Why Did I Get More Miles Flying North Than South?

May 1, 2017

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

It’s the exact same distance from Dallas (DFW) to Chicago (ORD) as it is from Chicago to Dallas, right? So TPG reader Charles wants to know why he got more miles on American Airlines in one direction than the other…

Can you explain why on the same class of ticket I would get more miles traveling from DFW to ORD than I get for traveling from ORD to DFW?

TPG Reader Charles

Sounds suspicious at first glance, doesn’t it? Taking a look at his mileage activity, it does appear that last month Charles received 4,345 AAdvantage miles for flying from Dallas to Chicago, but then only 4,268 miles for flying from Chicago to Dallas. This was all on the same business-class round-trip ticket booked in the same fare bucket.

So what’s going on here? Well, you have to remember that as of last August, American no longer credits redeemable miles based on distance, but rather by the amount you paid in airfare. So even though Dallas and Chicago are 802 miles apart, that only matters when it comes to Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), not the miles you can use for awards. In Charles’ case, his account shows he received 1,604 elite miles in each direction, which is exactly right since he gets 2x miles for traveling on a discount business-class ticket and 802 times 2 is 1,604.

courtesy american airlines
Image courtesy of AA.

But it still begs the question: If this is a round-trip ticket sold for one price, why wouldn’t the airfare simply be split in half for one direction and half in the other, making the redeemable miles exactly the same both ways? Well, that’s because airlines like to make things as complicated as possible, and they don’t necessarily consider the two flights to be the same price times two. In fact, when Charles contacted American, the airline informed him…

After [a] review of your account, our records show the eligible fare for DFW-ORD was $395.00 and the eligible fare for ORD-DFW was $388.00. Since the eligible fare may vary per segment, miles may be accrued differently for the same route.

So from Dallas to Chicago, Charles got 1,975 AAdvantage miles, which is 5 miles per dollar spent (395 x 5), plus 6 bonus miles per dollar for being an Executive Platinum elite, which is another 2,370 miles (395 x 6) for a total of 4,345 AAdvantage miles. And then from Chicago back to Dallas, an airfare of $388 is equal to 1,940 base AAdvantage miles (388 x 5) and 2,328 Executive Platinum bonus miles (388 x 6) for a total of 4,268 redeemable miles.

It’s confusing since all three of the legacy carriers use different calculations for redeemable miles than for elite miles, and your round-trip airfare can be split between multiple legs in a number of different ways. But at least when it comes to elite miles, you’ll still get credit for the same distance no matter which direction you fly.

Thanks for the question, Charles, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of gcmap.com.

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