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American postpones ‘preferred’ agency deadline



American Airlines has postponed to 11 July from 1 May its deadline for changing the ways travellers can earn AAdvantage loyalty programme miles and points and announcing its newly designated preferred travel agencies, the carrier confirmed. 

The airline in February announced changes effective 1 May about earning credits for American flights. To earn points, travellers would have to book direct or through a New Distribution Capability-enabled channel, belong to a firm that has a corporate contract with the carrier or is part of its small and midsize business AAdvantage Business programme, or by booking through preferred travel agencies – a new category. 

To qualify as preferred, an agency would need to book as of 21 April at least 30 per cent of its American volume through NDC-enabled channels, 50 per cent by 31 October and 70 per cent by 30 April, 2025. The new date for that first qualification hurdle now is 5 June. The 30 per cent volume threshold remains the same, and the future dates and volume levels also will remain the same, American said in an email.

“We’ve seen a great response from agencies increasingly adopting modern retailing technology, and many have already achieved preferred retailer status,” according to an American spokesperson. 

“The majority of our indirect bookings are now made via an agency with NDC capabilities, and the current list of agencies beyond 30 per cent NDC bookings is already impressive.” 

American added that the extension gives those agencies who are “on the cusp of meeting the threshold” time to complete the transition.

But according to BTN Europe portfolio mate The Beat, it’s unclear how that 30 per cent would be measured. 

On the surface, the changes might not seem to affect corporate programmes very much; however, according to industry sources, American has cancelled contracts with some corporations as well as with some agencies, or at least in some cases significantly reconfigured their corporate incentive contracts

There are two things a travel buyer can do to manage this process and “buy a little time,” said Results Plus Consulting partner Kim Hamer during a Tuesday AmTrav webinar: “If you have a corporate agreement, continue booking through your [travel management company, even if they are not preferred] and earn loyalty and points. If you don’t have a corporate agreement and want to continue using your TMC, then sign up for AAdvantage Business.” 

Added Garner Advisory founder Cory Garner on the same webinar: “It has been peculiar to me to watch the corporate market have quite as much of a flurry of activity around [this AAdvantage change] considering there is a really easy ‘get out of jail free card’ associated with the strategy,” Garner said, referring to the option for companies to sign up for the SME business programme. 

“Could [American] change down the road? Absolutely. But it’s pretty clear this is more a leisure strategy than a corporate one at this point.” 

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