American Reduces Mileage Earning on British Airways and Iberia After All

In late September American accidentally published new, reduced mileage-earning rates for discounted British Airways and Iberia tickets on their foreign websites. The changes were supposedly going into effect October 1.

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

I didn’t sound the alarm at the time, because I checked with American and was told the new earning rates were published in error. And I was told that if they did something like that, it would be with more advance notice.

Still, the changes were quite specific. Someone mocked them up. They were at least under consideration. And it seemed reasonable to expect American to do something like this (though not with such little notice).

London Heathrow

Now the changes are back on the American website, with an effective date of February 1. So we’re given three months’ notice of changes.

  • 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

New AAdvantage Earning Rates for British Airways Effective February 1

New AAdvantage Earning Rates for Iberia Effective February 1

We should expect to be hearing about more changes soon. In May American’s President Scott Kirby said that once they got through integration with US Airways they’d be able to make changes to the frequent flyer program. This was reiterated in American’s third quarter earnings call.

I’ve said it’s too late in any reasonable universe for American to go revenue-based in 2016. And — although we could see some tweaks in that direction — these changes to British Airways and Iberia earning actually underscore that. We will still be earning miles based on fare class, rather than ticket price, when flying on American’s joint venture partners after February 1.

While I don’t think we’ll like what we see, I’m pleased to see a published commitment of mileage-earning by fare class on revenue-neutral joint venture partners at the very least.

(HT: Rich P.)

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. oh, c’mon Gary! your contact @ AA flat out lied to you when you asked about the mock up and that is all you’re going to say?!? of course, she didn’t just lie to you- she lied to you knowing you would disseminate her calculating lie. your headline should be “My AA contact lied to me and i’ll never trust anything AA tells me again- and you shouldn’t either!’.

    you’re seriously letting her off the hook. btw, nice that they gave less than 3 month’s notice contrary to her LIE. and you don’t think Dougy will do something really bad that makes Delta look above board?!? something tells me the Explorer award zero notice is the tell we should all be looking at….

  2. A snow job by AA.

    On UA/DL you get 100% elite qualifying miles on the JV partners.

    And for RDM….once you cut to 50% on all but the most insane fares…are you really better off than revenue based?

  3. What about tickets purchased prior to the announcement for travel after February 1? Do they earn full miles? If not, would a letter to AAdvantage likely result in supplementary credit?

  4. Gary, For all your rants about DL’s program (which I completely agree with), you should be similarly mad at AA for both not telling the truth (or the full truth) when asked about this before and for cutting the program so dramatically with their closet partner.

    If you’re going to do outrage, you have to be consistent.

  5. So I have to agree that the AA contact misled you. Doing it “with more advance notice” was said in late Sept when the so called erroneous chart already indicated Feb 1 2016. Now they published it in early November with the same Feb 1 2016 effective date. In fact, it turned out to be even less advance notice.

    The other issue that should be highlighted is that premium class fares don’t earn anywhere near the class of service bonuses that BA is giving it’s members, and more to the point, that get passed through to other partner program members as well. So, AA members flying on BA get the worse earning rates in cheap economy but not the upside when paying premium fares.

    I have to say these decisions go in the same column as the Explorer no-notice deval, and don’t bode well for AA providing much of an alternative to UA or DL when the obviously negative changes you mention show up shortly. My guess is big increases in premium cabin award levels will be the really bad news (although low probability, perhaps even a UA style AA vs partner chart). Another guess is more skewing of EQPs by fare class, and there one’s perception will depend on your paid travel profile.

  6. @Daniel – they haven’t lied here and it’s been pretty obvious this was going to happen since April. We’ll see what changes American comes up with — I have a feeling we aren’t going to like them at all.

    There are separate questions: how bad are they for members? and how are they rolled out?

    For the most part both remain to be seen, and I think I’ve been pretty clear across several posts about what I think reasonable standards are for American here. And a year and a half ago when American made changes without notice (elimination of distance-based oneworld awards, new tiers for AAnytime awards) I said that they got one mistake in terms of notice to members. And that if they did it again they would completely lose my trust.

  7. @Greg – You still earn 100% mileage earning when you fly an American Airlines codeshare operated by British Airways [at least for now – hah!].

    You do not get 100% redeemable mileage earning on joint venture partners with United… With United ticket stock it’s based on United’s revenue-based formula. With partner ticket stock it’s reduced-earning for discount fare classes.

  8. Mea culpa on the effective date during the Sept glitch. No problem with the AA rep’s communication then. So, I agree with your differentiation between the impact of changes, and the method by which they are rolled out, and they have given the right notice here.

    Still don’t like the lack of premium cabin bonuses when cheap classes are penalized. And I stand by my guesses on the likely lack of differentiation from AA’s next changes relative to UA and DL.

  9. Come on Gary. After their (AA’s) last gaff (anyone remember MS Rubin with any kind of love), I’m (we’re) surprised that you trusted them. I would have expected you to report this, with any caveat that AA told you. You know, let the reader decide.

    Dear AA, can’t say that I (we) trust you going forward. Just flat out tell us when the ‘changes’ are coming to the AA program.

  10. Gary, the poster above’s mistake on the date could be from what I think is a typo in the opener to your post today – you wrote “The changes were supposedly going into effect February 1” in reference to the September instance. Think you meant “October 1” in that context.

    I didn’t believe for a second that the “erroneous” posting wasn’t merely a premature posting of what had already been decided was coming.

  11. I think the frequent flyer programs should be based on revenue. Why in the world given today’s technology would a company not do that? What seems odd to me is all of the mileage they give out with credit cards and the like. I can only assume these are bringing in a lot of revenue but I do expect these to begin to decrease as well at some point.

    While I still collect points in a couple of airline programs I have now started to base my flying decisions on service offered and price without regard to mileage which I am finding very freeing. So lets begin holding airlines to this aspect of their business rather than put up with poor service just because we’re addicted to mileage.

  12. Isn’t this really about British Airways? I do not really see this as AA doing a hatchet job on anything, moreso a progression of the BA ethos (although I would not be surprised if we see O and Q fares earning much less in future if anything at all). But, remember, if we have learned anything from BA isn’t it that they like to the change the rules of the game as they go along? In the past earning less miles for deep discount flights was the norm. Then came the joint venture. The, BA alienated their own customers by changing their award chart (how many times now). Fed up, smart BA flyers started crediting their BA flights to AA because AA has better redemption opportunities and, at least in the past and right now, AA is the more stable “currency.” BA has to pay AA for those miles that are awarded to AA frequent flyers. Seeing the rise in its payments to AA, of course BA is pulling the plug on 100% of the miles flown on deep discount tickets.

  13. @RD Why just support American moving to a “revenue” system? Why not go the whole way if you’re looking to make things fair? Why don’t we say that it should be the person or corporation that pays for the ticket that gets the benefits and not necessarily the traveler? Basically, if you don’t pay you don’t get the benefits.

    The majority of people (I’m not suggesting RD is one of them) that want a revenue-based loyalty system are those that don’t actually pay for their own tickets – funny how that works isn’t it?

    p.s revenue doesn’t necessarily equal profit.

  14. So, someone tell me again of the advantages of this oneworld Alliance? Now you will get less miles to use for trying to get across the Atlantic on an award flight (which only seems to ever have BA flights available) while paying phony taxes. Fortunately, I have a trip planned that concludes three days before the change and code share is not available. Nothing like bringing back the bad old days. Anyone ride transatlantic in coach lately? Food has become much worse (how do you like that breakfast or arrival lunch?), coffee is disgusting now (it was not too bad before), and now if you have to ride a BA flight with no code share, you get less for the same level of loyalty. The only thing I have noticed that is better is the plastic cups for drinks are bigger.

  15. I’d have thought you’d realize that when it comes to earning mileage when flying partner airlines, it’s not the program you belong to that decides how much we earn, it’s the airline we fly. That airline buys those miles from our FF program. So the decision was not AA’s but rather BA’s and we should have expected it since there were major earnings changes to the Avios program a few months ago. It was only time before partner programs were informed that BA would be buying fewer miles for those heavily discounted fares. (I am sure other OW charts will change, as will the AS one.)
    So don’t diss your AA contact, s/he may not have expected this news from BA. And as noted, if you purchase your BA/IB flights as AA codeshares with AA flight numbers, you’ll earn full mileage on those same fares (plus any elite bonuses). Might AA change this? If so, it would likely have to apply to all OW carriers it codeshares with because that’s its own policy not theirs. AA gets the revenue from those tickets, so can spend it as it wishes after paying its partners their operating costs.

  16. @DavidB Are you seriously suggesting that AA (and therefore Gary’s contact) didn’t know about this change back in September? The tables published back then are EXCACTLY the same as the one’s that have just been released – of course they knew what was coming, they’d already prepared for it and mocked up the tables!

    Also, the AS charts changed at the beginning of May.

  17. I’m *so* glad most travel deals are within 90 days, e.g. ORD-HKG right now for $450.

    My flights on BA are in November, so my butt has escaped unscathed for now, but they were booked more than 5 months in advance. So, I could *easily* have been on the wrong end of this change, without any clear opportunity to petition either BA or AA.

    Even if 90% of tickets are booked within 90 days, that doesn’t excuse screwing the 10%.

    They should offer full mileage credit upon request or refunds, in my opinion. As it’s only 10% of their tickets, the costs should remain low, and those who care will benefit while those who don’t care won’t miss out on anything. The business looks good, users make out with what they purchased, costs stay low all around and… everyone wins.

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