American Airlines

2016 American Airlines AAdvantage Changes: The Good and The Bad

It wasn’t enough that Marriott had to devastate pretty much everyone by announcing its takeover of Starwood. Now American has decided to kick us while we’re down by announcing their 2016 AAdvantage award program changes, which will go into effect on March 22, 2016. I’m not going to bore you with the details about elite qualification and benefits. Plenty of other bloggers will offer more insightful commentary on that front. Instead, I’m going to hone in on the award chart changes, which most of us have been dreading since the merger. The good news is they’re on par with United’s rates, which is to say it’s not entirely terrible. Plus, we have four months before the changes go into effect. That’s plenty of time to book some of the awards that are increasing. 

American Airlines plane

The negative changes are numerous. Those 55,000 mile business class tickets I booked to Asia this past summer are increasing to 75,000 miles each way, which is more than the current cost of a first class ticket! First class is going up from 62,500 to 80,000 miles. Asia 2 and the South Pacific are seeing the most significant increase in first class redemption rates. Asia 2 is going from 67,500 to 110,000 miles one-way, while awards to the South Pacific are increasing from 72,500 to 110,000 miles one-way. Other negative changes include increases in off-peak awards to Europe and the discontinuation of off-peak economy awards to South America 2.

It’s not entirely bad, however, with a few positive changes being made to the AAdvantage award chart:

  • The addition of short-haul flights within the U.S. and Canada under 500 miles.
  • Off-peak economy class awards to Central America decreasing from 15,000 to 12,500 miles one-way.
  • Saver economy class awards to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean decreasing from 17,500 miles to 15,000 miles one-way.
  • Business class awards to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean decreasing from 30,000 to 25,000 miles one-way.
  • Economy Class awards to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent decreasing from 45,000 to 40,000 miles one-way.

DestinationOff-Peak EconomyEconomyBusinessFirst
Contiguous 48 U.S. states -12,50025,00050,000
Contiguous 48 U.S. states & Canada (≤ 500 miles)^-7,50015,000-
Canada & Alaska-15,00030,00055,000
Central America12,50015,00025,00050,000
South America Region 117,50020,00030,00055,000
South America Region 2-30,00057,00085,000
Middle East/Indian Subcontinent-40,00070,000115,000
Asia Region 132,50035,00060,00080,000
Asia Region 232,50037,50075,000110,000
South Pacific-40,00080,000110,000

The negative changes are pretty awful. Thankfully Alaska Airlines hasn’t announced a massive devaluation (yet) and can act as a great replacement. Alaska partners with Cathay Pacific, so if you want to experience their first or business class product and won’t be able to earn enough points to redeem the award before the devaluation next year, you can still redeem just 50,000 Alaska miles one-way for the same award – plus you get a free stopover each way. Things are headed south with reward programs in general, but we just have to keep adapting, diversifying our point portfolios, and switching loyalty programs when necessary.

What are your thoughts on the 2016 AAdvantage program changes? 

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  1. It’s all rather discouraging for a newbie just getting started & hoping to swing a trip to Europe next year. 🙁

    • Don’t be discouraged! There are ways. Keep reading and ask questions. Do some research on British Airways Avios and getting to Europe via Boston/Dublin, etc on partner airlines. If you are on the East coast, easy. If on West Coast you can use your AA miles to fly to the East Coast first. No changes to the chart there.

      BTW, even though I haven’t done the East Coast Dublin route, I’ve learned by keeping current and reading the blogs. Make it a daily hobby/habit and bookmark the sites.

      • My reading so far tells me that BA imposes rather large fuel surcharges. We were really hoping to go on AA or United, & yes this would be from the West coast. I’ve never flown first or even business class, but would sure rather NOT fly coach to Europe! So those are some of the reasons I’m discouraged today.

    • Almost nothing has changed if you fly to Europe in coach class. The biggest difference is peak/off-peak dates.

  2. It’s not so bad if you’re okay flying economy to Europe. The biggest change with economy to Europe is the change of peak travel dates. It seems most people affected are those who like flying in first or business class. Fortunately I’ve already got a business flight booked for next spring to Hong Kong and Japan. But in reality I’m glad to be able to fly anywhere for free and I always go coach to Europe.

  3. What hurts is the change not so much in miles needed, but the new definition of off peak Europe. I loved that October flying to Europe. However, like someone said above there is the getting to Dublin with Avios futon NYC/Boston which on Aer Lingus BC was an excellent ride. The Asia 2 sting hurts but it just seems in line with the other airlines.

  4. For months, people have been speculating on blogs and forums about a possible AAdvantage devaluation coming. Do you think that discussion of it made the devaluation more likely to occur? I wonder if the airline executives saw many AAdvantage members expect a devaluation, and it prompted them to follow through with it.

    • Not at all. This was bound to happen not only because less competition means they can devalue without major repercussions, but also because they had to catch up to United and Delta’s award levels at some point. This is just AA following industry trends.

  5. Frugaltraveller

    Oh no… I’ve been saving my miles to redeem a business/first class round trip ticket from NYC to Sydney with AA during January 2017. I currently have 100,000 miles and I just sign up for the SPG card to transfer their bonus to AA… I hope I can find this ticket before March. But then again, the date range won’t be available until February or March… Do you think since they are increasing the amount that there will be more first and business class available? It’s already hard finding business/first class for Australia in the first place…

    • I honestly don’t know, but I would recommend searching off-peak travel dates (summer and anything other than December). If you can’t find Qantas space, check Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and Japan Airlines via Tokyo Narita.

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