If you've got a stockpile of AAdvantage miles it'll be a good idea to book your next American flight redemption before March 22, 2016. In general, this is a large devaluation to the AAdvantage program. Many of the most popular European and Asian award redemption routes now require more miles than before, and my favorite off-peak seasonal awards now have shorter seasons. The AAdvantage devaluation does not come as a surprise as American and US Airways have finally completed their merger, and for years American has been pumping millions of miles into the market with it's credit card partner Citi. Buried in all the negative changes there were also some positives. Let's cover the highlights.
- Less miles required for short-haul flights to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America (Old 17.5 – New 15k)
- New award level offers flights 500 miles or less for 7.5k AAdvantage miles
- Beginning with the 2017 membership year, elite status will be valid through January 31 of the following year'
- Easier to qualify for AAdvantage Elite status, which means there will be more elites, which could actually be a negative
- Starting in 2nd half of 2016, American is switching to a revenue earning system, which will be in line with Delta and United
- Business redemptions to Europe increased from 50k to 57.5k
- First class redemptions to Australia/South Pacific increased from 72.5 to 110k
- Off-peak award period shortened
- Systemwide upgrades decreased from 8 to 4 for Executive Platinums
- Gold and Platinum members will earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs earned during the membership year, rather than for every 10,000 EQMs.
Award Chart Comparison
|Travel from US to:||Off-Peak Coach (Old)||Off-Peak Coach (New)||Coach (Old)||Coach (New)||Business (Old)||Business (New)||First (Old)||First (New)|
|Lower 48 US states||N/A||N/A||12,500||12,500||25,000||25,000||32,500||50,000|
|Domestic < 500 miles||N/A||N/A||N/A||7,500||N/A||15,000||N/A||N/A|
|Canada & Alaska||N/A||N/A||12,500||15,000||25,000||30,000||32,500||55,000|
|South America (Region 1)||15,000||17,500||17,500||20,000||30,000||30,000||40,000||55,000|
|South America (Region 2)||20,000||N/A||30,000||30,000||50,000||57,500||62,500||85,000|
|Asia (Region 1)||25,000||32,500||32,500||35,000||50,000||60,000||62,500||80,000|
|Asia (Region 2)||N/A||32,500||35,000||35,000||55,000||70,000||67,500||110,000|
As you can see there has been quite a shift in the AAdvantage miles required to visit various locations, especially in Business or First class. Economy generally remains unchanged, with some bright spots such as the new short-haul redemptions for 7.5k points, and the decrease in Caribbean/Mexico/Central America award tickets. The largest impact of the AAdvantage devaluation appears to be for Asia and the South Pacific awards in Business/First class.
In the second half of 2016, award miles for travel on American flights will be calculated based on what you pay for your ticket instead of the distance flown. This is a huge change and it will now fall in line with how Delta and United run their award programs. Non-elites will now earn significantly less.
Your elite status will also factor into how many points you earn; the higher your status, the more you’ll earn. This will generally benefit first/business class flyers who pay more for their tickets.
- 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
Off-Peak Award Changes
American is changing the dates for off-peak awards, which is another blow to the program. Off-peak European awards are one of the current sweet spots of the AAdvantage program, and now sadly many of the off-peak seasons will be shorter.
OLD – Europe can currently be booked for travel from October through May 15
NEW – Shortened to November 1 through December 14, and January 10 through March 14
More full off-peak award changes at AA.com
Elite AAdvantage Status Qualification
American is making it easier to qualify for elite status in 2016. Under the current system, you can qualify for elite status based on elite qualifying miles (EQMs), elite qualifying points (EQPs), or elite qualifying segments (EQSs). The same amount of EQMs and EQSs will be required but they are eliminating EQPs.
With the new rules in 2016 there are no longer elite qualifying points, and you can earn status quicker the higher fare class you book:
- Full fare first & business class: 3 EQMs per flown mile
- Discounted first & business class: 2 EQMs per flown mile
- Full fare economy class: 1.5 EQMs per flown mile
- Discounted economy class: 1 EQM per flown mile
I plan to book quite a few flights before the devaluation hits in March 2016 and remember, you can book award flights 11 months out, so you will have the ability to book into the first part of 2017. If you are low on miles, I'd recommend the 50k AAdvantage Platinum card offer, and don't forget the AAdvantage Platinum card loophole! Mrs. TT and I are on our second Platinum cards this year, which adds up to over 200k AAdvantage miles between the two of us! Don't let all this bad news get you down, you still have lots of time to earn AAdvantage points and book before the devaluation hits!