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American Airlines Launches Major Changes to AAdvantage Program Together with Its Latest Mileage Sale

As it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, American Airlines hopes to entice customers with new mileage rules plus miles on the cheap.

Score biz class seats with AA's latest promo
Score biz class seats with AA's latest promo
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American Airlines (AA) is rather famous in the world of points and miles for its epic mileage sales, so it should come as no surprise that the airline is again selling miles through a new promotion from June 1–30, 2020. During this time frame, customers can purchase miles and receive tiered bonuses and discounts with miles ultimately going for as low as 1.8 cents apiece.

While this isn’t the best bonus we’ve seen from AA, it still presents a good opportunity for those willing to buy miles on speculation. Mileage bargain hunters should note that in April, AA dropped the price of AAdvantage miles to a historic low at 1.6 cents per mile through a special promotion (versus a typical price in excess of 3 cents per mile). We also saw AA drop the price as low as 1.72 cents per mile in summer 2018 and 1.73 cents per mile in summer 2019.

Nevertheless, 1.8 cents per mile may translate to one of those times when it is actually a good idea to buy miles, especially given the AAdvantage program’s new rules beginning this summer. These rules were scheduled to begin June 1, 2020, but AA announced instead on June 1 that in light of the pandemic it is “waiving award reinstatement and change fees for award booking made by June 30, 2020.” Then, beginning July 1, 2020, AA will initiate the scheduled changes, which include “[waiving] change and reinstatement fees when the change is made at least 60 days before travel.” However, there will be a new fee structure for award ticket changes and cancellations 60 days before travel.

This news is major as airlines have been restoring consumer confidence by waiving flight change and cancellation fees on purchased tickets. But as purchasing fee-free tickets comes to an end, AA’s new policy represents fee-free/refundable award tickets provided changes or cancellations are made 60 days in advance. Huzzah!

On the flip side, a new fee structure will be in effect when changes are made less than 60 days before travel, and the amount you’ll pay will depend on your status with AA and the proximity to your departure. In addition, AA previously allowed second passengers on the same reservation to pay only $25 for changes or cancellations. This will no longer be the case.

Beyond fee changes for award travel, the mileage program welcomed Royal Air Maroc in April 2020 and Brazilian airline Gol in May 2020, opening hundreds of new, lucrative mileage redemption opportunities. Since AA has fixed mileage award rates for its partner airlines, you can now score the likes of cheap award seats in business-class from the United States to Morocco (57,500). That’s in addition to long-haul in first- or business-class on one of AA’s many premium partners like Air Tahiti Nui, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, or Qatar Airways. For these partners—old and new—purchasing AAdvantage miles and redeeming them can often get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price.

With regards to the current promotion, AAdvantage members can buy AAdvantage miles for a fraction of the regular price directly from its “Buy, gift and share miles” page on aa.com. And depending on the number of miles purchased, you’ll get a percentage discount, bonus miles, or both.

• Buy 2,000–14,000 miles and get 15% off
• Buy 15,000–19,000 miles and get 5,000 bonus miles
• Buy 20,000–29,000 miles and get 10,000 bonus miles
• Buy 30,000–49,000 miles and get 15,000 bonus miles
• Buy 50,000–74,000 miles and get 25,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
• Buy 75,000–99,000 miles and get 40,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
• Buy 100,000–134,000 miles and get 60,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
• Buy 135,000–149,000 miles and get 80,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
• Buy 150,000–199,000 miles and get 100,000 bonus miles plus 5% off
• Buy 200,000 miles and get 120,000 bonus miles plus 5% off

To truly make this promotion worthwhile, you’ll want to go for the max: Buy 200,000 miles and get a bonus of 120,000 bonus miles plus 5% off. It’ll cost you $5,758.06. That may sound like a lot, but 320,000 miles can get you and a companion across the world—in first- or business-class—if used correctly. Case in point: It costs 280,000 miles for two round-trip tickets in business-class between the United States and the Middle East on Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways. Try finding those tickets using cash and you’ll likely be paying around 5K per person!

In total, while it may sound odd to consider buying miles speculatively given the state of the world, if you have a future trip in mind but don’t want to commit 100%, it may make sense to buy miles and have the freedom to cancel 60 days in advance. In addition, if you are looking to fly premium on an AA partner airline and have dates in mind, first check the mileage price of that ticket on aa.com. Then do the math to see if buying miles works for you. This bit of homework could save you hundreds, even thousands. Good luck!

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 132 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Florida Design, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, and Robb Report.