Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Tue June 14 2016

Frequent Fliers Unhappy, But AAdvantage Changes Were Inevitable

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Josh Lew | June 14, 2016

Frequent Fliers Unhappy, But AAdvantage Changes Were Inevitable

American Airlines has announced significant changes to its AAdvantage loyalty program. The new practices will take effect on Aug. 1, but some fliers are already complaining about the changes.

From miles to dollars

Basically, the airline will stop awarding points based on the amount of miles flown. Instead, reward points will be figured out by how many dollars a traveler spends with the airline.

On one hand, this is a more straightforward approach to rewarding loyal fliers. Those who spend more will end up getting more in return. For many savvy miles collectors, however, the change is bad news. Those travelers who were able to find cheaper flights with American were able to get the full amount of miles for their trip. So they were able to earn miles cheaply and get better value than they would on airlines like JetBlue, which figures rewards points based on dollars spent, not miles flown.

READ MORE: American Airlines Making Major Frequent Flyer Program Changes

Fliers not happy

Some fliers feel that this new way of rewarding points is unfair because it penalizes people who are able to seek out good deals.  

The most upset group is AAdvantage’s elite fliers. They will now have to spend $3,000 (Gold) to $12,000 (Executive Platinum) annually in order to qualify for elite status, and they will have to spend more in order to get the best dollars-spent-to-points-awarded ratio. On the low end of the spectrum, Gold members will earn five points per dollar. Executive Platinum members, meanwhile, will earn 11 points per dollar.

An unpopular but expected move

It is not surprising that American Airlines made this move. Both other legacy carriers have made similar changes already and most low cost carriers also operate under a similar model. Of all major US carriers, only Alaska Airlines has kept a traditional miles-based loyalty program.

READ MORE: The 2016 ‘Freddie Awards’ Reveal High-Flying Loyalty Programs

American is losing one of its strengths 

That said, AAdvantage was one of the better aspects of American, which has struggled mightily with customer service recently. Last month, AAdvantage was named the best loyalty program at the annual Freddie Awards, which celebrate the best loyalty programs for both hotels and airlines. So the Aug. 1 change will affect one of the only things that has gone right for American in recent times.

Nonetheless, the change was to be expected since both Delta and United have announced similar moves. American’s frequent flier members might not be happy, but the writing was certainly on the proverbial wall. This change was pretty much inevitable.  

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