Location: HomeAmerican Airlines recently announced changes to the way that their AAdvantage program will work in the second half of 2016. As a frequent flyer on American, I have been worried for a while about this type of change. I wanted to better understand how the changes will affect me, so I ran some numbers.
This analysis will focus on earned miles and status. Later on I may write another analysis based on changes to awards travel.
Summary of Impact on MeThe impact on me is somewhat negative, but not too bad. Here is my projection of the impact based on a full year of the new rules.
- Qualification for Elite Status: no change
- Systemwide Upgrades: loss of 2-4
- Awards Miles Earned: 22% less
My Travel ProfileThe changes will affect different travelers in different ways, so it would be good to understand my travel profile.
- Consistent (2012-2016) Executive Platinum (EP) traveler.
- My trips are typically planned in advance, so my tickets are usually discounted.
- I do not buy First or Business Class tickets. I occasionally buy premium coach for international flights on carriers that have that option.
- 30 itineraries booked
- 25 booked on AA, which includes US Airways and code share flights
- 5 booked on OneWorld partners
- 17 domestic
- 13 international
- 87 segments
- 150,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) earned
- 1730 miles/segment average
- 389,863 total award miles earned
- 304,588 award miles earned from flights only (excluding hotels, misc. bonuses, etc.)
Elite QualificationI tend to fly relatively long segments, so I qualify on miles rather than segments or the now disappearing points.
Net change for me: None.
Systemwide UpgradesOne of the big benefits of qualifying for EP status is the 8 systemwide upgrades granted per year. These are good for all the segments of one part of a journey, including international flights. They can also be used for others, so they are very valuable.
In the new plan, EPs will earn 4 systemwide upgrades at the 100,000 EQM level, with the opportunity to earn 2 more at the 150,000 EQM level and a final 2 more at 200,000 EQMs.
In 2015 I will earn 150,000 EQMs, which means a total of 6 systemwide upgrades.
In 2012-2014 I earned 101,000 to 129,000 EQMs, which would be 4 systemwide upgrades.
Net change for me: Loss of 2 to 4 systemwide upgrades
Award MilesThis is the area of biggest change. In the past EPs earned awards miles equal to the twice the actual distance traveled. AA is now moving to a plan where the award miles earned depend on the amount paid for the ticket. At the EP level this amounts to 11 miles per dollar spent.
Here are some examples of the current rules versus the new rules.
|Itinerary||2015 Rules||2016 Rules||Notes|
miles in 2016
miles in 2016
I wanted to get a better view of the total effect of the changes over the course of a year. I did an analysis based on my 2015 travel and spending. The monthly breakdown is shown in the table below.
- The award miles earned in 2016 will be based on spending for airfare and carrier-imposed fees. It does not include taxes. This makes the calculation tricky because AA does not always break out the taxes separately, especially for international travel. Based on some quick research, I used 15% as an estimate of the taxes for where the taxes were not specified. Note that this figure has a big impact on earned miles.
- AA has not yet specified the formula for award miles on OneWorld partner airlines. For this analysis I used the same formula as for flights on AA.
|February||24,079||13,423||Long discount flights will earn a lot less miles|
|April||2,000||0||I assigned the award miles for the initial flight|
|November||51,886||48,672||Long international flights on Cathay and BA in premium coach|
|December||47,324||13,903||Long international discount flights on AA|
|Total||304,588||236,273||68,315 fewer award miles or 22% less in 2016|
Net change for me: 68,315 fewer award miles, or a 22% reduction
Note that February, May and December accounted for 80% of the awards mileage reduction. These months included long trips bought at a low fare.