolled out three offers which make frequent flyer awards easier to obtain.

First, American will allow AAdvantage members to redeem fewer miles for award trips of fewer than 750 miles each way completed between September 1, 2006, and February 28, 2007. With the discount, eligible round-trip MileSAAver award tickets are priced at 15,000 miles for coach and 30,000 for first/business class.

Among the eligible routes: Chicago/Philadelphia, Chicago/Atlanta, Los Angeles/San Francisco, Boston/Raleigh, and Dallas (Love)/St. Louis.

Second, through December 14, AAdvantage members can redeem 50,000 miles for coach-class award trips on Air Pacific to Fiji, a 25,000-mile discount over the normal mileage requirement.

And third, AAdvantage members can save 10,000 miles on restricted coach award tickets for travel to Cancun from the continental U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean from August 21 through December 13. With the discount, Cancun award tickets can be had for 20,000 miles.

The above by no means reverses award scarcity for American, much less for the industry at large. But it’s a step in a positive direction and deserves to be recognized as such.

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