2016 American AAdvantage Program Details

Filed Under: American

Last night I posted about the reliable rumor that there are big changes coming to the American AAdvantage program in 2016. JonNYC at TravelingBetter had shared that agents were being briefed on the new program, and he explained that the changes were substantial and impact the entire program.

It’s no surprise that we’re seeing changes to the AAdvantage program, given that American and US Airways have just wrapped up their merger, and during that time their focus has been on “integrating” rather than “innovating.”

While the details of the program haven’t yet been officially announced, JonNYC has shared further details about what we can expect. Since this hasn’t yet been officially announced things could still change, but I’d take what JonNYC says as fact as of the time he publishes it.

So, what do we know about the 2016 AAdvantage program?

Qualifying for status:

  • American is eliminating Elite Qualification Points (EQPs), so status can be earned based on Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS)
  • There will be no minimum spend requirement for elite status (unlike at Delta and United)
  • There will be no change to elite tier levels (there will continue to be three, and they’ll be at the same levels)
  • There will be no change to segment requirements for status (30, 60, and 120 are required for Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum)
  • Elite qualification will continue to be mileage based as opposed to revenue based (100,000 EQMs per year or 120 segments will be required to earn Executive Platinum status)

Earning miles:

  • Since EQPs are being discontinued, EQMs can be earned at the following increased rates (this makes it significantly easier to qualify for status, for those of us who fly a mix of paid premium class and discounted economy travel):
    • Full fare first & business class: 3 EQMs per flown mile
    • Discounted first & business class: 2 EQMs per flown mile
    • Full fare economy class: 1.5 EQMs per flown mile
    • Discounted economy class: 1 EQM per flown mile
  • Later in 2016, American will go fully revenue based when it comes to earning redeemable miles, similar to the system that Delta and United have


  • Executive Platinum members will only earn four systemwide upgrades per year, rather than the current eight, though there will be opportunities to earn more
  • Gold and Platinum members will earn four 500 mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs rather than four for every 10,000 flown miles (in reality this will probably translate to roughly the same rate of earning for the average traveler profile, given the increased earning of EQMs)

Bottom line

I don’t think anyone likes seeing changes to the AAdvantage program, since it’s fantastic. I think the takeaway here is that 2016 (or at least the beginning of it) won’t be bad for AAdvantage. Come late 2016 (or perhaps early 2017, in practice), AAdvantage won’t be much different than MileagePlus and SkyMiles, as they’ll offer four systemwide upgrades when qualifying for Executive Platinum status, and earning miles will be revenue based.

Of course this is all subject to change, and I’ll post again when the announcement from American is official. Thanks to JonNYC for all the useful info he has posted about this.

What do you make of the above changes to the AAdvantage program?

  1. Probably worse than it looks at face value. need to see the full changes though. Flying mostly on corporate J, value to me is mostly on how I can redeem miles and that would seem to be where we will be hit harder…

    One question is how are partner EQM going to be calculated?

  2. I still expect full details from AA today given it is 330 days to October 1, 2016, which I assume will be the effective date for the RDM-earning piece.

  3. With fewer SWUs and lower RDMs, looks like DAL FF program is more appealing than AA, particularly because one can early 50K or more MQMs through Amex spending. Also, DAL offers 4 regional SWUs and usually a better upgrade than AA.

  4. I’m simply waiting for the official word from AA but if these are indeed what AA will be doing, I thought they’d differentiate themselves more by avoiding revenue-based earning. After all, I thought a lot of UA and DL frequent flyers switched to AA for that very reason? Anyway, looking forward to AA’s announcement.

  5. Here are my thoughts:
    – the elimination of EQPs is counterbalanced by the increase in EQMs for premium fares, assuming the extra miles are for the same fare classes (buckets) and not more restrictive (I’m talking about the definition of “full” and “discount”)
    – the decrease in SWUs is a bummer — there is no silver lining here; someone is bound to say it’s better, because it means less competition for upgrades, but I don’t buy that since those who want to upgrade will still be able to with miles, etc., but all-in-all you now have to pay more
    – the scariest changes I think will come with the introduction of a fully revenue-based system, because even those who today benefit from cheap premium fares will no longer be able to do so when all that matters is the dollar amount spent; it will in essence become a fixed value program

  6. What this really means is come end of 2016 no reason to be loyal to any of them. Get a credit card from each one and fly whomever is cheaper.

    Going to be wonderful to not spend $500 more to fly AA over another airline.. Going to save me A LOT of money and AA is going to find out that AAdvantage is what got them a lot of customers.

    At this point these airlines will need to begin to compete on price alone, b/c the benefits are not worth the cost of the loyalty.

    No one in their right mind pays $500 more for a 2% fixed rebate.

  7. Well this is a true disappointment in certain expects. However; I’m not sure how this would affect those who don’t currently reside in the US

  8. As Daniel said, I think the greater concern will be what tweaks AA may make to their awards chart.

    Getting ready to brace for that…..

  9. Let’s not forget that EQMs will still be minimally earned at a rate of 1x even in late 2016. Only RDMs will be affected, but we can earn these miles in other ways (credit cards, etc.).

    I’m happy as long as they’re not making it harder to earn EXP status. I guess a concern would be that there may be more EXPs since high-$$ flyers will get there faster.

  10. The reduction in SWU’s earned (from 8 to 4) is truly disappointing. SWU’s have bewn a signature perk of the EXP status, and an effective lure away from other programs.

  11. @Jason that is a concern I have. Those premiums for full fare economy and upper class travel suggest that there may be a lot more EXPs within this framework.

  12. @ Jason — There will definitely be more EXPs, but probably somewhat less SWUs in circulation. The net result will likely be less free upgrades for EXPs.

  13. jediwho, If you listen to the last earnings call, AA plans to offer an uncoupled no frills fare to compete with LCCs. That means you pay extra for everything including seat selection.

  14. @jediwho Which is exactly what Scott Kirby said American would do when he briefed Wall St on the last earnings call. We were told to expect fares that would compete with Spirit/Frontier. It’s possible, that with the RDM changes in late 2016 will see fares that don’t earn any RDM (possibly even EQM).

  15. Scott sums it up nicely. Looking forward to the time and money I’ll recover not having to play the EQM/EQP optimization and prediction game.

  16. Who cares about earning? Don’t we all earn our AA miles from Citibank (and Barclasy)? Show us the award charts!!!!

  17. I have only held AA status for one year, and that was because of a promotion I wasn’t actually targeted to receive but coincided well with some travel I had already planned. So, right now, these changes have had no impact on me whatsoever. I am nervous about the next shoe to drop. But, fortunately, I don’t have as big a balance of AAdvantage Miles as some may have.

  18. As someone who literally just re-qualified for EP this week, this is a major bummer. As many commenters have said, the biggest is the 8 > 4 SWUs. Everyone should also note that the rule has changed on using SWUs…they have to be FLOWN by 2/28, not applied like in the past.

    The other thing really sucks is that next year SHOULD be a much better year as an EP once the logjam of Chairman Preferred from US/previous EP’s clears out at the end of Feb.

    Like everyone else, I’m terrified that they’re about to devalue the award chart, since that’s still a bright spot for AA. I have a gluttony of miles that I haven’t used; I still haven’t redeemed for an international carrier, which I’m itching to do (hello Cathay Pacific).

    Before anyone knocks me for hoarding miles, it’s because I usually buy my international tickets and use the SWUs (although I have MIA>LHR in a couple of weeks that looks bleak for clearing). For regional flights, I use Avios.

    This was bound to happen eventually, but I’m disappointed nonetheless. They’re fixing something that isn’t broken.


  19. This EXP and SO (who both requaled this week) will not miss the SWU’s as we are leisure travelers who book months (6-8) in advance and have only used 1 each this year and 4 each in 2014.Guess we must be booking the wrong routes.
    I wonder if UA or DEL will want to poach any AA folks with a status match? Cuz we’ll be booking the cheapest J to where we need to go.

  20. I guess the announcement will come out one Monday? I am curious when the revenue based earning will start. I am totally depressed now.

  21. As someone that doesn’t really care about status and earns the majority of their miles through CC spend I don’t really care much about the announced changes either way. My main concern is an award chart devaluation. I’m hoping the fact that hasn’t come up yet means at the very least that won’t happen until the RDM earning changes in late 2016 or even better, 2017.

  22. In my opinion, I’d much prefer 4 SWUs that can be applied to any fare, as opposed to 8 that can only be applied to certain higher-priced fares.

    Now let’s see the new award chart…

  23. Gimber: Because the C-suite execs have to do something out of boredom. They are also single mindedly focused on shareholders value and short term profitability. Because of this they almost consistently lose sight of the longer term and keeping customer service.

  24. Given what could have been, not so bad, if true. As an ExecPlat, losing half the eVIPs is probably the worst part but how we earn additional ones will tell the tale. (Assume we still get 8 when we requalify with this year’s flying. In fact given what I’ve got booked for 2016 already (several discounted J and F fares) I can nicely recalculate my EQMs to my benefit. My biggest worry was losing comp upgrades within NAmerica as an ExecPlat, and we’d start to have to earn 500s like other elites. Of course, we’ll all have to await the official word. (I can’t see initiating revenue-based RDMs mid year, so this is the critical piece of the puzzle.) And on the redemption side we’ll also have to wait, but even the rumoured numbers aren’t as bad as UA/MP’s which are much more for STAR partner flights than anything we’ve heard from the AA rumours.

  25. this is relatively reassuring news, personally. i qualify for status yearly mainly via EQMs or EQ segments. sucks for the EXPs to get less SWUs.

    i’m hoping any award chart changes are as gentle as these earning changes supposedly are.

  26. Sent a tweet to AA about the rumors and 8>4 SWUs (and my displeasure).

    AA’s response: “We know you’re going to like the changes. Please stay tuned for more information and we appreciate your feedback.”

  27. I hope all y’all EXPs stay where you are. I have a fine life as DL Diamond, and don’t need more elites in the pool. 🙂

  28. I do not like seeing devaluations dishearten people, but at the same time I’m glad. Other parts of the world like one world customers in Europe have far less potential to earn miles and far more expensive rewards. Fixing the rewards chart to be more in line globally is a good thing, but obviously I would prefer the world be on the same terms AA USA is and not bring it into line with devaluation – but I am sorry to hear about your SWUs. Look on the bright side, you’re still better off for earning than Europe.

  29. Don’t particularly care about the reduction in SWUs since I unable to use them anyway – Still have 16 between partner and myself :(. It’s the redemption part of the equation I worry about…

  30. Revenue based earning in 2016 🙁

    Even as an an EXP (highest earning rate), it will cost 8.3cpm for each redeemable mile. This is before knowing the devaluation to award chart.

    Premium partner redemptions are basically gonna get destroyed.

  31. Ben,

    Thoughts on how/if this might impact the Citi AAdvantage 10k EQM for spending $40k?

    Thanks for the update. Between you, Gary and Jon I know (unfortunately) that is is legit. Been EXP for 5+ years and will continue to probably be but bummed about carving the SWU’s in half.

    Thanks, Jason

  32. Father who is a many years 1K and million miler at UA has been thinking about switching to AA for the better SWUs and RDM based on miles. He flies a lot of paid TPAC J, or W fare + GPU.

    I guess AA won’t be getting him to switch with these changes. Doesn’t AA know how much of a selling point AAdvantage is? Agreed, why fix what’s not broken, indeed.

  33. As more of an armchair point nerd, I’m looking forward to Lucky and the other travel bloggers being freed up to fly on (and post trip reports and insider info from) more carriers. For the past 2 years it’s been really heavily tiled toward American Airlines and hopefully that’ll change now.

  34. Lucky,

    The BEST Program to EARN elite status is DELTA
    You can mix and match MQMs to get to 125k top tier

    The NEXT Best is Probably UA
    You can mix and match to 75k level and get CC boost

    AA may only be as good as UA,
    can mix and boost to EXP like DL, but most will only get to Plat
    – but AA plat is less useful to most (no free award changes) than UA plat

    It is better in 1 respect than now – I have 96k EQP, only 83k EQMs
    I10k is from CC spend; I would now be 106k EQMs

    If EARNIG status is easier with double the EXPs, they have to CUT benefits (SWUs)
    They get more money from a greater pool of committed travelers than very few exalted “high level” travelers

    Once you factor in Revenue based RDMs
    It is the award charts that will determine the value of the programs

    Once you gut all programs, CASH is KING!
    Give me a 2% cash back card any day and I can buy my own tickets.

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