American Airlines Follows Delta and United With New 2016 AAdvantage Program

American AirlinesAlmost every travel and points expert predicted that American Airlines would follow Delta and United’s unpopular move of awarding miles based on ticket price rather than distance flown. And now they have.

Delta announced this move back in February 2014, United essentially copy and pasted Delta’s program in June of 2014 and American only waited until they’d completed their merger with US Airways, which took place a few weeks ago, to follow suit.

No specific date has been given, only that it will occur in the second half of 2016. American sent out a press release this morning touting the changes and “its award-winning AAdvantage® loyalty program.” The only reason it was award winning is because they didn’t follow Delta and United so next year this time, I highly doubt they will be able to claim that title.

American says, “award redemption rates will be adjusted with some award levels increasing, while others will be decreasing.”

Here’s the info straight from the horse’s mouth:

Earning Award Miles
In the second half of 2016, when traveling on flights marketed by American, members will begin earning award miles based on the price of the ticket purchased (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees) and that member’s elite status level.

AAdvantage members will receive five miles for every U.S. dollar spent on the base fare and carrier-imposed fees. Gold members will receive seven miles, Platinum members will receive eight and Executive Platinum members will receive 11 miles per dollar spent.

AAdvantage Member LevelAAdvantage MemberGoldPlatinumExecutive Platinum
Miles / USD57811
Example Calculation Future*9,47013,25815,15220,834
Example Calculation Current**9,50211,87819,00419,004

*Calculation based on an AAdvantage member flying round-trip on an American marketed flight from Dallas (DFW) to London-Heathrow (LHR). Base fare plus carrier-imposed fees – $1,894.
**Calculation based on an AAdvantage member flying round-trip on an American marketed flight from Dallas (DFW) to London-Heathrow (LHR). Flight distance – 9,502 miles round-trip.

Award miles for travel on most flights marketed by partner airlines will be based on a percentage of the flight distance and the booking code purchased. More details will be announced in 2016

Until the new award mile earning structure takes effect, members will still earn award miles based on the distance flown.

Award Redemption Levels
In March 2016, some award redemption levels will be reduced by as much as 40 percent, and AAdvantage members will continue to book award travel on any day of the year without any blackout dates. For tickets booked on or after March 22, award redemption levels to popular destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America will be reduced, and MileSAAver awards for flights 500 miles or less in the U.S. and Canada will be redeemable for as low as 7,500 miles one way (plus any applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees). Award redemption levels on other routes, such as some flights to Europe and Asia will increase due to changes to market pricing and demand.

AAdvantage Elite Qualification
Beginning January 2016, the AAdvantage program will offer two simple ways to qualify for elite status – Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) at the same thresholds as today. Elite-qualifying points will be discontinued. Members will earn more EQMs for purchasing higher fares, and EQSs will still be awarded for each eligible flight segment flown. American will offer the most generous multipliers in the industry.

EQMs Earned On Carrier-Marketed Flights
Booking code purchasedEQM / mile AmericanEQM / mile

Delta

EQM / mile

United

Full-Fare First/Business321.5
Discount First/Business21.51.5
Full-Fare Economy1.51.51.5
Discount Economy111

The rates at which members earn EQMs on eligible partner airlines can be found on aa.com.

Beginning with the 2017 membership year, elite status will be valid through January 31 of the following year.

Upgrade Programs
The AAdvantage program provides complimentary, auto-requested upgrades for all elite members on domestic flights 500 miles or less, and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members receive complimentary, auto-requested upgrades on all domestic flights regardless of length.

500-Miles Upgrades Going Up in Price
With the higher EQM earn rates in 2016, beginning March 1, Gold and Platinum members will earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs earned during the membership year. It used to be 10,000.

The cost of a 500-mile upgrade will be $40 dollars when purchased online, at the airport or from an agent. They used to be $25 when booked online, $30 at the airport. So that’s a major increase.

Beginning January 1, 2016, Executive Platinum members will receive four systemwide upgrades upon qualification for the 2017 membership year, with the opportunity to earn up to four more based on flight activity – two for every 50,000 EQMs earned above the 100,000 EQM threshold up to 200,000 EQMs. They used to give 8 so they are cutting it by 50%. Huge blow.

Additional details about the 2016 AAdvantage program are available at aa.com/aadvantage2016.

This is obviously terrible news for those who buy cheap tickets, fly long distances and don’t have elite status. It’s good news for those road warriors who fly up front or buy full fare tickets.

What are your thoughts on this news? Sound off in the comments!

Johnny Jet

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Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

7 Comments on "American Airlines Follows Delta and United With New 2016 AAdvantage Program"

  1. The days of American AL being the flagship of the industry are over.

    Another sad loss for America and the traveling public

  2. Having been a multi year EXP, including a mile run to HNL this year to reup, this is discouraging news. I suspect 2016 will be my last year at EXP and likely will re-evaluate my need to travel as much for work. I suspect also 2016 will be a year when I’ll cash in some of my miles before they are no longer worth much.

  3. YIKES! What terrible news. But that is how a capitalist economy works. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, unless you are the ‘capitalist’.
    I guess Southwest will get the award from now on.

  4. Everyone knew that was coming. What I am surprised at is that other airlines don’t raid other airlines for frequent flyers. For instance, I have a ton of AA FF miles and I keep my loyalty to AA because of these miles and my elite status. Why doesn’t another airline like Delta approach me and say, “Hey Steve, we will give you elite status if you start flying with us?”

  5. Personally I think this really sucks ! This is just more regarding the rich and making it harder on those people who don’t have as much and use mileage to upgrade a lot ! Is there any really decent carrier left maybe have to buy mileage on foreign carriers seem to still understand that Travel should be a good thing and that you should have it available for people who don’t make millions of dollars a year I’m getting pretty fed up but I work in Asia so I have to go back-and-forth a lot and I’m older so I use my mileage to travel on business class because it’s too hard to sit up all that distance .

  6. That sucks! What a great reward for 25 years of loyalty! Southwest is sounding better all the time!

  7. I’ve come to the realization that AA and UA try to extract maximum revenue and deliver minimal value in every thing they offer. JetBlue and Virgin try to deliver a good experience for price paid. For the money JetBlue and Virgin are a better value.

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