American Airlines Extends Elite Status, Lowers Award Change Fees, And More

Filed Under: American

While it sure took American Airlines a while, they’re finally joining their competitors. In North America we’ve seen elite status extended for a year at Delta SkyMilesUnited MileagePlusAir Canada Altitude, and Alaska Mileage Plan, and now you can add American AAdvantage to the list.

Not only is American Airlines extending elite status, but they’ve announced a bunch of other awesome initiatives, so let’s take a look at the details:

American AAdvantage extends elite status

First and foremost, American Airlines will be extending active AAdvantage elite status. Status currently set to expire on January 31, 2021, will now expire on January 31, 2022, so it’s being extended by a full year.

Since I’m sure people will ask:

  • The extended elite status won’t include additional systemwide upgrades (though there will be ways to earn some, as I’ll discuss below)
  • Existing systemwide upgrades currently expiring on January 31, 2021, will now expire on July 31, 2021
  • This extension includes those who earned status through a challenge, or who were offered status through World of Hyatt

American AAdvantage is extending elite status

American AAdvantage lowering elite requirements

Not only will AAdvantage status be extended for those who currently have it, but status requirements will be lowered for those who are looking to earn status this year. This includes lowering the elite qualifying mile (EQM), elite qualifying segment (EQS), and elite qualifying dollar (EQD) requirements.

Here are the new AAdvantage elite requirements for this program year:

As you can see, requirements are being reduced significantly across the board, anywhere from 33-50%, depending on the metric.

It will be easier to earn elite status in 2020

Reduced qualifications for Executive Platinum rewards

Generally Executive Platinum members receive rewards for overqualifying, when they pass 150,000, 200,000, or 250,000 EQMs. Given that people are traveling less this year, those requirements will be lowered, to make them more attainable, as follows:

As you can see, you can now receive two systemwide upgrades (or other rewards), at 90,000, 120,000, or 150,000 EQMs.

It will be easier to earn bonus systemwide upgrades this year

Admirals Club memberships are being extended

American Airlines is extending Admirals Club memberships and one-time passes by six months beyond current expiration dates:

  • This applies to active memberships as of March 1, 2020
  • Furthermore, new annual Admirals Club memberships purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020, will also be extended by six months
  • Admirals Club one-time passes are being extended if they had an original expiration date between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021
  • Presumably memberships through the Citi Executive AAdvantage Card won’t be extended, since that’s tied to having an active credit card

Admirals Club memberships are being extended

Credit card spending counts towards million miler status

For AAdvantage co-branded credit card members, spending on Citi AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator products, will count towards million miler status.

Every dollar spent on net purchases that post to your AAdvantage account between May and December 2020 will count as one mile towards million miler status.

Back in the day American would count all miles earned (including through credit cards) towards million miler status, but they changed that policy several years ago.

As a reminder, with AAdvantage you earn lifetime Gold with one million miles, and lifetime Platinum with two million miles.

Personally this won’t get me to put any spending on the card, but I have to admit this is at least creative.

See this post for more details on the value proposition of spending your way to American lifetime status.

It’s easier to earn million miler status right now

New AAdvantage award fees

Currently AAdvantage members receive waived reinstatement and change fees for awards booked through May 31, 2020, for travel through September 30, 2020. This is a temporary measure to account for what’s going on.

However, American is introducing a positive new long-term policy as well. For awards booked as of June 1, 2020, American is eliminating fee changes on awards if made at least 60 days in advance. Then a new variable fee structure will be based on elite status and how far before departure it is, as follows:

Personally I think this is very positive, though not everyone will agree. Executive Platinum members have always had waived fees, so this is great for lower elite tiers, as well as non-elite members.

See this post for more details on the changes to AAdvantage award fees.

American is waiving award redeposit fees more than 60 days out

$400 American Airlines Vacations credit for elite members

Elite members will receive a one-time credit of up to $400 to use towards an American Airlines Vacation package, as follows:

  • Gold members get a $300 credit
  • Platinum and Platinum Pro members get a $350 credit
  • Executive Platinum members get a $400 credit

In order to use this, you need to spend a minimum of $2,500 on hotels and roundtrip flights. I wouldn’t get too excited about this, because the need to stack flights and hotels will take a lot of value out of this for many.

See this post for more details on how this AA Vacations credit works.

American Airlines Vacations is offering up to a $400 discount

Bottom line

These are some fantastic updates to the AAdvantage program. Not only is status being extended by a year, but they’re doing some innovative things beyond that, which I commend them for.

Elite requirements are being decreased this year, spending on AAdvantage cards this year counts towards million miler status, and change fees on awards will permanently be lower.

Several days ago I wrote about how we should be patient and that American might do something creative. I was skeptical if that would actually happen, but they proved that they did have something creative up their sleeve, and I can see why this took a bit of time to roll out.

Very well done, American!

What do you make of these AAdvantage changes?

  1. *Every chat contributor’s heads collectively explode that AA did something novel*

    *Debit passes out*

  2. So if I’ve qualified for exec plat by the end of this year, is my status valid through 1/31/23?

  3. @ Ben — Sweet. Thanks. Now only IHG and Lufthansa remain for my desired status extensions! Any word from Lufthansa group?

  4. If you re-qualify for Executive Platinum this year, do you earn status for 2022? Meaning, what is the incentive to re-qualify this year instead of just using the free extension, besides the 4 systemwide upgrades you would receive?

  5. Wonder whether it’s worth it to call Citi to get a discounted annual fee for their AAdvantage Executive Mastercard in light of these changes to Admiral’s Club memberships.

  6. It’s good but only i recently booked an award for 63K one way first class to Japan and now the 55K web special fares have re-emerged. I don’t feel like paying $150 to redeposit miles for just 8K.

  7. Hi, Ben –

    You seem to have more details than on the news statement itself. “Every dollar spent on net purchases that post to your AAdvantage account between May and December 2020 will count as one mile towards million miler status.”

    When is May exactly, any spend starting on 1st May or any points earned on card members’ May statement being counted towards Million miler?

    I am approaching the threshold and would take aadvantage of this. Thanks!

  8. @Frank if the 4 SWUs aren’t enough of an incentive, you also get higher EQDs which define where you sit on upgrade waitlists. I’d also say that the much-lower additional SWU thresholds of 90, 120 and 150k are also a great incentive to keep flying them.

  9. @ Terence — I’ll see if I can get a more definitive answer, but it’s my understanding that this is based on when the purchases would ordinarily post to your account, so it’s not based on the purchase date, but rather the closing date and the gap for when miles actually post.

  10. @ Regina — For what it’s worth, this is an AA Vacations voucher with limits and it’s “up to” $400, so I wouldn’t get too excited about it.

  11. Hmm – with Delta status locked up, it may make sense for me to throw in a business class round trip transcon or two to get Gold status on American (Gold can be useful on American out of NYC)

  12. @ Frank — As noted by Carlos, the incentive is four extra systemwide upgrades, and also upgrades are prioritized based on EQDs within the past 12 months.

  13. As I said in my previous post, AA had no other option than to follow Delta and UA. Too bad they are always the last to ones to just state the obvious. Delta lead, UA and AA follows.

  14. Any word on how rolling EQDs will work for upgrade prioritization etc? Still only 365 days rolling? Been really wondering about that

  15. Has anyone been able to determine if web special awards are included in the free award redeposit? Specifically for a web award previously booked for travel before end of September.

  16. @ Santastico — No doubt American is a follower in general, though they do deserve credits for adding some unique elements to this, in my opinion.

  17. Lucky,

    Reinstate miles. Is the $25 discounted reinstatement (for awards after the first reinstated) gone for those members reinstating more than 1 aware at the same time?
    And, Its now based on cancellation date or must a member actually call in to reinstare before the new time zone expires?

  18. Ben: Do you think DL and UA will follow AA here and count spend on their credit cards toward Million Miler status (or multi-million mile status)?

  19. @Grant — AA changed my web special award with no fee. However, I did call in and they redeposited my miles and I manually re-booked my flight for the same Web Special Award for a different date several days later. I am pretty sure that may not be the appropriate process.

  20. Will status be extended to Jan. 2022 for those currently doing a status challenge? My current one (Platinum Pro) is set to expire on April 19, 2020, and I haven’t had a chance to take try and retain it.

  21. Not sure if $0 award cancellation fee is good to make permanent. If things ever get close to normal again, it might be tough to plan a trip far ahead while competing with speculative ticketing. Maybe a very small fee would be a fair deterrent, more like the BA policy.

  22. I would love to know what this means for those of us whom were in a status challenge before the pandemic happened? I was in a platinum status challenge and only a few hundred miles away from hitting all of the requirements before all travel was halted.

  23. Kinda confusing about the SWUs. Am I reading correctly that if I hit 90k EQMs this year I get an additional 2? But then 10k EQMs more and I’d requalify for EXP and get 4 more SWUs for a total of 6? And just 20k more and I get another 2, now for a total of 8? I’m guessing that’s not correct but hard to tell.

  24. This is a mixed bag in my opinion. They did not address companion passes issued by Barclays and Citi which is frustrating as we just received 2 in the last few weeks that expire at the end of March 2021. Not sure, how much travel we are going to do this year. Also, the extension of Systemwide upgrades through July 31, 2021 is rather short. I would have thought they would have followed Delta and United which extended for a full year. Not likely that international travel where these are the most valuable will be anywhere close to normal by July 31, 2021. I am also rather bummed that unlike Delta they are not also providing additional systemwide upgrades to everyone who is an Executive Platinum for 2021 regardless of whether they prequalified or not.

    I like the idea that credit card spend counts towards million miler status for a limited time as I am really close to lifetime gold. While not very useful, it is still better than nothing. I wonder if it is truly going to be based on dollars spent or miles that post to the account as it used to be? If all miles that post count, then spending in bonus categories become more interesting.

    I also like the new award redeposit fee schedule as it is far more palatable than the old schedule.

  25. Hi Lucky,

    AA is being very dubious. They deactivated my miles on March 30th, despite all the COVID19 issues and advisories not to travel. I had planned to use the miles for a trip in May, but was waiting for the NYC & Federal govt order to be removed. With all of these enhancements, they seem to only be catering to elites and not the regular flyers.

    can you please use your platform to advocate for those that have miles deactivated for March 2020. Paying $300 to reactivate miles makes 0 sense, when I can not guarantee travel this year at all.


  26. @Jeff Shilling

    It still shows $150 for the first and $25 for additional on this page:

    …under the dropdown menu for “Reinstating flight and upgrade awards”. Might want to screenshot that or print out as a pdf in case AA tries to charge you an individual re-deposit fee per ticket. If you’re booked before end of September you should be ok, but the issue is a lot of us have probably booked for October onwards (i.e. the J or F Web Specials to Asia or Brazil), in which case we won’t benefit from any of the improved re-deposit conditions.

    Of course if the new rules would benefit you and you don’t exactly meet the date windows you could always just ask and might catch a break depending on the representative’s discretion…

  27. just compared a trip i was looking at on expedia (which included aa flights) to AA vacations and expedia was $70 cheaper so obviously this $400 credit i will recieve will be put to very good use and save me $330 on a vacation package im ready to book.

  28. 1 – Does this mean that date changes on awards (specifically MileSAAver) are now restricted? It used to be that you could change the date (as long as you kept Origin and Destination) as many times as you wanted.

    2 – I have an award ticket that was cancelled last year, but not yet redeposited. As a Plat Pro, so I now get a reduced redeposit fee?

    Also, @Regina & @Lucky, the trip must cost at least $2500. The discount is based on status tier: $300 for Gold, $350 for Plat and Plat Pro, $400 for EXP. Terms found here:

  29. I am wondering whether it is personally worthwhile to head towards 2 million miles before December (I’m at 1.6 million now and not moving there quickly).

  30. @ Mike — What’s your status? I doubt American is going to make their million miler program any worse, so if you otherwise maintain at least Platinum status I can’t imagine it being worthwhile…

  31. @PHLisHome my annual fee came up in mid-March, when I called Citi they told me there was no flexibility. I downgraded to the $0 fee AA card since the benefits are worthless if I’m not traveling. This was a month ago though.

  32. @ Andrew B — For the first part, I’m working on getting an answer on that, but I believe so. For the second part, you couldn’t get that redeposit fee waived. Waived fees apply for newly booked tickets, so if it’s a ticket for a flight that was last year, that wouldn’t qualify.

  33. @ Jack — It only takes 60K to requalify for EXP. So you’d earn four SWUs at 60K, another two at 90K, another two at 120K, etc.

  34. @ NICHOLAS GERASIMATOS — Unfortunately these updates don’t address that, and I haven’t heard of any extensions on status challenges yet if they weren’t completed.

  35. @ Josh — Based on the current terms only those who already qualified would have their status extended.

  36. @ Nola — Personally I think it’s unlikely. UA lifetime status is really valuable, while DL lifetime status can already partly be earned through credit cards.

  37. So if I book award travel before June 1st, but for after September 30th, I still have to pay re-deposit fees if I cancel more than 60 days out? That is how I am reading the email, for someone without AA status. If so, I guess I will wait to book.

  38. I am Executive Platinum. With AA making it easier for people to reach that status, will it be much harder to get an upgrade?

  39. FINALLY the gifting of status option. This is such a no brainer to help keep loyalty within the family.

  40. Different airlines are doing slightly different things. For example, Alaska Airlines is extending status but also counting Jan to April 2020 miles to be counted along with 2021 miles for 2022 status.

    Other airlines are lowering the amount needed for status.

    Still others are just extending 2020 status to 2021.

    I’m sure one could figure out with their particular situation what the best thing to do would be. Actually the safest would be to stay home because Covid-19 is no joke. People die from it. Or people who are asymptomatic give it to others, who die. Not just old people die. A sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt just died from it.

  41. Ben,

    As always, thanks for these posts; you’ve answered all of my questions regarding AA, AS, and Marriott! Now, what are those Goofballs at Hertz doing?

  42. I welcome these changes but don’t understand why it’s still necessary to call to get the miles reinstated if there’s no fee to cancel an existing reservation. Seems this is a staffing expense they could easily reduce with a few updates to the website.

  43. I am Exec Platinum now. I am glad it will be extended another year. However, with AA making it easier for people to qualify (which also makes sense) does that mean the EP competition for upgrades will be greater?

  44. Hi Lucky, that’s disappointing that we’d only get the status extended if we already qualified for the status match. My status match lasted end of January through April 19, 2020 – no real chance for me to qualify, due to COVID-19.

    Also, I was a little confused because you said those who “earned status” through a challenge would maintain — didn’t realized that meant you needed to already meet the minimum flights needed for that challenge. Wish they would have followed Alaska here!

  45. Hi Ben – if you’ve already re-qualified for EXP this year can you retroactively get the EXP rewards from 90k and 120k EQM if you’re already above that?

  46. @Lucky: “What’s your status? I doubt American is going to make their million miler program any worse, so if you otherwise maintain at least Platinum status I can’t imagine it being worthwhile…”

    I don’t have a higher status than lifetime Gold. Obviously, lifetime PLT would be a vast improvement over that, but I’m not sure if it’s worth pushing myself to get another 400,000 miles by the end of the year.

  47. So if you cancel an award ticket 7-60 days ahead, do you pay $125 per ticket or $125 for the first and $25 for the second (if booking multiple tickets in one PNR)? If it’s the latter, that’s a very negative change.

  48. @Lucky, what’s your opinion if AA will follow suit and count miles already traveled this year (say by Apr 2020 like AS) as part of 2021 miles counting for 2022.

  49. @ Neil — I think it’s highly unlikely since there’s still an incentive to earn miles this year, so you can earn systemwide upgrades. So I’d put the odds very low.

  50. @ Mike — Given the opportunity cost of that spending I wouldn’t go for it, personally, unless I were planning on increasing flying on American.

  51. @ Ryan — Yep, you should be able to, though the functionality will only be added in a few weeks.

  52. @ Josh — Right, unfortunately it’s based on status that’s valid through January 31, rather than just having status right now. So it’s whether you completed a challenge, or were given status that’s valid for an entire year. I could see them extending the challenge period, though.

  53. @ Michael Kaplan — Given the huge drop in travel I can’t imagine there will be that many more EXPs. Also keep in mind that upgrades are prioritized by rolling 12 month elite qualifying dollar total, so those spending most will still be prioritized for ugprades.

  54. @ AatonP — It’s not EQDs you’re earning through most cards, but rather just miles that sound towards lifetime status. So it’s not quite the same thing.

  55. @ NK3 — That’s correct, unfortunately, though it’s possible the flexible period will be extended.

  56. For existing EP’s, It doesn’t seem like there is any more reason to fly on AA this 2020.

    The new lower qualification thresholds don’t help as status is already granted. The sole exception is for the 4 SWU.

    Previously flown EQM and EQD also seem to be completely wasted.

  57. “This is absolutely fantastic, as this is a permanent change to the program. Executive Platinum members have always had waived fees, so this is great for lower elite tiers, as well as non-elite members.”

    What a God awful take. Yeah, you can’t make changes for free inside 60 days anymore, and you’ll have to pay for each passenger to change/refund, but other than that its amazing. Great job AA!

  58. “Delta lead, UA and AA follows.” That’s just stupid and a bit nauseating, all this Delta cheerleading. Nobody is flying now. Why does it matter if they roll out a plan now or if they did it a few weeks ago?

  59. @Ralph

    “Why does it matter if they roll out a plan now or if they did it a few weeks ago?”
    It shows the intellect, abilities, and decisions of their managements. You can’t be a market leader if you don’t know how or what to lead.
    To make it easier for you.
    Nobody is flying now. Does it matter if Trump did something now or did it few weeks ago?
    Go ask the 570k who tested positive for the virus and the family of the 23k deceased.

    Thinking the same thing, just like UA. It punishes EXP who already qualify in 2020.

  60. Longtime EXP and 2MM Lifetime PLT that has stuck with AA despite being increasingly unhappy with them.

    If AA cancels Oasis I will continue to be all in on them. If not, then 100% I am switching to Delta once I resume travel and will hit Diamond level each year. Oasis is a showstopper for me.

  61. BUT they do not seem to be rolling over miles earned earlier this year towards next year’s qualification, as others are doing. That makes next year even harder than it would otherwise have been.

  62. Ben,

    Hypothetical question: If I booked award travel in January for a travel date in November, and want to redeposit without a fee, would I simply wait until after June 1, then change the ticket for free (with same origin/destination) to a date in October (to have more than 60 days until the travel date) – thus re-ticketing it after June 1 – and then redeposit it for free? If this is the case, why would AA not simply start the new rules immediately? Appears odd…..

  63. @Gene nothing official as of yet. Many blogs have reported the possibility of a one-year extension, but I’ve heard rumours (coming from someone close to an LH employee involved with M&M) that LH *might* extend status by 6 months. Their only statement so far is that they’ll present an answer towards the end of the year (talk about being a follower).

  64. Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t see the change fee adjustment as an improvement. Right now as an elite, I can change my award (as long as the origin, destination and award type remain the same) as much as I want as availability opens up. Now I will have to pay every time I do this if it is less than 60 days out. I would say people change awards more than cancel them so this is a net negative.

  65. @NK3~ I suspect it will become a rolling date, as realistically there will be no international travel to do without roadblocks wrecking plans somewhere along the way for the rest of 2020. The airlines are just feeling their way along, day by day, as we all are. I am waiting for AA to rollover that date by another month so I can pull the plug on yet more booked flights.

  66. @Eskimo that’s quiet a stretch there in your attempt at an analogy. Better luck next time. And as always, feel free to roll the dice for another play.

  67. If you have a Citi Mileup card that gives 2x at Grocery stores will you get 1 mile or 2 miles towards million miler status for every $ spent?
    Additionally, if you also have a Citi savings account which gives you 25% bonus on your CC spend does that also qualify towards million miler status?

  68. Lucky, what are your thoughts on the repatriation flights that the Gulf carriers, specifically Emirates and Etihad? Would you take it to go back to the U.S.?

  69. @ Manson — Sorry, what about them specifically? Yes, if I needed to get back I’d have no qualms flying with either airline.

  70. @ Unclesam — In both circumstances it’s one mile per dollar spent. Bonus categories, Citi savings accounts bonuses, etc., don’t count.

  71. @ SloMan — The reason they’re not starting the new rules now is because the rules are a mixed bag and changes aren’t entirely positive, so it’s not fair to change the rules for those who have already booked. But even if you made a change, I believe the ticket would maintain the same original ticketing date, and the fees would be based on that. I don’t think there’s an easy workaround here.

  72. @ DC Yukon — I’m not sure it makes next year harder than “it would otherwise have been.” I’d say it makes next year as hard as it has always been. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of promotions next year, so I would be patient.

    There are still incentives to earn status this year, from systemwide upgrades, to higher upgrade priority.

  73. @ JL — The incentive to fly is systemwide upgrades, and also that your upgrade priority within EXP ranks is based entirely on your rolling 12 month spending total. That can make a big difference in terms of odds of upgrades clearing.

  74. @Lucky – No, it makes next year harder, not as hard as it would have been. By failing to roll over current year EQMs and EQDs, it adds more travel time and potentially significant costs. I had a Kenya return trip to US this past January on BA. 2 other planned vacations from US to South Africa (BA) and Australia (QR), along with only a couple domestic business trips would have been enough to easily hit EP this year. The South Africa and Australia trips are rescheduled for next year. The EQDs and EQMs from the Kenya return trip earlier this year are now worthless and I’ll have to find another Kenya equivalent that I likely won’t have time to take next year to make EP, not to mention the added cost of long-haul business or first. They should have rolled over everything from the current year. We need a full 2020 status do over in 2021, maybe more , since travel worldwide won’t return to normal until we get a vaccine or effective treatment. Things they are offering for this year’s status are nice, but really just wishful thinking on their part, so not terribly useful.

  75. I would be interested to see another article analyzing the value of gold and platinum status respectively. For example, do complimentary upgrades ever actually clear for gold members?

  76. To be clear, for those who are mad about the lack of rollover miles, you’d be fine with EQMs rolling over but not EQDs? In other words, if you rolled over half of the miles needed for status you’d still need to reach the standard spending requirement, so is that something you guys would be fine with? Because it seems that for many, the EQD requirement is harder to reach than the EQM requirement.

  77. Do you have a list of which credit cards are considered eligible for million miler spend? I can’t find it anywhere. I’m close enough to a million miles that it can’t hurt. I’d be well over by now, but when I let a small amount of USAirways points expire (after they largely exited my local market), they deleted my lifetime accrual for reasons nobody was ever able to explain and refused to restore it even though the account number stayed active (it just said I had no award miles and no lifetime miles).

  78. Lucky,

    I am 1.86 million lifetime miles and have some large federal tax payments due by July 15 so I am considering spending up to 2m to achieve lifetime platinum.

    Can I use both my personal and business Citi AA cards to achieve the spend? Can I start spending in April so it hits my May statements? I am trying to limit my credit cycling as much as possible so I need to start.

  79. Hi Ben – a bit late on this one, but my question is: will my American Advantage Miles expire this year (in Nov) as per the pre-COVID-19 scenario, or have miles been given another year or so of grace? I can’t find any conclusive answer one way or the other. Thanks chief!

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