Ever driven a car? I figured. The way your car calculates how far it's gone is by counting the miles it travels. It's simple, it's a single distance measurement repeated over and over again. See, airlines don't like that method of accounting. They think miles should be calculated by how much you spend, irrelevant of how far you have actually traveled.
So I Earn Miles Based On Money And Not Flying?
That's pretty much it. For decades travelers have earned miles based on the distance of the flight. So if you flew from New York to Los Angeles one way, and the distance was 2,500 miles, you'd probably get 2,500 miles. Easy. Since then they've made it harder to follow, with some tickets earning only a quarter of a mile, others earning 3 miles for every mile. Well, they've taken it a step further and now you'll earn miles purely based on the money you spend. Depending on how much of a VIP you are with the airline, you'll earn somewhere between 5-11 miles per dollar.
Confusing. Will I Earn More Or Less Miles Now?
Ah, now we're getting to the important stuff. If you're a big spender and a frequent traveler, in some cases (but not all) you may earn more miles. In most cases, for just about everyone, you're earning less miles, the cheaper the ticket the more you get punished. So let's say you buy a fare from London to Hong Kong, where the distance between the two airports is 5991 miles. That's now an entirely irrelevant number, and if you bought a $200 ticket, you'd only earn about 1000 miles, compared to nearly 6,000 in the past on many tickets.
Why Have Airlines Done This? Are They All Doing It?
Virtually every airline has made a change to award higher paying customers with more miles, which, though annoying, does seem somewhat fair. Delta, United and now American have all officially gone revenue based, where miles are solely based on money. It seems Alaska and many other top programs are headed that way. If you wanted my opinion on this one, I'd tell you that virtually everyone will be doing this within ten years. Less miles to give out...