AAdvantage Moves From Frequent Flyers to Big-Time Buyers

The loyalty program that added the phrase “frequent flyer” to the language is now party to the term’s demise. American Airlines yesterday announced that, henceforth, miles awarded to members of its AAdvantage program would be based on dollars spent instead of distances flown. Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest all made the adjustment over the past year.

Though Texas International Airlines first rewarded passengers based on mileage accrued in 1979, it was the membership organization launched by American in 1981 that made frequent flyer programs de rigueur in the airline industry. British Airways’ Executive Club, Delta’s SkyMiles, and United’s Mileage Plus all followed suit in that same year.

In the second half of 2016, basic AAdvantage members will receive five miles for every U.S. dollar spent on base fares. Gold members will get seven miles on the dollar, Platinums eight, and Executives 11. In a press release announcing the change, American provided one example illustrating that Gold and Executive members would earn more miles based under the new accounting while basic and Platinum members would receive fewer on the same Dallas-to-London flight.

American Airlines called this the “first step in the evolution” of its loyalty program. Award redemption rates also will be adjusted.

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