American Airlines overhauls AAdvantage frequent flyer program

American Airlines overhauls AAdvantage frequent flyer program

American Airlines will re-engineer its AAdvantage frequent flyer program from next year to provide greater appeal to high-spending first class and business class passengers, with a bigger focus on dollars spent than distance flown.

The number of miles needed to book a flight with American and its Oneworld partners including Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific will also change, with the majority of routes requiring more miles than today.

Here’s what’s changing and what it means for you, the traveller.

Most flights need more miles to book

Using your AAdvantage miles to book a flight on or after March 22 2016 will almost certainly require more miles than needed today, although flights booked before that date – even when flying after that date – will use the current award costs.

For example, flying Sydney-Los Angeles on either AA or Qantas jumps from 62,500 to 80,000 miles in business class and from 72,500 to 110,000 miles in first class, one-way, while Australia-Europe increases from 60,000 to 85,000 miles in business and from 80,000 to 115,000 miles in first class.

The miles needed to fly from Australia to the Middle East and India are almost doubled, spiking from just 45,000 miles in business class to 80,000 miles, while first class rises from 60,000 to 100,000 miles.

Qantas' Australia-Dubai flights will need more miles, as will Qatar's Doha services

‘Asia Region 2’ – encompassing the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong – also rises slightly from 35,000 to 40,000 miles in business class and 45,000 to 50,000 miles in first class (where available), although ‘Asia Region 1’ (Japan, Korea and Mongolia) lowers from 45,000 to 40,000 miles in business class.

Closer to home, Australian domestic business class flights rise from 17,500 miles to an even 20,000 miles, while trans-Tasman business class flights between Australia and New Zealand jump from 17,500 miles to 25,000 miles.

Elite-qualifying points replaced with EQMs, EQSs

From January 1 2016, elite-qualifying points (or EQPs) will no longer be part of AAdvantage, with your status now earned solely through either elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or elite-qualifying sectors (EQSs).

To compensate, you’ll now earn up to three EQMs per mile flown on full-fare American Airlines first and business class tickets, two EQMs per mile on discounted tickets in the same cabins, 1.5 EQMs per mile on full-fare economy, and the same 1 EQM per mile in discount economy.

[Click on the table above to enlarge it.]

EQMs earned on partner airlines will also change, with 1.5 EQMs awarded per mile flown in Qantas first class, business class and premium economy, although pricey H-class economy tickets drop to just 0.5 EQMs per mile, while the least expensive economy fares continue to earn 0.5EQMs/mile.

Systemwide Upgrades halved for top flyers

Currently, Executive Platinum frequent flyers receive eight Systemwide Upgrades each year, which can be used for a confirmed upgrade from economy to business class or from business class to first class on any American Airlines domestic and international flight – including to and from Australia.

Use a Systemwide Upgrade to move up from business class to AA first class...

From next year, ExPlats will instead earn just four of these upgrades each year, but will earn a further two after pulling in 150,000 EQMs in a single membership year, and two more on reaching 200,000 EQMs.

That means the most frequent travellers won’t miss out on eight upgrades overall, although it requires twice as much travel as today to attain the same benefit.

500-mile upgrades more expensive, harder to earn

Although American’s elite frequent flyers receive complimentary space-available upgrades on short flights within North America under 500 miles, Gold and Platinum members can upgrade on longer flights within the same region using 500-mile upgrades: either earned or bought.

Gold and Platinum members achieving these by flying will receive four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs earned each year – up from 10,000 EQMs for the same at present – while the cost of purchasing a single upgrade will rise from US$30 online/US$35 in person to a flat US$40.

Executive Platinum members and one travel companion continue to receive unlimited space-available upgrades on North American flights greater than 500 miles, as they do on shorter journeys too.

Status benefits shortened by one month

Reach the heights of Gold, Platinum or Executive Platinum from 2017 and your status will then be valid for the remainder of that year, the next year and then until the end of January in year three, rather than the end of February as occurs today.

For example, reach the AAdvantage Platinum tier in November 2016 and your status and benefits will last until February 28 2018 under the current rules, but reach Platinum one year later in November 2017 and it’ll last until January 31 2019, rather than February 28 2019.

Miles earned on flights based on dollars, not distance

Come the second half of 2016, travel on American Airlines will accrue miles based on what you (or your company) paid for the ticket in both base fare and carrier surcharges (but excluding taxes and other fees), rather than simply on distance flown and where you’re sitting on the aircraft.

Base-level members will earn five miles per US dollar spent, Gold-grade flyers earn a higher seven miles per US dollar, Platinum members pocket eight miles per US dollar and Executive Platinum members reel in 11 miles on the same.

On a return business class trip from Sydney to Los Angeles with a base fare of US$5,791, that gives standard members 28,955 miles; Gold frequent flyers 40,537 miles; Platinum members 46,328 miles; and Executive Platinum high flyers an impressive 63,701 miles.

Spending big on a business class ticket? You'll now earn points on every dollar...

For flights booked in all other currencies including Australian dollars, the price of your ticket will first be converted (internally) into US dollars and then miles awarded based on this figure.

Further information can be found on the American Airlines website.

Also read: The American AAdvantage program for Aussie travellers

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

29 comments

  • tuzza1

    tuzza1

    18 Nov, 2015 12:22 pm

    the article says...

    although ‘Asia Region 1’ (Japan, Korea and Mongolia) lowers from 45,000 to 40,000 miles in business class.

    Does any oneworld airline fly to Mongolia???

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    18 Nov, 2015 01:09 pm

    Much as the Qantas Frequent Flyer program has a first class earning rate for Australian domestic flights which is never used as there's no first class, AA's program and rewards tables cover the globe so that if/when airlines launch and change routes, the tables don't need to be re-drawn. If Cathay Pacific launched flights from Hong Kong to Mongolia, for example, they would automatically be covered under Asia Region 1.

    (As the 'Asia Region 1' rate only applies to three countries whereas Region 2 applies to many more, we simply opted to list all three countries in the article.)

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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    18 Nov, 2015 12:35 pm

    Dave Cathay and JAL both fly to Ulan Bator

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 12:58 pm

    Incorrect. There is no OW presence in ULN.

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  • patrickk

    patrickk

    18 Nov, 2015 03:37 pm

    oops my internent said so; but the airlines website said not so.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 01:02 pm

    So the accrual regime for status purposes is going to be divorced from accrual regime for award mileage earn purposes. Is that correct?

    Status earn: Based on revised EQM

    Award mileage earn (from Q3 2016): Based on USD spent

    Can someone please confirm this?

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    18 Nov, 2015 01:04 pm

    Correct – although you can also earn status through EQSs, but that's likely more useful for US-based travellers than those in Australia.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 01:11 pm

    Thank you Chris!

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 01:44 pm

    To prepare for this transition, what is AA doing to:

    1) Provide visibility in its sales process to provide clarity to customers over the splits of amounts currently known collectively as "taxes and carrier imposed fees", where carrier imposed fees are allowable amounts, while taxes aren't?

    2) Compel partner airlines to provide similar clarity over fees and taxes as part of partner airline sales process?

    3) Ensure amounts charged my partner airlines are consistent with the amounts used by AA to accrue award mileage to member's accounts?

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 05:39 pm

    Update:

    In my haste, I neglected to read the fine print.

    "Earning award miles for travel on flights marketed by partner airlines will be based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class purchased. Exact calculations will be available in the future."

    So it seems $ spend requirement is not applicable, which is a huge relief given the items no. 2 and 3 above!

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    18 Nov, 2015 07:15 pm

    Indeed, the per-dollar rates will be earned on American Airlines, not on partner airlines (unless booked on an AA code).

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 08:29 pm

    You know, on the whole I'm not too displeased by these changes.

    1) I've sensed the headwinds and transitioned across from EQM to EQP a year ago. If something is too good to be true, it probably is! The new EQM is in fact the old EQP.

    2) With the strategy to change from EQM to EQP, I've revised budgets to facilitate J class travel. Therefore reliance on SWU is minimised. So a drop from 8 to 4 is less of an impact.

    3) Redemptions for domestic AU and for AU to Asia is not so dramatically impacted being an increase of 5,000 award miles across the board for Asia. AU domestic economy award remains at 10,000 miles and business award has gone up by only 2,500.

    4) This is a selfish reason, but with the impact hitting more "core" customers it means rewards are easier to come by. It's also good for AA to be seen to take measures against rampant redemption to protect the integrity of the whole OW redemption market. I suppose collatoral damage is unavoidable.

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  • aaflyer

    aaflyer

    19 Nov, 2015 05:33 pm

    >>The new EQM is in fact the old EQP.

    in fact it's an improved old EQP.  no more 0.5 for cheap tickets, and 2.0x/3.0x for pricier tickets.   hence the down-sizing of SWU allotment, no doubt.

    I expect domestic upgrades to disappear from all but very off peak routes/times.   but that's been a long time coming too.  

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  • tuzza1

    tuzza1

    18 Nov, 2015 01:18 pm

    thanks for the clarification re mongolia

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 03:09 pm

    How does it fare for AA's JV with QF across the Pacific and AA's JV with BA/IB across the Atlantic, given that for Business class travel, EQM accrual rate is 2 x or 3 x for AA coded flights, while the EQM accrual rate is 1.5 x for QF or BA/IB coded flights?

    To what extent does the elimination of FF-earn nuetrality affect the success of JVs?

    While QFF discounts points earned, Status Credit earning rate remains constant for AA coded flights i.e. earn neutrality. AA is taking it one step further by impacting the elite qualifying regime. What are people's thoughts?

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  • Dominic

    dbone77

    18 Nov, 2015 05:50 pm

    Is there going to be any change on UK to USA and internal USA? These increases are pretty steep!

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 08:15 pm

    Yes I believe so.

    On partner airlines UK - USA: 30k, 50k, 62.5K (Old) / 30k, 57.5k, 85k (New)

     

     

     

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  • Dominic

    dbone77

    18 Nov, 2015 09:30 pm

    Thanks for that, do we know if they're changing Etihad redemption also? As they're not part of the one world, but an AA partner? Also is this information anywhere? I've had a look but couldn't see it anywhere?

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    18 Nov, 2015 11:52 pm

    Award redemption for EY flights come under the Partner Redemption framework, which is the same framework for redemptions with OW partners. So in short, EY redemptions are also impacted.

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  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    18 Nov, 2015 10:15 pm

    No more cheap first or business class with buying AA miles. With this new award chart, AUS to Europe is 170k/230k return in J/F respectively. Even during the most generous sale this time at 2cents each, it's USD $3400/$4600 respectively plus tax! At today's exchange rate, that's around $5000/$7000!!! (And that's assume you can find seats in Qantas or Qatar). You might as well buy revenue ticket where you earn miles and status and you can book any dates you want!

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  • Roger Benson

    sharrkey

    19 Nov, 2015 10:47 pm

    I  think   these   changes   will  mean  quite a sustantial  revenue  loss   For  AA  .  Many  of  us    buy   AA   miles    for   cheap   Biz    and  First   fares   to  Europe  ,  India   and  the   US.It   does   add   up   to a   subtantial    amount   for   the  Airline.  They   will lose all  of  that  , as  Michael  pointed  out,  with   the  Aus    dollar    dropping   the   cost  of a  redemption   ticket on  AA   with    purchased   miles will  be  almost  the   same   as a  revenue  ticket. Not a   smart   move! 

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  • TimR

    TimR

    19 Nov, 2015 02:10 pm

    So... if I redeem points and book before March 22, 2016 for travel in let's assume September 2016, then I will pay the old (current) rate.

    If my plans change in July 2016, can I rebook the Sept 2016 trip and reschudule it for June 2017?

    in other words, I know I want to travel in 2017 to the US using my AA points, but can I do it with the old rates if I book now and then change the date later, given I cant book seats for 2017 now.??  thanks for your advice/comments.

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  • aaflyer

    aaflyer

    19 Nov, 2015 05:29 pm

    No.  once you issue an award ticket its validity terminates one year later, so that puts a limit on you changing dates.

     

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  • aaflyer

    aaflyer

    19 Nov, 2015 05:26 pm

    Well, 500-mile upgrades are harder to earn for those Gold or Plat never booking a premium ticket.  people of mixed fare habits should come out ahead in earning them.  12500 "new" EQM will be equivalent to only 8333, 6250, or 4167 "old" EQM bought in premium buckets...

    using them, of course, is another matter....

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  • mikimoto

    mikimoto

    20 Nov, 2015 02:18 pm

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  • mikimoto

    mikimoto

    20 Nov, 2015 07:38 pm

    Even with the changes in the AA frequent flyer program after March, I think that purchasing points is still a pretty good deal.  Under the current deal being offered by AA, points can be purchased for as little as 1.8 US cents each.  A business class return fare from pretty much anywhere in Australia to anywhere in the USA is now 125,000 points which would cost around A$3532 to buy (at A$1= US$0.71);  for bookings after March this jumps to 160,000 points which would cost $4155 to buy, as shown in the table above.  Quite a big jump on current prices but still a lot better than the $7-8K Qantas would charge.  I guess the issue is finding an empty business class seat to be able to book!

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  • Wingman

    Wingflex

    28 Nov, 2015 04:20 am

    Hi Chris,

    given the recent upcoming changes I have recently tried to use my AA miles to redeem a Europe-Australia J or F class trip. Unfortunately AA website only gives BA and QF availability, for other airlines you have to call in. I have not given up and tried all the possible ways to redeem and found out the following:

    1. All the QF availabilities shown on the AA website are totally FAKE. They will show you some QF1/2 flights available LHRSYDLHR or also QF 9 via MEL but once you select and go ahead they will tell you that the seat is gone. I have tried to book every single month up until October 2016 and the story is always the same, not a single seat available for the whole year...

    2. CX F class has 6 seats installed on their 77W. I have checked and given availability to some Europe to HKG flights by using the QF website and then calling in AA to reserve but unfortunately no seats were shown on their side and they justify themselves by saying that not all award seats on CX or other airlines are made available to all the oneWorld carriers. 

    Between point 1 and 2 above I really think that AAdvantage program should be dimantled...it is obvious that they are not just making hard to use miles but practically impossible to use miles on airlines other than AA and maybe BA.

    Pretty strange given that AA and QF have a strong commercial agreement in place due to expand to a JVA subject to approval.

    I have reported these examples stated above to AA but no reply has obviously been received. Any chance you can raise the flag with your channels?

    Thanks and best regards

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    28 Nov, 2015 03:50 pm

    Hi Wingflex, the recent issue of false availability showing for Qantas flights is one that other users have also reported to us. Have you tried using the Qantas website to locate a frequent flyer award on your desired flight and then searching that specific date via AAdvantage?

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  • Wingman

    Wingflex

    1 Dec, 2015 05:08 am

    Hi Chris,

    I have just done some searches on both AA and QF websites and it seems like AA is showing fake availability on QF flights which are not bookable and are also not shown on QF website. However in some cases some real availabilities shown on the QF website were not given as option to the AA frequent fliers...in general I was very impressed to see that a LHRSYD F Class seat is almost never available on QF fligths throughout the WHOLE year (I have searched until Nov 2016 and could not locate 1 single seat...). Another huge downfall is that when I found a F Class seat available on BA redemption flights the tax amount was over 1000 USD for a return flight ---> Ridicolous! And thankfully the oil is at its lowest levest in the past few years...airlines seems to forget that. This clearly show how devalued are FFP today.

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