Much has changed since the golden age of air travel. Leg space has shrunk, free checked bags have all but vanished and free seat upgrades to First Class are about as rare as seeing a pig at 30,000 feet. Now, American Airlines is changing one long-held maxim about air travel and rewards.
The New York Times reported that American is set to transition its rewards program from a miles-based system to one that doles out free flights and other amenities to customers who spend higher raw dollar amounts. The change, which is set to go into effect as of Aug. 1, will help American compete with other airlines like Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin American that have already made the switch.
According to Bridget Blaise-Shamai, American’s managing director of loyalty, the plan was to make the transition years earlier. However, the merger between American and US Airways back in 2013 threw more work on the company’s plate than could be managed alongside the revamp of its rewards program.
“This was as quick as we could do it,” Blaise-Shamai said.
Now that the change has been made, American can now join the fray of its competitors jostling for the patronage of high-spending travelers who’ve already shown a willingness to shell out for upgradeable amenities like priority boarding, preferred seating and a host of other nickel-and-dimed services. The airline will also be applying bonuses to its dollar-based rewards system, with most members of its AAdvantage club earning five miles for every dollar spent and successively higher categories enjoying successively higher bonuses up to a ratio of 11 miles to $1 for executive-platinum members.