The AAdvantage program changes have gone over like a lead balloon with many loyal American flyers today. Promises of “innovation” on the most recent earnings call were laid waste by evidence of a simple copy-and-paste from the programs of American’s competitors. People are annoyed, which is understandable because American simultaneously made it harder to earn miles and in the same breath reduced the value of those miles.
Overall I thought the changes were negative for many reasons, but not completely. On the whole (and as it applies to the majority of the readers of this blog) I rated earning status as a positive, earning redeemable points a severe negative, and redeeming miles neutral for coach and severely negative for premium cabin travel.
But that all just changed. Now, earning status is rated as a negative. If you hold a ticket for less than full-fare economy travel on a British Airways or Alaska Airlines flight number in 2016, American has pulled the rug out from under you.
Let me explain
The new status qualification system is based entirely on elite-qualifying miles, which are still based on the distance flown, with a minimum on 1 EQM per mile flown. To incentivize higher spenders, full fare economy, business, and first class passengers will receive multipliers.
…as long as you’re flying on an American flight number.
If you are flying a partner’s flight number (regardless of the operating carrier, i.e. whose jet you are on) and have purchased anything but a full-fare economy ticket or above, you will earn less than 1 EQM per mile flown.
American has been pretty good on the communication front today, and their web portal summarizing the changes lists everything pretty clearly. Except the drastically new British Airways and Alaska Airlines earning chart.
Let’s take a look at the following chart for British Airways. May need to click on it to see the full thing. This is for flights starting February 1, 2016.
.5 EQM per mile flown.
The changes take place even sooner for Alaska Airlines. If your flight is six weeks away or later, you’re affected.
.5 EQM per mile flown.
See? If you book less than full-fare economy tickets on a British Airways or Alaska Airlines flight number, it will be twice as hard to earn status.
Check your tickets and you have every right to complain to American if you purchased a ticket for travel in 2016 in good faith only to have the benefits changed after your purchase.
Here’s the link to all the partner EQM charts, all are similar (although most have always been like this, the BA and Alaska changes are by far the worst): partner earning charts
Further thoughts to follow. Even though I’m a business traveler (and therefore am supposed to “greatly benefit from these changes”) my company requires me to book the lowest-cost ticket available. The reality is this hurts most business travelers forced to do the same.
But to make a change like this for flights as soon as 44 days from now is low.