American Airlines Will Change How Miles Are Awarded, Based On Where You Buy Your Ticket

American Airlines announced changes for the 2024 member year that are generally positive. Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja had previewed broad changes in the airline’s employee podcast – but those weren’t announced.

AAdvantage reports up to Raja, and the changes he talked about are still coming. In fact, he mentioned one of them in the airline’s fourth quarter earnings call on Thursday morning. As American Airlines has moved away from managed business travel deals and servicing, Raja noted that the airline planned to:

  • Make it easy for customers to consume content through the internet
  • Award more miles for customers who shop through the internet
  • And offer more servicing for internet distribution
  • While Reducing selling/servicing through non-internet based channels

He outlined the change to mileage-earning in late December in that podcast, suggesting that mileage-earning from flights will vary based on point of sale (“earn more if you shop on the app or you come through the website”) as well as based on whether or not you hold a co-brand credit card (“you earn more if are on the credit card than if you’re not”) apart from status quo where the credit card you use influences rewards earned from that card.

It’s not clear whether there will be an additional mile per dollar spent online, or whether offline bookings will see a penalty. And American hasn’t announced when this change will go into effect. In some ways it’s back to the future because when airlines first introduced their websites and online sales, 500 mile bonuses for each online booking were common.

Raja had in that podcast previewed some changes to rewards from status, and some of that actually was part of the airline’s announcements for 2024.

He talked previously about changes to the airline’s co-brand card value propositions, which I assume to mean changes to their base consumer and small business cards. We don’t know what those are yet. And somewhat ominously he had discussed coming changes to partner awards which sounded like they would follow changes that have been made to domestic awards (“We’re going to make redemption cheaper and higher volume.. than ever before, not just on us but on our partners”). What that looks like remains to be seen.

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. I read this as : “Earn current rates only through our preferred channels. Otherwise you’ll earn less”

  2. I understand incenting travelers to book online. While hope in this sector is a foolish thought, my *hope* would be that corporate bookings aren’t outright penalized relative to the current structure. My corporate bookings are by my own calculation ~$0.30 RASM; so, profitable for AA, and represents about 60% of my spend on the airline. If the changes are punitive to the corporate traveler, that changes my equation considerably.

    I remain baffled by what appears to be outright hostility to corporate bookings. Several years ago I remember Isom holding Spirit out as a competitor to emulate. Well, here we are – Spirit is circling the drain and AA would be losing money if it wasn’t for the miles scam, er, machine.

  3. It’s clear members who book direct will be getting the same amount of miles, whereas those who don’t will take a haircut. Similar to the new travel credit policy where members get the same 12 month expiration, and those who aren’t only get 6 months.

    DL has also been aggressive at promoting sign ups, as you have to have an account to get free WiFi when offered, but at least that’s a value add.

  4. If you look at the recent quarterly earnings announcement, it’s clear that AA needs to do more to become profitable. Shifting more business away from third parties, who take a cut of ticket sales, and directly on to the AA App seems like a very logical approach.
    I’d bet one could make the argument that tickets sold by AA are profitable while tickets sold through most 3rd party sites are money losers for AA.

  5. What’s old is new again! Continental OnePass only awarded 0.5 elite-qualifying segment on discount economy, back in the day (20 years ago), if you bought the ticket from somewhere other than the Continental website

  6. Welcome the new boss same as the old boss
    Piss off as many customers as you can so eventually they leave for another carriers program
    Rinse repeat

  7. Wtf is an “offline” booking? Do people really book tickets not through the internet?

    I could see a tiered structure of something like:
    5 points per $ for bookings through
    4 points per $ for bookings through Expedia or other Travel Agents

    I always thought that travel agents didn’t get much of a cut from airlines though. My corporate travel agent charges us a fee for each online booking.

  8. My employer has essentially banned AA ever since NDC was introduced because they were seeing massive nonsense AA booking cost increases and negotiations have gone nowhere.

    If this applies to corporate bookings, will be the nail in the coffin for many corporate-sponsored AA EXPs.

    Guess credit card points pay more than corporate contracts, who would have thought…

  9. Cut OPM earnings to zero. Status and RDM.
    Lower award costs.

    That would be amazing for those of us who pay for our own flights

    Hope that catches on across the big 3!

  10. If this reduces corporate milage earning rates they’re going to lose a TON of business. I don’t mind a layover if it means I’m getting more miles out of it, and the AA in-flight experience isn’t exactly something to seek out. Surely nobody spends enough personally directly through their website for many of their status levels. And besides this for international flights OneWorld partner earning rates are often far better value anyway under the current structure.

  11. It seems discordant for AA to be a high cost airline and drive away managed travel. While internet bookings may support the ecosystem, aren’t they the most price-sensitive customers? And if they really want to drive CC spend, don’t CC rewards to customers have to increase? In a sense the very reason the CCs are profitable to the airlines is also the reason they can’t be the most rewarding to the customers. There’s an inherent conflict there, especially as the airlines make the miles awarded less valuable.

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