Changes To American Airlines AAdvantage – We Now Know A Lot More!

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Thanks to JonNYC over at the travelingbetter forums we now know a lot more about what to expect from American Airlines and AAdvantage in 2016. Bear in mind that absolutely none of this has been officially announced but Jon has long been a very good source of accurate information so there’s every reason to believe that what we’re hearing is correct.

The Headlines

  • AAdvantage will not become a revenue based program for elite qualification although higher revenue passengers will be rewarded.
  • AAdvantage will move to a revenue based program, for the purposes of mileage accrual, from “late 2016”.
  • No minimum spend requirement to reach elite status.
  • There will be two phases of changes. First changes in early 2016 and then further changes in late 2016.
  • The Elite Qualifying Points System (EQP) is being discontinued
  • No changes to elite qualification criteria for those eating status via Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Segments.
  • The number of Systemwide Upgrades for those with Executive Platinum status will drop from 8 to 4 per year for most.
  • The number of Systemwide Upgrades earned for attaining Concierge Key level rises from 2 to 4.
  • Four 500-mile upgrades now earned for flying 12,500 miles (up from 10,000 miles)

More Details

As far as I’m aware Jon is the only commentator out there who’s actually seen/been told about the changes that are coming to AAdvantage, so we only have his take so far.

His initial reaction to what he was bring told was:

I’ve now seen the full set of changes.

They do impact the entire program and are substantial, and they do start in 2016. There’s a separate phase on earning (redemption miles, not elite miles) that begins late in 2016

As far as earning status, I think what they’ve come up with is excellent.

And that was followed up with:

My review; absolutely excellent. YES, there are a few takebacks, etc., but I see this as the best anyone could have possibly hoped for.

So things sound promising.

Jon suggests that AAdvantage is been reworked in two separate phases, which appears to mean that we’ll see changes that apply to travel in early 2016 followed by more changes that will affect travel from late 2016 onwards.

Elite Qualification

Jon has confirmed that the number of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) needed to attain the various elite levels won’t be changing and neither will the number of segments required.

As a reminder, these are EQM thresholds for the various AAdvantage Elite levels:

  • Gold (GLD) – 25,000 EQM
  • Platinum (PLT) – 50,000 EQM
  • Executive Platinum (EXP) – 100,000 EQM

The biggest change that’s being mentioned is the change to how EQMs are earned and the following system looks like what we can expect:

  • Full fare First Class & Full fare Business Class tickets will earn 3 EQM/mile flown
  • Discount First Class fares & Discount Business Class fares will earn 2 EQM/mile flown
  • Full fare Economy Class tickets will earn 1.5 EQM/mile flown
  • Discount Economy Class tickets will earn 1 EQM/mile flown

With so many good discount Business class fares being offered on a regular basis, it looks like they could be the key to earning top-tier status without huge expense and without spending half of the year on aircraft.

We’re seen discounted Business Class fares, between Europe and Los Angeles, offered at under $1,500 (return) as recently as last month and it would only take 5 of those (earning 2 EQM/mile flown) to attain Executive Platinum status – that’s not bad at all!

Redeemable Miles

For those not familiar with the terminology, Redeemable Miles (RDM) are the miles you earn from flying that you can then redeem for future fights – they have noting to do with the Elite Qualifying Miles discussed above.

On the subject of RDM things are still very murky at the time of writing. Jon has said that there’s a separate phase on earning redeemable miles that begins late in 2016 but we don’t really have much more detail than that.

The following comment from him suggests that we should probably brace ourselves for changes that a lot of us won’t like:

The part of the changes that kick into effect late 2016 that relate to redeemable miles from flights will ruffle some feathers, for sure. A non/lower elite on cheap/cheapish fares, as an example, would find such earning definitely effected negatively.

RDM accrual in the late 2016 phase will be radically different than current.

He went on to add:

RDM will be entirely reworked in late 2016. ($$ x status)

I wasn’t sure what that last comment of Jon’s meant until I saw the news that Gary Leff was breaking:

Gary (ViewFromTheWing) has reported that American will be moving over to a revenue-based mileage earning system “a year from now” and it will look a lot like Delta’s and United’s systems (not good news!). Those with Gold status and Executive Platinum status will see their mileage earning status bonuses rise while those with Platinum status will see their status bonus drop.

Mileage Earnings:

  • Non Elite: 5 miles/$ spent
  • Gold: 7 miles/$ spent
  • Platinum: 8 miles/$ spent
  • Executive Platinum: 11 miles/$ spent

Status Bonuses – For Travel Booked Through Partner Airlines

  • Non Elite: No bonus
  • Gold: Mileage Bonus increases from 25% to 40%
  • Platinum: Mileage Bonus decreases from 100% to 60%
  • Executive Platinum: Bonus increases from 100% to 120%

What’s worse is that Redeemable Miles will be calculated based on the base fare purchased minus any taxes and fees, but including carrier-imposed surcharges for flights marketed by American Airlines (sold as an AA flight number).

So you won’t be able to calculate your expected RDM by multiplying what you paid by your status multiplier (5/7/8/11) – you’ll have to check how much you paid excluding taxes and apply the multiplier to that.


500-mile upgrades

There will be no change to how these upgrades work.

Four 500-mile upgrades will now be earned per 12,500 EQM (instead of 10,000 miles flown).

Per Gary (View From the Wing): Beginning in 2018 the counter will reset to zero on February 1 instead of March 1, to align with changing the end of the elite benefits year.

Systemwide upgrades (SWU):

The good news: It doesn’t appear as if American Airlines are going to mess with the types of tickets that can be upgraded using SWUs. When questioned about this, Jon said:

No change shown — and in light of the reduction, none expected, IMO.

Concierge Key members (American Airlines’ super-high spenders) will see the number of bonus SWU they receive rise from 2 to 4 per year.

Now the bad news:

If you hold Executive Platinum status and you’ve been enjoying your 8 yearly SWUs then brace yourself because this may not be good for you.

Per Jon:

SWUs for EP cut to 4 but with definitely possibility/mechanism to earn more.

He goes on to speculate:

Without having access to the actual criteria (it’s not even published yet in this) I’d *speculate* that there will be:

– a certain % of EPs that will only earn the 4 SWUs annually. Probably a pretty large %.

– a certain % of more profitable (higher EQMs) EPs that will earn 6 SWUs annually. Probably a pretty large %.

– a certain % of even more profitable (higher EQMs) EPs that will earn 8 SWUs annually.

– a certain % of even more profitable (higher EQMs) EPs that will earn (10, 12, etc) SWUs annually.

I’m almost certainly going to fall into the first category so this is going to hit me quite hard.

There’s been a saying for quite a while that “it’s a lot easier to keep hold of American Airlines Executive Platinum status than it is to earn it” and that’s because, once you have the 8 Systemwide upgrades that they’ve been handing out, you can fly exceptionally long distances in premium cabins without paying premium cabin fares. That makes flying the required 100,000 miles a lot easier than it is if you’re having to do it at the back of the plane.

It looks like retaining Executive Platinum status will now either be more uncomfortable (more flights at the back of the plane) or more expensive (more premium cabin tickets).

Gary has reported that “Elite benefits from one year will expire January 31 of the following year, instead of February 28.” Presumably this means that we’ll have to use our SWUs by 31 January now as well – another piece of bad news.

Award Charts

This is the one section where the rumor mill has been doing it’s usual thing but the fact is that we don’t know anything yet.

Jon has already said that there are no details of any changes to the award charts in all the information he’s seen and I have absolutely no reason not to believe him.

However, elsewhere, we’re seeing rumours of a “25% devaluation for partner redemptions” so make of that what you will.

For now that’s all the major bits of news I’ve seen, read and heard but I’ll keep this blog post updated as more news leaks out.


  1. […] American Airlines went and took a hatchet to AAdvantage, announced the introduction of a Premium Economy cabin and things started to look […]

  2. […] I’ve already gone over the major devaluations that will happen, I’ve discussed the award chart changes, I’ve shown how the new earning rates will affect top-tier AAdvantage members quite badly and I’ve called out American Airlines for announcing things without thinking things through or without having all the answers to inevitable questions…but that’s really just me letting off steam and, hopefully, providing readers with a few facts here and there as well. It doesn’t really get me anywhere […]

  3. […] Back in November 2015 we found out that changes were coming to the AAdvantage program through a series of leaks and, when American finally came out with an announcement, we were told that AAdvantage would be moving over to a mileage-earning revenue based system…..but the airline couldn’t tell us when that would actually be other than saying it wouldn’t be until “late 2016”. […]

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