As of November 1, American’s Old Non-Expiring Miles Will No Longer Be Special

Via Milepoint, American sent out emails to folks with miles left over from the pre-July 1989 frequent flyer program to let them know that their miles would become subject to expiration like any other beginning in November, and that those miles would no longer be able to be used under the 1989 award chart at that time anymore, either.

According to American’s FAQ they will be converting these old miles into current program miles with a 25% bonus. So 20,000 miles in the 1989 program become 25,000 in the current program.

Thanks to FewMiles who archived the old award charts years ago and which I copied onto my hard drive, it’s an amazing trip down memory lane. See here and here.

Back then 120,000 miles got you two roundtrip business class tickets to Europe. And they threw in hotel discounts, as well. 150,000 miles got you two roundtrip business class tickets on Singapore Airlines or Qantas, or two first class tickets on American to Tokyo. It strikes me as amazing that 175,000 miles was enough for two first class tickets on Qantas.

Of course it wasn’t quite as easy to earn miles back then, either…

Now, back in 1989 American re-affirmed that these miles wouldn’t expire, and that the pre-July ’89 award chart would continue to be available. So they kept it going for 23 more years. I can’t imagine they view it as too costly to continue to honor the miles that are still left over after 23 years, they’ve continued to incur the costs over that period of time.

So I do buy the idea that it’s probably just costly to maintain the ability to manage a separate program with so few members and so few miles left, and I appreciate that they’re bonusing those miles to recognize that they were more valuable than points in the present program.

Folks with miles left in the pre-July 1989 program, you have three months left to redeem…

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 wonder what the total number of non-expiring miles are? I have < 1800 (from FFB).

    I love that I had 17xx non-expiring miles. I will miss that line item.


  2. I’d imagine that it’s also an attempt to clean up their balance sheet by getting some of these miles expire. (The AAdantage program hasn’t spun off, has it?)

  3. Thank you for making those tables available!
    I completely forgot that unexpired miles were subject to a separate award table. And I still have 56k unexpired miles!
    Interestingly, award 50A requires 50k miles for a “Free Coach Class tickets for 2 on AA…”. As there is no footnote limiting the flight, I take that to mean 2 tickets to anywhere AA metal flies today…including Tokyo, Shanghai, etc. Hope my interpretation is right. Thanks Gary!

  4. Does anybody remember why we had those unexpiring miles? Wasn’t it the result a lawsuit, either against AA or another airline after they decided to simply make all existing miles expire? If that’s the case, what’s the basis for the conversion? I bet Randy remembers.


  5. Check out the old award chart and you will understand why they are doing this. Really slimy.

    They repeatedly promised these miles would never expire. Now that they are in bankruptcy they abrogate their obligation figuring that no one can do anything.

    I’ll be submitting a petition to the judge asking for permission to sue. Wish me luck.

  6. Under the old program, AA awards were not capacity controlled (similar to “AAnytime” awards today). When they created the new program, American very quietly changed the old awards to be capacity controlled. Slimy!! (United kept their promise – original awards continued to be good for any seat on any flight for the duration of the program, which ended around 1996.)

  7. I have slightly over 1 million of these miles. Rather disappointed that they are doing this. The 25% bonus is nice, but I do not think it makes up for the loss of the award chart and flexibility that exists with these miles.

  8. Ok, I understand that for the 1% of American members who have enough of these legacy miles to qualify for an award it is an emotional issue. Probably not a real issue, because if you haven’t used those miles in over 23 years, what are the odds you ever will? Still, no one likes the feeling of something being taken away from them, even if it is something one hasn’t chosen to use for over 23 years.

    What I find outrageous is that virtually no one is up in arms about American having totally gutted it’s AA metal milesaaver premium awards on T/A flights. As Lucky pointed out to me, I can still get FC to Asia pretty easily. But premium cabin seats to Europe, assuming I want to travel with a partner on the same flight? Nada….

    I just searched for JFK to LHR, previously one of the easiest award routes to book, checking for a pair of premium seats on the same flight on AA metal, {aka no fuel surchages}. Between Aug 30, 2012, and the end of booking on June 10, 2013, I found exactly ZERO pairs of seats in Business, and exactly Zero pairs of seats in First Class. A search of ORD, DFW and LAX to LHR produced the same result. The new AA policy for T/A premium cabin flights, at least for two people traveling together: Let Them Fly BA….

    {Yes, short notice late July thru late August seats are an exception. But few business travelers want to fly T/A then, and it’s difficult for leisure travelers to arrange an extended vacation on such short notice.}

    However, for someone needing a single seat, things are somewhat better. Let’s say you can plan 10 months in advance, and want to fly from ORD to LHR. Monday MaY 27, 2013 there are two routings available. Both use a 777 from JFK, and both involve flying American Eagle on a CR7 from ORD to EWR, leaving you to make your way on your own from EWR to JFK.

    Seriously, an American Eagle commuter flight for a “First Class” award, followed by a DIY cab ride between airports, is the best they will allow for a Mile Saver award booked 10 months in advance? And don’t even think of traveling with a companion, unless they pay for their seat.

    This is too classy a blog for me to fully express my disgust about what AA has done to their T/A premium Mile Saver availability.

  9. A lot of us held on to these miles for use in retirement, thinking that the miles and the award structure would be honored. So your assessment that they would not have been used is probably inaccurate.

  10. @Carl: Ok, that makes sense to me. Sorry if I offended you. But you were not the point of my post, which was of course OT, but wher else am I going to put it?

    My point was, for everyone AA is screwing on the legacy points, there are ten thousand people who are not going to be able to use their “regular” miles, at least in the way they had expected to, and no one seems to be posting about it. Many of the people I try to tell about the miles game cynically assume “you will never be able to get an award with those points, so why bother?” Up until now, I told them they are wrong, but it seems it’s becoming more true every day. Of course, if you mainly want to go to Asia, like Gary and Lucky, or mainly fly domestic like Mommypoints, or can book Lufthansa with only a one week notice to book your trip, no problem. At least not yet….

  11. Should have read: only a one week notice to plan your trip…. ie a long-weekend trip can be done with a weeks notice, but not a 3 week vacation or a cruise.

  12. You can’t use them. Despite having promised to do so AA is refusing to honor the awards per the original award structure.

    For example they have imposed capacity controls and are requiring the purchase of full Y fares on upgrades for which any published fare was eligible.

  13. Absolutely agree with Steve. Inventory comes out of current Saver Award inventory. As I recall there were minimal, if any, capacity controls on these awards. The last time I used one there was not. In addition, awards are only good on AA. Cannot use them for BA (or SQ who is no longer a partner and will not let you use Cathy as a substitute for those Asian destinations). When you call and ask for awards they tell you award code for those airlines do not exist. Also will only let you use for AA destinations listed – no South American other than Caracas, no Asia other than Japan. Finally no car rental or hotel awards are included any more. Really making them difficult to use.

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