Late last year, some major changes were announced to the AAdvantage program, including the introduction of revenue based mileage earning, a huge award chart devaluation, an increase in elite qualifying miles earned for premium tickets, a cut in Executive Platinum benefits, and much more.
Well, today American AAdvantage is announcing some more major changes, most of which kick in next year. Today we’re learning about the date AAdvantage will go revenue based, the introduction of a fourth elite tier, the introduction of a revenue requirement for status, a change in upgrade priority, and a new upgrade benefit for top tier members.
AAdvantage will go revenue based as of August 1, 2016
It was announced last year that the American AAdvantage program will go revenue based as of the “second half of 2016.” Up until now we’ve only been able to speculate as to the date as of which that will happen.
Well, it’s now official: American AAdvantage will go revenue based on the earnings side as of August 1, 2016. As a reminder, here’s how many miles AAdvantage members will earn under the new program, excluding taxes and fees:
|Elite Status Level||Member||Gold||Platinum||Executive Platinum|
|Miles Earned Per Dollar Spent||5||7|
As is the norm with revenue based programs, miles awarded for travel on partner airlines will be based on a percentage of the distance flown based on the booking class purchased. We can expect some mileage earning rates to eventually be adjusted on partner airlines, though American isn’t sharing the details of that yet.
American is introducing a fourth elite tier
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Delta and United offer four elite tiers, and US Airways used to offer four as well. American won’t be adjusting existing elite tiers, but instead will be adding a fourth elite tier — called Platinum Pro — for those who earn 75,000 elite qualifying miles and/or 90 elite qualifying segments in a calendar year.
The three most significant benefits of Platinum Pro status are as follows:
- Unlimited complimentary upgrades within 500-mile eligible regions (as opposed to Platinum members, who have to earn “stickers,” and redeem those for upgrades)
- Higher upgrade priority than Platinum members
- Nine miles per dollar spent, rather than the eight miles per dollar spent for Platinum members
I’d say these are actually fair incremental benefits, given the higher upgrade priority and complimentary nature of the upgrades. Meanwhile Gold and Platinum members have to redeem stickers in order to get upgraded.
I’m still scratching my head about the name, though.
American is adding a revenue requirement for status
Effective January 1, 2017, American is adding a revenue requirement for status. Not surprisingly, it exactly matches the competition:
|Gold||Platinum||Platinum Pro||Executive Platinum|
|25K EQMs or 30 EQSs||50K EQMs or 60 EQSs||75K EQMs or 90 EQSs||100K EQMs or 120 EQSs|
|$3k EQDs||$6k EQDs||$9k EQDs||$12k EQDs|
I’d note that both Delta and United have opportunities for elite members to have this revenue requirement waived through their co-branded credit card:
- With Delta, all elite qualifying dollar requirements can be waived by spending $25,000 on a Delta Amex Card
- With United, elite qualifying dollar requirements can be waived for Silver, Gold, and Platinum members by spending $25,000 on a United Chase Card
American hasn’t yet announced an option to get a waiver through their co-branded credit card. I’ve been told that American is still evaluating their options when it comes to a potential waiver for cardholders. If/when they come up with something, it will be separately announced. As of now we don’t know anything one way or another, though, which is rather frustrating.
American is changing how upgrade priority works
American has been unique in how they prioritize upgrades. Upgrades clear first by status, and then by the time added to the waitlist. In other words, if you’re an Executive Platinum member who books your ticket way in advance, you’re almost guaranteed to clear. However, the downside is that if you’re a last minute planner, you’ll often be paying the highest fare and also have the worst odds at upgrades.
As of “later in 2017,” American will be prioritizing upgrades based on a 12-month rolling elite qualifying dollar total, sorted by elite status. In other words, an Executive Platinum member who has spent $20,000 on American in the past year but booked a week out will be prioritized ahead of an Executive Platinum member who has spent $10,000 in the past year but booked 11 months out.
American is adding upgrades on award tickets
As of “later in 2017” (the exact date will be announced at a later point), Executive Platinum members will receive complimentary upgrades for award tickets within regions which are eligible for 500-mile upgrades.
500-mile upgrades are valid for flights within the 50 United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Bermuda as well as between the United States and Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua or Panama).
These upgrades will be prioritized after Executive Platinum members on revenue tickets have cleared.
As a point of comparison, I’d note that:
- Delta offers complimentary upgrades on award tickets to Gold, Platinum, and Diamond Medallion members
- United offers complimentary upgrades on award tickets to all elite members, assuming they have the airline’s co-branded credit card
What do I make of these changes?
The AAdvantage program going revenue based on the earnings side is a negative change, but we already knew that would happen.
The fourth elite tier seems fair enough, and actually has some decent benefits between Platinum and Executive Platinum. The unlimited complimentary upgrades and higher upgrade priority are worthwhile. This is a devaluation for lifetime Platinum members, but to be honest I can’t blame American for that, given how many people have lifetime status under American’s old system.
The revenue requirement is disappointing, and I’m especially frustrated by the fact that they’re announcing this without knowing one way or another whether there will be an opportunity to get that waived if you spend a certain amount on their co-branded credit card. It would be nice to know one way or another, because it could impact how people view the program.
As far as the change in upgrade priority goes, I have mixed feelings about it. I’m generally a last minute planner and didn’t necessarily think the old system was the best, since typically those paying the highest, last minute fares had the worst shot at upgrades. However, the new system further reinforces the concept that your value to the airline is your exact revenue the past 12 months, rather than your overall loyalty.
The new upgrade benefit on awards is nice in theory, but I’d note that it’s still less generous than what Delta and United offer in that regard.
I’ve long been an American fanboy because they were sort of the underdog. I always thought “well, they might not be the best airline in terms of their onboard experience, but they have a great loyalty program, and that makes them worth flying.”
Then they announced a lot of improvements to their onboard product, which were great. Then they merged with US Airways, which set them back a decade in terms of their onboard product.
Now I genuinely think their loyalty program has gone from industry leading to worse than what’s offered by Delta and United. Rather than focusing on the onboard product and updating their fleet (there are still no plans to reconfigure the ex-US Airways A320s and A321s, which are horrible), they’re chipping away at their loyalty program.
I’m very disappointed at the state of AAdvantage, and am finally seriously considering dropping my status. See my follow-up post for the 10 reasons I’m considering breaking up with American.
What do you make of these changes to the AAdvantage program?