American Airlines’ AAdvantage program is introducing major changes in 2016 that will affect how members achieve elite status and accrue awards for free flights. The new structure aligns the program more closely with similar programs offered by Delta and United.
Here’s what’s changing:
Qualifying structure for elite status
AAdvantage program members traditionally have earned elite status by accumulating three things: elite-qualifying points, elite-qualifying miles or elite-qualifying segments. For 2016, American Airlines has eliminated EQPs, meaning you can earn elite status only with EQMs or EQSs. Status thresholds remain the same for EQMs and EQSs:
- Gold status: 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs
- Platinum status: 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs
- Executive Platinum status: 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs
Earning EQMs and EQSs
Although EQPs are going away, the rate at which you can earn EQMs has been altered to partially make up the difference.
The old system awarded AAdvantage members 0.5 to 1.5 EQPs per mile flown depending on ticket class (first class, business class, full-fare economy and two tiers of discount economy), plus 1 EQM per mile regardless of class. Now the points and miles have essentially merged, leaving only EQMs, which are earned in new tiers based on ticket class. AAdvantage’s new qualifying structure on American-marketed flights:
- Full-fare first or business class: 3 EQMs per mile flown
- Discount first or business class: 2 EQMs per mile flown
- Full-fare economy: 1.5 EQMs per mile flown
- Discount economy: 1 EQM per mile flown
Eliminating EQPs may actually work in some customers’ favor — not just because it simplifies the calculation a bit, but also because it’s actually easier now for those who book the least expensive flights to earn status.
Nerd note: AAdvantage members earn EQMs on American Airlines and American Eagle flights, as well as flights on OneWorld alliance and code-share partners. Earnings may vary on partner airlines. Check AAdvantage’s membership terms and conditions for up-to-date earnings information on each specific carrier.
The rules for earning EQSs remain the same: AAdvantage members earn 1 EQS for each flight segment. Each leg of a journey designated by a different flight number counts as one segment.
Award miles for free flights
Starting in the second half of 2016, American will also be changing how AAdvantage members earn awards miles, the currency used to qualify for free flights. American is moving to a revenue-based model, meaning that the number of awards miles earned from a flight is directly tied to the price of the ticket and any elite status you may have, rather than to the distance flown.
AAdvantage’s new award miles structure:
- AAdvantage members: 5 miles per dollar
- Gold members: 7 miles per dollar
- Platinum members: 8 miles per dollar
- Executive Platinum members: 11 miles per dollar
Ultimately, whether the changes benefit you depends on a combination of how much you spend on flights, what class you typically book and what routes you take. If you tend to rack up awards on longer-haul but lower-priced routes, for instance, you might not earn miles as quickly as you’re accustomed to. For more on how this change could affect you, cross-reference your flying behavior with the program details laid out at the AAdvantage site.
Looking for a credit card that earns AAdvantage rewards? Check out NerdWallet’s AAdvantage program review.
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