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When does American’s new 2015 First / Business Class bonus earning win?

by on Mon December 15, 2014 • No Comment

Today American AAdvantage announced it would add bonus miles to many First / Business Class fares.

Basically, if you are an elite member of AAdvantage you’ll earn more miles whenever you buy any First or Business Class fare.

While if you’re not an elite member you’ll earn more miles if you buy ‘full fare’ First or Business Class tickets.

It’s not the most straightforward system, but it’s designed to counter United and Delta’s new 2015 earning which is based entirely on the dollars you pay for a ticket rather than miles flown. With United and Delta base members earn 5x miles on each dollar of airfare (not including taxes), while top tier elites earn 11x miles on each dollar.

With American, miles in 2015 will be earned earned by

  • The number of miles flown
  • A 50% bonus for being in First or Business Class
  • A bonus of up to 100% of miles flown for being an Elite member
  • A new 2015 bonus of 250 – 12,000 miles each way for buying First / Business Class fares

It all gets complicated very quickly. So to help you understand where you shake out we’ve put the tables below together. They show how many miles you’ll earn for First / Business Class fares in 2015 with American AAdvantage. The far right column shows the airfare you’d need on Delta or United to earn as many or more miles than AAdvantage for that trip.


What stands out…

  • For the most part, international Business / First Class fares earn many more miles with Delta and United than American when you sample typical fares.
  • For example New York to Paris will earn a top tier elite 21,088 miles with American on a full fare, and a fare of $1,917 one way will eclipse it with United and Delta. Full fare Business Class often costs more than $3,000 on this route.
  • Really, really long flights like New York – Sydney are tougher to call. American sells a $9,000 roundtrip fare that books into ‘I’ class, which counts as ‘discounted’ Business Class, so you’ll only earn 28,408 miles each way, or 56,816 miles roundtrip as a top tier elite. That same fare on Delta and United earns a top tier elite 75,000 miles, the maximum Delta and United allow for a single roundtrip. Not many people would call $9,000 roundtrip a ‘discounted’ fare, but it is.
  • Shorter haul flights (sub 1000 miles) tend to be more lucrative with Delta and United’s program. For example Chicago to New York only needs a $258 fare one way to beat American.
  • Mid haul flights like New York to Los Angeles or Chicago to Los Angeles are generally winners under American’s program. You  need a $1,653 full fare ticket one way to break even on New York to Los Angeles, which is basically the most expensive fare. But if you are flying on a discounted ‘I’ fare anything above $881 will do better on United and Delta. These fares are often around $999 or so.

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But airfares and the fare codes they are assigned are constantly changing, so if you are a heavy spending flier there is plenty of math to do next year.

You’ll still generally earn less on the big fares with American, but not nearly as much less as before this change.

And if you almost always fly the lowest coach fare, and only occasionally fly Business or First Class for international trips, American AAdvantage will probably be the program that’s most lucrative for you.

Unfortunately we think this higher earning for First / Business Class fares is testing the waters of earning miles based on the fare you pay on American sometime in 2016 or beyond.

But we are hopeful they can find a program that is more commercially viable than Delta or United’s without going that direction, and keeping earning for cheaper fares intact.


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