More Changes Coming to American Airlines AAdvantage in 2019

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American Airlines continues to whittle more changes into its AAdvantage program. Just when you think you have got the hang of your favorite loyalty program, boom. They make more changes to keep you on your toes. Luckily, there are no adjustments (yet) to the airline’s award chart, which is already one of the more generous programs in North America.

Of the changes being made to the American Airlines AAdvantage program, the most frequent travelers may be pleasantly surprised while everyone else may notice little effect or fewer miles on their purchased tickets. We outline what you should expect come Jan. 1, 2019.

Partner airline earning adjustments for the American Airlines AAdvantage program

American has created a joint venture between British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, and Japan Airlines. This means that the carriers share revenues on each other’s participating flights in the joint venture. Previously, you could be rewarded more for flying one of those carriers than another. This may have been unfair to certain travelers with specific route patterns. The new changes align the earning ability across all fare classes for each of them.

This generally means that you will be earning the same EQMs and EQDs no matter which of those carriers you fly.

Executive Platinum status will be harder to achieve

Following updates made by its competitors, Executive Platinum status will now require $15,000 in Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) spend. Previously, you needed $12,000 in spend to reach this level, assuming you also met the 100,000 Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) threshold or flew 120 segments. This will mean it is harder to achieve the highest published tier of status (Concierge Key status remains a mystery).

Furthermore, recent updates to American’s Barclays cards mean that you won’t be able to earn EQDs for meeting a spend threshold on the Aviator Red or Aviator Blue cards. This was certainly important for those that needed that extra boost for the EQD requirement.

If you have the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card, you can only earn 3,000 EQDs once you spend $50,000 per calendar year. In the past, you could earn 3,000 EQDs for spending $25,000. You could then earn another 3,000 EQDs for hitting $50,000 in spend.

The most frequent fliers get more rewards

In the past, American has offered bonuses for going above and beyond certain milestones with flying. For example, Executive Platinums receive two additional SWUs for reaching 150,000 EQMs and then 200,000 EQMs. That is on top of the four they receive for hitting the first 100,000 EQM mark.

Newly announced changes will keep the rewards going for hitting 250,000 EQMs. The reward list is growing too. Each time you hit one of the above milestones, you can choose between two additional systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles, or the ability to gift elite status. You can gift Gold to someone when hitting 150,000 EQMs. You can gift Platinum status at 200,000 EQMs and 250,000 EQMs.

Mileage earning adjustments on full-fare economy and special tickets

If you typically buy full-fare economy class tickets on American, prepare to receive fewer EQMs in 2019. Currently, you earn 1.5 EQMs per dollar spent. That is changing to 1 EQM per dollar spent.

What exactly are special fares? These are typically bulk or industry tickets that do not show the specific fare amount that you paid. For example, if you purchase a ticket through a cruise line or buy a vacation package that includes air and hotel, these are both special fares. Previously, you would earn miles based upon the distance flown. EQD would be calculated based upon a percentage of that.

It seems that some people were taking advantage of that. It also was not fair to those that were actually buying more expensive tickets. Mileage earning on certain fares in Q, O, and B buckets will drop from 50% to 25%. The corresponding EQD earning will drop, too.

Luckily, if you buy premium cabin tickets via these special fare programs, you will see an increase in the mileage and EQD that you earn. This swings the earnings more in favor of those spending more, which seems to be the spirit of most loyalty programs these days.

Bottom line on the American Airlines AAdvantage program changes

It’s a mixed bag of changes for the American Airlines AAdvantage program, depending upon what type of flier you are. It pays to stay informed of these increasingly intricate programs so that you can maximize your benefit.

Ramsey Qubein

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About the Author

Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent for Northstar Travel Media covering the hotel and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He has traveled to 144 countries (many more than two dozen times) and lived in both Madrid and Paris. His work has appeared in numerous consumer and industry publications including Travel+Leisure, Premier Traveler, Islands, Business Traveller, Singapore Airlines' Silver Kris, and US Airways magazines. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis researching various aspects of marketing/branding in the travel industry. Ramsey is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs, business travel and the luxury travel segment. He flies nearly 350,000 miles per year and estimates he has circumnavigated the globe more than 80 times. He is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio programs and contributor to USA Today, Fox News, BBC, Frommers, and AirfareWatchdog. Ramsey enjoys participating on travel panels or roundtables and is frequently quoted on travel-related subjects. Interested editors are welcome to contact him for any freelance writing needs related to business travel, aviation, or the hotel industry.

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