American Airlines AAdvantage Program – A Complete Guide (2021)

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American Airlines’ frequent flyer (AA) is one of the most popular and engaging loyalty programs in the world. AA has a massive flight network, and they’re a member of the Oneworld alliance. You can earn and redeem AA miles for travel on some of the world’s most luxurious carriers like Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific. Elite status with the AAdvantage program gets you even more benefits. 

This guide will explain some of the best aspects of the AAdvantage program. I’ll look at how to earn and redeem AA miles, how to earn elite status and other quirks of the program. I’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about AA miles, status, perks, and partners. 

About AAdvantage: American Airlines Frequent Flyer Program

American Airlines transformed the travel industry when they launched the AAdvantage frequent flyer program in 1981. Earning and redeeming miles for flights, upgrades, and travel experiences were revolutionary. They paved the way for what airline loyalty programs are today. 

AAdvantage remains one of the biggest airline loyalty programs in the world today. AA miles are among the most valuable miles. You can earn AA miles not only through flying on American and their partners but with AA’s co-branded credit cards, rental cars, hotel stays, and more. 

While American Airlines historically was a leader in recognizing loyalty, we’ve seen them chip away at the benefits since their merger with US Airways. Despite this, the program can still be very rewarding. Elite status comes with access to partner lounges, priority boarding, extra baggage allowances, and more. Some of the most aspirational awards can be booked using AA miles. 

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and quirks of the AAdvantage program. 

AAdvantage partners and alliance

American was a founding member of the oneworld alliance. There are now 14 full members: 

Alaska
American Airlines
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
Finnair
Iberia
Japan Airlines
Malaysia Airlines
Qantas
Qatar Airways
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Jordanian
S7 Airlines
SriLankan Airlines
Fiji Airways
(oneworld connect)
oneworld airlines

American Airlines has additional partnerships with other airlines outside of the alliance include: 

Air Tahiti Nui
Cape Air
China Southern
Etihad
Fiji Airways
GOL
Hawaiian Airlines
Seaborne Virgin Islands
American Airlines AAdvantage Partner Airlines (non-oneworld)

You can earn and redeem miles on any AA flight, and most flights with any of their partners. If you’re an elite member you’ll receive added benefits when flying AA’s partners as well.

AAdvantage Benefits

American AAdvantage has a number of benefits that differentiate it from other loyalty programs. General members can earn and redeem miles across their wide partner network, and there are many ways to earn AA miles (American says there are at least 1,000). 

You can earn miles from flying, with credit cards and banking, by shopping online or dining at restaurants, or by purchasing miles during a sale. People outside of the US can earn AA miles as well, which can unlock some incredible award opportunities. With all of these opportunities, it makes sense for everyone to sign up for an AAdvantage account to start earning miles.

AA consistently sells miles at a discount. With a bit of planning, this can be very lucrative. You can redeem AA miles on some of the best carriers like Qatar Airways or Cathay Pacific, and save a lot of money if you’d otherwise be spending cash on a business or first class ticket. It does usually involve a bit of flexibility (and moderately obsessive planning), but the savings can be substantial. 

AA has access to first class awards with all of their partners as well. You can fly in the first class apartments onboard the Etihad A380 (depending on the schedule for Etihad A380), eat sushi and drink sake onboard Japan Airlines in first class, or wash down your caviar with a glass of Krug champagne onboard Cathay Pacific in first class

Being able to earn and redeem miles on American flights and Oneworld carriers unlocks a lot of value. Even better, American lets you hold AAdvantage award tickets for up to five days for most partners. That gives members additional flexibility when planning award travel. You can call and hold award flights while you finalize ground arrangements or work out specific dates for a holiday. 

Taxes and fees are also low on mileage awards booked through AAdvantage (with the exception of British Airways). BA levies hefty surcharges on international redemptions, so awards to Europe through London are expensive. Awards on all of their other partners have low surcharges, unlike a lot of foreign programs. 

There’s no close-in booking fee when using AAdvantage miles either. That means you won’t be penalized for booking an award just before departure.

American’s change policy for award tickets is also quite flexible. If you make changes to your award more than 60 days before departure, there aren’t any fees. You can change the routing, origin/destination, or dates without any penalty. You can even cancel and redeposit the miles without any fees. If you make changes less than 60 days before departure, there will be a fee that depends on your AAdvantage elite status. 

Being loyal to American and earning status will make your airport and flight experiences much more enjoyable. General members will earn award miles, but won’t receive any additional benefits when flying American. 

How to Earn American Airlines Miles

Earning AA miles is easy. You can earn AA miles through flying, spending money with American’s travel partners, and through credit card spending and banking activity. Flying is the most well-known way to earn miles. People often forget you can earn miles on ordinary activities like dining out, online shopping, and booking hotels or rental cars. 

AAdvantage advertises over 1,000 ways to earn AA miles, AAdvantage advertises over, but we’ll take a look at some of the most common ones. 

Flying American Airlines

One of the easiest ways to earn AA miles is by flying with American. There are two types of miles within the AAdvantage program: redeemable award miles and elite qualifying miles. Award miles are based on the price of the ticket and your elite status. More expensive tickets earn more miles, while cheaper tickets earn fewer miles. 

Elite qualifying miles are based on the distance of each flight segment and the fare bucket. The longer the flight, the more elite qualifying miles (EQMs) you’ll earn. 

Award miles can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, vacations, etc., while EQMs are only used in measuring progress towards elite status.

Earn miles on American Airlines flights

If you’re flying American, it’s always worth double-checking how many miles you’ll earn crediting AA flights to your American AAdvantage account instead of a partner program. The value of AA miles has gone down a bit with the program changes in recent years. You may earn more miles with a partner program. Where To Credit has a nifty tool that shows how many AA miles you’ll earn and other information on earning rates for a specific fare across all of the airline’s partners. 

If you’re going to earn significantly more miles with a partner program like Alaska Mileage Plan or British Airways, it would make sense to credit the flights to a partner program instead. 

Flying American’s partners

You can also earn AA miles and EQMs when you fly with AA’s partners. Earning redeemable miles and EQMs with partners is a bit more straightforward than it is when flying American as both are based on distance.

Remember there is an important distinction to keep in mind within the AAdvantage program: redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles. You earn redeemable as a function of the price of the ticket when flying American Airlines, but with partners, it’s based on the cabin you’re traveling in and each flight segment’s distance.

It’s tough for American to track the price of a partner ticket, so American is limited in their ability to credit award miles based on price. For the cheapest economy tickets on partner flights, you’ll earn miles at a reduced rate (often at just 25% or 50% of the total distance flown). You’ll earn EQMs at similar rates for discounted economy tickets. 

AA’s own page for earning EQSs, EQMs, and EQDs can be a bit confusing. For whatever reason AA shows award miles earned as a percentage of distance flown on each partner’s page, while they show EQMs as a real number (1.5, 1.0, 0,5, etc.). The EQMs are a function of distance, so you’ll earn 0.5 EQM for each mile flown on a cheap economy ticket with Alaska Airlines, for example. All of these numbers are functions of flight distance but calculated in different ways. 

Because American can’t track the price of partner tickets, they award Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) based on distance as well. This is a nifty trick when earning or re-qualifying for status. If you’re trying to earn elite status quickly, it’s often quicker and cheaper to earn status by flying discounted partner business class tickets than it is to earn status by flying American. 

Earning miles with credit cards and banking

One of the fastest and easiest ways to rack up AA miles is with sign-up bonuses for AAdvantage credit cards. Both Barclays and Citi issue AAdvantage credit cards, and they each have personal and small business cards. There are a variety of American Airlines credit card offers out there, which means you can have multiple AA credit cards from each bank.

Each of these cards has a separate welcome bonus, but you can typically expect to earn tens of thousands of bonus AAdvantage miles when you’re approved for an American credit card and meet the minimum spending requirements. 

Best for casual AA flyers Earn 2x AA miles at restaurants and gas stations and on all American Airlines purchases
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
Best for AA road warriors Get an Admirals Club membership and access the clubs every time you fly American
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Best for business expenses Earn 2x AA miles on car rentals, gas stations, and cable and satellite providers
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
Best no annual fee AA card Earn 2x AA miles on American Airlines purchases and at grocery stores
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Bask Bank is another AAdvantage partner that enables you to open a savings account and earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles instead of interest. With Bask Bank, you earn one AA mile for every dollar deposited annually. That means if you put $10,000 in your Bask Savings Account for a year, you’ll earn 10,000 AA miles. You can earn an unlimited number of miles this way. Being rewarded for saving instead of spending is unique to Bask Bank’s Savings Account.

Traveling with American’s non-airline partners

American Airlines says there are over a thousand ways to earn AA miles. They partner with every major car rental company (Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty), and have discount codes for each company. It’s easy to earn AA miles on car rentals

AA also partners with many major hotel chains. When you book a hotel stay and earn airline miles, those usually come at the cost of earning hotel points. You can’t usually “double-dip” on the earnings here. Hotel loyalty programs are more rewarding for hotel stays. You’ll typically earn more hotel points than airline miles.

You can also book cruises and vacations directly through American Airlines. It’s best to shop around as you may find better rates with other online travel agencies. You can earn bonus miles when booking travel with AA, so if the rates are similar it would be worth using AA Cruises or Vacations.

Dining out at restaurants and shopping online

AAdvantage has its own online shopping portal and dining rewards program. They both make earning miles on many of your existing activities easy. You can earn AA miles on purchases from a huge catalog of online retailers. You’ll have to click through on the AA shopping website for each retailer, and your purchases will automatically be tracked. 

The AAdvantage dining rewards program requires a bit more work. You have to register a credit card and find a restaurant that participates in the program. It’s easy enough to register the credit card, and you may be surprised with bonus miles when you use it at restaurants you already frequent. It’s worth registering the card you typically use to dine out to earn extra miles.

We have a complete guide to shopping and dining portals which you can read here.

Best Ways to Redeem AA Miles

American miles are incredibly versatile. You can use AA miles to book flight awards, upgrade tickets to premium economy, business, or first class, book vacations, subscribe to magazines, and more. Here are some of the best ways to redeem miles. I’ll also mention a few offers you should stay away from. 

Booking award flights on American Airlines

American Airlines doesn’t offer an aspirational business or first class experience. Yet awards on American Airlines can be of fantastic value. American Airlines launched “Web Specials” in 2019, which are awards on American Airlines flights that are cheaper than the lowest-priced MileSAAver awards. 

Redeeming AA miles for flights on American gives you have access to more flights. That could be better connections, or shorter flight times and routings.

The pricing of awards on American does vary significantly. The cheapest awards are either “Web Specials” or MileSAAver awards. Higher priced awards are referred to as “standard awards”. The pricing for those can be much higher than web specials and MileSAAver awards. It’s always worth looking for Web Specials and MileSAAver awards to get the best deals on mileage tickets. 

Booking Web Specials and lead to significant savings

If you’re looking at an expensive last-minute revenue ticket on American Airlines, it’s always worth checking to see how many miles that ticket costs. Even if it’s not a MileSAAver award, using miles for an expensive ticket you’d otherwise be paying cash for can yield significant savings. 

Depending on the difference in price, it may be worth paying more miles to get a more desirable schedule or better product. Web Special awards do also come with additional restrictions, like not being able to make changes. You can always cancel and redeposit the miles, but there are fees for doing so. 

Flying on American’s best partners

American partners with some of the world’s best airlines. Many of the most aspirational business and first class products can be booked using AA miles. These represent fantastic values and give you the best experience for your miles. 

American uses a region-based award chart for partner award flights. Depending on your destination, you can redeem AA miles for Qatar’s industry-leading Q Suites business class product, Etihad’s first class apartments onboard their A380, or Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, or Qantas first class. 

Book Qatar Q Suites for just 70,000 AA miles to the Middle East and India, or 75,000 miles to Africa

Redeeming miles to Africa, the Middle East and India, and across Asia are some of the best values with AA miles. You can fly to Africa from the US via either Doha or Abu Dhabi for just 75,000 miles in business class. Flying from the US to Japan is just 80,000 miles in first class with Japan Airlines first class, and you can continue elsewhere to Asia in business class for only an additional 30,000 miles. 

Using AA miles for these aspirational awards is my favorite use of miles, and I continue to get stellar value out of the AAdvantage program.

Upgrading with miles

You can use AA miles to upgrade American flights. Using AA miles for upgrades on American is usually something of a gamble, as they don’t release much upgrade award space in advance. There are cash copays for the cheapest economy seats as well, and you’ll usually be at the bottom of the upgrade list. 

You can also upgrade using miles on two of their other partners: British Airways and Iberia. Upgrading British Airways and Iberia tickets requires purchasing full-fare tickets on American Airlines ticket stock. That can make upgrading expensive. You’ll usually find better upgrade deals by using Avios instead of AA miles with BA and Iberia.

Booking a vacation with miles

Another option for redeeming your AA miles is using them to book a vacation through AA Vacations. At its core AA Vacations at its core is essentially an online travel agency. Instead of booking through someone like Agoda or Expedia, you can book flights, hotels, and car rentals directly through American Airlines. 

There are sometimes good deals on packages booked through AA Vacations. I would not recommend redeeming miles for these bookings. While you can often score significant discounts when paying with cash, you will only get one cent per penny when you redeem your AA miles towards the cost of a vacation. 

If you have more AA miles than you know what to do with, you could certainly redeem them this way. I always recommend trying to get more than 1 penny per mile. (One penny per point is the minimum, in my opinion.) If you’re earning those miles through credit card spend you’re more than likely better off using a cash back credit card like the Citi Double Cash instead of an American AAdvantage card for purchases. 

So while this is an option for redeeming your AA miles, it’s not something I usually recommend. 

Using miles for an Admirals Club membership

American Airlines sells annual passes to their Admirals Clubs. You can use AA miles instead of paying for it with cash. As with AA Vacations, you’ll only get one penny per mile redeeming this way. It’s not something we recommend.

Access the Admirals Club with AA miles or by signing up for a credit card

The better option for accessing Admirals Clubs is by signing up for the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. For any frequent AA traveler it’s well worth the annual fee, as you can access Admirals Clubs even when flying domestically.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Learn More Terms Apply.
Why we like this card
The Citi AAdvantage Executive Card is the best card for lounge access if you’re a frequent flyer on American. I’ve had the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card for years, and love it. To me the long term value proposition is still there with the card. The Admirals Club membership is awesome, while the Admirals Club access for up to 10 authorized users is the icing on the cake.
Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles

Redeeming miles for magazines and newspapers

If you’ve got some “stranded” AA miles that you’re not otherwise going to be able to use, redeeming them for a magazine or newspaper subscription can be a good use of miles. If you value the subscription at face value, it can be a particularly good deal as many subscriptions require just a few thousand miles.

Donating miles to charity

American AAdvantage lets you donate your miles to charity. The organization won’t actually receive your miles, but American instead converts those miles to cash that they then donate to charity. It’s more of an accounting exercise than anything else.

We always recommend donating cash to charities. You can find a post about how these contributions work here.

How to Maximize Redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

While there are a lot of ways to spend your miles, some ways are certainly better than others. Let’s look at some of the best opportunities and values for using your AA miles. 

Fly Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Japan Airlines, or Qatar

The best experiences with AA miles are awards on Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, or Qatar Airways. They offer some of the best business and first class in-flight experiences of not just American’s partners, but of any carriers worldwide. 

Qatar’s Q-Suites is arguably the best business class product in the world. The product has been covered extensively on the blog.

Cathay Pacific has had their current first class seats for well over ten years now. They are still incredibly comfortable and have fantastic bedding. The service is usually flawless, and the lounges in Hong Kong are fantastic. Seat and service on Cathay Pacific still hold up after all these years. 

Redeem AA miles for Cathay Pacific first class

Etihad’s B787s feature very comfortable private suites with doors in first class and “studios” in business class. The catering and seats don’t measure up to Qatar’s overall experience, but flying Etihad to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Africa is still a great use of American AAdvantage miles.

Get the biggest bang for your miles

Redeeming miles for business and first class typically provides the biggest return dollar-wise when redeeming AA miles. As economy fares are so cheap these days (we’ll have to see if those will stick around in a post COVID world), redeeming miles for economy awards isn’t as stellar a value as are business and first class awards. 

Let’s say you want to fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo round trip. Economy tickets start at about $650 round trip next year. Those same flights booked in economy class would require 70,000 miles plus about $50 in taxes and fees. You’re getting less than one penny per mile that way ($600.00 / 70000 miles = $0.0085/mile). 

Those same flights in business class start at about $4,800 USD for the nonstop flights with Japan Airlines, but only require an additional 50,000 AA miles. You’re unlocking an additional $4,200 USD by spending only 50,000 more AA miles. 

The premium between a business and first class award is even smaller. It’s just an additional 20,000 miles per direction to upgrade to first (or 40,000 on a round trip). A first class round trip ticket on Japan Airlines is $16,250. For just 40,000 more miles you’re getting something that the airline otherwise sells for an additional $12,000!

Now I realize most people would not spend that kind of money on a first class ticket, but being able to redeem 160,000 AA miles for a ticket that otherwise costs $16,250 is incredible.

Everyone values their redemptions differently, but there are many ways to maximize your AA miles and value award flights.

Book AA Web Specials

While the best redemptions do come from international business and first class awards on partners, the majority of AAdvantage members sadly redeem miles for travel on AA flights. As AAdvantage moves closer to a revenue-based program, redeeming miles for last-minute AA flights is becoming less lucrative. Expensive, last-minute revenue tickets can also require an obscene number of miles, so it is getting harder to get outsized value for American miles on AA flights. 

The best value for using AA miles to fly American is their AA web specials and for transcontinental flights on their three-cabin A321 aircraft.

Book transcontinental business class

Transcontinental flights offer lie-flat seats in business class. They can be a great value as they start at just 21,000 AA miles for a one-way ticket. Those tickets otherwise start at close to $1,000. You’ll also get lounge access on departure, which you don’t normally get when flying on domestic tickets.

Compare the revenue price to the mileage price

Whenever you are thinking about booking a flight on American Airlines using AA miles, you should always check the cost of the revenue ticket first. American is slowly moving their points towards being worth a penny a piece when redeemed on AA flights. I would encourage you not to redeem them unless you’re getting at least one cent per mile (especially if you’ve earned them with a credit card or by purchasing the miles). 

Know how to book AA awards like a pro

Booking AA partner awards requires a special touch whether you’re using the website or booking by phone. Most of American’s partners can be booked online nowadays. The website can still be a bit tricky to use. There’s an older, color-coded award calendar that will show you dates with partner award space if you search for a nonstop route (e.g. JFK to Tokyo).

While Etihad awards should show up on the AA website, Etihad awards that originate in the US do not. There are restrictions that prevent the AA website and AA call center agents from being able to book these. You have to book them by phone by calling a European, Asian, or Oceanic call center. Booking Etihad space with AA miles can be tricky, especially for connections from the US to India.

Don’t rely on the AA website when looking for domestic award space to add to an international award. If you’ve held partner award space from the US and you want to add a domestic segment to the award, it’s worth calling to see if saver space is available. The availability for hidden saver space is often better by phone as a result of AA using married segment logic for a lot of domestic flights. 

Take “AAdvantage” of AA’s routing exceptions

When you’re using miles to fly with one of AA’s partners, some of the best values can be long routings that connect in partner hubs. One of AA’s award rules is that you cannot transit a separate region when flying between two regions. However, AAdvantage has a few routing exceptions which can be useful when flying partners between these regions.  

You can connect in Asia 1 (Japan and Korea) en route to Asia 2, meaning it’s just 70,000 miles for business class or 110,000 miles for first class between the US and Asia 2 when routing through Tokyo with Japan Airlines. 

One neat “hack” for this routing is booking a stopover in Tokyo for no additional miles when connecting elsewhere to Asia 2 from the US. It’s 80,000 AA miles for first class from the US to Japan on JAL, and then 30,000 AA miles from Japan to Asia 2 onboard JAL business class. For the same price, you can stop over as long as you’d like in any Japanese city. 

Similar routing exceptions exist for Etihad and Qatar when you transit Abu Dhabi and Doha en route to Africa from the US or Europe. You can fly from the US to the Indian subcontinent via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. 

These routing exceptions make your miles go much further. You can fly to Africa for 75,000 AA miles in Qatar business class, or to the Maldives for 110,000 AA miles in Cathay Pacific first + business class. 

Here’s the full list of AA routing exceptions:

Traveling Between:
And:
Third-Region Connection Allowed In:
North America
Central America or
South America Zone 1
North America
South America Zone 2
North America
Europe
North America
Middle East
Europe
North America
Indian Sub Continent
Europe
Hong Kong*
Middle East
North America
Africa
Europe
Middle East
North America
Asia Zone 1
North America
Asia Zone 2
Asia Zone 1
North America
South Pacific
Central America or
South America Zone 1
South America Zone 2
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Europe
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
Europe
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Africa
Europe
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Asia Zone 1
Central America or
South America Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Central America or
South America Zone 1
South Pacific
South America Zone 2
South America Zone 2
Europe
South America Zone 2
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
Europe
South America Zone 2
Africa
Europe
Middle East
South America Zone 2
Asia Zone 1
South America Zone 2
Asia Zone 2
South America Zone 2
South Pacific
Europe
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
Europe
Africa
Middle East
Europe
Asia Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Middle East
Europe
Asia Zone 2
Middle East
Europe
South Pacific
Asia Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Middle East
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
Asia Zone 1
Middle East
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
Asia Zone 2
Indian Sub Continent / Middle East
South Pacific
Middle East
Africa
Asia Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Middle East
Africa
Asia Zone 2
Middle East
Africa
South Pacific
Middle East
Asia Zone 1
Asia Zone 2
Asia Zone 1
South Pacific
Asia Zone 2
Asia Zone 2
South Pacific
American Airlines AAdvantage Routing Exceptions

Avoid British Airways’s surcharges and fly Iberia or Royal Air Maroc instead

If you’ve ever noticed sky-high surcharges for AA award tickets, that means you were looking at travel on AA’s partner British Airways. BA levies hefty surcharges on award travel. A flight from the US to Europe can be as expensive as $850+ in addition to the miles. These surcharges are only levied on BA awards, so it’s best to book award tickets on other carriers whenever possible. 

To avoid the hefty surcharges on BA awards, you should redeem miles on Iberia and Royal Air Maroc for business class awards to Europe. Iberia flights have very low surcharges, and there aren’t any surcharges for mileage tickets on Royal Air Maroc.

American AAdvantage recently moved Morocco from Africa to Europe in their award region definitions. That means you can connect from the US to mainland Europe via Casablanca.

The easiest way to find this award space is to search for nonstop flights between the US gateway and either Madrid or Casablanca. That way you know there’s award space on those carriers, and you can connect onwards to another city in Europe. Iberia serves Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Royal Air Maroc serves New York and Washington, DC.

AAdvantage doesn’t impose surcharges on any of their other partners, so you can fly the likes of Qatar Airways, Qantas, and Japan Airlines without paying any exorbitant fees.

AAdvantage Elite Status

Elite status with American Airlines brings with it an additional slew of benefits. The most exciting of these are confirmable upgrades and access to some fantastic partner lounges. You qualify for elite status by flying either a certain number of Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) or Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), and spending the requisite amount with AA as measured by Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs). 

As an AA elite, you get extra luggage allowance and priority boarding, you can select exit row and extra legroom seats for free, you are eligible for upgrades on American flights, and you earn more award miles on flights. You’ll also get added benefits when flying their partners as well. You can expect priority boarding and extra baggage allowance, as well as access to business and first class lounges for the top tier elite members.

Benefit
Gold
Platinum
Platinum Pro
Executive Platinum
Free Bags
1
2
2
3
Bonus Miles
40% Bonus
60% Bonus
80% Bonus
120% Bonus
Seat Selection
Complimentary preferred seats at booking; Main Cabin Extra within 24h of departure
Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats at booking
Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats at booking
Complimentary Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats at booking
Upgrades Before Departure
Confirmed as soon as 24h before departure
Confirmed as soon as 48h before departure
Confirmed as soon as 72h before departure
Confirmed as soon as 100h before departure
Oneworld Status
Ruby
Sapphire
Sapphire
Emerald
Oneworld Lounge Access
None
Business Class lounges
Business Class lounges
First and Business Class lounges
AAdvantage Elite Tier Benefits

Elite Tiers

AAdvantage has four published elite tiers: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum. The qualifications for earning status this year (2021) are lower due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction in flying. 

Elite Requirements
Gold
Platinum
Platinum Pro
Executive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs)
20,000
40,000
60,000
80,000
Elite-Qualifying Segments (EQSs)
20
45
70
95
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)
$2,000
$4,500
$7,000
$12,000
AAdvantage Elite Requirements for 2021

American Executive Platinum status is considered top tier status with the airline, which requires spending $15,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars and either 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or 120 EQSs. The qualification thresholds for 2021 have been reduced due to the COVID pandemic. To earn top tier status this year, you’ll need to earn $12,000 EQDs and 80,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs. 

Elite Benefits

One of the most rewarding perks of being an AA elite is the bonus on redeemable miles. Executive Platinums earn an extra 120% bonus on redeemable miles, which makes flying American and their partners much more rewarding. Here’s how many miles each elite tier earns: 

  • AAdvantage member: 5 miles/dollar
  • AAdvantage Gold member: 7 miles/dollar
  • AAdvantage Platinum member: 8 miles/dollar
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum member: 11 miles/dollar

There’s an additional “secret” tier: Concierge Key. American publishes the requirements for the first four tiers on their website. Concierge Key is invitation only, and it’s suggested that it requires 200,000+ Elite Qualifying Miles and $50,000+ Elite Qualifying Dollars.

The benefits of each AA elite tier vary ranging from travel benefits, airport benefits, Oneword benefits, and more.

AAdvantage FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about American AAdvantage.

What is American Airlines doing in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

American Airlines is both extending status for elites and making it easier to earn status in 2021 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The requirements have been reduced significantly. If you had status going into 2020, your AA elite status has automatically been extended through January 31, 2022.

As for COVID-19 onboard precautions, American is disinfecting its aircraft and requiring passengers to wear face masks. They aren’t blocking middle seats like Delta Airlines is. There is additional flexibility with tickets purchased through June 30 for travel through September 30. They can be changed without penalty for travel through December 31, 2021.

How can I get an AAdvantage elite status match?

American offers a paid status challenge for Gold and Platinum status. That provides a fast track opportunity to earn status. You’ll have to pay a certain amount and earn a certain number of elite qualifying miles within a 90 day period in order to maintain that status beyond the challenge period.

You’ll also have to meet certain EQM requirements, along with the revenue requirement within 90 days from starting the challenge.

  • For Gold, you’ll need to earn 7,000 EQMs or 8 EQSs, along with $1,000 EQD
  • For Platinum, you’ll need to earn 12,500 EQMs or 16 EQSs, along with $2,000 EQD

Do AA miles expire?

Yes. While AA miles do expire, it is not hard to keep your AA miles active. AA miles only expire after there’s no activity in your account for 18 months. Any kind of activity will prevent all of the miles in your account from expiring. If you credit just a single flight to AA, transfer points from Marriott, use an AA credit card or buy something through the shopping portal the miles’ validity will be extended for another 18 months. 

See this post for more information on preventing your AA miles from expiring.

How can I access AA lounges?

American’s network of Admirals Clubs have confusing rules for entry. If you’re flying a domestic itinerary with American, the lounges can be accessed by those with an Admirals Club membership or those flying in business or first class on a transcontinental flight. If you have status with American Airlines you won’t be able to access the club without a membership.

The only domestic transcontinental routes that are eligible for access are:

  • New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
  • JFK and San Francisco (SFO)
  • LAX and Boston (BOS) – traveling on A321T aircraft only
  • LAX and Miami (MIA) – traveling on Boeing 777-300 aircraft only

If you’re ticketed in business or first class on one of those routes you will have lounge access. If you’re flying first class on non-transcontinental routes you, unfortunately, will not have access.

Perhaps counterintuitively, if you have Emerald or Sapphire level status with a Oneworld partner airline you can access Admirals Clubs while flying domestically on American.

The best way to access Admirals Clubs domestically is with the Citi AAdvantage Executive Card. The primary cardmember receives a full Admirals Club membership, as well as up to 10 authorized users which can be added at no cost. The card does have a hefty annual fee of $450, which is cheaper than purchasing an Admirals Club membership outright.

Access Admirals Clubs Cardholders can access Admirals Clubs whenever they fly American Airlines
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

If you want to access a lounge while flying internationally, you can access the Admirals Clubs when either ticketed in business or first class on the international segment. If you have Platinum, Platinum Pro, or Executive Platinum status you can also access lounges when flying internationally. Even if you’re flying a domestic segment first, you can still access the Admirals Club.

Why are the fees so high on my award ticket?

British Airways is one of American’s joint venture partners, and BA releases a lot of award space between London and their US destinations. Unfortunately, BA levies high surcharges on international awards, which can be as high as $800 on certain routes.

If you’ve ever looked at award travel to Europe using AA miles and noticed very high fees, those are a result of the BA surcharges. It’s not that AA awards to Europe are ridiculously priced, but that BA adds and collects these international surcharges.

One way to get around these is by flying with American, Iberia, or Royal Air Maroc to Europe. You will be pleasantly surprised by the savings.

What is AA Flagship Dining?

American Airlines has a network of flagship lounges within the US. They are AA’s best lounges and are tougher to access. They have a la carte dining at their flagship lounges in Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, and New York-JFK. The Miami lounge is reopening soon, and the others will be shortly as well.

The flagship dining facilities can only be accessed by those flying American and ticketed in international first class or first class on a 3-cabin transcontinental flight. American has a limited agreement with Cathay Pacific at New York-JFK, where those in first class departing New York can also access the flagship dining facilities.

Should I buy AAdvantage status?

AAdvantage will often sell status or EQMs at the end of the year if you’re a bit shy of re-qualifying. I don’t recommend usually spending money to buy status these days. This is something everyone has to decide for themselves, as there’s no universal advice. One thing is for sure — the trend is that elite status is becoming less valuable by the year.

If you’re not sure that it absolutely makes sense, then I’d highly recommend not making the purchase. Money in your pocket is usually worth more than constantly devalued airline status.

How much are AAdvantage miles worth?

I conservatively estimate AA miles to be worth 1.5 cents each. There are ways to get outsized value from your miles as outlined above. I would not recommend redeeming AA miles for anything less than a penny per mile.

You can find a more complete guide to valuing your miles and points here.

What does it mean when my AAdvantage award says “On Request”?

Partner awards booked using AA miles don’t ticket automatically. There’s a desk in Dallas that issues partner awards manually after they’ve reviewed the booking to ensure everything is set up correctly. Most partner tickets will issue within 24 hours, but sometimes they can take a bit longer. They typically update the reservation statuses on pending AA partner awards.

If your award says “On Request” that means it’s sitting in the ticketing queue and the ticket has not yet been issued. You’ll want to be sure the status does eventually change to “Ticketed”, and you should receive an e-ticket by email confirming this.

If you haven’t received an e-ticket and your award still says “On Request” after a few days you should call American to see if there’s something holding the reservation up. That can be as simple as a missing middle name or having an agent forgetting to confirm an involuntary downgrade on a segment, or something like incorrect card details.

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