American Airlines has announced a major devaluation of its popular AAdvantage frequent flyer program. Among other things, Australian travellers will be most affected by the increased rates for redeeming miles on flights.

But the changes go further. American is changing the way members can qualify for elite status, as well as removing some benefits from its most frequent flyers. The way in which points are earned for flights will also change. Miles earned for American Airlines flights will soon be determined by the cost of the ticket, rather than the distance flown. Miles earned for flights on partner airlines (e.g. Qantas) will continue to be earned based on distance – though the actual earn rates are yet to be released.

American’s AAdvantage program has long been viewed as a better value oneworld alternative to Qantas Frequent Flyer. American miles could be redeemed on most Qantas flights for fewer miles and lower taxes than an equivalent redemption through the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. While AAdvantage will still offer the advantage of no fuel surcharges, the miles required for most redemptions is on the rise. In some cases, the increase is as high as 78%.

Among the routes worst affected are redemptions to the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa. Etihad flights from Australia to Abu Dhabi will increase in price from 45,000 miles to 80,000 miles for Business Class, while Etihad’s famed First Class Apartments increase from 60,000 to 100,000 miles.

The Middle East / India <> South Pacific change is an absolute shocker. From 45,000 to 80,000. I think a lot of people were enjoying this award especially for QR/EY bookings.

Redemptions within Australia remain relatively unaffected, however flights between Australia and New Zealand will now cost an extra 5,000 miles in Economy and 7,500 extra miles for Business Class. This still prices an AA redemption lower than the same through Qantas Frequent Flyer, however the gap has narrowed.

While flights to South-East Asia are moderately affected, Business Class flights to Japan and Korea actually become slightly cheaper.

On the whole, this is not welcome news. Many of our members are unhappy with the changes, and will be looking to burn their points before the changes to effect.

Wow, you just simply cannot trust these people. Continually changing the goal posts. It really discourages me from building large balances of points.

The good news is that the award chart devaluation does not come into effect until 22 March next year. So, if you have a large balance of AAdvantage miles, you may wish to spend them now while most of the excellent value is still available.

Join the DISCUSSION.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]