American Airlines AAdvantage Program Changes January 1, 2016

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American Airlines has now made official the changes to the AAdvantage program in 2016 that deal with earning elite status and awards miles, the number of miles you earn on partner airlines, and award chart change that takes effective.

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016

The email that AA just sent out states: “We’re evolving to build a rewarding program for all members while giving our best customers access to our most exclusive benefits”. In reality, this means that the airline is cutting the number of award miles that most fliers earn from flight activity by 50% to 90% and jacking up the award prices on routes that are worth redeeming by 30% to 50% or more.

You can access AA’s web page for these changes here.

Elite Status 2016

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Elite Status 2016

If there is one bright spot in these changes, it is how the status qualification is calculated. You have been able to qualify for status on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS). The EQPs are removed that have been difficult to understand for many.

On American-marketed flights:

  • 3 EQMs/mile – Full-fare First or Business
  • 2 EQMs/mile – Discount First or Business
  • 1.5 EQMs/mile – Full-fare Main Cabin
  • 1 EQM/mile – Discount Main Cabin

You earn higher Elite Qualifying miles for business and first class fares. You still earn minimum of 1 EQM even for discounted fares.

Elite Qualifying Miles on Partner Airlines

These will change also and you should consult each airline separately to compare what you earn now and what’s in for 2016. Here are changes for British Airways, Iberia and Finnair:

British Airways

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Earning Status BA 2015American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Earning Status BA 2016

American has three different earning charts for BA at the present; one for 2015, one for January 2016 and one from February 1 2016. I’m comparing the 2015 and February 2016 charts here.

All British Airways fares have earned at least 100% EQMs that is changed to just 50% of discounted economy fares. Note that the number of award miles you earn for discounted economy is cut by up to 75%.

Finnair

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Earning Status Finnair

All Finnair economy fare classes have been 100% earning for EQM purposes. Starting January 1 all other fare classes besides Y and B earn only 50%.

Iberia

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Earning Status Iberia 2015American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Earning Status Iberia 2016

As is the case with BA, American has three earning charts for Iberia as well; one that is valid until the end of this year, one for January 2016, and one that is valid from February 1 2016. I compare the 2015 and February 1 charts here.

All Iberia transatlantic flights have earned 100% EQMs but that will now change to minimum of 50%. Also, the number of award miles that you earn for discounted fares have been cut from 100% and 80% to 50% – 25%.

Elite Qualifying Thresholds

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Elite Qualifying Thresholds

No changes here. The status is only valid until January 31st each year and not until the end of February beginning 2017.

Upgrades

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Upgrades

The number of Systemwide Upgrades that you earn when qualifying for Executive Platinum statys have been cut by half from eight to just 4.

Gold and Platinum members must now fly 12,500 miles to earn 4 500-mile upgrades compared to 10,000 miles previously.

Award Miles

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Award Miles

And American Airlines have changes the worst change to last probably hoping that everyone would have stopped reading by now.

  • 5 miles/U.S. dollar – AAdvantage member
  • 7 miles/U.S. dollar – Gold
  • 8 miles/U.S. dollar – Platinum
  • 11 miles/U.S. dollar – Executive Platinum

The number of award miles that you earn is decoupled from the flight distance. Those that fly on discounted economy fares can expect their earnings to drop 50% to 90%. Only those that fly on expensive short-haul flights and full fare business/first can expect to earn more miles under this program.

This change will come to effect in the second half of 2016.

Award Changes

American Airlines AAdvantage Changes 2016 Award Changes

It should say here that we are raising the number of award miles required for most popular awards by 30% to 50%. I’ll have a separate post about the award category changes shortly.

Conclusion

American Airlines is making the flying on AA much less rewarding next year. They cut the number of miles earned by 50% to 90% (most fliers) and at the same time requiring 30% to 50% more miles for premium cabin awards.

My advise for most fliers have been to buy purely on the convenience and price. You can buy most of the elite benefits “ala carte” with the US airlines. Also, there are plenty of discounted domestic first class fares and international business class fares have come down a lot due to competition.

I really see no benefit of being loyal to any one airline considering the recent loyalty program changes with the US based airlines.

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