American AAdvantage Devaluation: Up to 75% Fewer Miles on Partners With Less Than 3 Weeks Notice

I briefly noted last night that American had published new charts for earning miles on partner airlines.

Sharing How Partner Tickets Will Count Towards Minimum Spend for Elite Status

The biggest change was adding detail on how many elite qualifying dollars you’ll earn when you fly partner airlines next year. American is going to require a minimum amount of spending — in addition to minimum miles or segments flown — to earn elite status. And they don’t know how much you spend on a partner airline ticket, so they’ll award qualifying dollars based on the distance you fly and the fare class of your ticket. Each airline has a different chart for this.

As reader john said, “Good grief! This is too complicated for 99% of fliers to comprehend and retain.”

American Airlines Airbus A319

Reducing Mileage-Earning on Partner Tickets — For Travel Starting in 2 Weeks

In addition to telling us how many elite qualifying dollars we will earn flying on partner airlines, they’ve also reduced the amount of redeemable frequent flyer miles we will earn flying on certain partners and on certain fares.

The first example of this that I gave was expensive H fares on British Airways going from earning 1 mile per mile flown down to only earning 50% of the miles you actually fly. Changes to mileage-earning on the first several partners I had a look at changed for only a few fare classes.

However this morning I’ve had a chance to go through the partner mileage-earning chart changes more thoroughly and for some partners the changes are really bloody.

Here are key things to understand:

  • When you fly an American Airlines-marketed flight (American Airlines flight number, whether the flight is operated by American or a partner) you will earn based on the cost of the ticket starting August 1 except in a handful of cases like tickets purchased through AA Vacations.

  • If you are flying on a partner airlines flight number, then you earn based on the partner airlines chart. If you fly British Airways with a British Airways flight number, you earn based on the British Airways chart. If you are flying American Airlines but you have a British Airways flight number, then you earn based on the partner airline chart.

These charts apply to flights taken August 1 onward. It’s when you travel, not when you bought your ticket.

Here are Some of the Major Changes to Partner Earning

Finnair flights currently earn 100% of miles flown, even on deep discount economy fares.

For travel August 1 onward, discount economy tickets will only earn redeemable miles based on 50% or even 25% of the distance flown. That’s as much as a 75% earning devaluation. Talk about dumping bad news on a Friday afternoon amidst a terror attack in Nice, Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential nominee announcement, and an attempted coup in Turkey!

Three airberlin fare classes drop from earning 100% of flown miles down to 50%. Here’s earning up through July 31 for H, K, and M fares:

And here’s August 1 onward:

LAN fares have earned 100% of flown miles internationally even on deep discount fare classes and will continue to do so for travel through July 31.

Starting travel August 1 it takes full fare coach to earn 100% of flown miles, and some fares earn only 25%.

Crediting economy Malaysia Airlines flights to AAdvantage wasn’t super-generous to begin with.

However American has carved out a new category for fares that used to earn 50% of flown miles to earn just 25% of flown miles. That’s cutting earning in half.

Something similar happened to earning with Royal Jordanian. Here’s current earning:

Starting August 1, only full fare tickets will earn 100% of flown miles. More fare classes earn at 50%, there’s a new category for earning just 25%, and an additional fare class that will not earn at all.

Travel on non-oneworld partner airline Alaska Airlines currently earns 100% of miles flown.

That will drop to as little as 25% of flown miles. (And note that Y and B fares are not first class fares contra the chart below)

Non-oneworld partner airline Etihad currently earns 100% of miles flown.

That drops to as little as 25% of flown miles on August 1 — as much as a 75% devaluation.

There are other partners, like Hawaiian Airlines, where reductions in mileage-earning are similar.

Changes Were Expected — But Releasing the Charts Now and Putting Them Into Effect August 1 is Poor Form

Ultimately none of this is super surprising — even 75% devaluations — given that cheaper American flights won’t earn very many miles anymore, so American’s generosity on cheap fares on partner airlines wasn’t going to last.

In cases where the devaluations aren’t significant — like British Airways — it’s largely because American already did the devaluation months ago.

But sharing new earning rates only two weeks in advance (and they haven’t even notified members of the changes), and not honoring the old rates for tickets purchased prior to publication of these charts, is most unfortunate. If they couldn’t publish the charts until now, they could have had those charts go into effect a couple of months from now.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. These airlines have NO IDEA what being respectful to your customers is. We are being treated like adversaries in court rather than customers or for many loyal customers. Shame.

  2. The obvious signs of a collapsing economy, separating the low-lives who don’t deserve to be there, and the rich who could careless what FF miles they earn; i.e., asset driven economics.

    In “diversity English”, you wanna eat caviar and drink Dom Perignon for free? Not in ObamaWorld… ObamaWorld, “you didn’t earn it, you back to ridin’ the train.” Donald Trump will fix it.

  3. @ Gary — “Most unfortunate”? How about, downright unethical? If this were Delta doing this, you would be raising hell, but you just let American off with “most unfortunate”? Biased much?

  4. Way to go throwing a political statement into this article. Can you just stick with the subject matter? I think we get enough of the political crap on a daily basis as it is.

  5. Good analysis with the time to look deeper. I would suggest adding the reduction in earning on discount business fares on multiple partners like QR, LA due to lower class of service bonuses. Also that EQD earning is worse on even JV partners than Delta’s ratios for Group 1 partners. EQM is worse than Delta and United for most partners as well, although that hasn’t changed.

    This makes AAdvantage and AA overall marginally worse than UA and DL if you aren’t a hub captive (LAX, NYC, ORD).
    Hard product including partners: About even across all 3, UA boosted by its partners but may be even on standalone in 3 years
    Soft product including partners: DL in the lead, AA/UA quite a bit behind
    Network including partners: UA in the lead, DL/AA a bit behind, but depends on hub captive status
    Loyalty program: DL has good SWUs and customer service and good award availability and partner earning, but higher top tier qualification and unpredictable award pricing and routing rules and no first class redemptions and mediocre partners. AA has decent SWUs and partners and first class redemptions, but bad award availability and partner earning with restrictive award routing rules and fuel surcharges on a major partner’s redemptions and mediocre customer service. UA has a great partner network and award availability and first class redemptions and routing rules and OK SWUs and partner earning, but terrible customer service.

    There really seems to be no clear outstanding option overall like AA was for a a few years until this year, which I guess is what the airlines were aiming for? Although, if one could regularly book UA partners through UA with a 016 ticket for the same price and availability, UA is looking like the promising option, especially in 3 yrs with the Polaris product and if Oscar can get the service levels up by motivating the staff.

  6. @Gene – I guess my sarcasm wasn’t coming across early this Saturday morning.

    There *are* some subtleties here, American said they were going to be doing this over a month ago and it was obviously implied by everything else they’re doing. But I’m absolutely calling them out here. And I do NOT just let them off with most unfortunate. That’s selective reading.

    I put “less than 3 weeks notice” in the HEADLINE of the post.

    And then I highlight the lack of notice in a subheading “Reducing Mileage-Earning on Partner Tickets — For Travel Starting in 2 Weeks”

    The next subheading focuses on the lack of notice, “Changes Were Expected — But Releasing the Charts Now and Putting Them Into Effect August 1 is Poor Form”

  7. @Steve L – what political statement? I was noting that American dumped the news on a Friday afternoon (‘garbage day’) and amidst MAJOR news stories that would crowd this out. One of those major news stories was Trump’s VP selection. Where’s the poltiics in that? Heck I didn’t even mention their logo… 😉

  8. I’m not surprised that American made the types of recent changes they have made. But I am down right shocked at how they took what United and Delta did and made their cuts WORSE than their competitors. Why start yourself off post-merger as the the least generous of the big 3….especially as their operational reliability is currently also the worst. AA thinks people will just take these changes in stride but I think they will lose more HVC than they think. It happened to UA during their downward spiral.

    But I honestly think the AA executives don’t care. They look at UA’s formula to devalue, watch the company go to shite, but see the stock price skyrocket and the bonus checks come rolling in. I think this new AA of gutting the AA program and poor reliability is the future for the next 5 years. Then when economy tanks or current execs get ousted/leave with their barrels of $$$, their version of Oscar will come in and fix the AA they are currently breaking.

  9. Seems like the partners will be bitter about this and likely retaliate in kind as well.

    Politically does fit. Imagine how many more class warfare articles or blog post we’ll see from the Chris Elliott’s of the world about how only the 1% get nice seats and champagne while the rest of us suffer.

  10. I’ll continue to base my paid flying primarily upon price and flight schedules. Choosing an airline based upon loyalty program makes even less sense now. Points/miles earned are nothing more than a rebate of the price paid… and that rebate is steadily diminishing.

    While elite status can be helpful during times of irregular operation, it, IMO, is not worth the additional monetary and emotional effort expense to chase.

  11. All because of less competition in the skies due to the business friendly scum in the Congress from the Republican south.

  12. Overall this fits in the strategy of minimizing flight miles and boosting the share of credit card miles and other miles they can sell. They tend to kill the value proposition doing this however and hopefully their flyers are not lemmings and fully assess their options. I give United a much smaller share of my wallet since they made similar changes. I suspect many AA’s most loyal flyers will be doing the maths.

  13. Last. Straw. Screw the last 20K EQM I need this year. I’m done with those a_______.

  14. Steve was referring to the imbecile Melissa chewing off her leg blaming Obama for airline elitism, typical of the know-nothings who enabled the GOP greedhogs to dupe half the country into voting away their own middle class in favor of the very rich. Try to find a Republican who isn’t pushing only greed policies or throwing red-meat moralism to the stupidest people on earth like a shiny object.

    This is exactly paralleled in devaluation of the airline rewards system. How much you fly is replaced by how much you spend and you’d better be spending boatloads if you want another free trip.

    I have one response to the airlines I flew for 30 years who want to devalue me now as thanks:

  15. 8 million miles on American here and I am out the door for good on Virgin America,Alaska,Jet Blue & Southwest for Domestic travel.
    My international travel is all Middle Eastern Carriers and some assorted others just because I will do anything to revenge what the new management has done to my favorite airline.
    Doug Parker thinks he has us by the short and lanky but hes dead wrong.
    Now that all the good legacy programs have been reduced to nuclear fallout rubble why should I stay loyal when they have become mediocre with terrible food in premium cabins ?For 20 years I have connected through Dallas Chicago,LAX on that disgusting Eagle brand and wherever American needed to route me through in the name of a once great program.But If I were to over look high priced fares and declining customer service the worst in Americans history with no follow ups to issues that they created like 6 hours of mechanical delays and destroyed luggage the worst of it is:
    Poor saver award seat inventory that is already fast becoming or is essentially Delta Skymiles/Pesos 2 .What is the new management rolling up and smoking in Dallas?
    Ever seen the cost of their anytime award?
    Doug Parker in no time has turned American into a large version of a demoralized US Airways
    Every one of my predictions came through.One can only hope he will go the way of Smisek
    He has ruined the worlds first and greatest loyalty program in history
    That was the one piece of glue holding me to American all these decades
    As they say Buh BYe!
    Signed up for Jet Blue credit card/Southwest /Alaska Tore up my American Airline cards

  16. I think what is evidenced in these changes, and those at DL and UA, is that RDMs – despite all the whinging on this blog and elsewhere – have little impact on actually driving revenue and “loyalty” to airlines. They do however drive revenue from credit card deals – which this blog and others have no qualms about pushing.

    As someone who flies a lot for work – RDMs don’t even enter into my consideration of why I am taking a particular trip or flying a particular airline. They just sit in my account, pile up, and devalue.

  17. The 90 day notice stuff is long gone. Dougie’s AA looks at how much it would cost to give 90 days notice vs doing what they did and the course of action is clear. Anyone who watched what happened to Dividend Miles after his last merger shouldn’t be surprised (given the competitive market at that time, his folks took a hatchet to Dividend Miles). I remember how immune AA flyers seemed to act as they watched Delta and United flyers see their programs destroyed relative to what they were …. I always thought ‘just you wait as Dougie has big plans I’m sure’

  18. @Melissa. I laughed out loud reading your statement. Of course, American Airlines has little to do with Obama. In any case, no doubt you were making the statement to bring out all the nasty angry over the top irrational liberal types. You got several of them in this comment. You caught even more of them in previous comments.

    Gene: This guy hates and insults all the people in Alabama!. No doubt he is an apologist for every left wing hate group, but people from Alabama, all of them are bad. Good catch Melissa.

    Credit: Wait he is EVEN worse than Gene, if that is possible. He hates all Republicans. That is like 39% of the country and most of the states in the country. Further, he is so stupid, he thinks all Republicans come from the south. LOOK at a MAP. And he thinks they are all scum. Probably, he is very understanding about Sharia law both in America and England. What a riot!

    Steve L.: In theory he is correct that political comments do not belong in a travel comment section. But if Melissa’s comment were liberal, he would ignore the comment or agree with it. Hypocrisy on full display.

    In conclusion, I am sick and tired of reading all the left wing attacks on the person making a right wing statement. If you think about lashing in personal terms at someone with a right wing viewpoint, just take a deep breath. The persons you are lashing out (if female) is someone’s mother, sister, daughter. She might have gay friends. Maybe she volunteers for charity and gives food to the poor. WTH, I even know a lesbian couple with test tube kids where one partner is fully in the right wing. If you must respond, remove all the personal insults. Edit out hate words like “stupid”, “scum”, “imbecile” and so forth. Try not to insult vast classes of people, like “the South”, “Tea-party”, “all Republicans”, “you right wingers” and so forth. And use reason statements, like “That is an interesting viewpoint; however, could you please explain……”. Seriously guys, to quoted Rodney King, “Can we all get along?”

  19. Congressman John Mica from Florida said it best when their aviation sub committee investigated airline frequent mileage programs and he inferred consumers aren’t entitled to earn miles unless they are paying the airlines a lot of money for them.

    Quite frankly, I’m a member of the investigative committee, one of the senior members of the panel. I don’t take our investigative facts and information from a magazine or some article.

  20. Rather ingenuous of you. Granted the notice is short, but we were told several months ago this change was coming. We saw most of the RDM charts had been changing February 1st, particularly for deeply discounted economy fares with partner airlines. So not really a shock on those counts. As for the exact conversion percentages, a look at the DL program should have given anyone a good idea of how the EQD would be calculated.
    What is most disturbing to me is that all the changes were introduced mid-year and not held off until January 2017. And that the elite bonus is now gone for partner flight RDMs.
    In my view, when the banks dominated the purchase of mileage (particularly with their obscene sign-up bonuses), even exceeding what is earned from flying, they started to dictate the new world of FF programs. These have become credit card spend programs, not butt-in-seat programs for the vast majority of members. What’s left of the true FF program will benefit those who fly on business and have generous employers who opt for higher coach or premium cabin fares.
    The game’s over for all but the 1%. Can’t really blame consolidation; no business can go on forever giving its product away while losing hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
    FF programs will not be regulated by Washington. The only hope out of government that can come from consumer protest is outlawing one-sided, “subject to change without notice” contracts. (And remember, those miles aren’t ours…they really belong to the airline whose program they are in. So pretty much gives the airlines the right to use them any way they want.

  21. I completely agree that there should be more notice given. I’m holding several of those Etihad tickets that will be devalued to 25% a month before I fly, even though I purchased them months ago. I had been crediting to AA. Now I will be searching for elsewhere to put my miles, of course. I’m quite sure no one at the (US) airlines cares about me and my business. It is events like this (the short notification period) that rub it in. It may not change where I spend my money this year, but it will change my spending habits in the years to come, changes that are unlikely to reverse without substantial incentives to do so. I wonder if AA will really net enough additional profit out of shortening the notification period for these changes to make up for the ill will it generates.

  22. @Balanced….Actually you got it wrong. There is nothing left wing in this kid…..

  23. This is sooooo backwards – American is NOT cutting percentages. This is what the partner airlines will give you if you buy a ticket FROM THEM and want miles in your Aadvantage account. Check BA as an example. They give 50% to American’s program and American gives 50% to the BA program. stop this stupid panic. And if you’re reading any of these posts and articles and are paying attention to any of it, you’re crazy – unless you feel “it’s on the Internet – it must be true!” CALL the airline and ask. Enough madness in the world today. Astounding what some people think is so important to focus on. How about flying safely from one place to the next? Doesn’t THAT count anymore? Or do we still take that for granted in this day and age. Lots of self-entitled people out there who expect the world to be laid out before them.

  24. While it doesn’t excuse AA’s actions (they should have provided more notice), the reality is that there is almost NO ONE who actually understands the rules on mileage accrual on partner airlines these days. And the number of people who make purchasing decisions based on these rules can probably fit in a telephone booth (if there still were telephone booths!).

    Classic example: I bought one of those recent cheapo SAA fares to JNB. I’m a UA 1K, who’s been playing the mileage game for decades. I had absolutely no idea how many UA miles my ticket would earn when I bought it; I presumed it would be few (it is). I didn’t even know whether my elite status would earn me extra miles (it doesn’t). Heck, when you buy a ticket, it’s very difficult to even know what fare bucket your ticket is in (mine is actually in different buckets on different segments — I only found that out today when I tried to figure out why I could only get free seat assignments on certain flights).

    So the reality is that almost no one is really being screwed by AA’s lack of notice. The few people who actually understood the old rules were probably shying away from booking post-July partner flights “for the miles” anyway. I’m sure 99%+ of the flying public will remain clueless about the whole topic.

  25. I wish people would do their homework before posting comments. If you don’t know then don’t post. Fewer miles and fewer upgrades means less free loaders in FC. The future of air travel is here now and it’s called you get what you pay for. Bottom line is if you want to sit in FC you are going to have to pay for it. The days of free upgrades and racking up miles from flying are pretty much gone.

  26. @Mark. You are not quite correct.

    Free upgrades still exist for Elites. I have been upgraded about 90% of the time as an EP on American this year and expect that to continue, at least domestically until my EP expires in 2/18. Moreover, I have not yet paid a baggage fee in my life.

    When my EP runs out, I will dip into my stash of miles to continue to ride in better style for a while after that.

    After than, I suspect that the airlines are going to try to add revenues from selling miles. Since miles are less valuable, I suspect that the sales will get better and better. When my stash of miles runs out, I suspect to be able to buy low cost miles, which will turn into cheap ticket.

    There will always be an angle, even for those like me that do not do their homework as you said.

  27. @Kevin Birnbaum – you are obviously cabin crew, or related to someone who is, (“the flight attendants are here primarily to ensure your safety”) and couldn’t care less about customer loyalty or experience.

  28. There is really no point to collect any any miles now in FFP for status, with the exception of Alaska Airline Miles. I will now fly the lowest fare and credit to AS, who’s with me here?

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