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It's always a race of loyalty versus devaluations and today's news is no different. As first reported by One Mile at a Time, American Airlines is adjusting the way you'll be earning award miles for both British Airways and Iberia. While this change isn't effective yet, it will take effect for flights as of October 18, 2023. Let's take a look at what's happening and why it matters.
British Airways and Iberia Moving to Revenue-Based AAdvantage Mileage Earnings
U.S. airlines have led the way in decreasing mileage earn by basing the amount of award miles on the fare you'll spend for your ticket. On all three major U.S. airlines, your mileage earnings aren't based on how far you fly. The more you spend, the more miles you earn. This has essentially killed the low-cost, long-distance mileage run as we know it.
American Airlines is no exception. However, to date, American Airlines still awarded mileage on partner flights based on the distance flown rather than the fare paid. That's all set to change in October 2023, when American Airlines begins awarding miles based on fare paid rather than distance flown. Here's how it breaks down:
|Elite Status Level||Miles Earned Per Dollar|
Note that this is a comprehensive change; British Airways will switch to a revenue-based earning program starting October 18, 2023. And Iberia already utilizes a revenue-based earning program.
What Does This Mean?
Unlike Star Alliance airlines (e.g. United, Air Canada), Oneworld has always awarded credit based on the “marketing airline” rather than the airline actually operating the aircraft. That means it's all about the airline code in your flight number. Any American Airlines flights would earn AAdvantage miles based on the price. However, any American Airlines-operated flights booked with a British Airways flight number would credit based on the distance flown.
We know this sounds wonky, but booking American Airlines flights via British Airways (or other Oneworld partners) and crediting to American Airlines has been a useful workaround for these kinds of revenue-based schemes. You'd earn AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points based on the distance flown multiplied by the applicable earning rate.
That's no longer going to be an option come October 18, 2023. This can represent a huge blow for those looking to earn elite status (and bonus miles) for cheap by maximizing flights on partner airlines.
An example of the earning difference
In April 2022, AwardWallet Editor-in-Chief JT Genter flew from Los Angeles through London to Bangalore, India in British Airways premium economy. The round-trip flight spans 20,918 miles and the current earning rate for British Airways premium economy is 100%. So, he earned a base of 20,918 AAdvantage miles. Add in a 120% bonus for being an AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite and he earned a total of 46,022 AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points:
It didn't matter how much he paid for the flight — which is good because he paid just $949.36 round-trip. Stripping out the $179.84 in taxes and airport fees, only $769.52 would be eligible spending under the new revenue-based AAdvantage earning method. Multiply that by the 11x AAdvantage miles earning rate for Executive Platinum elites and he'd only earn 8,465 AAdvantage miles on the same flight if flown after October 18, 2023.
In this (admittedly extreme) example, that's a whopping 82% decrease in mileage earnings under the new revenue-based earning program compared with the current distance-based earning system. A traveler would now need to pay $4,184 round-trip before taxes for this premium economy flight to earn the same amount of AAdvantage miles.
How to avoid these changes
This doesn't mean all hope is lost. Rather, you'll want to switch your booking airline away from both British Airways and Iberia. There are 15 airlines that are members of Oneworld. Since, again, you'll earn miles based on who markets the flight rather than who flies it — you can get around this move by switching your booking engine.
Not all airlines have all codeshares, so it'll behoove you to look at a few different sites before making a selection (and some sites may also have different pricing). However, Alaska Airlines operates codeshares with American Airlines, making this a decent option for some flights.
Qatar Airways also operates codeshare flights and shows results from many different airline partners, including Alaska, American, British Airways, and Iberia. Unlike British Airways and Iberia, there don't appear to be any plans to switch Qatar Airways over to revenue-based earnings.
There's no denying that this is a negative change for most flyers. This is especially true for those who leverage partnerships to earn cheap bonus miles and elite status. Not all is lost, however. Thanks to Oneworld's peculiar rules, it's still possible to earn decent miles on flights. If you're booking a cheap flight, book through a Oneworld partner to get the best bang for your buck.
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