Report: American AAdvantage Will Make It Easier To Earn Status, Extend Upgrades

Report: American AAdvantage Will Make It Easier To Earn Status, Extend Upgrades

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Update: American AAdvantage has now revealed promotions that make it easier to earn status, and also extended systemwide upgrades.

In October 2020, American AAdvantage announced it would be reducing elite requirements for 2021 by somewhere around 20%, in addition to rolling over elite activity from the fourth quarter of 2020.

While that was a nice proactive move, ultimately it’s not enough. We’ve seen both Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus announce plans to make it significantly easier to earn status in 2021, but American AAdvantage has been radio silent.

There’s now an unofficial update on that…

American AAdvantage updates coming in early June?

Senior American Airlines executives have been cold-calling customers to get their feedback on the airline, the frequent flyer program, and the overall state of travel.

A FlyerTalk member was recently called by the president of American AAdvantage. There are two particularly interesting takeaways. According to what this person was told:

  • In early June, American AAdvantage will extend the expiration of systemwide upgrades that currently expire July 31, 2021; the claim is that these will be extended by a full year, though my guess would be that they’re extended through the end of the year or to early 2022 (a full year from original expiration, rather than a full additional year)
  • In early June, American AAdvantage will announce further plans to make it easier to earn status this in 2021; this could include reduced requirements, and/or an accelerated pace of qualifying for elite status with upcoming flying

Now, let me of course add the warning that all of this info is according to someone on the internet, and there has been no official communication from the American AAdvantage team about what changes we’ll see. There are no guarantees that this is how things will work out, and I imagine this is subject to change.

Nonetheless I figure this is worth sharing, in case you’re someone who would otherwise blow a systemwide upgrade on an hour-long flight, given that they’re about to expire (as of now).

American will likely extend systemwide upgrades further

My take on what we could see…

Personally I’m disappointed by how American is approaching these updates:

  • Extending systemwide upgrades should have been an absolute no brainer, and I find it puzzling that American is waiting so long to do so; it seems the airline is essentially trying to get as many people as possible to redeem them suboptimally
  • Personally I think American is shooting itself in the foot by not announcing a new plan sooner; the reality is that many people who would otherwise be loyal to American AAdvantage are just booking whatever airline is most convenient, because they’ve given up on the concept of requalifying for status, given how unattainable it seems to many

If I had to guess, I think we’ll see American offer accelerated status qualification for travel in the coming months, rather than lowering thresholds, but that’s just my guess.

While I think all elite requirements should be lowered a bit more, I think the biggest thing that needs to happen is that the elite qualifying dollars threshold needs to be lowered disproportionately:

  • American essentially wants you to spend 15 cents per earned elite mile to qualify for status — for example, Executive Platinum status requires 80,000 elite miles and 12,000 elite qualifying dollars; in first class you earn 200% elite miles, so you’d need to spend an average of 30 cents per flown mile in first or business class
  • Airfare is largely very inexpensive right now, and there aren’t many people booking paid premium cabin tickets internationally, which is largely how people spend the most flying American
  • A majority of my flying on American this year has been in paid first class, yet I’m averaging well under 15 cents per earned elite mile

Bottom line

It would appear that American AAdvantage plans to extend systemwide upgrades and make status easier to earn, and that we should expect an announcement in early June.

While that could change, I’m inclined to believe that this is accurate, since it just makes sense. I’m disappointed by how long this announcement is taking, and look forward to seeing the details.

What do you make of this unofficial American AAdvantage update?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Conversations (37)
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  1. Jon

    The reality is, to maintain Platinum Elite status in 2021 was almost impossible. I am a business traveler and there was no business travel in the first part of the year.. American needs to follow the EU carriers and just extend the status to the end of 2022.

  2. Guri S

    I have platinum status that i cannot renew and has been wasted because i did not get to enjoy it in 2020 and it looks like no travel for me in 2021.

    Oh well!

  3. Sir Walter Raleigh

    I have similar travel patterns to Rob. 1-2 trips / Quarter in paid intl J by my employer + a handful of leisure trips in Y.

    I don't expect anything to help me out too much, but always surprised to see the moaning on travel sites when airlines don't hand out status.

    In normal times, I easily qualify for EXP, so maybe I'll qualify for status organically in 2022 or 2023. I remember the moaning when AA added the 15k spend requirement for EXP. It was great!

  4. Rob

    I'm probably an outlier, so I don't expect AA to tailor anything to me. But it's a bit disappointing that someone with primarily Asia-based international travel effectively has no path to retaining status.

    My schedule in a typical year includes the following: 4 or 5 trips to HKG, a trip or two to Europe and/or Oceania, and only a handful of domestic flights (most of them to/from the international flights). Most of this is simply...

    I'm probably an outlier, so I don't expect AA to tailor anything to me. But it's a bit disappointing that someone with primarily Asia-based international travel effectively has no path to retaining status.

    My schedule in a typical year includes the following: 4 or 5 trips to HKG, a trip or two to Europe and/or Oceania, and only a handful of domestic flights (most of them to/from the international flights). Most of this is simply unavailable for the foreseeable future, and with it any normal way to status. C'est la vie.

    If indeed AA extends SWUs again, I suspect I'll end up gifting most of mine to friends crossing the Atlantic (assuming Schengen reopens sooner rather than later).

  5. Reidy

    I'm with Scott, I'm an EP eho continue to travel, in fact my travel hasn't reduced. I will requalify by the end of june. So when they reduce requirements what am I and otgers who continue to be loyal get? Listen you either flying or not. You dont make your status well you requalify next year or purchase status retention at the end of the year. Fares were very low the first 75 days of...

    I'm with Scott, I'm an EP eho continue to travel, in fact my travel hasn't reduced. I will requalify by the end of june. So when they reduce requirements what am I and otgers who continue to be loyal get? Listen you either flying or not. You dont make your status well you requalify next year or purchase status retention at the end of the year. Fares were very low the first 75 days of this year, but those days are long gone. I am traveling internationally every 3 weeks and I have not purchased any BC or PE - those are most uncomfortable seat I won't buy it period - I rather stay in EC than sit in those seats. - the loads on these flights are so low you literally have several rows from A-L for yourself - why waste money buying business classs tickets for non-existent business class service.

    Gold to emerald lol thats tge biggest joke ever-thanks for the chuckle - that's insane and yes these aren't arbitrary assignments. The alliance has agreed upon criteria for One World status level.

    Extension of SWU isn't unreasonable because honestly there's no reason to use them right now.

    We will see what the folks at AA comes up with just hope its no antiquated USAirways concept .

  6. mr

    EXP here and I have moved most of my travel away from AA bc of how I was treated in the last 18 months. Loyalty is a two way street and AA seems to have forgotten that.

    6 SWU will likely go to waste, but their penny pinching has finally caught up.

  7. Creditian

    AA elite status is simply a joke, paring up with their oasis in hell, how desirable!

  8. Russ

    I used to fly AA exclusively and am a 1.8 million miler with them. About 2 years ago I gave up on AA because they have shown so much hubris toward their frequent fliers by reducing perks, making re-qualification harder, reducing the value of miles and increasing redemption levels. I shop around now and fly Delta, JetBlue, Alaska and United. I only fly AA when It's convenient for me, not them.

  9. J

    As an EP who will hit the 2022 renewal threshold in about two months, my ratio is just over 10 cents per EQM. If American wants to endear themselves to people who travel a lot they could alter same day changes. Don’t require the same connection city if I’m still going to the final destination. That flexibility would be great. Another option would be to let me change the date of the trip entirely. I’m...

    As an EP who will hit the 2022 renewal threshold in about two months, my ratio is just over 10 cents per EQM. If American wants to endear themselves to people who travel a lot they could alter same day changes. Don’t require the same connection city if I’m still going to the final destination. That flexibility would be great. Another option would be to let me change the date of the trip entirely. I’m not saying make all changes free but to loosen up how strict same day changes are.

  10. Anthony Thomas

    Anything short of an extension seems ambitious for retaining status/customs. Sure, some people are out there and have been the whole time but it's hard for me to imagine business paid travel to appear until very late in Q4 for my tech job, and even then probably just one token trip.

  11. JR

    So if I post something on FlyerTalk, it becomes gospel. Good to know!

  12. Hans

    Why do airline elites feel entitled about everything? You aren't entitled to your airline status. To those AA elites who feel "unwelcomed and disgusted" about the program you're in -- put your money where you mouth is and status match to Delta or United. Stop treating AA like the bitter ex you can't get over.

  13. Aaron Philipson

    Oh great, I just made PP 2 weeks ago...

  14. Kuloko

    Right now I am just 1,000 miles and 220 EDQ shy from PLT (all from domestic travel) but I am already PLT lifetime. Extending SWUs will be great. However, without business travel picking up I do not see me getting EXP this year based on the current criteria.

  15. Robert B

    Currently I have more than enough segments in 2021 to close in on EP, however with the low fares my EQDs are way off, just barely closing in on Platinum Pro. Hopefully some limit adjustments will be made to accommodate us very frequent flyers that do not travel internationally.

  16. Bobo

    Thank you for this tip. Last night I booked fall Europe travel which shows SWUs available and was sad that mine will expire before then.

    Instead of requalifying on AA this year as a lifetime Platinum I have focused on AS MVP75K requal but big downside is no SWUs.

  17. D3kingg

    Do I stay at Platinum status and put my daily spend on AMEX for the second half of the year ?

    Or should I make Platinum Pro which includes OW emerald and continue my daily spend across AADVANTAGE credit cards ?

  18. W

    I'm at Gold right now but I probably won't be able to reach the EQM requirement for Platinum without a reduction in EQM's needed or additional EQM's per flight (the dollar amount for me isn't necessarily the issue, but I recognize it is for others).

  19. W

    I've flown a bit on AA in economy domestically in these past few months and a round-trip on QR in J and I'm averaging about 6.8 cents per mile this year (and I didn't have AA status during most of these flights (except one short domestic flight) so these are purely from the regular non-elite earning rates.

  20. Scott Milloway

    I guess I have a different take on all this. What happened to earning things? Are we all turning into millennials? I have continued traveling through the "Pandemic" and will reach the Executive Platinum status again in a month or two. Should my status be downgraded in a sense so someone who did not travel can share my status and bump me from an upgrade? I am not a fan of any of the airlines...

    I guess I have a different take on all this. What happened to earning things? Are we all turning into millennials? I have continued traveling through the "Pandemic" and will reach the Executive Platinum status again in a month or two. Should my status be downgraded in a sense so someone who did not travel can share my status and bump me from an upgrade? I am not a fan of any of the airlines & have tried them all. I would just like to be able to use my SWU and get award flights with my 2M+ FF miles! So stop expecting to receive what others have earned and get back to work!

  21. Jeff

    So frustrating - I with reluctance used 2 SWUs yesterday AM for EGE-DFW-FLL next weekend hours before I saw this "leak". Glad I did not burn both but still if Lucky is right will have 6 more expiring end of Jan 22 when a lot of intl travel outside of the EU is still in the air.

    At least the news should be coming soon - I am not booking any more optional rev travel until we see how AA plans to approach this.

  22. Benjamin G Guttery

    They need to reduce the miles needed and segments as well. The dollars isn't necessarily the main issue, especially when they have a credit card EQD waiver this year. In a "normal year" I fly enough domestically FC/MC and a few international PE trips to earn PLATINUM PRO the "old fashioned way". This year I've taken 2 (WAY over priced) paid FC round trips and haven't even scratched GOLD yet. It's completely put of whack AA.

  23. eponymous coward

    Also... there's a whole bunch of business travel that's not coming back.

    "Wait, you mean our Fortune 500 company can get most of the benefits of travel through increasing our usage of videoconferencing, without having to spend millions each year on airfare, hotels and travel expenses? We can deliver the same value for shareholders and spend less? It even looks good in public relations because we can claim we're fighting global warming?"

    This is seriously...

    Also... there's a whole bunch of business travel that's not coming back.

    "Wait, you mean our Fortune 500 company can get most of the benefits of travel through increasing our usage of videoconferencing, without having to spend millions each year on airfare, hotels and travel expenses? We can deliver the same value for shareholders and spend less? It even looks good in public relations because we can claim we're fighting global warming?"

    This is seriously going to change this "hobby"- much of it is predicated on airlines charging businesses a lot of money for premium class airfare and then airlines selling miles so the unused seats go to people with credit cards (or elite status, which becomes less prevalent). Your 40+ seat lie flat business class dormitory on a widebody (and F class upgrades for your best customers) doesn't work if you're not getting the same fares (and you're filling it only with nonrevs and people spending their miles obtained through credit cards). You can already see LH dropping a lot of their F product, EK shrinking their F cabins, CX not flying F to the USA.

    What probably happens is more sardine Y and more Y+, less 747s, 77Ws and A380s, more 787s and A350s. Premium fares and premium cabins start matching actual demand. And redeeming miles for coach or Delta's "a mile is a penny" model starts creeping into everywhere...

  24. eponymous coward

    "If you have status with American, you aren’t going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement."

    You're a couple months out of date. This summer is pretty close to normal in terms of domestic traffic and pricing, and international mileage running when countries still aren't allowing people in due to COVID is... brave.

    The days of winter 2020-2021 and super cheap fares are over.

    There may be the usual seasonality to...

    "If you have status with American, you aren’t going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement."

    You're a couple months out of date. This summer is pretty close to normal in terms of domestic traffic and pricing, and international mileage running when countries still aren't allowing people in due to COVID is... brave.

    The days of winter 2020-2021 and super cheap fares are over.

    There may be the usual seasonality to fares, but having to do 50k in early December on $99 one way transcons to keep your Executive Platinum status... how viable is that?

  25. Ian

    Yes AA has been shooting themselves in the foot. They are way too late to the party. I will qualify for Gold by July based on my current travel. When I was mapping out some of the rest of my travels for the year, I realized attaining Platinum, which would be useful is definitely not happening with the current framework. I will fly AA when convenient, which is how I got here in the first...

    Yes AA has been shooting themselves in the foot. They are way too late to the party. I will qualify for Gold by July based on my current travel. When I was mapping out some of the rest of my travels for the year, I realized attaining Platinum, which would be useful is definitely not happening with the current framework. I will fly AA when convenient, which is how I got here in the first place. But I went ahead and booked significantly cheaper domestic F tickets on United/Delta. If they gave me motivation to keep doing business with them, I might have considered taking them. I imagine a lot of folks (particularly anyone who buys an occasional cheap F ticket) probably mapped things out and came to a similar conclusion. Now that the tickets are booked new "status" motivation won't change the trips we've already planned. Way to go AA...

  26. D3kingg

    I’d say lower the thresholds for Gold , Platinum , and Platinum Pro but keep Executive and Concierge key coveted.

    I find myself on top of upgrade lists because I have EQDs. I’m spending several grand with American this year which would have been considered nothing pre pandemic in comparison to business travelers.

    On the other hand main cabin extra seats are either going out empty , filled with over sale basic economy...

    I’d say lower the thresholds for Gold , Platinum , and Platinum Pro but keep Executive and Concierge key coveted.

    I find myself on top of upgrade lists because I have EQDs. I’m spending several grand with American this year which would have been considered nothing pre pandemic in comparison to business travelers.

    On the other hand main cabin extra seats are either going out empty , filled with over sale basic economy fares with no seat assignment , or non revs. American should have better monetized those seats. Instead of $45-$90 how about $10-$25 ?

  27. LAXJeff

    Thought I would be in better shape to retain status with AA this year but the trips just aren't materializing for me. Hope they do extend the SWUs so they can be used on international trips and not just domestics.

  28. jfhscott

    @ Luke

    "Also, there’s no way they can just unilaterally alter their elite tier mapping to the Oneworld equivalent without amending their contracts with the alliance and/or partners. Those are probably negotiated years out. "

    Source?

  29. jfhscott

    @Luke:

    "They come at the problem from the other direction. They decide in advance how many customers they want in each elite tier . . . ."

    Source?

    When everyone is special, no one is special. Its not the end of the world for me if, temporarily, platinum pro is the effectively the new executive platinum so long as platinum is effectively the new platinum pro.

  30. William

    Copying Delta's earn EQMs on award tickets promo would be good. Encourage people to spend down the massive liabilities on the books before business travel returns.

    This is especially relevant to international travel. I'm not using cash to book those tickets right now. I don't want $2000 to get locked into a voucher because certain countries can't get their heads out of their rears. Miles on the other hand are fully refundable.

  31. Luke

    Status, is to some extent, a ranking system. If earning any given level is comparatively more difficult without tweaking earning levels, so be it – such makes any given level of status more consequential. They can just as easily announce that, through the end of 2022, gold maps to OW sapphire or that platinum qualifies as OW emerald to make up for challenges with attaining arbitrary levels of elititude.
    — jfhscott

    That’s not how...

    Status, is to some extent, a ranking system. If earning any given level is comparatively more difficult without tweaking earning levels, so be it – such makes any given level of status more consequential. They can just as easily announce that, through the end of 2022, gold maps to OW sapphire or that platinum qualifies as OW emerald to make up for challenges with attaining arbitrary levels of elititude.
    — jfhscott

    That’s not how it works. They come at the problem from the other direction. They decide in advance how many customers they want in each elite tier, and then they adjust the qualification requirements until they land on the point of the bell curve where the desired percentage of customers will qualify.

    Also, there’s no way they can just unilaterally alter their elite tier mapping to the Oneworld equivalent without amending their contracts with the alliance and/or partners. Those are probably negotiated years out. The other airlines are in exactly the same situation anyway, so it would make no sense for an AAdvantage Gold (lowest) suddenly to become equivalent to Executive Club Gold (highest).

  32. Luke

    Bad takes. If you have status with American, you aren’t going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement. If anything you are trying to rescue any bit of status that you can.
    — Gold

    Hard disagree. There are a lot of people out there for whom having anything less than the top status is effectively worthless.

    Those people will have looked at all their anticipated flying for the rest of...

    Bad takes. If you have status with American, you aren’t going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement. If anything you are trying to rescue any bit of status that you can.
    — Gold

    Hard disagree. There are a lot of people out there for whom having anything less than the top status is effectively worthless.

    Those people will have looked at all their anticipated flying for the rest of the year and done some napkin math to determine whether they can even come close by booking all of those flights in premium cabins, possibly intentionally overpaying by booking into higher than the cheapest fare bucket available, and so forth.

    Anyone that’s gone through that exercise and come back with a figure like, say, only $6000 EQDs — when the current published requirement is $12,000 — will have already bailed on AA. Better to get a status match challenge with the competition and then lock in United 1K or Delta Diamond for 2022 now, than to stick around with AA and just hope they announce something.

  33. Steve_CC

    More competition out of DFW/DAL has made status worthless to me and i love it that way. Would much rather have choices when flying to den,sfo,lga etc than have status and the 5% chance of an upgrade and be forced into picking a single carrier.

  34. jfhscott

    This is silly.

    Status, is to some extent, a ranking system. If earning any given level is comparatively more difficult without tweaking earning levels, so be it - such makes any given level of status more consequential. They can just as easily announce that, through the end of 2022, gold maps to OW sapphire or that platinum qualifies as OW emerald to make up for challenges with attaining arbitrary levels of elititude.

  35. DWT

    I'm in the same boat-- I've been buying a lot of transcon J and domestic F on AA this year but am still under 8 cents per EQM.

  36. Randy

    If there is a way for AA to screw their customers , devalue their loyalty program and ultimately put action behind the statement “American is not loyal to their customer base”, then you can bet your Advantage account that they’ve mastered a way to do it and are racing to get it implemented. They’ve been devaluing every year since the late 90s and are hell-bent determined to be the worst trailer park in the sky. Just ask them.

  37. Gold

    Bad takes. If you have status with American, you aren't going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement. If anything you are trying to rescue any bit of status that you can.

    Contrary to popular belief on this site, American is likely looking at their data and realizing that the bulk of their customers are not going to achieve any status this year. They know that once the biz travelers lose...

    Bad takes. If you have status with American, you aren't going to start price shopping now especially with prices in the basement. If anything you are trying to rescue any bit of status that you can.

    Contrary to popular belief on this site, American is likely looking at their data and realizing that the bulk of their customers are not going to achieve any status this year. They know that once the biz travelers lose that status then, and only then, do they become "free agents".

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Jon

The reality is, to maintain Platinum Elite status in 2021 was almost impossible. I am a business traveler and there was no business travel in the first part of the year.. American needs to follow the EU carriers and just extend the status to the end of 2022.

Guri S

I have platinum status that i cannot renew and has been wasted because i did not get to enjoy it in 2020 and it looks like no travel for me in 2021. Oh well!

Sir Walter Raleigh

I have similar travel patterns to Rob. 1-2 trips / Quarter in paid intl J by my employer + a handful of leisure trips in Y. I don't expect anything to help me out too much, but always surprised to see the moaning on travel sites when airlines don't hand out status. In normal times, I easily qualify for EXP, so maybe I'll qualify for status organically in 2022 or 2023. I remember the moaning when AA added the 15k spend requirement for EXP. It was great!

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