American AAdvantage has four published elite tiers (in addition to Concierge Key status, which is invitation-only). In separate posts I’ve written guides to Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum status, and in this post I wanted to look at Gold status, which is the entry-level tier in the AAdvantage program.
Gold status is better than nothing, but that’s about it. It’s slightly more valuable than the perks you’d receive for having a co-branded American Airlines credit card, and you can expect benefits like a first checked bag free, some priority services, and extra legroom economy seats on a space available basis. While Gold members theoretically receive space available first class upgrades, don’t expect them to clear all that often.
So let’s get right into it. How do you earn Gold status, what are the perks, and is it worth it?
How to earn AAdvantage Gold status
Nowadays you can earn elite status in the AAdvantage program by racking up Loyalty Points, which is American’s elite currency. Gold requires earning 40,000 Loyalty Points over the course of the program year. For context, here’s how many Loyalty Points you need to earn in order to qualify for the various AAdvantage elite tiers:
- AAdvantage Gold status requires 40,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum status requires 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status requires 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status requires 200,000 Loyalty Points
Loyalty Points are different than redeemable AAdvantage miles, as your Loyalty Points total resets every calendar year.
With AAdvantage, the elite status qualification year runs from the beginning of March until the end of February of the following year. In other words, the 2023 elite year runs from March 1, 2023, through February 29, 2024. Status earned during this elite year would be valid all the way through March 31, 2025 (there’s a one month buffer after the end of the status year).
You can earn Loyalty Points through a variety of methods, ranging from credit card spending to flying. You earn one Loyalty Point per dollar spent on a credit card, so $40K in eligible credit card spending would earn you Gold status. Note that the number of miles flown is in no way factored into earning status — you could qualify for Gold status without stepping foot on a plane.
For more on how to qualify, see my guide on the AAdvantage Loyalty Points program, and my guide to earning Loyalty Points with credit card spending.
Lastly, I should mention that with the American AAdvantage lifetime status program, you can earn Gold status for life if you qualify for one million miler status.
AAdvantage Gold status benefits
AAdvantage Gold status comes with some basic perks that should make your travel experience on American more pleasant. These include space available upgrades to extra legroom economy and first class, a free checked bag, and other priority services. Let’s go over the details of each of these perks.
I’ll rank them roughly in the order that I value them, starting with the most valuable perks.
Complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating
AAdvantage Gold members receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating for them and up to eight companions on the same reservation on flights globally. However, unlike with higher elite tiers, this is only offered within 24 hours of departure (at check-in), rather than at the time of booking. On some flights you’ll still find great Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of departure, while on other flights you won’t.
Main Cabin Extra is American’s extra legroom economy seating, typically in the front of the economy cabin and at exit rows, and it offers several extra inches of legroom. Furthermore, passengers seated in Main Cabin Extra can receive complimentary alcoholic drinks.
Complimentary upgrades within North America
AAdvantage Gold members receive unlimited complimentary space available upgrades within North America, including for up to one travel companion:
- Complimentary elite upgrades can start clearing up to 24 hours before departure
- Upgrades are prioritized first by elite tier, and then by your rolling 12-month total of Loyalty Points; so Gold upgrades clear after Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum upgrades
- American and Alaska offer reciprocal elite upgrades, and you can read more about how that works here
So while you’ll always be on the upgrade waitlist when on an eligible itinerary, don’t expect that you’ll clear often as a Gold member. Not only has American gotten better at selling first class seats, but you also have a lot of elite members ahead of you on the upgrade waitlist.
While it will vary by route, I’d guess that on average AAdvantage Gold members clear upgrades maybe 20% of the time. And expect those upgrades to be more on short haul leisure routes on a Saturday, rather than business routes on a Thursday.
See my guide to American’s complimentary elite upgrades.
Priority check-in, security, and boarding
AAdvantage Gold members receive a variety of priority services at the airport, including:
- Priority check-in, typically with first & business class
- Priority security screening
- Priority boarding, typically with group four
These perks are largely similar across elite tiers, with the difference being what group you can board with. Executive Platinum members can board with group one, Platinum Pro members can board with group two, Platinum members can board with group three, and Gold members can board with group four.
One free checked bag
AAdvantage Gold members can check one bag free of charge on all itineraries. American ordinarily charges $30 per checked bag one-way within the United States, so if you check bags often, the savings can add up. Note that you’ll get the same checked bag benefit with several of American Airlines’ co-branded credit cards.
For what it’s worth, higher elite tiers receive two to three free checked bags, and also receive priority baggage handling.
40% status mileage bonus
AAdvantage Gold members receive a 40% mileage bonus on flights. All AAdvantage members earn 5x miles per dollar spent on American flights, meaning that Gold members earn 7x miles per dollar spent. This same percentage bonus applies on partner airlines (though mileage earning is calculated differently).
Keep in mind that status bonus miles qualify as Loyalty Points, so that means it’s easier to qualify for status if you already have it, rather than starting from scratch. As a point of comparison, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum members, receive mileage bonuses of 60%, 80%, and 120%, respectively.
Reciprocal elite perks on JetBlue
American and JetBlue have a partnership, and as part of that they offer reciprocal elite perks. This can come in handy if you live in a market where you end up flying JetBlue with some frequency.
When traveling with JetBlue, Gold members receive priority check-in, priority boarding, priority security, one free checked bag, and complimentary Even More Space seats 24 hours before departure. This makes flying with JetBlue a pleasant experience. The only benefits you’re not receiving compared to higher elite tiers are a second checked bag, priority baggage handling, and same day flight changes.
See my guide to reciprocal American & JetBlue elite perks.
AAdvantage Gold phone number
AAdvantage Gold members get access to a special elite phone number. However, don’t expect that this will necessarily get you access to more knowledgable agents. Rather you generally just get priority with standard reservations agents.
Same day priority standby
Gold members receive priority standby, as the standby list is prioritized based on elite status. So as a Gold member you’ll clear ahead of all non-elite members, but you’ll clear behind other elite tiers, including Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Gold. This can come in handy, since some flights have really long standby lists.
oneworld Ruby status
AAdvantage Gold members receive oneworld Ruby status, which is the entry-level elite status in the oneworld alliance. Unfortunately the perks of this are fairly limited, and the main benefit you can expect is business class check-in when traveling with partner airlines.
Unlike higher elite tiers, this status doesn’t offer any access to oneworld lounges. If you really want value when it comes to lounges, go for oneworld Emerald status.
Is AAdvantage Gold worth it?
American AAdvantage Gold status is better than not having status, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to earn it. On the plus side, the status is pretty attainable, and requires “only” 40,000 Loyalty Points, which is one-fifth of the requirement for top-tier Executive Platinum status.
As an AAdvantage Gold member you receive space available upgrades to Main Cabin Extra and first class within 24 hours of departure, priority airport services, a free checked bag, and some perks on both Alaska and JetBlue.
Having AAdvantage Gold will definitely make your travels more pleasant, but only marginally more pleasant compared to just having a co-branded credit card with similar entry-level elite perks.
I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to earn AAdvantage Gold status, but if you also fly the airline with some frequency, then it should make the experience better.
There’s definitely more value as you make your way up the elite tiers. AAdvantage Platinum offers Main Cabin Extra seating at the time of booking and oneworld Sapphire status (including lounge access), while AAdvantage Platinum Pro status and above offers oneworld Emerald status (my favorite alliance elite status).
Gold is American’s second lowest published elite tier. It offers perks like priority airport services, Main Cabin Extra and first class upgrades within 24 hours of departure, and a first checked bag free.
AAdvantage Gold status is fairly easy to earn, and it’ll make your journey with American more pleasant. However, there’s definitely more value as you earn higher elite tiers, and I’d manage my expectations when it comes to first class upgrades.
If you’re Gold with American, what has your experience been?
I actually think this comes down to what type of ff you are. As a leisure traveller, I have flexibility to book flights at the weekend and thus access a better chance of upgrading. I’m a solo traveler which also increases my chances. I think this status is perfect for those who don’t fly AA often but perhaps have the credit card and want something a little more on top.
You're right, having Gold status is better than nothing. In my last 5 flight legs, I received 3 upgrades to the front of the plane. I will take what I can get.
It may just be me, but priority screening is one of the best benefits of Gold. It's not much, but it's the most consistent benefit I ever had as a Gold. And when you're trying to maximize your time, skipping peak security lines is certainly welcome.
Update. My Gold upgrade cleared!!
Even as a Platinum (on a temporary promotion from Gold), I was recently #51 on the upgrade list for a Monday afternoon flight from FLL to ORD on a 737 with 16 seats in business ... Gold isn't going to get you an upgrade except in strange circumstances ... that's not going to happen much anymore. I think your 20% estimate is about 5x high....
My downgrade to gold was just from Platinum. So timely Post. Thanks
The March 31 Platinum upgrade cleared. Now waiting for tomorrow’s spin of the wheel
At least have MCE seat in advance since Platinum when booking.
Fun and Games. Safe Landings
It’s better than nothing. You’ll still have enough time for overhead space when boarding. I won’t give away any secrets for increasing your chances for a main cabin extra seat. Going down to Gold this year from Platinum Pro is a wake up call for me. If you’re going to start flying more often though that 40% mileage bonus will kick in so I wouldn’t underestimate that.