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Alaska Airlines is changing the way you accrue redeemable Alaska miles when flying partner American Airlines for travel beginning August 1, 2016. The number of Alaska Mileage plan miles you will earn for flying American will be based on a percentage of the distance flown, determined by the fare class. Business and First Class fares will rake in 150 to 200% of miles flown (compared to the prior rates of 100 to 150%), and the discount economy fares will earn as little as 25% of the distance flown (compared to 100% before…ouch).

This is not a surprise considering the switch American Airlines had already planned and recently announced a start date for– to a revenue-based award earning structure that also applies for travel as of August 1. Just like Alaska’s, American Airlines’ new system rewards the big spenders grandly while hanging the budget travelers out to dry.

New Rates Earning Alaska Miles on American Flights

Below is Alaska’s new award earning chart as of August 1, 2016:

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To show you how Alaska Mileage Plan’s award earning system is changing, here is a chart that compares post-August 1 and pre-August 1 accrual rates:

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Even if you’ve already bought a ticket flying American, the new accrual rates will apply if the travel date is on or after August 1, 2016.

Examples of Earnings at New Rate

The following section is taken from Alaska Airlines’ blog post “Customer Q&A on Mileage Plan earn rates change for American Airlines flights“. They give two examples on both ends of the spectrum, to show how one buying an expensive full-priced First Class ticket will earn a lot more miles with the new earning structure, and how one buying a discounted economy ticket will earn less.

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Thank goodness for the 500 minimum mile guarantee! **insert eye roll here**

What this Change Doesn’t Mean

Alaska changing the way you earn Alaska miles on American Flights does not also mean Alaska is changing the way you earn Alaska miles on Alaska flights. Those earning rates are not changing, nor do I expect they will anytime in the near future as they have not announced any plans in that regard. And after the slaughtering Alaska went through for the un-announced devaluation of their Emirates award chart, I think (or hope, at least) that we’ll get some advance notice before changes of that magnitude in the future.

Alaska is already on the defense regarding the Mileage Plan award earning rates for their own flights:

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Where to Credit Butt in Seat Miles Now

After American Airlines announced the changes they are making to their award earning system, I wrote a post about when and where you should diversify your butt in seat miles when flying American Airlines. Alaska Airlines was at the top of the list, with stellar accrual rates (100%) even for the most discounted economy tickets, which most of the time are the only kind of revenue tickets people like you and I buy. I figured the shoe would drop at some point, and now it finally has. Once the new accrual rates hit, I wouldn’t even consider Alaska to be among my top three choices for crediting butt in seat miles when flying a discounted economy ticket on American. If you’re not considering the incentives of status or have an immediate redemption in mind with a certain airline, I would probably choose to credit miles earned from flying economy American tickets to Etihad Guest. But if you’re flying a more expensive fare, you’ll need to run your own numbers as rates vary for each partner and fare class.

Bottom Line

For travel beginning August 1, 2016 and on, Alaska Airlines is changing their award earning system for redeemable miles to more closely align with American Airlines’ new revenue-based award system. The amount of Alaska miles you will earn flying American Airlines will be a percentage of the distance flown based on fare class. Expensive tickets will earn more miles and cheap tickets will earn a lot less.

You can’t expect to accrue a bunch of Alaska miles from flying anymore, but at least it’s still easy to collect them via credit cards. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card comes with 30,000 Alaska miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months, as does the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card. Evidence points to these cards as still churnable.

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