I really like small business frequent flyer programs. In addition to travelers earning points in their own mileage account, a business earns points for their travel as well. The earning isn’t the same, or necessarily as generous, but it’s a double dip and across several travelers in a company the rewards can really add up.
At American, the program isn’t run by AAdvantage but by Sales. Spending on just my own travel each year seems to earn enough points for me to give someone AAdvantage Gold status and also redeem for an Admirals Club membership.
One of the quirks of American’s program Business ExtrAA is that points expire at the end of calendar year two calendar years after which they’re earned. So points earned in January 2016 (or June or December 2016) expire December 31, 2018 if unused.
As a result of points expiring at the end of a calendar year, there’s also a spike in redemptions as the year ends. Most awards are issued electronically, but upgrades and lounges passes are issued as paper certificates. Apparently they ran out of paper certificates, because earlier today the Business ExtrAA website included this note,
NOTICE: Upgrades & Admirals Club Day Pass Awards BXP1, BXP2, BXP3 and BXP7 may be delayed due to upcoming award changes. You may continue to redeem points for these awards and Business Extra will fulfill them as soon as they become available.
It seems that upgrades are already back in stock, and the notice is gone from the website, but I asked American about ‘upcoming award changes.’ It turns out that there are a few more fare types that have been excluded from being upgraded with these certificates.
There are three types of Business ExtrAA upgrades: one segment domestic upgrades, one-way international upgrades (full fare), and one-way international upgrades (domestic fares). American tells me they’ve made these changes:
- One segment domestic upgrade: added ‘B’ fares to the list of exclusions, so these certificates are now valid on all fares except for B, N, O, Q and S.
- One-way international upgrade (full fares): removed B from the allowable fares, so the upgrades only now are valid for J and Y (true full fare) fares.
- One-way international upgrade (discount fares): added B, N, and Q fares to the list of exclusions, so these certificates are not valid on all fares except for B, N, O, Q, and S. [I believe Q, W, and V fares were also already excluded.]
They’ve also added the language that American “reserves the right to change the inventory restrictions at any time, without notice” to these certificates and also that they are not valid on “fares that do not allow upgrades.”
These changes do not yet appear on the terms and conditions for the awards on the Business ExtrAA website, but apparently are included in the new certificates.
While there will be folks who are disappointed by these changes, and greater restrictions are never good, they strike me as relatively minor. And I still get great value out of the program. For instance instead of redeeming for a club membership and giving someone Gold status, I could use my points for 8 or 9 confirmed upgrades or for free award travel without spending my AAdvantage miles.
I would, however, have greatly preferred to have seen an announcement in advance of these changes for the same reason that I don’t like changes without notice to frequent flyer programs.