American Airlines First Class Avios redemptions to get cheaper but tier points cut

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For people who look to earn British Airways status via a tier point run – booking a specific flight primarily because of the number of tier points earned – it seems like the biggest gravy train is pulling out of the station.

Two class American Airlines domestic flights in the USA are sold as ‘First’ and ‘Economy’.  More importantly, the premium seats are coded as First Class.

(EDIT: article amended as F is 4x and not 3x. I was still living in a pre-devaluation world!)

This has two consequences, one good and one bad:

Avios redemptions on AA which book into two-class domestic First Class require 4x the standard number of Avios, which makes them ludicrously expensive compared to what you get (see the photo below of A321 First Class seats)

Cash tickets booked on AA in domestic two-class First Class earn First Class tier points.  This means that flights under 2000 miles earn 60 tier points whilst flights over 2000 miles earn 210 tier points.  A dedicated tier point runner could construct an itinerary via numerous 2000+ miles segments to maximise the tier points earned.  Note that such tickets must be booked with an AA flight number and NOT a BA codeshare flight number for this to work – BA codeshare bookings earn Business Class tier points.

From 12th November, for travel after 12th January, AA is changing the way it tickets First Class flights on two class aircraft.


Whilst the front cabin will still be called First Class, tickets will book into J, D, I or R fare classes.  These are all business class fare buckets.

This should mean:

You will only need to pay 2x rather than 4x the economy Avios price to fly up front

You will only earn 40 or 140 tier points, depending on distance, on cash tickets

There will be no changes to how international flights or three-class AA domestic flights are ticketed.

You can find more information in this Flyertalk thread with the information quoted above shown, via an internal AA menu, in post 254.

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  1. Literally the worst news a tier point runner could want!

    • Very bad news indeed.

    • Indeed, been following this on FT 🙁 Of course realistically I might just not bother going for renewing Gold in the future given all the cuts to BA services and if this has made it more difficult to achieve it might just help in that decision-making process…

  2. And another loophole closes.

    Do we know if this was being abused which is why AA changed the rules?

    • No it is related to AA’s introduction of a true ‘Premium Economy’ product (rather than ‘main cabin extra’ which is economy service with more leg room) and the fare codes needing realignment.

  3. “You will only need to pay 2x rather than 3x the economy Avios price to fly up front”
    First class is 4x economy, surely you’d need to pay 3x the economy Avios if it is classified as business class.

  4. Matt is correct about the current x4 for First…

  5. Genghis says:

    Internal AA memo, perhaps?

  6. “Avios redemptions on AA which book into two-class domestic First Class require 3x the standard number of Avios”
    You might want to double check that. Using BA avios booking on AA, currently the shortest domestic sector is 7500 in Y, and 30,000 in F. The former is a bit of a bargain – especially with the $5 in taxes, and I use them often. The latter not so much.

  7. Unless it’s happened overnight, as yet there has been no confirmation from BA about how this will effect TP’s – so saying they will be cut is pure speculation.

    While the fare code is changing, the cabin code isn’t so a 2-Class F booking will be passed as F/J – F/I. And we know that different partner airlines have different earning rates for their codes (nothing in MH’s I class for example)

    While I expect BA to cut this earning, let’s wait for an announcement first before sending in the baying mob

    • Similar thoughts also on the FT thread. There’s a small glimmer of hope that this won’t impact BAEC due to the booking class staying the same.

      • BA IT is usually useless, but sadly in these sort of situations they seem to manage to get it to do what they want. I just can’t see it offering 210TP but only costing business class Avios to redeem.

  8. I have to say that I think it’s very bad form (maybe even unethical/illegal?) of AA to market a product as one thing but to reward it as another. It would be better if they sold 2 class domestic cabins as Business and Economy and rewarding as such.

    Mutton dressed up as lamb comes to mind…

  9. So if flights for say March are booked before the end of the month, the old TP structure will still apply?

    • According to the FT thread, any flights after 12 January, even if booked before 12 November will be adjusted to business rates.

      • As above, the thread is pure speculation – nothing has been announced about earning/redeeming rates

        • gumshoe says:

          Even if BA does reduce TPs, as many expect it to, surely it would have to honour the current TP levels for bookings made before the announcement for flights after January 11th?

          Arbitrarily taking away something you’ve paid for is, after all, normally frowned on by the courts, trading standards etc.

        • It is based on an internal AA memo and will credit whatever fare code it sees.

          • gumshoe says:

            That may be so but if I’ve paid for a First Class flight on the basis that it earns me 210 tier points, I expect to receive 210 tier points.

            If, thanks to AA deciding to arbitrarily move my booking to another fare code, BA only gives me 140 tier points, I am not getting what I paid for and was promised when I booked.

            If BA are compensating passengers for the withdrawal of free food & drink on short haul, I’d expect them to do the same here.

          • It has nothing to do with BA, the changes are made by AA. If your ticket had already been issued with a fare code you will get the same amount of points as expected.

  10. Tina Hammond says:

    Dreadful news. It would be interesting to learn where else in the world this quirk still exists, ie within Arabia, but with larger distances!

    • I remember the good old days of the BA Fifth Freedom flights between BAH-DOH and AUH-MCT where you would earn full First TP on these very short flights. BA reduced the TPs a few years ago.

  11. sprout7 says:

    Could someone point me in the direction of the FT thread where this is being discussed? thx

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