American AAdvantage May Add Elite Choice Rewards

Filed Under: American

American Airlines has sent out a survey to select AAdvantage elite members, which gives us a glimpse of how elite benefits may be changing going forward.

American elite members may get Choice Rewards

In a new survey, American asks how AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members would feel with a modified rewards structure. And before anyone gets worried, the things being surveyed seemed to be entirely positive, which should be a sign of the times in the industry.

The survey first asks how satisfied you are overall with current elite benefits.

It also asks which airline you like flying most and second most, with no mention of elite benefits.

The rest of the survey is dedicated to future changes being considered to the elite program, and in particular the introduction of Choice Rewards. The idea is as follows:

  • AAdvantage members would be able to select one Choice Rewards benefit upon earning Platinum Pro status
  • AAdvantage members would be able to select three Choice Rewards benefit upon earning Executive Platinum status
  • Systemwide upgrades would no longer be automatically be issued upon earning Executive Platinum status, but rather would be selected as Choice Rewards; at a minimum, you’d receive the same number you currently get, should you so choose

The survey shares 10 potential Choice Rewards:

  • Mileage redemption discount — a one-time discount for a certain percent off a roundtrip redemption in any cabin on any oneworld carrier for up to two people
  • Systemwide upgrades — these can be used to confirm upgrades at the time of booking, subject to availability
  • Premium travel headphones — one pair of premium noise canceling headphones
  • Admirals Club membership — a one-year individual Admirals Club membership
  • American airlines travel voucher — can be used towards an American Airlines ticket purchase
  • Gift of elite status — give AAdvantage elite status to someone else
  • Charitable donation — donate to your choice of nine national non-profit organizations
  • AAdvantage miles — you can redeem these any way you’d like
  • Carbon emissions offset — American will purchase carbon credits to offset a full year of travel based on average travel for your elite tier
  • Bonus elite qualifying miles — receive a set number of bonus EQMs for the following year

Then it asks members to rank these 10 options from most valuable to least valuable:

Note that:

  • You can select Choice Rewards multiple times
  • Admirals Club memberships and mileage redemption discounts require two of three Executive Platinum choices, while the others only require one

The survey then presents a variety of different scenarios to ask which you’d choose, with the numbers differing.

The survey then finishes by asking whether a new system like this would motivate you to requalify for status.

My take on American adding Choice Rewards

I think it’s hard to view this concept as anything but positive, as it simply gives AAdvantage elite members more flexibility and more rewards.

First of all, this objectively offers more rewards:

  • Platinum Pro members currently don’t receive any reward like this when earning status
  • Based on all these scenarios, even Executive Platinum members would come out ahead; you get three benefits upon earning Executive Platinum, and you could select four systemwide upgrades as two of them, leaving you with at least one extra benefit (more than you had before)

Beyond that, I have a few thoughts on this:

This is what Delta and United already do

Both Delta and United offer top tier elite members significantly more flexibility in terms of the rewards they can choose:

United offers elite members PlusPoints, so they can choose their upgrades

In the case of American, the airline doesn’t offer any sort of real reward when you reach Platinum Pro, while Executive Platinum members get four systemwide upgrades by default, with no choice.

I don’t value systemwide upgrades that much

Historically I used to value American systemwide upgrades a lot, but I don’t use them much anymore, even pre-coronavirus:

  • There’s rarely confirmable upgrade space, and it’s often too risky to waitlist when there are other options to outright redeem miles for first and business class
  • While American’s business class seats are good, the service leaves a bit to be desired, so I’d generally rather confirm an award seat on a better airline

I don’t value American systemwide upgrades as much as I used to

Which Choice Rewards stand out to me?

I’d definitely consider many of these options in place of systemwide upgrades. A few things stand out:

  • I love the 35% award discount, since it applies on roundtrip tickets on partner airlines for up to two people — it would knock a roundtrip Qatar Airways business class ticket to the Maldives down from 140K miles to 91K miles (and you could use that for two people, to save nearly 100K miles)
  • Since I value AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each, I personally think the gift of 25K AAdvantage miles is better than the $250 voucher (or any of the other options pegging the value of miles at one cent each)
  • The Admirals Club membership has little appeal to me, given how great the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is
  • Similarly the bonus EQMs the following year has little appeal to me, since you still have to reach the EQDs requirements, which is the limiting factor for many
  • AAdvantage Gold has limited benefits, so I don’t view gifting elite status as being that valuable

I’d love to select a discounted Qatar Airways Qsuites award as my elite benefit

Bottom line

It sounds like American is considering meaningful improvements to Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum. Not only would the structure of being able to select benefits match Delta and United, but frankly it’s about time for an improvement to the program.

I’d absolutely welcome these changes, though would hope there’s no devaluation to go along with it. Given the times, there’s really not much room for devaluations, if you ask me…

What do you make of American’s Choice Rewards concept? Which options would you choose?

(Tip of the hat to Aaron)

Comments
  1. The 35% off redemption is my favorite. 299k r/t JFK-AUH First Apartment on EY for two people compared to 460k is a very big difference (if you are be able to find award space of course).

  2. One of the biggest under-noticed advantages of Delta’s upgrade certificates setup through Choice Benefits is that your upgrade certificates are valid for a year from when you select them, so you have a lot more range of potential upgrade certificate validity — for example for status earned from flying in 2018, global upgrade certificates could be selected as soon as you hit diamond in 2018, to as late as Jan 31 2020, and the certificates would be valid for a year from whenever you selected them (whereas on AA right now they’d expire Jan 31 2020 no matter what). So there’s much less risk your upgrade certificates go to waste if you don’t happen to need any in a given year. If AA mirrors that part of the Delta system, that would be particularly valuable.

  3. I like the idea that the rewards that come with PP and EXP can be tailored towards one’s desire. Some members would prefer for example a gift of RDMs over SWUs if they don’t fly International but want to be able to take family members on a nice vacation and therefore need the miles.

    In 2020, AA offered a loyalty promotion to EXPs that hit 90K, 120K and 150KEQMs. Each time I was offered a selection, including either 40K RDMs or 2 SWUs.

  4. As a Platinum for life member, I feel like AA stabbed me in the back when they introduced Platinum Pro. AA used to be my only choice when I needed to fly. Not anymore. Therefore these new benefits mean nothing to me. Just like AA means nothing to me. Now my number 1 choice is Alaska followed by Jet Blue and SouthWest.

  5. If systemwide upgrades didn’t come with such tight capacity restrictions, they’d be worth something. How about bringing back oneworld RTW award tickets, even if only for Elites?

  6. The 35% Award redemption is the best one for my travel equation followed by the 25,000 miles gift. I currently cannot utilize my SWUs so that is a useless enhancement under the current restrictions. Not sure which third option, perhaps the AC membership for backup.

  7. To an infrequent user of AA, but a big user of AAdvantage miles on partner airlines, without status or loyalty, this survey is akin to minutely examining the fluff in your navel.

  8. Maybe slightly off topic but probably very much IN topic:

    Has anyone noticed that Saver Awards have all but completely disappeared but have often been almost exactly “replaced” by “Web-Specials”? I do not quite see the point of the change, except for the fact the the awards can become dynamic priced. It has just worked for me as, when I needed to change an one such award to postpone the flights to one week later (everything else equal), the price went DOWN by 10,000 miles. Since Web special awards are not changeable, it meant cancelling and rebooking at no charge.

    I would have liked it less if the price had gone UP 10,000 miles, but the important is that there is nothing in the new formula which prevents it from going up 100,000 miles.

    In this optic, mileage discounts of 35% (even 50% in one of the options) may constitute a clever way to favor EXPs and PlatPs, but the end result at this time is that we have no clue of what is to come..

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