Travel Tip: How To Tell If You Bought An American Airlines Special Fare

Travel Tip: How To Tell If You Bought An American Airlines Special Fare

I’ve written a few times now about American Airlines Special Fares. Essentially, Special Fares are fare codes in which you accrue AAdvantage Elite Qualifying activity based on mileage flown rather than price paid. I particularly love Special Fares because they allow you to earn a decent amount of EQD on deeply discounted long haul fares. Buying American Airlines special fares is a bit like returning to the old pre-revenue based AAdvantage program.

Although I really love using Special Fares to earn extra EQD, I’ve always had an issue with them. The issue being that I’m never really sure if I’ve purchased a special fare until my miles post. That is, until now, where I’ve finally discovered a surefire way to tell if you purchased a special fare or not. Unfortunately, I had to learn this trick the hard way.


How To Tell If You Bought An American Airlines Special Fare

I won’t go into what special fares are or how to purchase them as I’ve already done that in the post linked above (again here). All you need to know is that Special Fares accrue miles and qualifying activity based on the distance flown rather than the price paid. For that reason, those who purchase deeply discounted long haul flights prefer to buy special fares.

As I fall into that category, I tend to try to buy special fares when buying deeply discounted tickets to Europe. If I only pay $400 for a flight to Europe, I’m only going to earn about $300 EQD for that trip. If I buy the ticket as a special fare, I’ll end up earning about $800 EQD.

Obviously this is great, but until now I’ve run into an issue when doing this. I’ve never been able to tell if I correctly purchased a special fare. I’ve tried everything. First, I tried emailing the itineraries to myself to check the fare code. That gave me a letter fare code, but didn’t tell me if it was a special fare or not. I’ve even called the airline to ask them, but that proved especially fruitless.

Surprisingly, the only way I’ve been able to tell if I purchased a special fare or not is to simply manage the reservation on American’s website.

What A Standard Fare Looks Like

I recently purchased two round trip fares to/from Europe as part of a relaxed mileage run. Each round trip ticket was especially inexpensive, so I tried to purchase these tickets a special fares. Unfortunately, I only ended up getting one trip booked as a special fare and the other booked as a standard fare. This surprised me as I booked both tickets at the same time using the same method, but at least now I know how to check for future flights.

When you log into your AAdvantage account you should be able to find a list of your upcoming trips. Within the list, go into the “view/change” page to review your itinerary. On this page you’ll see a list of your flights and your seat assignments. Toward the bottom of the page is a “Cost Summary” which ends up being critically important.

American Airlines Standard Fare Cost Summary
American Airlines Standard Fare Cost Summary

If you’ve purchased a standard fare, your cost summary will look something like the above image. You’ll see the cost of the ticket clearly displayed.

In this case, I only earned EQD based on the cost of the ticket. Obviously this was a costly learning opportunity.

What A Special Fare Looks Like

By comparison, the “Cost Summary” of a Special Fare looks a bit different.

American Airlines Special Fare Cost Summary
American Airlines Special Fare Cost Summary

As you can see, the Cost Summary on a Special Fare doesn’t show a price. Instead, it shows the above message. This indicates that the fare you purchased is in fact a Special Fare and you’ll earn EQM, EQD, and redeemable miles based on the distance flown rather than the price paid.

Final Thoughts

The nice thing about booking airfare these days it that you have 24 hours to cancel each booking. This means once you book your “Special Fare” you should head over to the American Airlines website to check the cost summary. If you see a price listed than you did not buy a special fare and you need to cancel your reservation. If you don’t see a price listed then you did it right!

There are other ways to check if you’re buying a special fare or not before you purchase. For those methods I’d recommend taking a look at a recent post from Frequent Miler. In this post titled “Cracking The Bulk Fare Code” FM explains how to read the fare rules to know if you’re buying a special fare or not.

Either way, special fares are a great way to earn EQD and EQM quickly when purchasing discounted long haul flights in almost any cabin of service. However, for short-haul flying, you’re better off buying a standard fare and earning mileage based on the price paid.

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