Starting in the “second half of 2016,” you will earn award miles on American Airlines tickets according to the cost of the ticket instead of the distance flown.

  • 5 miles/U.S. dollar – AAdvantage member
  • 7 miles/U.S. dollar – Gold
  • 8 miles/U.S. dollar – Platinum
  • 11 miles/U.S. dollar – Executive Platinum

Delta announced a nearly identical move in February 2014, and United copied Delta in June 2014. Both changes are already in effect, so American is just playing catch up (catch down?) here. At the time of the Delta move, my headline included “The Sky is Not Falling.”

The sky is still not falling. For everyone except American Airlines elites, these changes will have very little impact. The far worse news from American Airlines for most of us is the devaluation of its award chart that goes into effect March 22, 2016.

The outsized value I get from miles comes from redeeming them to visit interesting countries in Business or First class with stopovers, open jaws, and free one ways built into my awards. Stopovers and open jaws have been impossible on American Airlines awards for 19 months. The cheap award chart remains for another four months, for travel through mid-February 2017.

The outsized value that comes from earning miles on cheap, long American Airlines tickets disappears starting in the second half of 2016, but that’s a much smaller loss for me.

  • What will the new earning structure be?
  • How can you still earn American Airlines miles based on distance flown?
  • How are miles earned from credit cards affected?

Change to Award Mile Earning

American announced changes to award mileage earning today that take effect “in the second half of 2016”:

  • For flights in the second half of 2016 and later (exact date to be announced in 2016)
  • booked with American (ticket number beginning “001”)
  • members will earn 5-11x of the dollar price of the base fare plus fuel surcharges
  • based on status:
    • 5 miles/U.S. dollar – AAdvantage member
    • 7 miles/U.S. dollar – Gold
    • 8 miles/U.S. dollar – Platinum
    • 11 miles/U.S. dollar – Executive Platinum

Currently you earn 1 mile per mile flown with bonuses for status and cabin flown.

The new earning structure will be worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. Overall, it will be worse for more people and will disproportionately affect people in the frequent flyer community, many of whom are mileage runners.

This part of the announcement is bad news, though remember that just because you fly an American Airlines flight doesn’t mean you have to credit the award miles to American Airlines. You can enter your frequent flyer number with an American Airlines partner instead, and you should consider crediting future United tickets to British Airways or Alaska Airlines if American status doesn’t matter to you.

No Changes to Partner Tickets Credited to American

Tickets for flights operated by a oneworld or other partner airline that aren’t issued by American (ticket numbers that don’t start with “001”) will still earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class when you credit them to American Airlines.

That is, if you buy a British Airways flight from British Airways, you can still input your American Airlines number and earn American miles based on distance flown and cabin of the flight.

No Changes to Credit Card Earnings

Your American credit card will still earn miles in exactly the same way.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards eight days apart and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Both cards will continue to earn 1 American Airlines mile per dollar spent.

What About Earning Status?

This post only talks about earning award miles (AKA redeemable miles) from flying. I haven’t mentioned changes to earning status with American Airlines. That’s a separate post. [upcoming, will be linked here]

What Can You Do?

If you are not planning on flying many paid American Airlines flights, these changes are barely going to affect you. You can credit your rare American Airlines flight to Alaska or British Airways and earn miles based on distance flown, and you can still earn heaps of American miles from credit cards.

If you are an American elite, you have to decide whether staying with American makes sense or whether a switch to another airline or no airline loyalty makes more sense. Since Delta and United have already announced basically the same changes that American announced today, switching there makes no sense.

Bottom Line

American goes to a revenue-based earning program next year, which is not a big deal to most of us. If they had gone to revenue-based redemption, that would be far worse.

Time will tell whether moving to revenue-based award mile earning is better or worse for American, Delta, and United and whether Alaska, Hawaiian, and foreign airlines ape them.

Today’s redemption news is far worse as the American Airlines chart for First Class travel was obliterated.

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