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American Airlines recently tweaked its AAdvantage program to raise the requirement for Gold elite status and slash the earning rate on basic economy fares as of March 1, 2023. Now, American is back with another cut. This time American Airlines is slashing the mileage earnings for Alaska Airlines “Saver” basic economy fares.
For flights starting May 1, 2023, Alaska Airlines basic economy flights will earn AAdvantage miles at a rate of just 10% of flight miles. That means travelers will earn just 1 AAdvantage mile per 10 miles flown on Alaska Saver fares. This represents a 60% cut from the current earning rate.
This change wasn't announced by American Airlines. Instead, this change was simply slipped into the AAdvantage earning chart for Alaska Airlines flights. The change only stands out once you compare the base earning rates side-by-side:
Unfortunately, travelers that already have Alaska flights booked after May 1 aren't exempt from the changes. All Alaska flights departing on or after May 1, 2023 will earn AAdvantage miles at the new rate. But you still have time to change where you credit these flights.
Alaska Airlines Saver basic economy fares (X fare class) on flights operated by Alaska still earn 100% of flight miles when credited to Alaska's Mileage Plan program. Given the choice between earning 10 Alaska Mileage Plan miles or 1 AAdvantage mile, I'd certainly choose to earn 10 Alaska miles.
Example AAdvantage Earnings on Alaska Saver Fares
To give you an idea of just how bad the new earning rate is, let's consider an example.
Say you're booking an Alaska Airlines flight from Portland (PDX) to San Francisco (SFO). You decide it's not worth the extra money to upgrade to a “Main Cabin” (non-basic) fare to get free seat selection and have the option to make a same-day change to your flight. So, you select the cheapest $119 one-way Saver fare for the nearly two-hour flight:
Perhaps you're working toward AAdvantage elite status, so you credit this flight to your AAdvantage account. Based on Great Circle Mapper, the flight from Portland to San Francisco is 550 miles long. Since this flight is after May 1, you'll earn miles at just 10% of flight miles.
That means you'll earn just 55 AAdvantage miles (and Loyalty Points) for this flight.
To put this earning rate in perspective, an AAdvantage member would need to fly 728 flights on this route to earn the 40,000 Loyalty Points now needed for AAdvantage Gold elite status. That's equivalent to a roundtrip per day for an entire year just to earn the lowest tier of AAdvantage elite status.
Earning AAdvantage miles on Alaska Airlines discount economy flights was already a bad deal. But soon, it's about to get a lot worse. Starting May 1, 2023, travelers will earn just 1 AAdvantage mile per 10 miles flown in Alaska Airlines basic economy.
As brutal of an earning rate as that is, this cut is somewhat logical. American Airlines just slashed the mileage earning rates on its basic economy flights by 60% — down to an earning rate of just 2 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. So, it makes sense to mirror that change for AAdvantage mileage earnings on Alaska Airlines basic economy.
The only silver lining of this change is… well, what hasn't changed. American Airlines is leaving all other Alaska mileage earning rates intact. However, airlines have shown that they can make immediate changes without any notice (looking at you Alaska). Unfortunately, we can't count on any earning or redeeming rates staying the same.
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