American Airlines says it is taking the first step in the evolution of its award-winning AAdvantage loyalty programme. In the second half of 2016, the programme will shift how customers earn award miles from distance flown to dollars spent. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

Award redemption rates will be adjusted with some award levels increasing, while others will be decreasing. Additionally, American will offer the best elite-qualifying mile multipliers in the industry and simplify the elite qualification process to better reward customers.

"American Airlines has spent the last two years being singularly focused on integration. Now we're at a point where we can begin to look ahead and lay the foundation for the future of the AAdvantage programme to ensure we're rewarding our most loyal customers with the benefits they value the most," said Suzanne Rubin, President of AAdvantage.

In the second half of 2016, when traveling on flights marketed by American, members will begin earning award miles based on the price of the ticket purchased (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees) and that member's elite status level.

AAdvantage members will receive five miles for every U.S. dollar spent on the base fare and carrier-imposed fees. Gold members will receive seven miles, Platinum members will receive eight and Executive Platinum members will receive 11 miles per dollar spent.

Award miles for travel on most flights marketed by partner airlines will be based on a percentage of the flight distance and the booking code purchased.

Until the new award mile earning structure takes effect, members will still earn award miles based on the distance flown. American is extending its bonus miles promotion that allows members to earn even more on purchased First or Business class tickets.

In March 2016, some award redemption levels will be reduced by as much as 40%, and AAdvantage members will continue to book award travel on any day of the year without any blackout dates. For tickets booked on or after March 22, award redemption levels to popular destinations in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America will be reduced, and MileSAAver awards for flights 500 miles or less in the U.S. and Canada will be redeemable for as low as 7,500 miles one way (plus any applicable taxes and carrier-imposed fees). Award redemption levels on other routes, such as some flights to Europe and Asia will increase due to changes to market pricing and demand.

In addition, starting in January 2016, the AAdvantage programme will offer two simple ways to qualify for elite status - Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) at the same thresholds as today. Elite-qualifying points will be discontinued. Members will earn more EQMs for purchasing higher fares, and EQSs will still be awarded for each eligible flight segment flown. American will offer the most generous multipliers in the industry. Beginning with the 2017 membership year, elite status will be valid through January 31 of the following year.

The AAdvantage programme provides free, auto-requested upgrades for all elite members on domestic flights 500 miles or less, and AAdvantage Executive Platinum members receive complimentary, auto-requested upgrades on all domestic flights regardless of length. With the higher EQM earn rates in 2016, beginning March 1, Gold and Platinum members will earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs earned during the membership year. The cost of a 500-mile upgrade will be 40 dollars when purchased online, at the airport or from an agent. Beginning January 1, 2016, Executive Platinum members will receive four systemwide upgrades upon qualification for the 2017 membership year, with the opportunity to earn up to four more based on flight activity - two for every 50,000 EQMs earned above the 100,000 EQM threshold up to 200,000 EQMs.