Revealed: American AAdvantage Elite Choice Rewards

Filed Under: Airline Rewards, American

A couple of months ago we learned about some changes coming to the American AAdvantage program in 2021, including the introduction of elite choice rewards.

The full details of this program have now been published, and the changes are wholly positive, as all eligible members will be getting more rewards than before. This is in addition to the other good news, which is that Platinum Pro members are getting oneworld Emerald status as of 2021.

American’s new elite choice rewards program

With the new elite choice rewards program (coming in 2021), AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will be able to select rewards when they qualify for status.

Platinum Pro members will be able to select one benefit, while Executive Platinum members will be able to select two benefits (this means that someone qualifying for Executive Platinum can select three benefits total).

The intent is that this reward members more, and also give them more flexibility:

  • Platinum Pro members didn’t previously get any tangible rewards when qualifying for status, but they now will
  • Executive Platinum members previously automatically received four systemwide upgrades; while they can still select systemwide upgrades, they now have alternatives as well

Platinum Pro elite choice rewards

Members who qualify for Platinum Pro in 2021 (which requires 60,000 EQMs or 70 EQSs, plus 7,000 EQDs) can select one of the following:

  • One systemwide upgrade
  • 20,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if you have an AAdvantage co-brand credit card)
  • One-time 15% AAdvantage award savings (applies to a roundtrip award for up to two travelers on any oneworld airline in any cabin, and the rebate will be applied after travel)
  • $200 American Airlines travel voucher
  • Six Admirals Club one-day passes
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities

Let me once again emphasize that even Executive Platinum members will be able to select this. In other words, if you qualify or requalify for Executive Platinum status in 2021, you’ll be able to select both the Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elite choice rewards.

Save on the cost of a Qatar Airways Qsuites award

Executive Platinum elite choice rewards

Members who qualify for Executive Platinum in 2021 (which requires 80,000 EQMs or 95 EQSs, plus 12,000 EQDs) can select two sets of elite choice rewards, with the following being the choices:

  • Two systemwide upgrades
  • 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (30,000 AAdvantage bonus miles if you have an AAdvantage co-brand credit card)
  • Gift of AAdvantage Gold status
  • Admirals Club membership (this requires two choices)
  • 10,000 bonus elite qualifying miles (this can only be selected once)
  • Choice of Bang & Olufsen products (this includes headphones, speakers, and earbuds)
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
  • $200 American Airlines travel voucher

Select an Admirals Club membership as your elite choice rewards

Elite choice rewards are valid for 12 months

Here’s another positive aspect of this. You can (but don’t have to) choose your elite choice rewards as soon as you qualify for status — you’ll be contacted to do so, or you can do so through your account.

However, when you qualify for status in 2021, you’ll have until December 30, 2022, to select your elite choice rewards, and they’re then valid for 12 months. This is awesome:

  • You don’t have to decide right away which choice makes the most sense for you, as you can see how your travel patterns evolve
  • This means that you could potentially choose systemwide upgrades on December 30, 2022, and have them be valid through December 30, 2023; we’ve never seen this much flexibility for choosing how long the benefits are valid

The expiration of these perks offers lots of flexibility

This AAdvantage development is awesome

Before I share my take on the relative value of these rewards, let me note that these changes are entirely positive. If you’re an Executive Platinum who likes systemwide upgrades, nothing is being taken away.

Not only that, but you’ll actually get more systemwide upgrades — you can choose five of them, rather than four. For those of us who don’t value systemwide upgrades much, this change is even more positive, since we have so many other options.

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’m thrilled to have an alternative to systemwide upgrades

Which elite choice rewards are most valuable?

Everyone will have to decide for themselves which option makes the most sense based on their own travel patterns, though I do have a few general thoughts. In no particular order:

  • The 15% award discount for Platinum Pro members has the potential to be valuable; if two people fly Qatar Airways Qsuites from the US to South Africa, that would represent savings of 45,000 AAdvantage miles
  • I kind of like the idea of selecting bonus miles at each tier, and getting 85,000 bonus AAdvantage miles for earning Executive Platinum status
  • Since I value AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each, I personally think the bonus miles are more valuable than any of the cash-equivalent options, including the travel vouchers
  • The Admirals Club membership has little appeal to me, given how great the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is
  • The bonus elite qualifying miles option also has little appeal to me, since you still have to reach the elite qualifying dollars threshold, and arguably that’s much harder to accomplish
  • AAdvantage Gold has limited benefits, so I don’t view gifting elite status as being that valuable

My initial instinct is that if I requalified for Executive Platinum I’d probably select the 15% award discount as my Platinum Pro perk, and then the bonus miles twice as my Executive Platinum perks.

I’d probably choose bonus miles to redeem on partner airlines

Bottom line

American AAdvantage is introducing elite choice rewards in 2021, whereby Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can choose from a list of perks as they qualify for status.

This is a phenomenal improvement across the board. Platinum Pro members didn’t previously get any perks like this, while Executive Platinum members can go from four to five systemwide upgrades.

As someone who doesn’t value American systemwide upgrades all that much, I’d probably select the award discount and bonus miles options.

What do you make of the new AAdvantage elite choice rewards? Which options do you see yourself selecting?

  1. A few years ago when AA introduced Platinum Pro they stabbed all of their Platinum for Life members in the back. As a Platinum for Life member I consider American Airlines to be a Traitor.
    I look for the lowest fare or points required for my flights without any regard to American Airlines.

  2. Have you taken a look lately at AA award space made available to partners? Avios have become very difficult to use. AA will have a seat requiring 12.5k miles (should be saver space) and call it a “web special” so they don’t make it available to partners.

  3. Ben,

    Are you saying that an EXPLAT requalifying as EXPLAT gets 3 choices, 1 from Plat Pro and 2 from Explat ? (hence the 5 SWU). It does not seem to be written that way. What have I misunderstood?

  4. @Alan I agree, after being loyal to AA since 1987 and flying over 5,300,000 lifetime miles the Platinum Pro was a gut punch!

  5. Speaking of Admirals Clubs, has anyone noticed how crowded some of them are lately? AA has closed some clubs, meaning the ones that are open can be very crowded.

    A few weeks ago I experienced this in Miami, where there wasn’t even room in the main club and they forced us to sit in some overflow area where there wasn’t even water to drink — you had to track down an attendant and ask them to go into the main lounge to get anything you wanted.

    Yesterday I was at PHX and it was similar — lounge in the upper A concourse was closed, so the lounge in the lower A was packed to capacity. Not to mention the avocado toast station is supposed to be open until 10:00am, but they started breaking it down at 9:40am. When I asked at 9:45am if they could still serve me, the attendant just said no and continued breaking things down. There was basically nothing else in the lounge to eat other than fresh fruit and a couple of yogurts.

    Not only is this crowding unsafe from a social distancing perspective, it just seems like Admirals Club is increasingly a bad value. Most of us aren’t traveling very much these days, but the annual fee is the same, so we’re getting much less value out of our memberships. Then AA closes clubs and forces us into unsafe, crowded situations. This is getting very frustrating.

    I sent AA customer relations an email with feedback about the Miami situation from a few weeks ago and they responded quickly (same day) but just said “we’re sorry.” No explanation, no commitment to look into it or pass the feedback along to the Admirals Club team, and certainly no compensation of any kind. I’m ExPlat so you’d think they would at least offer a more heartfelt apology.

    Hey AA, lately I get a text from premium passenger agents the day of my flight telling me that might flight is on time and that I can respond if I need any help. This is cool, but seems unnecessary. Maybe axe that program and take the cost savings and put it back into Admirals Clubs since I spend good money on lounge access and feel more and more like I’m getting ripped off.

  6. The clubs are getting overcrowded. They definitely need to open the D15 or E club at MIA, at least in the afternoon and evening. The social distancing doesn’t bother me but I often have to take calls at the AC and when it becomes as loud as the terminal it negates some of the reason to pay for membership. Ditto PHX.

    I’d also wish they bring back showers.

  7. What about those extra 50,000 EQM threshold ? 120,000,160,000 and 200,000 mark ? Are those extra gifts going away?

  8. Very good improvement. But my Delta 360 status wins over any airline offer. Delta simply best. And I’m global services on United as well. Mid tier won’t get anybody much. Fly too much or not enough on status tiers. This is positive, but still fails in comparison to Delta most valued. It is a treat. Even in this pandemic, they brought me bottle of Cristal on my bday to enjoy on flight with food catered from Ruth Chris. I didn’t ask, purely sets them above. True great service no airline compares. And again, I didn’t make those requests. Go DELTA.

  9. I flew 3 class service transcon in Flagship first this week twice MIA-LAX. I observed executive platinum upgrades clear directly into F.

    I disagree with Lucky while the service is much better on other airlines the level of seat comfort in F and J on the 77W or 787 would be just as comfortable on a long haul flight. I’d rather fly American and get some decent sleep.

  10. @Florida Sunshine. Agreed Delta is the best but they also charges 20% more than the competition on equivalent routes.

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