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A timeline of AAdvantage changes happening in 2016 and 2017

by on Mon June 6, 2016 • 4 Comments

American AAdvantage

American Airlines filled in the details of many changes it’s making to the AAdvantage program, which it originally announced back in November.

There aren’t a lot of surprises here – it’s a tougher road if you’re not a big spender – and things are pretty close to what Delta and United have adopted over the last two years. Below is a rundown of the exact timing of the changes and what they mean for you.

But first, a quick summary.

For everyone…

  • Flights flown August 1, 2016 and later on tickets that have American Airlines flight numbers will earn miles based on how much you spend, instead of how far you fly. Cheap tickets will earn a lot fewer miles than they do today, especially for longer flights. More expensive tickets could earn more miles than today.

For elite members…

  • How you earn AAdvantage elite status and other elite changes will begin January 1, 2017 and beyond.
  • How you qualify for AAdvantage elite status isn’t changing in 2016 – you’ll still be able to reach elite status the way you are used to for flights flown this year, granting you status benefits through early 2018.

Some key terms to know if you’re hoping to earn elite status…you’ll see them referenced often...

  • Award miles: These are miles you earn that can be used to book AAdvantage award tickets. They have nothing to do with elite status.
  • Elite qualifying miles (EQM): These are miles tracked in your account that help qualify you for AAdvantage elite status.
  • Elite qualifying segments (EQS): These are the total number of individual flight segments you take, which can help qualify you for AAdvantage elite status if you tend to take shorter flights.
  • Elite qualifying dollars (EQD): This is a tracking of how many dollars you spend on flights that helps determine whether you will earn AAdvantage elite status. In 2017 this is a new requirement to earn elite status on top of qualifying miles or segments.

August 1, 2016: Earning award miles changes

American Airlines marketed flights will earn award miles based on how much you pay, not how far you fly.

Here’s the earning for award miles:

  • General members: 5x airfare + carrier surcharges
  • Gold: 7x airfare + carrier surcharges
  • Platinum: 8x airfare + carrier surcharges
  • Executive Platinum: 11x airfare + carrier surcharges

So, a trip to London that costs $1,439, including $752 in airfare, $458 in carrier fees, and $229 in taxes / airport fees, will earn based on the $752 in airfare + $458 in carrier fees, or $1,210.

A general member will earn 5x $1,210, or 6,050 miles for the trip, while an Executive Platinum member will earn 13,310 miles.

What’s an American Airlines marketed flight? 

It’s a flight with an American Airlines flight number. That can be on American, or on a codeshare partner like British Airways that you buy with an American Airlines flight number. Just about every ticket you buy on has an American Airlines flight number.

Flights on American partners that don’t have American Airlines flight numbers will earn award miles based on how far you fly.

For example, if you buy a British Airways ticket from the British Airways website, or an Alaska flight from Alaska Airlines, it won’t have an American Airlines flight number. Sometimes these tickets will have American Airlines flights in them if you have a connection.

However, the number of miles you earn for cheaper fares will be reduced. American will announce those earning rates by July 15. For example, you might earn only 50% of the miles flown for some fares. Don’t expect a lot of lucrative loopholes with this method of earning miles. It will be less than before for many tickets.

  • Also, flights bought as a package via American Airlines Vacations will earn based on how far you fly, since the price of the ticket is bundled with the hotel price.

There will no longer be a 500 award mile minimum for short flights.

Since award miles are earned based on how far you fly, the old minimum of 500 miles earned for short flights flown by AAdvantage elite members isn’t valid anymore.

January 1, 2017: How you earn elite status changes

You will need to both fly enough AND meet the new hurdle of spending enough on tickets to re-qualify for elite status. That status will be good through 2018 and early 2019.

  • Gold: 25,000 EQMs or 30 segments AND $3,000 EQDs
  • Platinum: 50,000 EQMs or 60 segments AND $6,000 EQDs
  • Platinum Pro: 75,000 EQMs or 90 segments AND $9,000 EQDs
  • Executive Platinum: 100,000 EQMs or 120 segments AND $12,000 EQDs

Remember, there is no change to how you qualify for status during 2016, and the status you earn in 2016 year will be valid until early 2018.

  • Flights marketed by American Airlines (flights that have an AA flight number) will earn based how much you pay for airfare plus any carrier fees, like the surcharges on flights to Europe. Basically, what you earn will be pretty close to the sticker price of what you pay.
  • Flights marketed by oneWorld partners or Alaska Airlines (no AA flight number) will earn based on a percentage of how far you fly. Don’t expect many loopholes here – they will make sure cheaper fare classes earn a lot less. This earning will be disclosed by July 15.
  • Elite qualifying miles (EQMs) will still be earned based on how far you fly, with bonuses for business and first class. But you will need to meet the EQD requirement on top of that.

You can also start qualifying for a new level of elite status, Platinum Pro

Platinum Pro requires 75,000 EQMs or 90 segments AND $9,000 EQDs earned after January 1, 2017. Activity in 2016 does NOT count toward Platinum Pro.

This level earns you higher upgrade priority than Platinum, and complimentary upgrades on flights in North America and between the U.S. and Central America. No more 500 mile upgrade certificates are needed for those flights, matching the Executive Platinum level benefit.

Later in 2017

Several changes have no specific date yet, but will happen sometime in 2017:

EQDs part of upgrade priority: Upgrades will be prioritized by elite level and then within your elite level, your 12 month rolling EQD total. The time you buy your ticket is no longer the main priority. So if you are a Platinum member, you will be behind Platinum Pro members, and then any Platinum members with a higher EQD total than you.

Award tickets upgradable for Executive Platinum: You’ll be eligible for complimentary upgrades on award tickets with the same rules as for paid tickets, so flights within North America and to Central America may get complimentary upgrades starting at the normal 100 hour window.

No date set

Earning EQDs via credit card spend: AAdvantage hasn’t committed to whether you can earn EQDs or get a waiver of EQD requirements via credit card spending. Currently the Citi Executive AAdvantage and Aviator Silver card from Barclays let you earn elite qualifying *miles* via spending. But with the new EQD requirement starting January 1, that will become a lot less useful on its own.

Delta currently waives all EQD requirements when you spend $25,000 or more a year on a Delta SkyMiles Amex. And United waives it up to Premier Platinum for holders of the Presidential Plus credit card (though that card isn’t open to new applicants).

If there’s one change where your input matters, it’s probably this one. So if you hold an Executive AAdvantage or Aviator Silver card, and are concerned about being able to meet EQD requirements, make your case known to both American and your bank. The more they hear, the more they might consider allowing some sort of waiver.


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4 thoughts on A timeline of AAdvantage changes happening in 2016 and 2017

  1. Konrad

    I believe that with the introduction of EQD, EQM are not based on ticket price anymore but on actual miles flown with a multiplier for the type of fare (pre Aug 2916). Award miles however are still based on ticket price.

  2. mre5765

    Excellent summary. I did not know about domestic economy awards getting comp upgrades.

    BTW, I am pretty sure UA waives PQD for $25K spend on any Chase UA card up to and including Plat. I am pretty sure UA waived PQD for holders of the Presidential Platinum card regardless of spend up to and including Plat. So while your statements on the UA PQD waiver were true, they were incomplete.


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