American AAdvantage Will No Longer Award Miles on Mistake Fares

The Department of Transportation will no longer require airlines to honor mistake fares.

When that news came out a couple of weeks ago, I said that the era of mistake fares isn’t actually over.

American Airlines apparently agrees, because they let me know they’re updating their terms and conditions to say that they will not award miles on mistake fares going forward (I take this to suggest that they envision the possibility of having to honor a mistake fare again at some point, granted though that it’s cheap and easy to change their terms though not necessarily the IT to implement those terms).

Certain airline tickets are not eligible for earning mileage credit. These include, without limitation, the following: all tickets issued as AAdvantage awards or other free ticket promotions including free or reduced rate tickets; companion tickets; charter flight tickets; travel agency/industry reduced rate tickets; infant tickets; items occupying a purchased seat; unpublished fare tickets, including consolidator fares, tickets issued as a result of a fare published inadvertently or by mistake and tickets issued subject to special provisions.

(Emphasis mine.)

Several reactions:

  1. I love that American is proactively reaching out about changing in their terms and conditions, rather than just making changes (which I’ll notice anyway because of a ‘change detection’ I have set).

  2. We’ll see if this actually happens in practice. The bonus qualifying points promotion that American is running contains a similar restriction, and yet folks flying on the China mistake business class fares have been earning bonus qualifying points.

  3. The restriction seems reasonable, I really can’t argue with it.

  4. Still I would just credit miles from a mistake fare flown on American to a partner frequent flyer program. Even if American considers the fare non-mileage earning, it will be in a qualifying fare class for another airline. It’s possible miles won’t post (that American will be so clever as to avoid reporting to the partner airline, though I doubt it) and it’s possible miles sent in for credit retroactively to another airline won’t post. But under the terms and conditions of most foreign partner programs you’d have a good case to earn the miles.

I remember when American offered miles to customers who booked a mistake fare not to fly on it. And I remember American offering miles as compensation for not honoring a fare at one point years ago as well. Now they say they won’t give miles if you do fly. We’ll see if that actually happens.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Southwest started something similar in 2013. Hidden city tickets no longer earn any points. This must have been much simpler to implement than attempting to prohibit the practice.

    Southwest’s policy once explicitly allowed hidden city ticketing, but now it’s silent on the subject. The policy not to award points is also unpublished.

  2. Seems smart to me. May end up with more likelihood of the mistake fares being honored too, since it will no longer make sense for most people to fly on the same mistake fare 3 times or more, so less rampant abuse of the mistake fares

  3. The definition of a mistake seems weak but I agree it will be difficult for AA to catch all this on the back end if credited to partners (which might be a good idea on many “mistake” fares I’m thinking).

  4. Adam: “Seems smart to me. May end up with more likelihood of the mistake fares being honored too, since it will no longer make sense for most people to fly on the same mistake fare 3 times or more, so less rampant abuse of the mistake fares”

    I agree 100%! I envision AA only enforcing this on folks that fly 4x DCA-PEK in biz to qualify for ExP.

  5. This seems very reasonable, provided (1) AAmerican notifies people who purchase mistake fares and informs them that the fare is a mistake, and (2) allows people to refund a mistake fare. We can’t assume that everyone who purchases a mistake fare did so with full knowledge, some people may have stumbled on it while booking a trip.

  6. I wonder if they define “reduced rate tickets” somewhere? Taken literally, it includes all discounts purchased with a discount, including those occasional %-off coupons they give out, or even fare sales.

  7. Why not go all the way to “dynamic pricing” of earnings? Implement some opaque formula at the time of purchase to calculate the miles to be awarded based on the expected profitability of that transaction. Sure it’s a joke now, but five years from now?

  8. I’m guessing it’s more along the lines of AA not issuing missing miles on mistake fares. So basically if they automatically post, great, but if for some reason they don’t post, you’re SOL.

  9. I have no problem with this. Actually I was able to book FC seats JFK-HNL on DL during their glitch on 12/26/13. Not only did my wife and I get to fly to Hawaii JFK-LAX businesselite and LAX-HNL FC for $119 each, but with Medallion status bonuses we earned enough miles for a free ticket each. That’s why AA is my preferred carrier but DL is my close second.

  10. It doesn’t cut both ways…..if there are acknowledged mistake-fares then how about recognizing mistake-bookings so that penalties don’t apply.?

  11. Does this only apply to mistake fares that were booked with AA? For instance, if I booked a mistake fare with a Gulf carrier and then credited the miles to AA would they post? In my case, I didn’t put the AA FFP number in before I took the flights, I waited to see how the chips would fall before I decided which FFP to credit to. I now think AA would be the best place for those miles to go, but only at 100% and being sure they wouldn’t evaporate.

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