American Adjusts Mileage Earning On “Special” Fares

As of August 1, 2016, the American AAdvantage program is revenue based, meaning that redeemable miles are earned based on how much your ticket costs rather than the distance you fly. Elite qualifying miles, on the other hand, continue to be accrued based on distance flown.

There are exceptions — not all tickets earn miles based on spend

There are some exceptions. For example, tickets issued by other airlines continue to earn miles based on distance flown rather than revenue, since it’s not as easy for an airline to calculate that total. This presents a great arbitrage opportunity to earn more miles and elite qualifying dollars than you’d earn if flying American directly.

Furthermore, there are some tickets on American’s own metal for which they continue to issue miles based on distance flown rather than revenue. These include:

  • Special fares, which include bulk fares, cruise fares, consolidator fares, discounted or inclusive tour packages, vacation packages, and other tickets where the fare isn’t disclosed
  • Tickets where the fare details aren’t available, meaning that for whatever reason the fare details aren’t available at the time your miles post, so miles are awarded based on distance flown

In some cases this can represent a great opportunity. For example, when you book tickets with Citi ThankYou points it will often count as a special fare, which is sometimes an opportunity to earn more miles than you would otherwise.

Mileage earning on some “special” fares is changing

American is adjusting mileage earning on special fares

As of January 11, 2017, American will slightly be adjusting how many miles various fare class earn when booked as special fares. I’m told this change is being prompted by the realignment of fare classes due to the introduction of premium economy, as I first wrote about in October. The most significant change that happened with fare realignment is that domestic first class is now being coded as business class, so mileage earning on some fares is changing correspondingly.

Some aspects of these changes are positive, while others are negative. However, they’re not a huge deal for most.

Here’s what mileage accrual looks like for special fares through January 10, 2017:


Meanwhile here’s what mileage accrual looks like on special fares as of January 11, 2017:


As you can see:

  • “L” and “W” fares are going from earning 100% to earning 75%
  • “D” and “R” fares are going from earning 150% to 125%

Mileage earning for some economy tickets will decrease

So the changes are slightly negative, though not huge.

For tickets with missing fare details, here’s the chart through January 10, 2017:


Meanwhile here’s the chart starting January 11, 2017:


Changes include the following:

  • “F,” “A,” and “P” fares are going from earning 150% miles to 200% miles
  • “D” and “R” fares are going from earning 150% miles to 175% miles

Mileage earning for some three cabin first class tickets will increase

Bottom line

These adjustments are very minor. Essentially American has realigned domestic first class so that it’s coded as business class, and as a result they’ve increased the mileage earning for some first class tickets, since those are now truly three cabin first class tickets. Meanwhile the earning potential on some discounted fares has gone up, while the earning potential on some discounted tickets has gone down.

This is nothing major, though is something to be aware of.

Do any of these changes to special fares impact you?


  1. Does anyone know… are tickets purchased with Chase Ultimate rewards considered “special fares” with AA ?

  2. Big hit on the “I” fares, just as I’m booked on 2 “I” r/t HKG-LAX and HKG-DFW for early next year. One will straddle the start date so I may get 1 leg on the old rates. I also do a lot of “D” fares so that hurts too. Overall, this is a pretty big ouch for me, and I imagine for anyone doing long-haul discount business class travel on AA and OneWorld.

  3. The opposite can also occur. My company’s travel agent will sell me bulk business class fares without informing me (not that they have to) and I just found out the hard way that there is no way of identifying these fares, even in fully refundable J tickets. A $10k+ fare to Europe yielded approx. 20 miles instead of 75k, for example…

    With no clear way of identifying which fares are bulk and which aren’t, I am wondering whether aa has made this aadvantage feature by design, as now even the heavy corporate contracts may fall under the bulk definition. Wonder if anyone else with a big travel agency contract has seen or been negatively affected by this?

  4. Huge negative for me. My employer buys one way day-of or day-before tickets for me, almost always domestic short haul. A ticket that costs $410, with $374 as the base fare just gave 55 EQDs because it was based on distance, not fare. Other tickets have been similar.

  5. Does anyone know if other carriers do this? I’m seriously considering dropping AA after spending $50K and earning 300K EQMs last year.

    My new travel agency that unknowingly issued me a $7K business class “bulk fare” ticket. I can earn more miles in domestic economy for tickets that cost one tenth the price.

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