In July 1st, 1989 American Airlines changed its mile expiration promise. Previously, American Airlines miles were not subject to expiration, but all this changed on that day. The miles that were earned from July 1st onwards were under expiration policy that has since changed few times.
American Airlines, however, made a promise that old miles that were that were earned before that date would NOT be subject to expiration. The AAdvantage member could also use the old award chart to redeem the old miles. The member could use their old miles to redeem from the new award chart as well.
So, if you were given a promise of a non-expiration of miles, how long AA should keep its promise? Apparently AA thinks that 23 years is enough.
AAdvantage members that had these old miles on their accounts were sent the following email by American Airlines:
For more than 30 years the American Airlines AAdvantage® program has been making travel special. Thank you for your loyalty for so many years as an AAdvantage member.
In order to streamline our program, we are announcing a change to AAdvantage miles earned before July 1, 1989, also called Miles With No Expiration.
Starting November 1, 2012, these miles will automatically be converted to Miles Subject to Expiration, and because of your tenured loyalty, you will earn a 25% mileage bonus on every unredeemed mile earned prior to July 1, 1989. To have your Miles With No Expiration converted and to earn the mileage bonus, you do not need to take any action. For more information about this change, please visit AA.com/MileConversion.
Once your miles have been converted, as long as you earn or redeem AAdvantage miles at least once every 18 months, your miles will not expire. This is our normal mileage policy and more information can be found at AA.com/AAdvantageTerms.
It is easy to keep your account active! In addition to earning AAdvantage miles for travel, you can earn miles for making everyday purchases such as dining out, shopping and paying your electricity bill. Plus, you can redeem miles for hotel stays, rental cars, flight awards, and more! Find out more ways to earn and redeem miles by visiting AA.com/AAdvantage.
Finally, to receive special offers and exclusive promotions, be sure to update your account at AA.com/MyAccount and sign up for email notifications.
Thank you for your continued loyalty!
You can always argue that 23 years is long enough for people to use the miles that were accrued before July 1st, 1989. But many didn’t strategically use their old miles. The award chart that these old miles could be used it advantageous in many ways. If you still have old miles, you have up to October 31st, 2012 to use them. On November 1st, 2012 American Airlines will convert the old miles to “Miles Subject to Expiration” and give 25% bonus for “loyalty”.
Why the change?
You may wonder why American Airlines would do such a trivial thing as to cancel the non-expiring old miles promise that they made. It cannot be that difficult to continue having two different kinds of miles.
Maybe they have quite a bit of old miles on their books on accounts that haven’t been used for years. Converting them to new miles and then expiring them in 18 months is a good way for AA to remove some existing liability from their books (miles are liability accounting wise).
Old award charts
Quite a few awards on the old chart have not been bookable for long time. Singapore Airlines ceased to be an American partner long time ago.
There are, however, some awards that are still valid. I like the award 150E that is for first class ticket for two to Tokyo from the United States on American Airlines for 150K miles. Unlike with AA’s new award chart, the stopover rules are more flexible with the old awards.
It is somewhat understandable that American wants to more these non-expiring old miles to expiring ones, and after 18 months expire bunch of them. But I don’t like when companies make promises about lifetime status on their program or not expiring miles, and then after few or more years don’t honor it.
It has made sense for many to save their non-expiring miles to use them later for awards using the old chart that are cheaper compared to current one.
Note: The American Airline letter and the award chart are from now non-existing FewMiles website that I was able to access Internet Archive.