American Announces Changes to AAdvantage Program

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American Airlines has announced several changes to its AAdvantage loyalty program and ancillary service. Here’s a summary of the updates:

AAdvantage Program Changes

  • Direct Booking Benefits: Beginning May 1, 2024 — customers now earn AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points primarily when booking directly with American or through eligible partner airlines, by using your AAdvantage Business membership, or contracted corporate travel channels — there will also be a number of preferred travel agencies announced in late April. This move aims to incentivize direct bookings by limiting the ability to earn rewards to tickets directly purchased from the airline or its partners.
  • Limited Earning on Basic Economy: Basic Economy fare tickets will only accrue miles and Loyalty Points when booked directly with American or eligible partner airlines, potentially limiting reward opportunities for price-sensitive travelers who often book through third-party platforms.
  • Bag Fees Increase: Beginning with travel booked on or after February 20, 2024 — bag fees for the first and second checked bags on domestic flights and short-haul international flights have been increased, although AAdvantage elite status members and most AAdvantage credit card members still enjoy complimentary bag benefits.

The new bag fees for domestic flights including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are $35 for first checked bags purchased online or $40 for first checked bags purchased at the airport. The second checked bag fee is $45 purchased online or at the airport. The new bag fees for Canada and short-haul international flights are $35 for first checked bags and $45 for second checked bags purchased online or at the airport.
  • Pet-In-Cabin Fee Increase: The fee for pets in the cabin has been raised to $150 (up from $125).
  • Oversize and Overweight Bag Fees: A new, simplified fee structure for oversized and overweight bags introduces potentially significant savings for customers who are only slightly over the regular limits – see table below.

Checked itemCurrent feeTravel on/after April 17
Bag +50–70 lbs.$100–$200+50–53 lbs. / $30
+53–70 lbs. / $100–$200
Bag +70–100 lbs.$200–$450$200–$450
Bag +62 linear inches+62–126 inches $150–$200+62–65 inches / $30
+65–115 inches / $150–$200
Items that are both oversize and overweight +50–70 lbs.$250–$400$30–$200 (one single fee instead of two)
Items that are both oversize and overweight +70–100 lbs.$350–$650$200–$450 (one single fee instead of two)

Enhanced Loyalty Benefits

  • Miles Transfer Discount: The cost to transfer AAdvantage miles between accounts has been reduced by 66%, making it more affordable to share miles with friends or family members.
  • Wi-Fi and Upgrades: Later this year, members will be able to use miles to pay for Wi-Fi on select flights despite the fact that several competitors including Delta are moving to free wifi on flights.
  • Basic Economy Flexibility: AAdvantage® members can now cancel non-refundable Basic Economy tickets for a fee, receiving partial Trip Credit, which adds flexibility to the previously rigid fare class.
  • Same-Day Standby and Extended Trip Credit: Members will now benefit from free same-day standby for earlier domestic flights and an extended period to use Trip Credit.

Final Thoughts

While American Airlines’ updates to the AAdvantage® program and ancillary services offer some enhancements, they also raise concerns:

  • Direct Booking Focus: The emphasis on earning rewards through direct bookings could disadvantage travelers who prefer using third-party platforms such as Orbitz or Expedia to compare prices and find deals.
  • Increased Fees: The increase in bag and pet-in-cabin fees could negatively impact customers especially since it could signal increases from competing carriers as well.
  • Enhanced Flexibility and Rewards: The introduction of more flexible options for Basic Economy tickets and the ability to use miles for Wi-Fi and partner upgrades are positive changes that bring some more value to AAdvantage membership.

While American Airlines aims to enhance their loyalty program and streamline some ancillary services, the changes present a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. Travelers need to weigh the advantages of direct booking rewards and enhanced flexibility against their preferences and the possibility of increased fees.

Editorial Note: Information and opinions articulated in this article are solely those of the author’s, not those of a credit card company, bank, airline or hotel chain. This article has not been reviewed or approved by or otherwise endorsed by any of these companies or organizations.

Miles Junkie covers airline miles, hotel points and credit card earning program information and travel in general with an eye towards ethical & eco-conscious exploration.

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