Loophole Closed: No Longer Earn Full Mileage Flown Crediting American Flights to Etihad

Last summer American Airlines joined Delta and United in awarding miles for flights based on the cost of a ticket rather than the distance you fly.

  • Short, expensive flights earn more miles
  • Long, average-priced flights earn fewer miles
  • Mileage-earning on cheap long haul flights is almost a waste.
  • Fewer miles will be awarded after this change in total than were awarded before it.

We’ve seen New York – Hong Kong on sale for as little as $354 roundtrip. If that itinerary involved flying American Airlines, a customer without elite status would have earned 19,023 miles roundtrip before August 1, 2016. Now a $276 fare (excluding taxes) will earn 1380 miles. Sad!

If you’re going for American Airlines AAdvantage elite status, you’re still going to credit your cheap flights to American because you’ll need the elite qualifying miles flown. And elites do earn more miles for the same ticket price, at least.

But if you aren’t an elite (giving you a reason to credit to American), and your ticket isn’t super expensive (where you’ll earn as many miles as before), it’s worth considering other frequent flyer programs that American partners with to credit your miles to.

At first you had 3 choices where the cheapest American Airlines tickets still earned 100% of flown miles.

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Etihad Guest
  • Finnair Plus

Cathay Pacific was eliminated from this club in the spring. And now Etihad no longer awards full mileage, either.

The other side of the Etihad trick is still valid, though. Etihad still charges the same number of miles for American Airlines flights that American itself used to charge prior to the March 22, 2016 devaluation.

Both American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer to Etihad, and Dallas Tokyo remains 100,000 miles roundtrip in business class while Dallas Hong Kong remains 135,000 miles roundtrip in first.

That’s if you can find availability of course, though American promises that availability will improve.

Meanwhile if you want to continue to earn 100% of flown miles when buying cheap American Airlines tickets, your only remaining option is crediting to transatlantic joint venture partner Finnair.

However I don’t view this as a viable option for most since you won’t be able to top off a Finnair Plus account with transfers from major bank currencies.

(HT: Meir W.)

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Sounds to me 2% cashback cards are way to go and travel bloggers are increasingly irrelevant.

  2. @Credit – I disagree with you 99.98787% of the time but you are correct here.

    So in essence Gary, for simplification purposes, you’re saying there’s basically zero reason for anyone in the game to fly AA anymore ? Bc from my perspective, short of being a DFW hub captive, I don’t see one single competitive advantage that AA can now offer vs other airlines. Why would anyone want elite status on an airline that offers you nothing back ???

  3. So what effect, if any, does this change have on earning American Elite Qualifying Dollars by flying these partners and crediting to AA?

  4. Do you know if this change applies retroactively? I flew AA in O class a couple of weeks ago and emailed Etihad to claim miles last week. They have not credited any miles yet 🙁

Comments are closed.