American Airlines AAdvantage Program to be Based on Revenue Instead of Distance Flown Starting in 2016
I t appears as though the lemming attitude of commercial airlines continues: the AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program will change to base rewards on the airfares paid by customers of American Airlines rather than distance traveled; and beginning with the membership year of 2017, elite level status will be valid through January 31 of the following year.
Although many changes are expected to become effective as of Friday, January 1, 2016 — such as elite-qualifying points will be removed from the qualifying structure for earning elite level status and instead will be determined by Elite Qualifying Miles or Elite Qualifying Segments earned during a calendar year — the calculation of award AAdvantage miles earned will be effective as of sometime during the second half of 2016, where members of the AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program can earn anywhere from five to as many as eleven AAdvantage miles per United States dollar paid for the base airfare and surcharges imposed by the airline, depending on your elite status level:
|AAdvantage Program Elite Status Level
||AAdvantage Miles Earned Per United States Dollar Spent
|General||Five AAdvantage Miles|
|Gold||Seven AAdvantage Miles|
|Platinum||Eight AAdvantage Miles|
|Executive Platinum||Eleven AAdvantage Miles|
This means that on an airline ticket whose base airfare is $1,000.00, a general member of the AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program would earn 5,000 AAdvantage miles; whereas an Executive Platinum member would earn 11,000 AAdvantage miles.
If you qualify for Executive Platinum elite level status by December 31, 2015, you will still earn eight upgrades to use during your 2016 membership year; but effective as of Friday, January 1, 2016, Executive Platinum members will receive four systemwide upgrades upon qualification or re-qualification, with the ability to earn up to a total of eight per year.
You may earn up to four additional systemwide upgrades; two for every 50,000 Elite Qualification Miles earned above 100,000.
“0.5 EQM for most AS fares and a cap of 1.5 BA EQM even on JBA routes are supremely disappointing to me”, opined FlyerTalk member jamespvg in this discussion. “The BA decision especially. If they’re interested in incentivizing us to buy-up to higher cabins, what’s the sense in capping EQMs on revenue shared, métal-neutral services? Rubbish.”
FlyerTalk member discoverCSG posted: “Well, the earning criteria for SWU’s 5-8 are very disappointing. And yes, EXP is still the best in its class, both for earning and for benefits. Well played, Discount Doug.”
Effective as of Tuesday, March 1, 2016:
Award Chart Changes
Main Cabin Class
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||–||12,500||20,000||30,000|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (≤ 500 miles)^||–||7,500||20,000||30,000|
|Canada & Alaska||–||15,000||25,000||40,000|
|South America Region 1||17,500||20,000||35,000||50,000|
|South America Region 2||–||30,000||55,000||75,000|
|Asia Region 1||32,500||35,000||62,500||80,000|
|Asia Region 2||32,500||35,000||65,000||85,000|
^Valid only on non-stop flights
Business / First Class
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states*||–||25,000||45,000||55,000|
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (≤ 500 miles)^||–||15,000||45,000||55,000|
|Canada & Alaska*||–||30,000||50,000||65,000|
|South America Region 1*||–||30,000||65,000||90,000|
|South America Region 2||–||57,500||110,000||150,000|
|Asia Region 1||–||60,000||120,000||155,000|
|Asia Region 2||–||70,000||140,000||175,000|
^Valid only on non-stop flights.
*If the award includes aircraft with three separate cabins in the United States and Canada, the MileSAAver and AAnytime Levels will be 7,500 miles higher than what is shown in the chart above.
|Contiguous 48 U.S. states||–||50,000||85,000||95,000|
|Canada & Alaska||–||55,000||90,000||105,000|
|South America Region 1||–||55,000||105,000||130,000|
|South America Region 2||–||85,000||160,000||190,000|
|Asia Region 1||–||80,000||170,000||200,000|
|Asia Region 2||–||110,000||180,000||210,000|
New award levels of 7,500 AAdvantage miles each way in Main Cabin and 15,000 AAdvantage miles each way in Business / First have been introduced for flights fewer than 500 miles in distance. Additionally, reduced off-peak awards when traveling on partner airlines to Hawaii, South America 1 and Asia 1 have been eliminated.
“Looking at the rest of the partners though, it’s just horrid”, complained FlyerTalk member Superguy. “This is just about as bad as DL treats some of its SkyTeam partners. Bottom line: if you can’t fly an AA codeshare, you’re screwed – especially if you have to fly in below Y/B. To me, this essentially kills OW as an alliance.”
If these changes sound familiar to you, they should, as they emulate what Delta Air Lines implemented for its SkyMiles program effective as of Thursday, January 1, 2015 and what United Airlines implemented for its MileagePlus program effective as of Sunday, March 1, 2015; and the changes were expected to happen as soon as the merger between American Airlines and US Airways was completed.
The theory is that American Airlines — similar to Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — is seeking to reward its highest-value customers with generous redemption earnings; while those customers who travel on a budget are expected to “feel the most pain” as a result of the impending changes.
Airlines based in the United States are not the only ones whose frequent flier loyalty programs are switching from earning miles based on distance to those based on revenue. The Gold Circle frequent flier loyalty program of Aer Lingus will be closing on Thursday, March 31, 2016; and it will be replaced with the rollout of AerClub, whose earnings by members will be based on revenue and not on distance flown.
The argument that American Airlines could have left the AAdvantage frequent flier loyalty program alone to differentiate it from United Airlines MileagePlus and Delta Air Lines SkyMiles and attract more frequent fliers — especially business travelers — apparently fell flat as a pipe dream of sorts. Look for this trend of transforming from earning miles based on distance flown to earning them based on dollars spent to continue with the frequent flier loyalty programs of other airlines…
…and do not be surprised if the “extra” in Main Cabin Extra means you will have to cough up more dollars to sit in it, as will generally be the case with the Comfort Plus seats on Delta Air Lines.
“The more money they make, the more they want to nickle and dime”, posted FlyerTalk member tonytifao. “I predict 2016 will not be a good year for air travel. I bet demand will slow down, terrorism will bring leisure travel down, over all global economy slow down.”
We shall see if you are correct, tonytifao…
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.