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Sigh: American AAdvantage program changes

on November 26, 2015

Following in the ignominious footsteps of Delta and United, American Airlines has announced that they are changing their frequent flyer program to be revenue-based versus distance-based.  Plus they updated their Award mileage Chart, and it’s a mixed bag for travelers beginning their journeys in Hawaii.

aa logo

Here’s the full press release, and the page explaining the details.  Blahblahblahinnovationcakes.  They are simply following the other legacy carriers in this, and pretending they are doing something new.  This seems meant to reward only business travelers, who don’t pay for their own tickets and tend to book more last-minute travel, so those fares are usually the expensive, fully-refundable kind.

Here’s their example of how the earning would work (let’s ignore this example person’s crazy decision to choose a fare that includes $458 in fees on top of their fare):

AAdvantage member flying round-trip on an American marketed flight from Dallas (DFW) to London-Heathrow (LHR):

Elite status Base fare (USD) Carrier imposed fees (USD) Miles/USD Award miles earned
AAdvantage member $1,436 $458 5 9,470
Gold $1,436 $458 7 13,258
Platinum $1,436 $458 8 15,152
Executive Platinum $1,436 $458 11 20,834

Here’s mine:

AAdvantage member flying round-trip on an American marketed flight from Dallas (DFW) to London-Heathrow (LHR):

Elite status Base fare(USD) Carrier imposed fees (USD) Award miles earned today Award miles earned as of 3/22/16
AAdvantage member $1,436 $458 (why??? LHR airport, that’s why) 8,256 9,470

With their chart, they are hoping to show that you get more miles using the revenue-based program. But today, you would get the 8,256 miles whether you overpaid for this ticket like the sample person, or whether you were smart and bought your tickets during a sale.  Pay $1900 or $900, you still get 8,256 miles as a general member, more if you have some sort of status.

What does this have to do with the price of macadamia nuts? Let’s get down to the Hawaii-specific stuff. Currently, the MileSAAver Off-Peak price for one-way mileage to the mainland, including Canada and Alaska, is 17.5k.  Sure, it’s hard to find availability, and it’s capacity-controlled.  But it exists, so for a family of 4 to get to the mainland during an Off-Peak time, you only need 70k miles.  Reminder on the Off-Peak dates as they stand now…Hawaii: January 12 – March 13, August 22 – December 15

Here’s the updated award chart (edited to concentrate on travel to regions I talk about in this blog):

Main Cabin

To: MileSAAver
Off Peak
MileSAAver AAnytime
Level 1
AAnytime
Level 2
Contiguous 48 U.S. states 20,000 22,500 40,000 50,000
Canada & Alaska 25,000 40,000 50,000
Central America 25,000 40,000 50,000
South America Region 1 30,000 40,000 50,000
South America Region 2 40,000 55,000 75,000
Europe 40,000 47,500 65,000

So now the family of 4 needs 80k miles just to get to the mainland.  One-way.  This is easily achieved with the various credit card sign-up bonuses the adults can take advantage of, but it sets the goal line further back.  Interestingly, they are also now changing the Off-Peak dates to be different whether you are traveling FROM Hawaii or TO Hawaii. Check it out:

Hawaii Off-Peak Dates:
TO Hawaii: December 29 – March 12, August 11 – November 18, November 24 – December 10
FROM Hawaii: January 7 – March 19, August 18 – November 27, December 3 – December 25

Seems to me that they are recognizing that more people are coming here for the winter holidays than going out, and they can squeeze more miles out of them, but not us.  I’d call this a net win.

now what

So, overall, I think my strategy is going to be doing the math on every ticket purchase with AA.  If I’ll get the same mileage as the distance flown, I’ll credit the flight to AAdvantage.  If it’s lower, I’ll credit to Alaska Airlines, whose mileage program is still distance-based, and who allows redemptions on American Airlines flights.

<muttering> Change is good, change is good…

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