American Airlines loyalist creates app to help flyers maximize point earning
Like most American Airlines frequent flyers, Razzak Memon's interest was piqued when he learned last fall about the carrier switching its AAdvantage program to a new Loyalty Points currency.
An entirely new point-awarding system was big news to Memon, considering he flies some 250,000 miles every year and is a member of American’s most prestigious elite status designation.
So he set out on a mission to understand and help other travelers decode the new Loyalty Points system through which AAdvantage members now earn status through a combination of spending on flights, with co-branded credit cards, and through the loyalty program’s eShopping portal.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
It’s one thing to do your homework. Memon, though, had the means to do a whole lot more than that. As the owner of two technology companies, he had a web development team at his disposal as he set out to uncover his – and others’ – points-earning potential when booking a Oneworld flight.
That mission has now taken shape as a new internet-based application called the Loyalty Points Calculator.
The site is live now for you to use — and Memon hopes it helps. Even better, he’s not asking for a single dime in support or as much as an email address to use it.
the man behind the app
Most TPG readers probably have a favorite airline or hotel chain. However, Memon takes loyalty to a whole new level when it comes to his flying habits.
For more than 30 years, he’s been intensely loyal to the Oneworld Alliance — first with US Airways, then American Airlines after the two carriers merged. That he can claim to be a Concierge Key member with American Airlines says a lot. When you talk with him, though, it becomes clear his passion for the airline goes beyond that.
“You can call me crazy, you can call me anything, but I am who I am,” Memon told TPG. “I just love American Airlines.”
A big reason he has such rich loyalty to an airline is because he spends a whole lot of time on airplanes.
His job has taken him across the country and around the world many times over during a three-decade career that’s been anchored by his ownership of two technology companies, including Pennsylvania-based R:BASE. An Arizona native, Memon spends many hours on flights between the Southwest and his offices, as well as on business trips throughout the U.S. His work also frequently takes him to Europe and Asia several times each year.
As he’s built up status on American Airlines, Memon has simultaneously built a network of fellow loyalists of the carrier through social media. It’s a platform for sharing travel hacks and tips.
And as you might expect, a change as significant as the AAdvantage program’s March 2022 move to the Loyalty Point system was a big topic of discussion in recent months. What would it ultimately mean for travelers? How many points would you earn for a flight?
“So I decided to create an application,” Memon said.
Building the app
In the weeks and months after the AAdvantage program announced the particulars of its new Loyalty Points system in October 2021, Memon got his company’s web development team involved.
The team set out to build an app that would help travelers make ticket-purchasing decisions as they try to climb the AAdvantage program’s elite status ladder.
Today, the site is live with both a Microsoft desktop and web-based option for users.
The app, which Memon fittingly called the “Loyalty Points Calculator,” includes three main functions. It can show you the real mileage distance between two airports, in sync with what the airlines’ loyalty programs use to calculate flight distance. The program can show you how many Loyalty Points you’ll earn for a particular American or Oneworld partner flight. You can also tabulate multiple flight options to do side-by-side comparisons of your potential points earnings.
It's user-driven in the sense that you have to put in all your flight information — the airline, departure and arrival airports (and then allow the site to calculate the mileage distance between the airports). Additionally, you'll need to include the base ticket price, how much you actually spent on your flight if you used a co-branded credit card and the class of service.
Once that's done, you click "calculate" and the site will show you how many Loyalty Points you can expect to earn on that American or Oneworld partner flight.
Related: Your ultimate guide to American Airlines AAdvantage
Using the app
I put Memon’s app to the test by checking my earning potential. For the sake of simplicity, I looked at round trips between August 6 and 13 (a hypothetical summer vacation) from New York-John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Let’s first plug the two airports into the app to calculate the actual mileage between them. According to the app, on a round trip between JFK and LHR you’ll fly 6,902 miles.
Next up, let’s see what an economy round trip between JFK and LHR would earn you on Loyalty Points.
On American’s site, the trip – operated by British Airways but booked through American – comes to $1,272 including all taxes and fees. However, under the Loyalty Points system, you only earn points on the basic fare ($691 in this case) and the carrier-imposed fees ($340). Taxes are excluded from points earnings. So, you’ll want to add up the $691 and $340 and take note of that sum ($1,031).
OK, back to the app. Below is the page where you enter your flight information. Let’s pretend I’m Gold status for the purposes of this exercise. That’s key because Gold members get a 40% bonus on whatever points and miles they earn on their flight, and that percentage increases as your status rises.
For the “airline” section, we’re obviously booking on American, and the fare code is economy. Really, if it’s an American flight, the fare code no longer matters for points earnings, because Loyalty Points are awarded based on spending, not class. It does matter if you’re booking on partner airline, though. (More on that later.)
Next up, base fare: That’s the number we saved a second ago — $1,031 for the trip including the fare itself and the carrier-imposed fees. Then comes the “AAdvantage Credit Card amount.” For this, you’ll put in the total amount you charged to a co-branded credit card for the flight, since you earn one Loyalty Point for every dollar you spend on a Citi/AAdvantage credit card. In this case, we spent $1,272.
Generally, for normal self-made bookings, you’ll leave the last section blank.
Then, you click "calculate."
The app shows us that we’ll earn 8,489 Loyalty Points for this trip.
Now, let’s compare that with the same exact trip – literally the same flights – booked through the British Airways website. The app will give you the opportunity to do a multi-segment/itinerary comparison now, and you can start putting in information for another trip.
For the same trip booked through British Airways, the pricing comes out exactly the same: $1,272 total, or $1,031 when you subtract the taxes. Also, with British Airways (and many other Oneworld carriers that aren’t American Airlines) you are going to want to take note of the fare class. Not just whether it’s “economy” or “premium economy,” etc., but the letter associated with the booking. In this case, that's “S.”
Let’s put that information into the app now. Still “Gold,” but switch the airline to “British Airways.” For fare code, this is where you’ll want to select “Economy (S).” Same fare and mileage information as before. Then click "calculate."
The app shows us that this round trip, booked on British Airways, would earn us 6,104 Loyalty Points.
The app then allows you to compare the options and how much you’d earn for each of them. While this example certainly does not mean you’d always earn more on American over a Oneworld partner, it is what the app says would happen in this particular case.
Memon calls this page the “highlight” of the app since it allows customers to do a side-by-side comparison and figure out how they can earn the most points for their flight choices.
“It’s just a calculator. It’s just an estimate,” he said. “It’s not going to tell you what to do or what not to do. It’s just giving you perspective."
Related: Here's why American's new Loyalty Points system is a game-changer for me
What does American Airlines say?
Memon said he tested the app extensively, working with both his development team and other American Airlines AAdvantage loyalists to root out kinks and bugs and verify its accuracy.
A lot of this, though, was based off information the airline has shared online, albeit often in fairly dense and often fine print.
“Everything is based upon what is already publicly available on the American Airlines website,” Memon said. He even showed the program to some American Airlines officials and got some feedback in an attempt to achieve peak accuracy.
We should note here that the app is not an official American Airlines product, and the airline has not endorsed the site.
TPG did reach out to airline officials looking to get their take on the site, though.
So far, the carrier has not responded.
Not looking for money or personal information
As you can see, a lot of time and effort went into building this site. Yet Memon made it clear he has no plans to add advertisements, collect personal information or attempt to make money off of the app.
Clearly, this was a fairly significant endeavor — especially for a flyer with 2 million-plus AAdvantage miles flown and lifetime peak status whether he ever steps on another plane or not.
Sitting in his Tucson, Arizona, home after recently returning from his latest international trip to Dubai, Memon said that this was really just a passion project. However, it's one he hopes will help other consumers make good decisions.
“This is a hobby,” he said. “And it’s free to everyone.”
Perspective is key when making decisions — and, as Memon himself pointed out, that’s what this app can give you. It’s not airline-endorsed and shouldn’t be treated as such. However, it does give you a tool to learn more about how the AAdvantage program’s new Loyalty Points system works, as well as how you might maximize it to your own benefit.