A Look At The Upcoming Changes To How You Earn AAdvantage Miles

a group of logos with clouds in the sky

TravelingForMiles.com may receive commission from card issuers. Some or all of the card offers that appear on TravelingForMiles.com are from advertisers and may impact how and where card products appear on the site. TravelingForMiles.com does not include all card companies or all available card offers.

Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission which helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published.

Update: There have been some seismic changes to the American Airlines AAdvantage program announced today (details here) so I’ve updated this post where appropriate to include those changes.

American Airlines devalued the AAdvantage program on 22 March 2016 (when the cost of awards went up – some by over 60%) and will be devaluing it again as of 1 August 2016 when the loyalty program transitions over to a revenue based system for the purposes of mileage earning.

These changes are going to have a serious impact on how many miles we’re all going to be earning and most of us are going to be considerably worse off.

Because of this I thought I’d run a 3-part series looking at the changes that are coming and how they will affect those of us who mostly book discounted Economy Class fares and discounted Business Class fares – if you book the more expensive fares then you’re in luck and you’ll be doing just fine.

UPDATE: As American has said that they’ll be clarifying the earnings rates for partner marketed flights by 15 July I’ll release Parts 2 & 3 after that date (they will be linked below).

  • Part 1 (today) – A look at the changes that are coming to the way miles are earned in the AAdvantage program.
  • Part 2 – A look at how the changes to AAdvantage will impact travelers booking Discount Economy Class Fares – should they keep booking through American or does it make sense to book through partner airlines?
  • Part 3 – A look at how the changes to AAdvantage will impact travelers booking Discount Business Class Fares – should they keep booking through American or does it make sense to book through partner airlines?

Changes To American Airlines Mileage Earning

retrofitted 777-200Image courtesy of Moto810 via Flickr

For the time being American Airlines is only adding a revenue element to how we earn award miles – they’re not threatening to add a revenue element to how we redeem Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)…..yet.

So what exactly are they planning to do?

On 1 August 2016, AAdvantage Miles earned on flights marketed by American Airlines (i.e tickets purchased through American Airlines) will no longer be awarded based on the distance of your flights but, instead, will be awarded based on the cost of your ticket.

This applies to all tickets purchased through American Airlines regardless of which carrier the flight is on.

The formula American will be using is simple:

Cost of ticket (less taxes) x AAdvantage Multiplier (based on status) = AAdvantage Miles earned

The multipliers will look like this:

  • No Status –  5
  • AAdvantage Gold Status – 7
  • AAdvantage Platinum Status – 8
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro Status – 9 (New status level from 2017)
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum Status – 11

Gone will be the days when I could book an 8 flight itinerary for $767 and earn over 27,000 miles into the bargain.

My $767 trip would, under this new methodology, have earned me somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 miles….a 20,000 mile drop.

Earning AAdvantage Miles On Partner Airlines

JAL Business Class Fares

The new rules only apply for flights marketed by American Airlines (i.e. flights sold by American).

If you purchase a fare on one of American’s partner airlines (BA, Cathay, JAL etc…) and credit it to AAdvantage, then you will still earn miles the old way – based on the distance traveled plus a bonus based on your status.

Update: American Airlines says that they will release more details on earnings for flights marketed by partner airlines by 15 July.

More Bad News

As if the new revenue-based earning system (and the devaluation in the award charts) wasn’t bad enough, American has thrown another doozie into the mix:

For the purposes of earning AAdvantage Miles, it doesn’t matter when you purchase your ticket – flyers will earn miles based on the system in place on the date of travel,

That means that all tickets for travel after 1 August 2016  (irrespective of when they were booked) will earn AAdvantage miles under the new earning rules.


Changes to Elite Qualifying Miles Earning

Update: American Airlines has announced the introduction of Elite Qualifying Dollars

Since the beginning of 2016 the number of EQM earned from flying in premium cabins (for travel booked through American Airlines) has improved greatly. Where in the past flyers would earn 1.5 EQM/mile flown now it’s at least 2 EQM/mile flown and, for the truly expensive fares, 3 EQM/mile flown:


More importantly, Discount Economy fares booked though American Airlines still earn 1 EQM/mile flown and the airline has confirmed that this will remain the case for the time being.

Earning Elite Qualifying Miles On Partner Airlines


EQM earning on flights booked on partner airlines hasn’t changed and isn’t as generous as when you book flights through American. As you can see from the British Airways chart below, EQM earning is still capped at 1.5 EQM/mile flown even for the most expensive fares.

AA-RDM-EQM-Earning-On-BA-3British Airways earning chart with EQM earning highlighted – click to enlarge

 Worse still, the discounted Economy Class fares booked through partners don’t earn the 1 EQM/mile flown like they do if they’re booked through American – these fares earn just 0.5 EQM/mile flown.

Bottom Line

The way AAdvantage is going to work it would appear that AAdvantage members are going to have to make some interesting choices when booking flights in the future.

There’s the obvious choice of whether to continue crediting flights to AAdvantage at all or, as I’m going to examine, whether there’s a case to be made for avoiding booking flights through American, booking flights on partner airlines and crediting those flights to AAdvantage.

Purely from an Elite Qualifying Mile earning perspective booking through American Airlines is the way to go. It doesn’t matter what class of fare you purchase you’re never going to be better off booking through a partner airline and crediting your flights to AAdvantage.

But what about when you add award miles into the mix? That’s what I’ll be taking a look at in the next two parts of this series.


Comments are closed.