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This morning, American Airlines announced changes to its AAdvantage program for 2019. The most-notable changes include increasing the Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) requirements for top-tier Executive Platinum elite status and adding benefits for extremely-frequent flyers. Meanwhile, the Special Fares shortcut to earning elite status was decimated.

The fourth element that AA announced were changes to the “amount of EQMs members will earn when flying on one of our transatlantic or transpacific joint business partners — British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Japan Airlines.” However, the changes weren’t detailed until they went live online at 11am ET.

Now we’ve been able to digest the changes. From what we’ve seen so far, the Elite Qualifying Dollar and Elite Qualifying Segment rates for all partner fares will remain unchanged from 2018 to 2019. The only thing changing will be the rates at which you earn Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) on joint venture partners. And if you’ve been holding your breath, you can let it out now. Many of the earning rates are increasing, and none are decreasing.

Here are the details:

Expensive Economy Fares on Joint Venture Partners

In 2018, all American Airlines-marketed economy fares — except Basic Economy and full-fare Y fares — earn 1 Elite Qualifying Mile per flight mile. Meanwhile, most partner economy fares earn just 0.5 EQM per mile. Currently, you have to book a full-fare economy ticket on British Airways, Finnair, Iberia or Japan Airlines to get the same earning rate that you’d receive on AA fares. This doesn’t make much sense, as American Airlines has joint ventures with these airlines and should (in theory) try to treat tickets purchased on these carriers somewhat consistently.

That penalty for flying on one of these joint-venture airlines is being lessened in 2019 — but only for the more expensive economy fare classes. Here’s how these are changing:

Airline Booking Code 2018 EQM Rate 2019 EQM Rate EQD Rate (unchanged)
British Airways H,K,L,M,N,S,V 0.5 1.0 10%
Iberia H,A,G,K,L,M,F,N,S,V,Z 0.5 1.0 10%
Finnair H,K,L,M,P,V,T 0.5 1.0 10%
Japan Airlines H,K,M 0.5 1.0 14%
Japan Airlines L,V,S,G,O,R 0.5 1.0 10%

However, discount economy fares on these airlines will remain at just 0.5 EQM per mile:

Airline Booking Code 2018 EQM Rate 2019 EQM Rate EQD Rate
British Airways G,O,Q 0.5 0.5 5%
Iberia O,Q 0.5 0.5 5%
Finnair A,G,N,O,Q,R,S,W,Z 0.5 0.5 5%
Japan Airlines N,Q 0.5 0.5 6%

Business and First Class Fares on Joint Venture Partners

As with economy fares, American Airlines currently imposes an effective “EQM penalty” for choosing to book business and first class tickets with its joint venture partners instead of booking those tickets through AA. That’s set to be rectified in 2019 to closely match how EQMs are earned on AA flights. Full-fare business class and first class fares will earn 3.0 EQMs per mile, while other business/first fares will earn 2.0 EQMs per mile. These are all increases from the current rate.

Here’s how these fares are changing for American’s joint venture partners:

Airline Booking Code 2018 EQM Rate 2019 EQM Rate EQD Rate (unchanged)
British Airways J 1.5 3.0 25%
British Airways C,D,I,R 1.5 2.0 25%
Iberia J 1.5 3.0 25%
Iberia C,D,I,R 1.5 2.0 25%
Finnair J 1.5 3.0 40%
Finnair D,C 1.5 2.0 40%
Finnair I 1.5 2.0 25%
Japan Airlines J 1.5 3.0 25%
Japan Airlines C,D,X 1.5 2.0 25%
Japan Airlines I 1.5 2.0 14%

Meanwhile, joint venture partner first class fares will use the following chart:

Airline Booking Code 2018 EQM Rate 2019 EQM Rate EQD Rate (unchanged)
British Airways F 1.5 3.0 30%
British Airways A 1.5 2.0 30%
Iberia F 1.5 3.0 30%
Iberia A 1.5 2.0 30%
Finnair F 1.5 3.0 60%
Finnair A 1.5 2.0 30%
Japan Airlines F 1.5 3.0 30%
Japan Airlines A 1.5 2.0 30%

Bottom Line

The changes AA announced this morning are a mixed bag; they are positive for the ultra-frequent flyers (who meet the higher spending requirement) but negative to those of us who love to fly on Special Fares. However, these changes to partner EQM rates are all positive. Expensive economy fares and business/first class fares will all earn EQMs at a higher rate than they currently do starting in 2019. In addition, there are no negative changes to discount economy flyers who book the cheapest fares on American’s joint venture partners.

Featured image by Anna Zvereva via Wikipedia Creative Commons

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