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Alaska Changes Mileage Plan Earning on American-Operated Flights

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Update: The original Alaska Airlines announcement featured a chart that excluded mileage earning for ‘P’ and ‘W’ fare classes. However, the carrier has updated its chart with the addition of the two fare classes, and this post has been updated to include the new chart.

Last year, American Airlines detailed the future of its AAdvantage program. For a while, flyers knew that the program was going to be switching to a revenue-based earning system, but no one knew exactly when that change would be implemented. We found out this month that the change is set to go into effect on August 1, 2016, with other changes coming at the beginning of 2017. With the announcement, AA detailed plans that passengers would earn miles on partner-marketed flights based on the distance, as a well as EQDs based on award miles — both with a multiplier based on the booking code. And now, Alaska Airlines announced that it’s changing the way passengers will earn Mileage Plan miles on AA-operated flights.

Alaska is making some changes to Mileage Plan earning on AA-operated flights.
Alaska is making some changes to Mileage Plan earning on AA-operated flights.

Beginning August, 1, 2016 — the same day AAdvantage’s revenue-based system goes into effect — Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will accrue miles at a new rate when they fly on AA-operated flights. Alaska says the change is to better match American’s new program, and the new mileage earning “will be calculated using a combination of the percentage of distance flown and fare class. This means some fares will earn more or fewer miles than before.”

Just like the changes to the AAdvantage program, it doesn’t matter when your ticket was purchased — if the travel date is on or after August 1, the new earning structure will apply. The chart below outlines the Mileage Plan earning for AA-operated flights after August 1, 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 5.26.13 PM
The new Mileage Plan earning rates for AA-operated flights.

As you can see, discounted economy fares will earn at a lower rate (25%), and those with first-class tickets can earn up to 200%. These changes will apply to flights marketed by American but operated by Alaska as well as AA-operated flights. For flights marketed by Alaska but operated by American, you’ll earn based on the distance you fly, as well as any class of service bonus.

Here are some sample flights that illustrate the change in earnings:

Seattle (SEA) — Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in ‘F’ class (1,660 miles flown):

  • Before August 1: 2,490 Mileage Plan miles earned
  • Starting August 1: 3,320 Mileage Plan miles earned

Seattle (SEA) — Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) in ‘O’ class (1,660 miles flown):

  • Before August 1: 1,660 Mileage Plan miles earned
  • Starting August 1: 415 Mileage Plan miles earned, however, you’d earn 500 miles with Alaska’s 500 minimum mile guarantee.

As you can see, the higher the fare you book, the higher your earning will be. Like the changes to American’s AAdvantage program, this benefits those who buy more expensive tickets and hurts those who are booking cheaper fares.

In the details of this change, Alaska also reaffirmed to flyers that it plans to stick with its miles-based program structure as other airlines move to a revenue-based earning structure. The carrier also mentioned that this change doesn’t impact the way Mileage Plan members earn miles on Alaska flights, and again confirmed that it has no plans to change how miles are earned on Alaska flights.

Ultimately, this is a bad change for leisure flyers who don’t often splurge on the more expensive tickets and fare classes. Of the major US carriers, Alaska is the only one left with a traditional mileage program, so it’s disappointing that AA flyers won’t earn Mileage Plan miles at the traditional rate. If you want to take advantage of the old Mileage Plan earning system, be sure to fly before August 1, 2016.

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