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The New Way You’ll Earn AAdvantage Award Miles on AA’s Partners

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Now that American’s AAdvantage program has made the switch to a revenue-based earning structure, the way you’ll earn both redeemable and elite-qualifying miles on partner carriers has changed quite a bit. Below, TPG Contributor JT Genter explains the new calculations you’ll need to keep in mind.

Yesterday marked the end of an era: The American Airlines AAdvantage mileage program switched from “fly a mile, earn a mile” to a revenue-based mileage program. While we’ve discussed how you’ll earn miles on American Airlines-marketed flights, the details of earning AAdvantage miles on partner-marketed flights were an open question until yesterday. Now that we know, let’s dig into how you’ll earn AAdvantage award miles on AA partner flights.

The general calculation for AA award miles is:

[Flight Miles x Base Miles Rate x (1 + Elite Mileage Bonus*)] + [Flight Miles x Cabin Bonus Rate]

*If the airline is eligible for the Elite Mileage Bonus

Yep, break out your graphing calculators. We’re headed back to math class for a bit. But, before we dive in, I want to clarify: We’re only talking about calculating AAdvantage award miles. If you’re looking the calculation of AAdvantage elite-qualifying miles (EQMs), we covered that in detail here.

Information You’ll Need

You'll need to know your Booking/Fare Code for partner flights.
You’ll need to know your booking/fare code for partner flights.

In order to calculate your award mileage earnings, you’ll need the following pieces of information:

  • Flight Miles: The direct distance between the origin and destination airport for this flight. Great Circle Mapper is a great tool to get you a close approximation to what AA will use.
  • Booking Code (a.k.a. Fare Code): If you booked a flight through American Airlines that doesn’t have an American Airlines flight number, the easiest way to retrieve this is to pull up the e-ticket American Airlines emailed at purchase. If you can’t find this email, log in to AA.com, open your upcoming trip and click “Print trip and receipt.” If you booked a flight directly with a partner airline, you’ll need to retrieve the booking code from your ticket.
  • Base Miles Rate + Cabin Bonus Rate: See below for how to determine this.
  • Elite Mileage Bonus: This has changed, effective August 1. See below for details.

Base Miles Rate + Cabin Bonus Rate

Look for the “Base miles” and “Cabin bonus” columns on the partner’s earning chart.

The Base Miles and Cabin Bonus rates come from American Airlines’ partner page for the airline marketing the flight. For example, if your ticket shows British Airways flight #764 with a “J” Booking Code, your Base Miles rate is 100% and your Cabin Bonus rate is 25%.

Here are the partner pages for each mileage-earning American Airlines partner:

Elite Mileage Bonus

American Airlines Elite Status Mileage Bonuses after August 1 2016
Surprise! New Elite Mileage Bonuses apply to partner flights effective August 1, 2016.

This is one of the changes that we uncovered this week. Gone are the days of a 25% mileage bonus for Gold, a 100% mileage bonus for Platinum and a 100% mileage bonus for Executive Platinum. Instead, there’s now a new Elite Mileage Bonus which applies to certain partner flights credited to AAdvantage:

  • Gold: 40% mileage bonus
  • Platinum: 60% mileage bonus
  • Executive Platinum: 120% mileage bonus

You may recognize these rates as the bonus rates that American Airlines is using on its own flights:

American Airlines AA Earning Award Miles after August 1
The Elite Mileage Bonus rates may seem familiar, as they are the new bonus rates applicable to AA’s own flights.

It’s important to note that not all flights on partner airlines are eligible for the Elite Mileage Bonus. Flights on the following partner airlines do not qualify for the Elite Mileage Bonus:

  • Air Berlin
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • TAM Airlines
  • WestJet

Example Itineraries

Now that we have all of the pieces of the puzzle, let’s look at a few example itineraries.

1. British Airways, J Booking Code, from London’s Heathrow (LHR) to Oslo (OSL)

Let's complete the example from above.
For a J booking code on British Airways, you’ll earn 100% base miles and a 25% cabin bonus.

Entering these numbers into our formula, we get:

[724 Flight Miles x 100% Base Miles Rate x (1+___% Elite Mileage Bonus)] + [724 Flight Miles x 25% Cabin Bonus Rate]

Adding the Elite Mileage Bonus rates, you’ll end up with:

  • General Member: 905 AAdvantage miles
  • Gold: 1,195 AAdvantage miles
  • Platinum: 1,339 AAdvantage miles
  • Executive Platinum: 1,774 AAdvantage miles

2. Alaska Airways, T Booking Code, from Seattle (SEA) to Chicago (ORD)

AS Code T Base Miles + Cabin Bonus on AAdvantage
For a T booking code on Alaska Airlines, you’ll earn just 25% base miles and no cabin bonus.

Entering these numbers into our formula, we get:

[1,721 Flight Miles x 25% Base Miles Rate x (1+___% Elite Mileage Bonus)] + [1,721 Miles x 0% Cabin Bonus Rate]

Adding the Elite Mileage Bonus rates, you’ll end up with rather abysmal earnings on AAdvantage:

  • General Member: 430 AAdvantage miles
  • Gold: 602 AAdvantage miles
  • Platinum: 688 AAdvantage miles
  • Executive Platinum: 947 AAdvantage miles

Since the Base Miles Rate is so low on this particular flight, you might want to consider crediting it to another program. WhereToCredit is an excellent way of getting a quick glimpse of the best options. In this case, you’d earn 1,721 Alaska miles if you credit this flight to Alaska’s MileagePlan program. However, you’ll lose out on earning 861 AAdvantage Elite-Qualifying Miles if you credit the flight to Alaska instead of American.

3. Air Berlin, K Booking Code, from Chicago (ORD) to Berlin’s Tegel (TXL)

AB Code K Base Miles + Cabin Bonus on AAdvantage
For a K booking code on Airberlin, you’ll earn 50% base miles and no cabin bonus.

Entering these numbers into our formula, we get:

[4,413 Flight Miles x 50% Base Miles Rate x (1+0% Elite Mileage Bonus)] + [4,413 Flight Miles x 0% Cabin Bonus Rate]

Adding the Elite Mileage Bonus rates, you’ll end up with the following AAdvantage earnings:

  • General Member: 2,207 AAdvantage miles
  • Gold: 2,207 AAdvantage miles
  • Platinum: 2,207 AAdvantage miles
  • Executive Platinum: 2,207 AAdvantage miles

Why does everyone earn the same amount? Air Berlin is not one of American Airlines’ partners where AAdvantage elites earn an Elite Mileage Bonus.

4. Japan Airlines, E Booking Code, round-trip from Dallas (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT)

JL Code E Base Miles + Cabin Bonus on AAdvantage
For a E booking code on Japan Airlines, you’ll earn 100% base miles but no cabin bonus.
  • Flight Miles (DFW-NRT-DFW): 12,854 round-trip
  • Base Miles Rate (JL E Booking Code): 100%
  • Cabin Bonus Rate (JL E Booking Code): 0%
  • Elite Mileage Bonus eligible airline? Yes

Entering these numbers into our formula, we get:

[12,854 Flight Miles x 100% Base Miles Rate x (1+__% Elite Mileage Bonus)] + [12,854 Miles x 0% Cabin Bonus Rate]

Adding the Elite Mileage Bonus rates, you’ll end up with the following AAdvantage earnings for the round-trip flights:

  • General Member: 12,854 AAdvantage miles
  • Gold: 17,996 AAdvantage miles
  • Platinum: 20,566 AAdvantage miles
  • Executive Platinum: 28,279 AAdvantage miles
American Airlines AA Earning Award Miles after August 1
Let’s compare the earnings on JL flight numbers to AA flight numbers.

In this particular case, American Airlines and Japan Airlines are both selling premium economy on JAL’s flights for ~$2,800 round-trip. The base fare plus carrier-imposed fees make up $2,699 of this price. If you bought the same flights through American Airlines (AA flight numbers) instead of Japan Airlines (JL flight numbers), you’d earn a few more AAdvantage miles:

  • General Member: 13,495 AAdvantage miles (2,699 x 5)
  • Gold: 18,893 AAdvantage miles (2,699 x 7)
  • Platinum: 21,592 AAdvantage miles (2,699 x 8)
  • Executive Platinum: 29,689 AAdvantage miles (2,699 x 11)

So, in this case, it would be slightly better to book through American Airlines rather than Japan Airlines.

Bottom Line

With changes and even more changes, the AAdvantage program is quite different from the program it was even a year ago. Award and elite mileage earnings on partner flights have been quite affected by these changes. Lucrative mileage runs we posted about just 10 months ago have drastically different mileage earnings today than at the time. So, don’t assume that what once worked will still work under the current program. Make sure to run the numbers and then check to see if there are other mileage programs which might work better for your travel habits.

Will the recent AAdvantage changes affect how you book or credit flights?

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