Why Did American Refuse to Give Me Miles for Flying?

Mar 31, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

TPG reader Jeff recently tried to credit a flight to American AAdvantage, but the airline said he couldn’t, as he tells us in an email message…

My fiancé and I recently took a trip to Bali. When we requested the miles to be credited to American, we were told the tickets were in an ineligible booking class. Are we getting short changed?

TPG Reader Jeff

American has made significant changes to its frequent-flyer program in the last year. Tickets booked with AA are no longer awarded miles based on the distance flown, but rather on the amount of airfare paid. So in most cases, leisure travelers are earning drastically fewer miles than they previously did.

However, even with the new changes, the booking class isn’t relevant for flights on American’s planes — you earn between 5 and 11 redeemable miles per dollar spent depending on your level of elite status, no matter which class you’re in (elite miles are another story).

So what’s going on here? The first clue is in the destination — Bali. American doesn’t fly to Bali, so that means there’s some partner flying in here somewhere. It could be entirely on a Oneworld partner from the US to Bali, or partially on AA to a connecting city and then from there to Bali on a partner.

In this case, we can find out by taking a quick look at American’s response to the request for miles, which Jeff was kind enough to send along…

The letters “CX” tell us what we need to know — it’s a flight on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (HKG) to Bali/Denpasar (DPS). Now, if this was ticketed as an American flight — meaning booked under an AA flight number as a codeshare and simply operated by Cathay — then it wouldn’t matter because you’d earn miles based on American’s standard mileage accrual system.

But since it was booked using a Cathay flight number, it’s a different story. In that case, the ticket would be credited under a partner chart, and partner charts are based mostly on the old system of distance flown, but also with the added variable of… booking class. And this is where we get the bad news, because when we take a look at American’s chart for Cathay Pacific flights

Uggghh. As you can see on that very last line, there are a whole slew of booking classes on Cathay Pacific for which American won’t award any miles at all, redeemable or otherwise. In fact, it’s pretty much most of the cheap economy fares that people buy, which is why AA doesn’t want to give any miles for them. It’s almost certainly the case that this Cathay ticket was booked in one of these classes, so that’s why American’s saying it’s ineligible for miles.

An alternate option might have been to credit the flights to a different mileage program, such as Cathay’s own Asia Miles program, which awards miles for almost all booking classes. However, Asia Miles are not terribly valuable, so maybe a better option would have been crediting to British Airways, which also accepts many booking classes on both Cathay and American.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Jeff, but at least now you know what to look for the next time around. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader with a question you’d like answered, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or send an email to info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured images courtesy of Getty Images.

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