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American Bolsters Frequent-Flier Bonuses
From the Wall Street Journal of Mon, 15 Dec 2014 00:01:11 EST
American Airlines will stick with distance-based bonuses at least until the US Airways merger is complete.
American Airlines will stick with distance-based bonuses at least until the US Airways merger is complete. Rolando Diaz for The Wall Street Journal

American Airlines is planning a frequent-flier mileage bonus program for high-fare customers that will reward first- and business-class passengers with up to 24,000 extra miles per round trip.

The bonus, which affects all flights taken in 2015, is rare in the airline industry for its breadth and length, and will make American more competitive with new payout plans from Delta Air Lines and United Airlines next year that will award miles based on the dollar cost of the ticket rather than the traditional distance traveled. The bonus, which is scheduled to be announced Monday, only applies to travelers who buy first- or business-class fares.

Changes at Delta, which will begin Jan. 1, and United, starting March 1, reward top-tier frequent fliers traveling in first or business class with as many 11 frequent flier miles for every dollar spent, with a cap of 75,000 miles per round-trip. But customers flying on long distances on discounted tickets will see fewer miles deposited in their accounts. Overall, Delta and United say they will be issuing fewer frequent-flier miles, but far more to their best customers paying their highest fares.

American has said it is busy merging its frequent-flier program with US Airways and won’t consider switching to a dollar-based program until after the merger is complete. That leaves its AAdvantage frequent-flier program more rewarding to travelers because they will earn miles based on distance rather than fare. But high-end sky warriors will find better mileage payouts at Delta and United.

On a $6,000 business-class ticket between New York and London, for example, a Delta or United customer with the top frequent-flier status would receive 66,000 miles for the trip under the new programs. An American top-tier customer would get 17,260 miles—6,904 miles for the round-trip distance traveled plus regular bonuses for buying a business-class ticket and having top-tier frequent-flier status. But the new 2015 bonus will add another 24,000 miles. The 41,260 miles still falls short, but it makes American more competitive with Delta and United.

On a New York-Los Angeles trip, American’s payout can be richer for some customers. Delta will pay 28,600 miles to a top-tier frequent flier under its 2015 program for a $2,600 business-class ticket. American will award 36,306 miles with its 2015 bonus of 12,000 miles each way for its top-tier fliers. Miles are awarded on a per-flight basis.

The 12,000-mile per-flight bonus applies to flights longer than 3,000 miles, plus flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, for American and US Airways customers with executive platinum or chairman’s preferred status on most first- and business-class fares. Shorter flights for those travelers earn 1,000-mile per-flight bonuses. The cheapest discounted first- and business-class fares will get a bonus of only 3,500 miles per flight for long trips and 500 miles per flight for short trips.

Elite-status passengers at lower levels will get 6,000-mile bonuses on each long flight and 500-mile bonuses for shorter flights at most first- and business-class fares. The cheapest first- and business-class fares will receive 1,000-mile bonuses on long flights and 250-mile bonuses for each short flight.

Regular frequent-flier members paying all but the cheapest first- and business-class fares will receive a 3,000-mile bonus for long trips and 250-mile bonuses for short trips.

Write to Scott McCartney at

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