American Airlines, JetBlue unveil reciprocal mileage and elite earnings — with a major twist
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
American Airlines and JetBlue are expanding their Northeast Alliance — but not with new routes or codeshare markets.
This time, the two carriers are teaming up to announce the first major loyalty benefit of their Northeast-focused partnership: the ability to earn miles and elite-qualifying progress on either airline.
While there’s a lot to unpack here, the first thing to note is that the new feature is already live for any flights taken on or after today, May 26.
TPG sat down with Rick Elieson, president of the AAdvantage loyalty program, at American’s Fort Worth headquarters, and his message was loud and clear: the goal is to make it as seamless as possible to do business with either airline. “This is always true where you look at your inorganic or virtual network,” he said, “how seamless can you make it? How neutral can you approach it?”
Turns out, American and JetBlue are getting pretty close to metal neutrality when it comes to earning miles.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
Earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles on JetBlue flights
Effective immediately, you can choose to earn AAdvantage miles for JetBlue-operated flights. This includes itineraries booked directly with JetBlue or those purchased via American as part of the alliance agreement. The only exclusion is JetBlue’s soon-to-launch London service.
No matter where you book, you’ll earn redeemable AAdvantage miles based on the fare you purchased, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees.
You’ll earn miles at the same rate as if you were flying American itself, specifically:
- AAdvantage member – five miles for every U.S. dollar
- Gold elite member – seven miles/U.S. dollar (40% bonus)
- Platinum elite member – eight miles/U.S. dollar (60% bonus)
- Platinum Pro elite member – nine miles/U.S. dollar (80% bonus)
- Executive Platinum elite member – 11 miles/U.S. dollar (120% bonus)
For example, a $120 ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with JetBlue would earn roughly 500 AAdvantage miles for a general AAdvantage member.
Other than the London carve-out, all JetBlue tickets, including those booked in basic economy, will earn redeemable miles.
American’s first partner to earn based on fare
This one’s big. JetBlue will be the first of AA’s current partners to earn miles based on the fare paid.
Until now, most major airlines (including American) awarded redeemable miles for partner flights based on a combination of the cabin purchased, the distance flown and the elite status level.
But Wednesday marks a major industry shift that’ll be interesting to follow. Savvy frequent flyers (and TPG readers) have historically been able to take advantage of generous mileage accrual charts for partner flights. For instance, a deep-discount Qatar Airways business-class ticket from New York to the Maldives might cost $2,000 round-trip. Under the current mileage earning rates, you’d net nearly 18,000 AAdvantange miles as a general member on that ticket.
With JetBlue, a similarly priced $2,000 round-trip Mint biz ticket will earn just 10,000 AAdvantage miles, regardless of the destination.
In Elieson’s words, “JetBlue is in. We are embedded. We want people to feel indifferent about which one they fly.”
Interestingly, this mileage accrual scheme is strikingly different from when American and JetBlue last teamed up in 2010. Back then, all eligible JetBlue flights earned AAdvantage miles at a rate of 100% of the distance flown.
If you’re a big spender or travel on short routes, odds are that you’ll make out better with the fare-based earning model. But if you purchase discounted coach tickets on longer flights, you likely would’ve preferred the traditional earning rates based on distance flown and cabin purchased.
Just be sure to crunch the numbers before you credit a JetBlue flight to American.
Either way, this move to a fare-based earning model could usher in a new era in how airlines award miles with partners. Of course, it requires an integrated back-end system that passes fare data securely between airlines. But if it can be pulled off in a way that doesn’t upset regulators, it’s likely only a matter of time before other airlines consider implementing something similar.
AAdvantage elite-status qualification with JetBlue
Though you’ll earn redeemable AAdvantage miles based on the fare spent with JetBlue, elite-qualifying criteria will follow the legacy model: you’ll earn elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) based on fare class and miles flown, according to the chart below.
|Cabin||Elite-qualifying miles per mile flown (EQMs)||Elite-qualifying segments (EQSs)||Elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs)|
|Full-fare Mint (“J” fare class)||3x||1.00||Based on fare spent|
|Discounted Mint (“C”, “D”, “I” fare classes)||2x||1.00||Based on fare spent|
|Economy||1x||1.00||Based on fare spent|
|Blue Basic/Basic economy||–||–||–|
As you can see in the chart, JetBlue’s Blue Basic tickets do not earn any AA elite-qualifying progress, which is the same way that AA handles basic economy tickets on its own metal.
For example, if you bought a discounted $599 Mint business-class fare from New York to Los Angeles, you’d earn 4,950 EQMs (2,475 flown miles multiplied by two), one EQS and roughly 550 EQDs, in addition to the 2,750 redeemable AAdvantage miles you’d earn as a general member.
Earn JetBlue TrueBlue points on American Airlines flights
At this point, it’s likely no surprise to learn that JetBlue will also award TrueBlue points based on the fare purchased with American Airlines. All AA flights worldwide are eligible to earn TrueBlue points — there are no exclusions.
You’ll earn TrueBlue points according to the chart below.
|All fares, except basic economy, per $1 spent||Basic economy fares per $1 spent|
|JetBlue app/jetblue.com booking bonus||3||1|
|JetBlue Plus Card bonus||6||6|
The first thing to note in this chart is that you aren’t eligible for the JetBlue app/website booking bonus if you purchase a ticket through American Airlines booking channels. So, if you’re planning to credit your AA flight to JetBlue, you might as well purchase it directly through the JetBlue app or website.
Of course, only routes and codeshare markets covered by the Northeast Alliance are available for purchase via JetBlue. If you’re purchasing an AA flight not covered by the Alliance and crediting it to JetBlue, you’ll forfeit the booking bonus.
Additionally, the Mosaic bonus is only applicable to JetBlue elite members. Note that the base points earned from an AA flight do count toward Mosaic qualification progress.
What’s next for the Northeast Alliance
In addition to a slew of new routes and codeshare markets launching in the coming weeks and months, there are additional frequent flyer benefits coming as well.
Both airlines have promised access to reciprocal mileage redemptions, meaning that you’ll soon be able to use AAdvantage miles for JetBlue flights, and vice versa. Additionally, American and JetBlue have teased reciprocal loyalty perks for elites, regardless of which carrier they fly. The details remain to be seen, but this could include free checked bags, extra-legroom seats and more.
Elieson explained that Wednesday’s announcement is just the first step in a larger journey in creating reciprocal loyalty benefits. “That’s what it is today,” he said, referring to the mileage accrual details, but promised more announcements will come as the details are ironed out.
In the meantime, he encouraged to customers to be patient with the rollout, saying “please recognize that it may look uneven or lumpy or may not unfold exactly how someone would’ve wished it to, but it’s going to keep coming together.”
We’ll be following how it unfolds, but one thing’s for sure — American and JetBlue just began their loyalty partnership with an interesting twist.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees