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American Airlines Is Changing Its Rewards Policy. Here’s What to Know

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Collecting miles and loyalty points with American Airlines will soon become somewhat harder, with the carrier announcing on Tuesday changes to its AAdvantage rewards program that limit how customers can earn frequent-flyer points.

“We want to make it more convenient for customers to enjoy the value and magic of travel,” American Airlines’ chief commercial officer Vasu Raja said in a statement. “Not only does booking directly with American provide the best possible experience, it's also where we offer the best fares and it's most rewarding for our AAdvantage members.”

Read More: How Much Are American Airlines Miles Worth?

The carrier said in a press release Tuesday that tickets issued from May 1 onwards will be subject to the new policy. Here’s what to know: 

How do you keep earning points?

Starting in May, most customers will only be eligible for AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points if they book directly with American Airlines and eligible partner airlines, or through “preferred travel agencies,” which the airline said it will reveal in a list in late April. 

Those buying basic economy tickets will face even more restrictions, only being able to earn miles by booking directly with American Airlines or partner operators.

But the update in the rewards program will not affect AAdvantage Business members or contracted corporate travelers, who remain eligible for miles and points no matter where they book their tickets.

Meanwhile, AAdvantage members can also continue earning miles and points while shopping, booking hotels, and registering for events through partner platforms.

Read More: Some Travelers Are Getting Paid Thousands to Give Up Their Plane Seats

This is not the first time American Airlines has made changes to its loyalty program. Last year, the carrier raised the threshold for its members to attain the Gold status, which promises perks like selective free upgrades.

Changes to checked baggage fees

American Airlines has also raised fees of checking in a bag on domestic flights to $35 when purchased online—up from $30 previously—or $40 when purchased at the airport. A second checked bag will cost $45, up from $40 previously. The new prices will apply to tickets booked on or after Feb. 20.

This is the first time in more than five years that American Airlines has adjusted its bag fees—and comes amid yearslong price adjustments by other airlines. In January, Alaska Airlines increased the fee for passengers’ first checked bag to $35 from $30. Bag-check fees have been rising across various airlines over the past few years, with a wave of bag fees increases in 2018, including JetBlue Airways, Air Canada, and WestJet, which all deciding to charge $30 for checked bags. Jetblue further raised its fee to $35  from $30 in 2020.

Major U.S. airlines made a total revenue of $7 billion in baggage fees in 2022, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Fees like these  became the subject of a Senate panel investigation in November amid complaints that customers are often blindsided by these costs during the purchasing process.

American Airlines said its new changes are partly being driven by rising costs. 

“Fuel has gone up quite a bit. That’s a big component of our costs when we’re carrying bags,” Scott Chandler, American Airlines’ vice president of revenue management, told USA Today.

The changes will not affect AAdvantage members and American Airlines credit card holders, who get complimentary checked bags. Customers who purchase premium cabins and active-duty U.S. military personnel will also remain eligible for free checked bags.

American Airlines’ calculation of extra charges for overweight baggage is also changing. The latest changes introduce a $30 fee for bags that are up to 3 lbs or 3 inches over the limit. Anything more, and the existing charges, which start at $100, will kick in. 

The carrier is also capping its oversized baggage limit to 115 linear inches, as well as banning items like javelins, pole vaults, and hang gliders from April 17 onwards.

As for travelers bringing their pets, carry-on pet fees for tickets purchased on or after Feb. 20 have been raised to $150 per kennel, up from $125.

Why all the changes?

The adjustments to American Airlines’ rewards criteria come as airlines push for direct sales to customers, instead of relying on travel agents who are typically paid a commission. About 60% of American Airlines’ ticket sales are currently made directly through the airline, Chandler told ABC News.

Meanwhile, the price adjustments come as U.S. carriers cope with falling domestic airfares, which are in the next few months expected to sink lower than pre-pandemic levels.

In January, American Airlines also announced changes to boost sign-ups to its loyalty program, by restricting benefits, such as access to premium lounges and the ability to put flights on hold for up to 24 hours, American AAdvantage members only.

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