American Airlines, one of the legacy carriers was the last holdout to retain the traditional frequent flier award schedule i.e. 1:1 miles flown and subsequent points awarded. For example for a flight between Denver and New York, the 1,600 miles flown would provide 1,600 points. Earlier today American Airlines has announced revisions to their AAdvantage loyalty program following the pattern and award allocation of the other legacy carriers United and Delta.
The revised award program which will take effect during the 2nd half of 2016 will award points based on base fare paid. Initially entry-level members of AAdvantage will receive 5 points per dollar spent, Gold level fliers will receive 7 points per dollar spent, Platinum members will receive 8 points per dollar spent and Executive Platinum members will receive 11 points for every dollar spent. Of note, points are usually awarded on the base airfare and are not awarded on the portion of the ticket price concerning taxes, security and ancillary fees. Thus it is important to review the true “Base Fare” of the ticket cost if collecting mileage is of importance.
In addition to the revision of how points are awarded; redemption levels also known as award tickets will also be revised. A new lower allocation category will allow use of 7,500 points redeemable for one-way travel of less than 500 miles. AA has advised redemption levels for flights to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, markets in which they have a strong presence and inventory will decline as well, a benefit for AAdvantage members. For Europe and Asia, redemption levels will increase.
Similar to United and Delta, distance flown will be factored into elite status qualifications and class of service. For tickets purchased in Economy Class the ratio is 1:1. For those flying in Business and First Class and those paying full non-restricted fares the ratio can increase up to three (3) elite qualifying miles for each mile flown.
While the news may be disappointing for many AAdvantage members the revision is not unexpected. Delta and United had revised their award programs a few years ago and continue to revise with an orientation to award those procuring the higher classes of service and higher priced non-restricted tickets.
The changes to the AAdvantage program were predicted years ago. However with AA’s merger with US Airways, another of the legacy carriers and the challenges concerning integration, the revisions to AAdvantage program were just delayed.
As a travel agent I hear the complaints concerning loyalty programs and their ever changing award levels and diminished allocation of seats. As I advise clients, 1) the programs are free to join, 2) members are usually alerted to air fare sales and other perks not provided to the general public and 3) various charge and credit cards allow their patrons to accumulate miles as well.]
Granted the days of “Mileage Runs” may be over (my most memorable was a RT leaving in the afternoon and taking a red-eye return between NYC and San Francisco for cocktails and dinner back in the day when the RT flight generated 6,000+ non-restricted miles) yet in reality when factoring in inflation and post deregulation coupled with competition on various routes, airfares are actually quite attractive.