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American Airlines Makes Drastic Change to Mileage Earning Rates on Partners

July 16, 2016
13 min read
American Airlines Makes Drastic Change to Mileage Earning Rates on Partners
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Back in June, American Airlines announced that it was switching to a revenue-based mileage program effective August 1. However, the carrier didn't clarify whether or not this change to earning award miles on AA flights would mean changes to earning award miles on partner airlines as well.

At the time, American Airlines' announcement only mentioned that earning award miles on partner airlines would still be calculated the same way: Flight Miles x Fare Class Rate

On most flights marketed by partner airlines, you'll earn award miles based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class of your ticket.

Last night, American Airlines made changes to the rates used to determine AAdvantage award mileage earnings on partner flights. These changes are drastic and affect almost every partner airline, but the changes come without any announcement or notice from American Airlines. Worst of all, the changes go into effect in just two weeks!

Positive Changes

Good news if you booked the Etihad Residence, as you may now earn AAdvantage award miles based on 4x the distance flown.

There are a few positive changes as part of these unannounced modifications. No surprise, they're mostly for first and business-class flights. These rates apply to flights both operated and marketed by the airlines below, including those operated by partners. For example, a first-class flight ticketed by Finnair but operated by AA will earn 300% of the miles flown (Finnair does not offer a first-class cabin of its own).

Below are all of the positive changes we found. Note that the "Increase" and "Decrease" columns below represent a percentage of the flight distance, not a percentage increase from previous earning rates.

AirlineFare ClassCabinPrevious RateNew RateIncrease
Air BerlinJBusiness125%150%25%
Air BerlinTBusiness--110%
Alaska AirlinesFFirst150%175%25%
Alaska AirlinesREconomy--25%
Etihad AirwaysPFirst--400%
Etihad AirwaysZBusiness--100%
Etihad AirwaysGEconomy--25%
Fiji AirwaysJ, DBusiness125%150%25%
FinnairJ, D, CBusiness125%200%75%
Hawaiian AirlinesJ, PBusiness125%150%25%
Hawaiian AirlinesK, LEconomy0%25%25%
LAN AirlinesCBusiness--125%
Royal JordanianJBusiness125%150%25%

Negative Changes

While there are some positive changes, there are many, many negative changes. Most of the negative changes are to economy flights, but some "discount" business class and premium economy classes are affected as well.

Here are all of the negative changes we found:

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AirlineFare ClassCabinPrevious RateNew RateDecrease
airberlinH, K, MEconomy100%50%50%
airberlinL, V, SEconomy100%25%75%
Alaska AirlinesM, HEconomy100%75%25%
Alaska AirlinesQ, L, V, K, GEconomy100%50%50%
Alaska AirlinesTEconomy100%25%75%
Alaska AirlinesUEconomy100%--
British AirwaysHEconomy100%50%50%
Cathay PacificR, EPremium Economy110%100%10%
Cathay PacificB, HEconomy100%75%25%
Etihad AirwaysWBusiness125%100%25%
Etihad AirwaysB, H, KEconomy100%50%50%
Etihad AirwaysM, Q, L, V, U, EEconomy100%25%75%
Fiji AirwaysIBusiness125%100%25%
Fiji AirwaysB, H, LEconomy100%75%25%
Fiji AirwaysK, M, O, Q, S, WEconomy100%50%50%
Fiji AirwaysG, VEconomy100%35%65%
Fiji AirwaysN, TEconomy75%35%40%
FinnairH, K, L, M, P, V, TEconomy100%50%50%
FinnairA, G, N, O, Q, R, S, W, ZEconomy100%25%75%
Gulf AirD, IBusiness125%100%25%
Gulf AirB, H, K, L, M, XEconomy100%50%50%
Gulf AirE, N, O, U, Q, V, S, WEconomy100%25%75%
Hawaiian AirlinesV, B, S, N, MEconomy100%75%25%
Hawaiian AirlinesI, H, GEconomy100%50%50%
Japan AirlinesIBusiness80%70%10%
Jet AirwaysJ, Z, I, PBusiness125%100%25%
Jet AirwaysM, TEconomy100%50%50%
Jet AirwaysUEconomy100%25%75%
Jet AirwaysN, L, Q, SEconomy50%25%25%
LAN AirlinesD, I, ZBusiness125%100%25%
LAN AirlinesWPremium Economy125%110%15%
LAN AirlinesPPremium Economy125%100%25%
LAN AirlinesHEconomy100%75%25%
LAN AirlinesK, M, L, VEconomy100%50%50%
LAN AirlinesXEconomy100%25%75%
LAN AirlinesS, N, Q, O, G, AEconomy100%25%75%
Malaysia AirlinesZBusiness125%100%25%
Malaysia AirlinesHEconomy100%50%50%
Malaysia AirlinesKEconomy70%50%20%
Malaysia AirlinesMEconomy70%25%45%
Malaysia AirlinesL, S, VEconomy50%25%25%
QatarI, RBusiness125%100%25%
QatarB, HEconomy100%50%50%
QatarK, M, L, VEconomy75%50%25%
QatarG, N, S, QEconomy50%25%25%
Royal JordanianIBusiness125%100%25%
Royal JordanianNEconomy100%0%100%
Royal JordanianB, H, K, M, S, VEconomy100%50%50%
Royal JordanianQEconomy50%25%25%
SriLankan AirlinesD, IBusiness125%100%25%
SriLankan AirlinesB, P, HEconomy100%50%50%
SriLankan AirlinesK, W, M, EEconomy75%50%25%
SriLankan AirlinesL, R, V, S, N, QEconomy75%25%50%
TAM AirlinesI, ZBusiness125%100%25%
TAM AirlinesBEconomy100%50%50%
TAM AirlinesX, B, K, M, N, Q, O, HEconomy100%50%50%
TAM AirlinesL, V, S, G, AEconomy100%25%75%
WestJetQ, L, MEconomy100%75%25%
WestJetP, GEconomy100%50%50%
WestJetX, DEconomy100%30%70%

For those not counting, that's 180 partner fare classes that have been negatively adjusted.

What to do about the changes

If you've got an upcoming Air Berlin economy flight, your AAdvantage award mileage earnings may have dropped 75% overnight.

To see confirm whether or not you're affected by these changes, check to see if you have any flights after August 1 that have an American Airlines' partner flight number. If so, check the fare class on your ticket and compare it to the chart of changes above to see if your ticket is impacted by these changes.

With past changes, American Airlines has been unwilling to "grandfather" the rates in effect when you booked your flights. However, considering the last-minute nature of these changes, you can certainly contact American Airlines to voice your displeasure with the changes.

If your flights have been drastically effected, you might want to consider crediting these flights to another airline's mileage program. The website Where To Credit is a great tool to review the possibilities. Make sure to double-check the rates on the airline's website, as Where To Credit may not have all recent changes updated.

Bottom Line

Yesterday's American Airlines changes reflect the airline's focus on catering to business and first class travelers.

We're disappointed to see American Airlines devalue its AAdvantage earning rates yet again. However, it's especially disappointing that American Airlines made these negative changes without an announcement and just two weeks before the new rates go into effect. After all, most travelers don't wait until two weeks prior to a trip to book their flights.

Since American Airlines doesn't retroactively apply the award mileage rates in effect at booking, this means there will be many travelers who are adversely affected by these changes. While most travelers don't consider award mileage earning rates before booking a flight — unless you're doing a mileage run — slashing the award miles travelers would have otherwise earned is a very customer-unfriendly move.

Are you affected by these changes?