False Alarm: American Did NOT Just Gut Mileage Earning on Cheap British Airways Flights

Last night there was plenty of discussion (I saw it at at TravelingBetter.com and at One Mile at a Time) that American published new mileage earning rates for flights on British Airways effective October 1.

There were published changes only on non-US websites, and only when viewing those sites in their native languages, showing that discount fares would no longer earn full mileage when flying British Airways and Iberia.

I held off writing about it last night because I reached out to the person at American who handles communication for the AAdvantage program and she quickly wrote back,

I believe this was actually just mistakenly pushed to the websites; I’ve never heard of these changes. I’m confirming now.

Last night the US website for American Airlines showed that all British Airways flights still earned full mileage, regardless of fare paid.

However the foreign websites showed that discount economy fares earn fewer miles starting in just a week.

  • K, L, M, N, S, and V fares will earn 50% miles
  • G, O, and Q fares will earn 25% miles (and won’t earn full qualifying ‘points’ either)
  • Similar changes for flying Iberia as well

It seemed reasonable to expect American to do something like this (though not with such little notice).

With the huge devaluation in points-earning from British Airways at the end of April it’s crazy that you could still earn full miles flying British Airways and crediting to AAdvantage, but not crediting those same flights to British Airways itself.

You won’t earn any miles on London Heathrow buses.

When American and British Airways announced their joint venture five years ago, British Airways began offering full mileage-earning (“one mile equals one mile”). They killed that five months ago.

At the same time, British Airways increased mileage-earning for premium cabin travel. American’s new chart did not similarly increase mileage earning for British Airways premium cabin travel, perhaps a sign that their separate 2015 premium fare bonus program would continue to apply in 2016 (and thus accomplish much the same thing).

British Airways First Class

However the publication of new earning rates for British Airways and Iberia was a mistake.

My contact followed up to let me know,

This was a mistake. If it hasn’t been fixed on the sites already, the team is working to fix it shortly. Thank you for pointing this out to us!

I do not yet know what kind of mistake this was. It seems reasonable that something so specific — new earning for specific fare classes as of a specific date — was at least on the table at some point if not approved. And it seems hard to imagine it’s sustainable for AAdvantage to be such a more generous place for crediting British Airways flights than BA’s own program.

But for now at least this was a false alarm.

London Heathrow

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. What’s troubling is that a lot of people expressed disappointment on Twitter and were pretty much told, “sorry, but that’s how it is.” Even know some people who canceled flights because of this. American needs to get their house in order.

  2. Hey how about that, I called that it was accidentally pushed on those sites when commenting on OMataT’s site.

  3. Booking BA flights under an AA codeshare is typically a very tiny premium, so this wouldn’t be that big of an issue even if it came sooner than later. (Conversely CX booked as AA is usually a few hundred more.)

  4. Thanks for using your contacts to find out more info Gary.

    Something doesn’t add up here and I’m not sure I’m ready to believe that this was an complete error just yet. I think this was an unfortunate look into the future and the only error is that we’ve now seen something that’s coming and that we weren’t meant to see.

    American posted the tables to numerous foreign versions of aa.com and the tables even had a start date of 1 October 2015 on them….someone typed that date in, that wasn’t a computer that did that.

    My guess is this: The earning rates were going to change but, they decided earlier in the year (probably around May time when Alaska changed their charts), to hold off until they got all the IT integration sorted out….but they forgot to tell someone that deals with the foreign language American Airlines sites who then uploaded the “new tables” as October approached.

    The question that we’re left with is what’s the new date for this change going to be?

  5. I’ve been waiting for this post.

    Many thanks for following up on this, Gary!! It’s a HUGE relief for me personally, and I’m hopeful they’re still planning to communicate changes like this well in advance.

  6. @oleg the problem is that AA doesn’t appear to sell all of BA’s flights as a codeshare (LHR-LCA for example…and that’s a very popular European route). You should take a look at the price differential on those routes.

  7. @Ziggy – thanks for the pointer. At least for a few routes I’ve flown on BA, just about every time I found AA/BA codeshares within a ~$100 or so, hence my observation. Granted they’ve usually been to major airports.

  8. I agree with Ziggy, this was no mistake. Someone had to do the programming to get this done. The only mistake is that it got out too early. Its the pattern that shows no respect for the customer. Its not OK just because it is not going to affect too many customers. The new AA is losing credibility at an alarming rate. They are following Delta in showing no respect for their customers.

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