In return for your loyalty, airlines keep rewarding you with fewer frequent-flyer miles

The passenger must go the extra mile.
The passenger must go the extra mile.
Image: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
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Airlines are making it tougher for frequent flyers to reap the rewards of their jetlag. 

Starting Aug. 1, American Airlines will start rewarding members of its AAdvantage frequent-flyer program based on how much they spend, not on how far they fly. It’s part of a trend among US airlines. Competitors Delta and United have recently switched their frequent-flyer programs over to revenue-sharing models. British Airways also now rewards passengers on how much they pay for their ticket.

But we now know American’s passengers will also start earning fewer points when they travel with its partner carriers.

The changes, which impact most of American Airlines partners like LAN and Japan Airlines, revolve around the fare class, an alphabet soup of codes used by airlines that corresponds to how much a passenger pays for his or her ticket.

For example, AAdvantage members flying in most coach class seats with Finnair will get credit for 25-50% of the miles flown starting Aug. 1, compared with 100% of the distance flown.

(The formula for earning AAdvantage points with partner carriers is based on a percentage of the distance traveled and the ticket’s fare class. American has cut the percentage of those miles traveled.)

An analysis of the changes posted on frequent-flyer program review site The Points Guy shows that, starting Aug. 1, most economy-cabin passengers using these other airlines will earn fewer miles for the distance they’ve traveled. (The Points Guy notes, however, that travelers booked in business and first class cabins will see even greater rewards.)

Already frequent-flyer programs are difficult to understand—even the US government thinks so. This latest tweak is just one more that passengers will have to try to navigate.