If you've been planning to redeem your American AAdvantage miles, I'd highly recommend doing so before the point devaluation on Tuesday, March 22. Many of the most popular European and Asian award redemption routes will 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 its 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)
- This will be great when American opens up their routes to Cuba
- New award level offers flights 500 miles or less for 7.5k AAdvantage miles
- Use this tool to determine your 500 mile bubble (go down to range and type in 500nm@”your airport code”)
- 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 improvements such as the new 500 mile 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. If you have a pile of points this is where you should consider redeeming before March 22nd.
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. Changing to a revenue-based program 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
You can currently book through February 2017, which includes off-peak travel to Europe for only 40k miles round-trip! Don't forget that if you have a Citi AAdvantage credit card you receive 10% in points back from every redemption, up to 10k miles a year! American also lets you adjust the date after you make a reservation, at no extra cost, as long as the departure city and destination remain the same! Make sure to read our 10 tips for booking award tickets to make the booking process that much easier!