American Airlines AAdvantage Program to be Based on Revenue Instead of Distance Flown Starting in 2016

It 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.

Systemwide Upgrades

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.”

500-Mile Upgrades

Effective as of Tuesday, March 1, 2016:

Award Chart Changes

The new award charts are shown below.

Main Cabin Class

To: MileSAAver
Off Peak
MileSAAver AAnytime
Level 1
Level 2
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
Hawaii 20,000 22,500 40,000 50,000
Caribbean 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
Mexico 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
Central America 12,500 15,000 27,500 37,500
South America Region 1 17,500 20,000 35,000 50,000
South America Region 2 30,000 55,000 75,000
Europe 22,500 30,000 47,500 65,000
Asia Region 1 32,500 35,000 62,500 80,000
Asia Region 2 32,500 35,000 65,000 85,000
South Pacific 40,000 70,000 90,000

^Valid only on non-stop flights

Business / First Class

To: MileSAAver
Off Peak
MileSAAver AAnytime
Level 1
Level 2
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
Hawaii* 40,000 67,500 90,000
Caribbean* 25,000 50,000 60,000
Mexico* 25,000 50,000 60,000
Central America* 25,000 50,000 60,000
South America Region 1* 30,000 65,000 90,000
South America Region 2 57,500 110,000 150,000
Europe 57,500 110,000 135,000
Asia Region 1 60,000 120,000 155,000
Asia Region 2 70,000 140,000 175,000
South Pacific 80,000 140,000 175,000

^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.

First Class

To: MileSAAver
Off Peak
MileSAAver AAnytime
Level 1
Level 2
Contiguous 48 U.S. states 50,000 85,000 95,000
Canada & Alaska 55,000 90,000 105,000
Hawaii 65,000 107,500 130,000
Caribbean 50,000 90,000 100,000
Mexico 50,000 90,000 100,000
Central America 50,000 90,000 100,000
South America Region 1 55,000 105,000 130,000
South America Region 2 85,000 160,000 190,000
Europe 85,000 140,000 175,000
Asia Region 1 80,000 170,000 200,000
Asia Region 2 110,000 180,000 210,000
South Pacific 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.

7 thoughts on “American Airlines AAdvantage Program to be Based on Revenue Instead of Distance Flown Starting in 2016”

  1. jim says:

    The bloggers and its readers have been asking for devaluation from AA for sometime and now you got it. You have been saying” if AA gives us advance notice, you were all for any devaluation”. Well they gave you advance notice and they destroyed the aadvantage program so be happy from April 2015.

    AA is now one of the worst reward program after doing away with stop over and now this award devaluation.

    Time for bloggers to quit and time to use cash back cards cos the gov rarely ever devalues currency.

    Love my 2% back on everything everyday card.

    will be canceling my AA cards just like i have done with UA cards cos we all know these programs are a SCAM!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I also use only credit cards with cash rebates, Jim and have done so for years; and I have never used an affiliate credit card associated with any frequent travel loyalty program.

      There are only so many people who can qualify for those affiliate credit cards; and once they have one, they are usually not going to apply for another one. Will that market eventually dry up?

      The irony is that there is far less incentive to apply for one of those affiliate credit cards with every perceived devaluation — in my opinion, anyway…

      1. WR says:

        Indeed. But what I am really dreading, across the whole spectrum, is possibly tying more of the “low-end perks” into these cards, further doubling down. This would effect the “sometime traveler” even more, which I also don’t think is good.

        (with say, the hotel merger between SPG/Marriott and such, I’m hoping this doesn’t spread as quickly to the hotel side, although it has somewhat already.)

    2. Bill says:

      AA didn’t devalue because of blog posts; AA devalued because of pure competitive pressures from UA and DL. AA had too good a thing, and that costs AA revenue (e.g. giving away award seats and elite perks for less than UA and DL do, driving the wrong customers to AA and giving UA and DL the customers who actually spend more and make the airline earn profits!). AA was too generous compared with DL and UA, and so AA reset to be more in line with its competition.

      Everyone knew this was coming. The only people who didn’t were those who simply ignored all the blog posts and news reports and blog discussions that clearly demonstrated how much easier it was to be an AA elite and how many less miles it took to get an AA award on AA or partner metal. People sometimes believe what they want to believe. Sometimes, you gotta wake up and smell the reality.

  2. Santastico says:

    Mr. Anderson is in charge. Whatever Delta tells AA and UA to do they will place their tails in the middle of their legs and will follow him as puppies. At least now I don’t feel too bad to be a Delta hostage.

  3. Andy says:

    Hey Brian, whats your opinion on Alaska changing their partner award chart (Cathay, Emirates etc) in the light of this? Thanks

  4. Drew says:

    So basically, if I had this type of cash, it cost around $9,091 for Executive Platinum? That’s the dollar amount * 11 miles per dollar. That sounds expensive. Heck, that could be done with 1-2 first class trips.

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