Earn American Status Exclusively Through Spending

Filed Under: American

Unfortunately in the US airline industry we more or less see the “big three” airlines following one another on just about everything. One area where that’s especially evident is with their loyalty programs.

While American isn’t going all-in on following United’s lead, they are doing so on a targeted basis, clearly to see how members respond.

United’s Switch To Spending Based Status

In October it was announced that huge changes are being made to United MileagePlus in 2020. As of next year, you can earn status through one of two methods:

  • Exclusively based on Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), with members earning one PQP for every dollar spent
  • Through a combination of PQPs and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs), meaning through a combination of how much you spend and how many flights you take (if you qualify through this method, then the PQP requirement is lower)

Distance flown is no longer in any way significant when it comes to earning status.

With the new program:

  • Premier Silver requires 12 PQF and 4,000 PQP, OR just 5,000 PQP
  • Premier Gold requires 24 PQF and 8,000 PQP, OR just 10,000 PQP
  • Premier Platinum requires 36 PQF and 12,000 PQP, OR just 15,000 PQP
  • Premier 1K requires 54 PQF and 18,000 PQP, OR 24,000 PQP

United is changing how elite status qualification works in 2020

American’s Targeted Spending-Based Promotion

American Airlines seems to always be a bit behind Delta and United when it comes to frequent flyer program “enhancements,” and it seems they’re currently offering something on a targeted basis.

American hasn’t announced any major AAdvantage frequent flyer program changes for 2020 (and I doubt we’ll see any, given that the new year is right around the corner), though some members are seeing a targeted promotion in their AAdvantage account (you can log into your account to see promotions here).

On a targeted basis, American is letting AAdvantage members earn status exclusively through spending in 2020.

As American describes it, in 2020 select members will have an alternative way to qualify for status and keep it through January 31, 2022. You can either qualify with the normal requirements, or only by earning Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) at the following levels (this is one version of the offer — it’s possible there are other versions out there):

  • 5,000 EQDs for Gold
  • 10,000 EQDs for Platinum
  • 15,000 EQDs for Platinum Pro
  • 24,000 EQDs for Executive Platinum

As a point of comparison, American’s published status requirements are as follows:

  • 3,000 EQDs AND 25,000 EQMs OR 30 EQSs for Gold
  • 6,000 EQDs AND 50,000 EQMs OR 60 EQSs for Platinum
  • 9,000 EQDs AND 75,000 EQMs OR 90 EQSs for Platinum Pro
  • 15,000 EQDs AND 100,000 EQMs OR 120 EQSs for Executive Platinum

As you can see, they’re requiring somewhere around a 60-67% premium in EQDs in order to not have to qualify via other means.

There are some more terms to be aware of, and again, this is all only for targeted members:

  • Registration is required by December 30, 2019
  • The promotion code is 5229P
  • Flights marketed by oneworld airlines qualify towards this promotion, though you’ll earn EQDs based on a percentage of the distance and fare class purchased (which always presents an arbitrage opportunity)
  • EQDs earned through credit card spending don’t count towards this

As you can see, American is exactly matching United’s spending requirements, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

American is trialing a new way to qualify for status in 2020

Bottom Line

American isn’t changing the published elite status qualification requirements for 2020, though on a targeted basis they are offering some members an alternate path to status.

It seems pretty clear that American is doing this to test this possibility, and see if it’s something they should roll out on a widespread basis in the future. They’ll presumably look at whether this causes people to spend more on American, and how many people take advantage of this opportunity.

By offering it on a targeted basis, they’ll have a good opportunity compare the travel patterns of two separate group.s

What do you make of American’s promo to earn status exclusively through spending?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. No other industry rewards customers on such an arbitrary number as airlines do. Miles these days don’t reflect actual costs of tickets, and result in a situation where individuals who are fundamentally low margin customers cost the company even more in additional perks and benefits.

    Can you imagine if banks rewarded not the amount of money you had on despoit, or on the amount of loans you have, but rather how many times a person swipes their card? It’d be absurd.

  2. I don’t know why people who live in US bother with being loyal to any of the Big 3. I genuinely don’t. The only one which is half-decent is Alaska.

    DL, AA, and UA are all dreadful. Each in their own way. Each in a constant competition to outdo one another on who can be the worst. And for all the talk of ‘Delta having an amazing product’ let’s not forget they’re the ones who started this dreadful revenue-based trend.

    What’s ironic is that in comparison to DL and AA they have become the moderates with regards to earning elite status through miles not USD!

  3. What Sean S. said. I get that some people will be negatively impacted by United’s changes, but I love them. I’ve spent close to $6,000 PQD this year (almost enough for Gold) but I don’t even have Silver status because I’m short PQM/PQS. And I did a good chunk of that flying on shit ERJ/CRJ planes.

    I’m PHL based but will gladly take connections when possible to shift away from AA and to United simply for the operational and service lift United offers; United’s elite qualification changes are just icing on the cake for me.

  4. @Sam, you have absolutely no evidence to support that statement. I know plenty of United flying coworkers who like the changes.

  5. Nonsense. I paid 1400 dollars for a walk up fare for a 3 hour long last minute trip and earned the equivalent of pennies on the dollar in elite qualifying miles, while others are paying less for significantly longer, if not dramatically longer flights, and earning three or four times what I earned on that flight. No company in their right mind would reward the person who flew the long-haul at 1000 dollars over the person who flew 3 hours for 1400.

  6. My EQD tiers are different than listed above.

    $5,000 EQDs for Gold
    $10,000 EQDs for Platinum
    $15,000 EQDs for Platinum Pro
    $24,000 EQDs for Executive Platinum

  7. Same offer as listed but Jan. 14 deadline. 12+yr EXP, spend down from $35-40k range in the past, to low $20s this year and only re qualified a few days ago as i am shifting to other airlines if possible…

    Is there a downside to registering?

  8. I received the email offer as a few have mentioned $5, $10, $15k & $24k …
    I have been EP since they introduced that level (’96 or ’97 me thinks)

  9. It’s not exactly true that “American is letting AAdvantage members earn status EXCLUSIVELY through spending.” Earning 24K in EQD still requires some (albeit overpriced) flying.

  10. @Julian

    There should be no downside if you register. This was verbage in the email.

    DON’T FORGET: You can still qualify for American Airlines AAdvantage® elite status with the published Elite Qualification activity — even if you register for this promotion.

  11. I understand some people do a lot of Y travel and this may make sense, especially full fare people. But since J/F fares have come down so far I almost never buy Y any more. What do I get for status that enhances a J/F fare? No fees for changes? Whoop dee do. Those fees would never add up to $24k (or the difference between my spend and 24k) and there would be no benefit whatsoever to a lower tier over a J/F fare. For what? The privilege of having to use your miles on BA and pay the charges?
    Just buy what’s cheapest and go. Concentrate on convertible miles or accumulate in Avios (which will still be good on LAN) for which at least you have 3 ways to look for awards.
    They’ve ruined this game.

  12. My offer from AA is 5/9/13/22. Under that scenario I would be PP next week after no prior status. On current rules I’m barely Gold. I was US CP years ago, then UA 1K for past several years. Plan to take my high spend where I get rewarded most.

  13. Has anyone had the promo code work for them if not targeted?

    Hoping to enroll but have not received an email and don’t see the promo in my account unfortunately. I have enough spend but not enough miles to potentially get me somewhere before years end.

  14. Has anyone had the promo code work for them if not targeted?

    Hoping to enroll but have not received an email and don’t see the promo in my account unfortunately.

  15. Lol this is silly as a promo. It’s such a niche group that spends 24k but doesn’t hit 100k EQMs. But I’m glad AA didn’t go all in on the switch to the program this year.

    Spending that much means you’re either flying a lot of long hauls pretty cheap or tons of short hauls super expensive, but either way, you’re getting a lot of miles through distance or fare class multipliers.

    If it’s the latter, status doesn’t mean much because you’re paying for the benefits of first-class. And if it’s the former, you’ll qualify via mileage or find a cheaper way to bridge the 15k-24k gap with a run or two.

  16. I remember when it was actually about loyalty. Now it’s nothing but money. Flying somewhere between 100-200 flights a year got me status, which in my mind, I earned. Now, I choose the same airline every week, yet somebody gets higher status because they pay more. I guess that’s why they no longer mention ‘loyalty’ anymore.

  17. The boarding process is the main issue. The horrible issue. And it is a mess!
    First round of boarding is everyone ADA.
    Second boarding is “armed forces”( which is nice ) + concierge key members.
    Third is First Class… (aka Group 1)
    Forth is EXP members and Business Class passengers. (aka Group 2)
    Meanwhile, everyone who thinks they have priority boarding is now hovering around the gate…..
    It’s a mess. #AAhelp
    Then, before you can calmly make the queue, they call Group 3 Group 4 Group 5……. mayhem.

  18. My offer is 5/9/13/22. I fly mostly J TATL for work, and the cheap Y seats for leisure, so I think this is great. I am currently sitting with $25K+ EQD and ~42K EQM, so am pleased that I will finally earn EXP, when I haven’t previously been able to hit Platinum.

  19. I guarantee this is what Qantas will do once they launch their ‘Points Club’, to target “non-air” spend on the ground & equate it with a watered-down version of elite status.

  20. What definition of loyalty are people working with here? By definition someone spending large amounts of money with a company MUST be loyal, otherwise they wouldn’t be spending lots of money. In any other industry or setting if one customer came in and said “Well I bought 20 things worth 200 dollars” and another came in and said “I bought five things for a total of a 1000” most people would understand the latter would be rewarded and valued higher than the former.

  21. Frequent flyer programs are simply not worth it. When I fly and happen to collect the miles, sure, I will keep them. But going out of the way to fly one airline or another to acquire miles with that particular airline… no way!

  22. Dear Sean S.,

    I’ve read your posts and understand your points, which are reasonable. I’ll push back a little on your thesis, which is that it’s a good idea to reward the customers who are most valuable; I would say that the business purpose of a rewards program is less about rewarding than it is as a means to guide future spending.

    So, in your case, is your spending on these expensive flights you take elastic? That is, will you be making a choice to fly on AA given the elite status potential, versus some other airline (or not fly at all)? The broader reason I’m asking is that I’d thought the UA (and now AA) rationale for the new systems was to attract profitable $5000 overseas business-class tickets – and I’d thought that most business travelers tended to take the flight their travel department told them to take, and had little choice (or preference) in the matter of carrier.

    I’m not sure if my point is reasonable. But as a business case I’d think that AA’s “optional” approach – which I take as a measurement of market elasticity – is much smarter than UA’s “all-in” approach.

  23. Are any airlines trying “our elite status is exclusively for frequent flyers”. No buy-ins. Instead of lowering the value of Status Level it would maintain it.
    Otherwise, concierge is the only level not downgraded.

    “join by [date] and achieve platexec for $1000″ for the rest of the year”

  24. I assumed the rationale was to reward high price low cost tickets primarily walk up fares. Which to your point my flights are inelastic in regards to timing but often not in regards to airlines as they are between major domestic cities. So most often there would be at least 2 to 3 options on a given route. To me that’s the perfect situation for rewarding choices.

  25. I also think it is about stimulating taking flights as well, versus simply shifting around already existing flying. For example an individual who flies infrequently, but high dollar, might decide to take an additional flight for leisure because of the perks they have gotten from their other flying. In this sense a revenue based reward program can incentivize individuals who are already spending large sums, to spend even more, versus many frequent flier programs now that primarily reward shifting deck chairs around already “existing” flight demand.

    Again, for myself, I rarely decide leisure flying based on frequent flier programs because right now I don’t ever get close to flying sufficiently to get anything resembling a useful elite status. I would definitely be inclined to however in a revenue program where my elite status would be potentially significantly higher and would push me say to choose a mainline carrier versus an ULCC (all things being equal if its between flying my family without status on a mainline carrier for X amount of dollars, and flying on a ULCC for in some cases hilariously less amounts of money, I’m going to choose the ULCC).

  26. Thanks, Sean S. That’ s a good perspective. It’s worth my noting, because my “business travel” is government related … which means I spend my time on low-cost tickets at the back of the plane keeping warm by hating everyone up front. Now, I do so much of that sitting and hating that I presently have nice air status – and I won’t, under the revenue-based system. That said, I’d never get mad because a business made a smart business decision that happened to be negative for me. Or not very mad.

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