The times of frequent flyer programmes actually being valuable for those who love to maximise their miles is rapidly approaching an end. Led by Delta Air Lines, the revenue-based frequent flyer programme is the future. No more award charts, no more custom routings, revenue-based earning and redeeming, and the list goes on and on.The next loyalty programme to become revenue-based is almost certainly going to be American Airlines AAdvantage.
Everything Delta has implement has been duplicated by both United and American. Earning miles per dollar spent? Changes without notice? Constant devaluations? Yep, Delta pioneered all of those in a race towards becoming the world’s least valuable frequent flyer programme. United and American quickly followed with implementing revenue-based earning. United most recently followed Delta in announcing they will no longer publish award charts and have also decided that miles suddenly will no longer expire.
I hate to say it, but on the horizon is a revenue-based American Airlines AAdvantage. There are many reasons pointing to this fact, some of them include American Airlines introducing special web-only mileage fares which cannot be changed after ticketing, their recent additions of partner airlines being bookable online that previously weren’t, the fact that they never release saver-level award availability on long-haul routes, etc. The most recent push towards a revenue-baed programme include the addition of Cathay Pacific award availability being displayed on AA.com. Both Delta and United display almost all of their partner availability – something that American hasn’t.
The most valuable aspect of American Airlines AAdvantage has been the ability to create custom routings – this is especially useful when the combination of your desired flights do not show up online but there is availability. A simple call to AAdvantage and you can have up to 4 flight segments on one award, and as long as the layovers are under 24 hours (international flights), it will all price as one award. The fact that American is adding more partners online means that they are moving towards a system that both Delta and United have – all awards will be put together by the computer… which means no more custom routings. What you see online is what you get. You want a custom routing? You will pay more miles.
AAdvantage has been a great programme since Delta and United implemented their changes and something that made AA stand out… however the future is certain and that simply is a revenue-based AAdvantage in all aspects. I would be surprised if by the end of next year, it wouldn’t be fully implemented. This is sadly what we have been seeing in the industry – one airline creates (horrible) change and every airline follows it. Hell, we are even seeing it happen in Europe – Air France/KLM began (following Delta), then Lufthansa introduced revenue-based earning, and British Airways has been talking about it for a long time now.
The value of miles and frequent flyer programmes now are shining bright(er) in international airlines – Aegean, Singapore, Turkish, etc. They all have “normal” programmes as of now, but will likely begin the shift towards a revenue-based model in the near future. The more members and activity in a programme, the quicker a push for a devaluation. While United removing mileage expiration and American adding Cathay online may seem like good changes, they aren’t. It is simply a sign of the constant devaluation of our hobby.