The coronavirus pandemic deeply disrupted air travel around the world, driving passenger capacities down into single digit volumes compared to 2019. On April 21st, the TSA screened just under 93,000 passengers across the country, a drop of almost 96% year-over-year.
Now, with an economic recovery in the works, airlines are working hard to get travelers on the road again.
This week, The Points Guy, a blog that heavily covers frequent flyer miles, reported that American Airlines had launched a promotion to help grease the wheels on that journey. For every ticket booked by May 18th and flown between July 1 and December 31, 2020, American Airlines is giving travelers an extra 500 bonus miles for the AAdvantage loyalty program. Travelers need to register by logging into their accounts and signing up for the promotion to qualify.
Redeemable award miles at American Airlines are typically earned by flying on the carrier. For every mile flown in the air, a member of American’s AAdvantage program earns one frequent flyer mile — so a typical trip from Chicago to San Francisco would earn around 1800 points. Adding 500 miles to that return trip journey of 3600 miles through this new incentive would give travelers a healthy 14% bonus.
Elite qualifying miles, or points earned towards elite status with the carrier, cannot be earned as a function of the promotion.
American’s generous move to basically give away free miles for booking travel is an indication of how eager the airline industry is to get travelers back on the road. With most potential passengers still sheltering in place and hundreds of planes still parked, air carriers are shouldering millions of losses each day as the economy idles. Just last month, Delta’s CEO shared that the carrier was losing $60m each day as the pandemic keeps travelers at home.
As a means to keep loyal travelers engaged, all three legacy carriers have already extended rewards programs through 2021, effectively giving frequent flyers a carte blance on earning elite status this year. Further promotions, however, still appear to be on the table.