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American Airlines AAdvantage devalues sharply – how are flights from the UK impacted?

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American Airlines announced a sharp devaluation of the AAdvantage loyalty programme on Tuesday evening.  We knew it was coming, as the merger of American and US Airways is now completed.  What was disappointing is that it contained very little original thinking.

The important thing to note is that the changes to the spending chart do not come into effect until 22nd March 2016.  In terms of booking redemptions, you would be able to book until February 2017 at the old rates if you could commit 11 months in advance.

American Airlines

Earning miles and status

This is not hugely relevant to the UK market as not many HFP readers choose to earn status with AA rather than BA.  You can get a more detailed analysis on some of the US sites such as View from the Wing here.

About 18 months ago, Delta Air Lines decided on a fairly random way of running a revenue-based frequent flyer scheme.  Instead of awarding miles based on distance, it decided to award 5, 7, 8 or 11 miles per $1 spent on their own flights, depending on your status with the airline.

I’m sure there was some logic behind these numbers but it wasn’t based on any great mathematical formula. (Why not 5, 7, 9 or 11?!) Despite this, United and now American have slavishly copied the exact same structure.  It is a bit pathetic.

Miles earned on partner flights, such as British Airways flights credited to American, continue to accrue on the old basis of distance flown multiplied by a cabin bonus.

The changes above will only start in ‘late 2016’.

In terms of earning status, American has gone for something similar.  ‘Elite Qualifying Miles’ for flights marketed by AA will accrue at the following rates:

Gold (BA Bronze) requires 25,000 EQM’s.  Platinum (BA Silver) requires 50,000 EQM’s and Executive Platinum (BA Gold) requires 100,000 EQM’s.

The changes to earning status points based on spend will start on 1st January.

If you are crediting British Airways flights with a non-AA flight number to American, you continue to earn EQM’s based on distance flown.  You will earn 1.5 EQM per mile for any flight in World Traveller Plus or above and 0.5 to 1 EQM per mile for World Traveller.  When flying to North America, you would need to see (based on ticket price and class of service) whether you should buy a ticket with a BA or an AA flight number!

American Airlines

Redemption prices increased sharply

If you are redeeming American Airlines miles for flights from the UK, you are more likely to have obtained some or all of your miles from the AA credit card or via a transfer from, say, Starwood Preferred Guest.

You may even have focussed on buying all of the AA miles you needed as that was cost effective in many cases if there was a good bonus promotion running.

Here is the new reward chart for flights on AA planes.

Here is the new reward chart for partner airlines, which includes BA and Etihad.

Remember that this only applies to flights booked after 22nd March.

It isn’t pretty.  There has been very little movement on economy redemptions.  Business Class has taken a hit.  First Class has taken a complete beating.

Let’s take London to Abu Dhabi on Etihad (or BA, but you’d be mad to choose BA given the fuel surcharges) as an example.  This used to cost:

  • 40,000 miles return in Economy
  • 60,000 miles return in Business
  • 80,000 miles return in First

This was a great deal even before the April 2015 Avios changes.  Since April it has been even better as Avios pricing went up to 100,000 – 120,000 points for BA Club World return.  From March, AA will charge the following:

  • 40,000 miles return in Economy
  • 85,000 miles return in Business  (up 41%)
  • 125,000 miles return in First (up 56%)

Yes, it is a big hit.  It is still a far better deal than redeeming Avios, however, unless you have a British Airways 2-4-1 voucher to use.  Of course, it isn’t that simple for most of us since earning AA miles for a UK resident is a lot, lot harder.

Another amazing deal was from the UK to Australia.  This used to cost:

  • 90,000 miles return in Economy
  • 120,000 miles return in Business
  • 160,000 miles return in First

From March it will cost:

  • 120,000 miles return in Economy
  • 170,000 miles return in Business (up 41%)
  • 230,000 miles return in First (up 44%)

Again, a big increase.  Again, it is still far fewer miles than an equivalent Avios redemption (100,000 in Economy; 300,000 in Club World; 400,000 in First – plus the fuel surcharges).

If you want to take a look at other routes, the links above bring up the relevant award charts and there is a link in each chart to the current pricing.

All in all, it is disappointing but not too surprising.  There are still reasons to credit your flights to AA, especially if you are a business traveller who is regularly on fully flexible business class tickets and earns the bulk of his/her miles from flying.  The redemption chart remains cheaper than the BA one in many instances and – except for BA redemptions – you won’t be paying any fuel surcharges.


How to earn American Airlines miles from UK credit cards

How to earn American Airlines miles from UK credit cards (February 2024)

American Airlines no longer has its own UK credit card.

There is, however, still a way to earn American Airlines miles from a UK credit card

The route is via Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott Bonvoy hotel loyalty points convert to American Airlines miles at the rate of 3:1.

The best way to earn Marriott Bonvoy points is via the official Marriott Bonvoy American Express card. It comes with 20,000 points for signing up and 2 points for every £1 you spend. At 2 Bonvoy points per £1, you are earning (at 3:1) 0.66 American Airlines miles per £1 spent on the card.

You can apply here.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

20,000 points sign-up bonus and 15 elite night credits each year Read our full review

Comments (33)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ben says:

    As a Middle East to Europe traveler this will hit me hard. The whole reason I started collecting AA was because the redemption was far less than Qatar Airways. Now its only 500 miles less than QA!

  • Jonny says:

    We’ve (2 adults, 1 child, 1 infant-turned-child) only just started gathering AA miles as we jumped on the LinkedIn status challenge and with one PE flight to Asia we’re now all platinum – I should get Exp Plat when I do a short EU flight in December.
    The status is handy, trouble is it means we are now 4 pax with 30, 20, 20 + 0 miles to our name and I’m not quite sure how best to make use of them. Possibly a holiday milage run to South America using our SWUs, and try to earn enough to get a biz return to India or Africa (with a small purchase on top) before March? Seems a bit rushed tho, hadn’t planned to go anywhere until at least april next year!

  • Rad says:

    Raffles, not sure if what you’re saying above about hitting status is correct. Isn’t AA Gold only equivalent to BA Bronze, not Silver (in other words it’s OW Ruby), and similarly AA Platinum is only BA Silver (or OW Sapphire), not BA Gold, which makes the calculations above incorrect?

  • JQ says:

    Agree the 5 / 7 / 8 / 11 thing is funny/pathetic.

    I bet BA’s earning will be 2.5 / 3.5 / 4 (/ 5.5) per £ (not $) by 2025.

  • Mycity68 says:

    Must admit the increase from 50k to 57.5k for flights across the Atlantic in Business on AA is a lower increase than I had feared.

    • Ralphy says:

      Agreed, a 15 per cent increase in business to Hawaii, round trip, from 100,000 to 115,000 is not too bad

      • Brendan says:

        Think again. Hawaii has a separate entry on the award chart, different to the 48 contiguous states. It’s now 70k miles each way as a sAAver award. Also the off peak economy award from Europe to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico have been removed. The cheapest award to Hawaii is now 40k each way in economy.

  • Atlantico says:

    What will happen to award bookings changed after March 23rd? Date change, will it remain on old rates or new rates will apply? With BA changes at least old rates remained valid.

  • Sebastian says:

    I still maintain that the changes are reasonable and in many ways, in redemption terms, people could’ve expected worse. The problem with AA was that it was ludicrously overvalued. I mean come on, with the current chart you can get a return flight to Oz in first for 160k points, with no tax! while with the new one it’ll be 230,000 with no tax, which still beats BA by a country mile. Also, a flight from LON to LAX is now 115k return no tax compare to 100k return no tax, still excellent value when you compare it to BA. On top of this it needs to be remembered that in the states points can be gained incredibly easy as it’s quite common to see 50k-100k points sign ups so the majority of Americans are still going to fly for a lot less and much more easily than anyone else can.

    • Bobby says:

      No tax? I was just pricing up a o/w to oz in first on Etihad and it was coming in at just under £400 each?

      • Jovan says:

        I think he meant no fuel surcharge [that BA charges]. Majority of that tax will be UK APD on the departures from the UK. Start the trip in DUB and it will drop down significantly.

      • pauldb says:

        Also unless they’ve loosen the routing restrictions, Oz via AUH is priced as 2 awards, 62.5k+100k e/w F.

    • james says:

      I agree the changes are disappointing but largely fair. Of course those of us in the EU who don’t have access to the massive sign up bonuses that they do in the US will find it rather difficult to collect the revised mileage. The excellent value to be had from simply buying miles to redeem for first on etihad & cathay has been killed.

  • RIccati says:

    I move the question here,

    If AA wants to stop rewarding cheap Economy flights, but with the other hand regularly sells long-haul flights for several hundreds USD — what are they trying to achieve? Clearly if a flight is available for $300-400 for months, the capacity is not taken up.

    If those cheap Economy flights will stop being attractive to mileage runners… then who will take those seats?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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