Today marks another day of further changes to the AAdvantage program. Today’s change is yet another sign that the AAdvantage program is no longer the fantastic value that it once was to the average traveler. The changes to the AAdvantage program have all been similar; reward travelers who spend more money with the airline and forget the rest. Today Alaska announced discount economy tickets will no longer earn 100% when crediting travel to the AAdvantge program. This adds to the already long list of negative changes to the AAdvantage program announced this past year.
In Early 2016, American Airlines introduced a new award chart. The chart basically increased the number of miles required to redeem reward tickets and further enforced the old rule of “Earn & Burn.” The updated chart did have some reductions to various regions, but reward travel to Asia and Europe increased.
American also announced the way to earn redeemable miles would also change. In the past, travelers would earn 1 redeemable mile for each mile flown. Gold elites would earn a 500 miles on any flights under 500 miles AND would earn a 25% bonus on all miles earned. (A 250 mile flight would earn 750 redeemable miles) Platinum and Executive Platinum Members earned the same minimum mileage guarantee AND earned a 100% bonus on each mile flow. (A 250 flight would earn 1,000 redeemable miles) As an American Airlines Platinum member, it was hard to justifying flying on any other airline under this old structure, but Effective August 1, 2016 American’s redeemable miles will be based on the cost of the ticket. The earning structure is as follows:
- AAdvantage Member: 5 miles per $
- AAdvantage Gold: 7 miles per $
- AAdvantage Platinum: 8 miles per $
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum: 11 miles per $
- (Platinum Pro members earn 9 miles per $)
American Provides a sample calculation to show how much better the new system is, but in reality, it really hurts the budget conscious traveler in the long run. A trip from Chicago to London would previously earn 7,906 miles for AAdvantage members regardless of price. Now Members must pay AT LEAST $1,581 to earn that mileage rate. Platinum members would earn 15,812 miles for that flight with the 100% bonus! Now they must spend AT LEAST $1,977 to earn the same amount of redeemable miles. It is clear that American Airlines is no longer letting discount travelers or Mileage Runners take AAdvantage of cheap long-distance fares with hopes of redeeming miles to far off lands.
American Airlines announced further changes to the AAdvantage program roughly a month ago when it confirmed changing to a revenue based earning structure for Elites by introducing Elite Qualifying Dollars on January 1, 2017. Now, even earning elite status is costly! Given the new system, if you played it perfectly and earned exactly 100,000 miles for the required $12,000 an Executive Platinum member would only earn 132,000 redeemable miles. Under the old system, Executive Platinum could often be earned for just $5,000 and would earn 200,000 redeemable miles.
So far all of these changes to the AAdvantage program have been extremely disappointing to travel hackers and discount travelers, but this is all great news for big spenders, especially those that often purchase full fare or Business/First international tickets on partner airlines. Miles on partner airlines are now going to also be based on the cost of the ticket, meaning that if you purchase a First Class ticket to Europe on British Airways, you will earn 1.5 Elite Qualifying Miles per mile flown and can qualify for status quickly.
Personally, the reason I originally chose American Airlines was because of their fantastic loyalty program! I wanted to earn miles quickly to take international trips in First Class, I’m thankful to have earned a small stash of miles, but given all the changes and my travel patterns, it will be impossible to re-qualify or see the benefits of the new program. I will remain loyal to American for the time being, but once the change take effect will have to consider focusing on a different airline.