Guide To American AAdvantage Lifetime Million Miler Status

Guide To American AAdvantage Lifetime Million Miler Status

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Many travel loyalty programs offer the ability to earn lifetime elite status. Ordinarily elite status has to be earned on an annual basis, so it sure is nice to be able to not worry about requalifying for status anymore.

I’ve written in the past about lifetime hotel elite status, including with Hilton HonorsMarriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt. Now I’m taking a look at the lifetime status tiers offered by major airlines in the United States.

I’ve written about Alaska Mileage Plan lifetime statusDelta SkyMiles lifetime status, and United MileagePlus lifetime status, so now let’s take a look at American AAdvantage lifetime status. If you ask me, American offers the weakest lifetime elite program of the “big three” carriers in the United States.

How to earn American AAdvantage lifetime status

American AAdvantage’s million miler program is weak. While Delta and United let you earn lifetime top-tier elite status, American only lets you earn the two entry level status tiers with the million miler program. I just don’t see the program as being much of an incentive to be loyal to American Airlines in the long run.

Qualifying for American’s lifetime elite status is based on the distance of flights for travel on American marketed flights, plus the base miles earned for travel on eligible partner marketed flights. This means that class of service bonuses, promotional miles, miles earned through credit cards, etc., all don’t count towards million miler status.

Only flown miles count towards American million miler status

Now let’s go over American’s million miler elite thresholds.

Lifetime American AAdvantage Gold status (one million miler)

Those who earn one million miler status with American Airlines receive AAdvantage Gold status for life, plus 35,000 bonus AAdvantage miles. Gold is American AAdvantage’s entry-level elite status.

Lifetime American AAdvantage Platinum status (two million miler)

Those who earn two million miler status with American Airlines receive AAdvantage Platinum status for life, plus four systemwide upgrades, which can be used to upgrade any American Airlines flight. Platinum is American AAdvantage’s lower-mid-tier status.

Rewards for further American AAdvantage million miler thresholds

While AAdvantage Platinum status is the highest lifetime elite status that you can earn, you do receive four additional one-way systemwide upgrades for each further million miler threshold you cross, with no limits.

Earn systemwide upgrades when passing million miler thresholds

American AAdvantage lifetime status FAQs

While the above covers the basics of American’s million miler program, let me answer some of the questions people may have about the program.

Can you earn lifetime American status with credit card spending?

Nowadays credit card spending doesn’t contribute in any way towards million miler status with American. Yes, you can earn Loyalty Points with AAdvantage credit cards, but lifetime status is now earned purely via “butt-in-seat” miles flown.

How can you check your American million miler status progress?

You can check your progress towards million miler status directly on American Airlines’ website. Just log into your AAdvantage account, go to the “Your Activity” section, and at the top right you’ll see your million miler balance listed.

What counts towards American million miler status?

Nowadays only flight distance on American operated flights, plus the base miles earned for travel on eligible partner marketed flights, count towards AAdvantage million miler status.

Do American million miler miles expire?

Miles towards million miler status will continue to accrue over the lifetime of your account. Unlike Loyalty Points, they don’t reset each year.

Also keep in mind that miles towards million miler status are completely separate from redeemable miles, as you can’t use million miler miles towards anything. It’s simply a tally of how many total miles you’ve flown over the years on eligible flights.

What are the benefits of AAdvantage Gold & Platinum status?

AAdvantage Gold is American’s entry level elite status, and perks include the following:

  • A free checked bag
  • A 40% mileage bonus
  • Main Cabin Extra seats for free 24 hours before departure
  • Auto-requested upgrades on flights of 500 miles or less, and on flights of over 500 miles you need to use upgrade stickers

AAdvantage Platinum is American’s next higher elite level, and perks include the following:

  • Two free checked bag
  • A 60% mileage bonus
  • Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking
  • Oneworld Sapphire status, which includes lounge access on international itineraries
  • Auto-requested upgrades on flights of 500 miles or less, and on flights of over 500 miles you need to use upgrade stickers
Earn elite status for life with the million miler program

American’s million miler program is uncompetitive

American’s million miler program is significantly less rewarding than those of Delta and United, so let me first provide a bit of background.

Up until 2011, American counted all AAdvantage miles earned towards million miler status. In other words, if you earned two million miles with credit cards, you’d get AAdvantage Platinum status for life. At the time that was extremely lucrative, especially since Platinum status was more valuable than it is now. An American loyalist could easily earn two million miler status with just a few years of loyalty.

Then the rules changed in 2011, and only “butt-in-seat” miles started counting towards lifetime status, so it got much more difficult to earn. The problem is, the rewards didn’t improve for those earning lifetime status “the hard way.”

I’ve long said that I think it’s time American overhaul its million miler program, because it’s so much worse than what’s offered by Delta and United:

  • Delta makes it much easier to earn miles towards million miler, since all Medallion Qualifying Miles (including those earned through credit cards) count; furthermore, Delta lets you earn all the way up to lifetime Diamond status
  • United calculates miles towards million miler status roughly in the same way as American, except you can earn Global Services status for life, and you can even nominate a companion for your status as well.

I get the challenge from American’s perspective. The airline has some members with heavily inflated million miler totals, given that back in the day all miles counted. There are definitely some 10 million milers out there, who haven’t actually flown American all that much.

What do I think American should do? At an absolute minimum:

  • Honor the million miler tiers that everyone has currently been issued
  • Add lifetime Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status at three million miler and four million miler, calculated using the new system (based on how much you’ve flown, rather than how many miles you’ve earned)

I think that should be the absolute minimum. It sure would be awesome if American offered lifetime Concierge Key status or lifetime status for a companion (like United), but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I hope American overhauls its million miler program

Bottom line

American Airlines’ million miler program offers elite status for life. You can earn AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status after passing one or two million lifetime miles, respectively. After that, you earn at most four systemwide upgrades for each additional million mile threshold crossed.

American’s million miler program is much weaker than what’s offered by Delta and United, and it’s not really something to consider when deciding whether to be loyal or not. I wish American would overhaul its frequent flyer program, and make it a bit more competitive.

What do you make of American Airlines’ million miler program? How would you like to see it improved?

Conversations (25)
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  1. Michael Guest

    With American Airlines, if you’re a lifetime gold status member you still have to start from zero loyalty points to achieve platinum, platinum pro or executive platinum each qualifying year. That doesn’t make sense. Why not start at the gold level since you’ve already achieved that? That’s a big negative reason to try and obtain lifetime status with American Airlines

  2. Bob Guest

    I agree. Having recently crossed the 3 million mile mark and only receiving 4 systemwide upgrades makes me feel a little cheated. I've obviously been very loyal to AA and still only have Platinum status, which is now much easier for others to get. I can expect my future upgrades to be that much more difficult. I'm definitely considering switching back to Delta for my future flights, they offer better perks.

  3. Greg Guest

    Hi Ben - do reward tickets count towards Million Miler, or is it only paid tickets? The article doesn't specify and it's not really clear either on AA's website.

  4. Rick Guest

    The platinum status used to be worth more, then the started platinum plus. Downgrading the lifetime achievement

  5. Tim Guest

    One thing I would encourage all of us to do is read the fine print: "American Airlines’ million miler program offers elite status for life."

    Sort of, depending on your definition of "life." The status is "for the life of the program," not for the life of the passenger. There is no promise that this status will continue. They can remove the MM program anytime, and then remove your "lifetime" status. That may be "understood"...

    One thing I would encourage all of us to do is read the fine print: "American Airlines’ million miler program offers elite status for life."

    Sort of, depending on your definition of "life." The status is "for the life of the program," not for the life of the passenger. There is no promise that this status will continue. They can remove the MM program anytime, and then remove your "lifetime" status. That may be "understood" by many of us, though I would bet some folks assume that the reference is to their individual lifetime, which is not the case.

  6. AaronP Guest

    I'm closing in on 2 million miles and looking forward to never finding availability for the 4 SWUs...

  7. Achillea Guest

    I think that the status conferred by million mile earning should be the starting point for annual mileage accrual. So if automatically Gold by virtue of million mile lifetime, it would take less to get to Platinum. Especially after retirement, that would be a huge benefit for those of us loyal to AA and US for our whole work life.

  8. Eric Oborski Guest

    I totally agree with you that AA should offer Platinum Pro for 3 million milers and Executive Platinum for 4 million milers. I have almost 5 million miles with AA and feel cheated with this program. Mainly because I have almost 3 million miles with United which gives me Platinum status for life and I also have 1 million miles with Delta. Had I known before when I was racking up 400-500k miles per year...

    I totally agree with you that AA should offer Platinum Pro for 3 million milers and Executive Platinum for 4 million milers. I have almost 5 million miles with AA and feel cheated with this program. Mainly because I have almost 3 million miles with United which gives me Platinum status for life and I also have 1 million miles with Delta. Had I known before when I was racking up 400-500k miles per year split between all airlines I would have concentratrd most of my business with United and Delta.

  9. Steven Roush Guest

    I have been 1 million miler for years. It is very rare that I ever get upgraded on flights. Too many with higher status

    1. Aafreq Guest

      As One in similar status, I Frustratingly Agree…..

  10. Cagcag Guest

    Like United, AA should allow 1 million miles the chance to nominate a companion to hold same Gold status

  11. Jim Guest

    When American combined with US Airways, the US Airways miles earned through 2011 were not treated the same as the American miles in determining lifetime status. Shame

  12. Tony Guest

    AA only counts BIS miles for lifetime status, and they don't count class bonuses, but they deff dont give you a full 1 mile per 1 mile flown if you book certain discount fares on partners. I remember flying Qantas on discount Y and i got 0.25miles/flown towards status and MM. Although on the bright side, United doesn't give you anything for partners so hey, you win some you lose some

  13. Maxie Dean Guest

    I have never understood why AA won’t at least give 3 million milers lifetime Plat Pro . I thought that was buried for good when Plat Pro became Oneworld Emerald . However , now that Plat Pro can be earned via loyalty points , AA should make the move to award lifetime Plat Pro at 3 million miler status .

    I have some sympathy for not wanting to award lifetime Ex Plat or Concierge...

    I have never understood why AA won’t at least give 3 million milers lifetime Plat Pro . I thought that was buried for good when Plat Pro became Oneworld Emerald . However , now that Plat Pro can be earned via loyalty points , AA should make the move to award lifetime Plat Pro at 3 million miler status .

    I have some sympathy for not wanting to award lifetime Ex Plat or Concierge Key . But with Plat Pro , you still have ExPlat and Key ahead in priority. It’s not like the comp upgrades are abundant - especially in non-pandemic travel . Travelers are buying up to premium class or outright purchasing premium class travel . Yes , Plat Pro will earn higher miles at an accelerated rate , but with the move to Loyalty Points , this seems moot .

    Perhaps the middle ground that is part of the Loyalty Points approach is the way to go - award Plat Pro at 3 million but no threshold systemwides unless the flyer hits the milestone . Keeping those folks who are already Plat for life engaged should be a positive . In any event , the AA million miler program is woefully uncompetitive as is .

  14. Justlanded Guest

    The "easier" it becomes to earn MMiler status, or any status for that matter, the more diluted the value prop becomes.

    As an old school, butt-in-seat AA Gold MM survivor, I earned my MM status the hard way - enjoying cramped seats, stale pretzels, and not with credit card spending.

    For me, seat upgrade availability is nil, but the free checked bag is useful. Gold MM status is hardly an aspirational target at this...

    The "easier" it becomes to earn MMiler status, or any status for that matter, the more diluted the value prop becomes.

    As an old school, butt-in-seat AA Gold MM survivor, I earned my MM status the hard way - enjoying cramped seats, stale pretzels, and not with credit card spending.

    For me, seat upgrade availability is nil, but the free checked bag is useful. Gold MM status is hardly an aspirational target at this point, but adding more cattle into the pen won't lead to a better steak...

  15. NMFlyer Guest

    A suggestion for how American could deal with the "heavily inflated million miler totals" you mention: they could limit lifetime status to the highest tier achieved in yearly status but otherwise match the approach of United or Delta.

  16. Danny C Guest

    AA should include lifetime Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum to be competitive with Delta and United.

    1. Steve Diamond

      I disagree there are so many 1MM members. This program has been around since 1981 there are already too many gold members especially flying out of an AA hub. If you are close to 1MM with AA you probably have plat or exec plat anyways if still actively traveling. We dont need every single consultant to get lifetime platinum further devaluing status for people who actively travel because thousands of retired travelers who fly 1...

      I disagree there are so many 1MM members. This program has been around since 1981 there are already too many gold members especially flying out of an AA hub. If you are close to 1MM with AA you probably have plat or exec plat anyways if still actively traveling. We dont need every single consultant to get lifetime platinum further devaluing status for people who actively travel because thousands of retired travelers who fly 1 or 2 times a year have lifetime Exec status because they flew a lot in the 1990s.

    2. Danny C Guest

      Perhaps lifetime Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum be limited to those who have achieved flying on AA continuously for 20 or more years as Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum.

    3. Steve Diamond

      Now that's a much better and fair idea.

  17. Pat Ferrillo Guest

    I have recorded over 6 million miles That is miles not credit card points. Why should I be loyal AA . I get the same as some who has earned 2 million.

  18. upstater Guest

    One annoying aspect of AA Million Miler Gold status is earning a higher level status always starts at zero each year. Even though I'm Gold, I still have to accrue miles or points the "hard way". Between Covid and business travel cratering, getting higher status is more difficult. But lifetime Gold is better than nothing...

    1. DCS Diamond

      As far as I know, AA's requirement to start from scratch each year to earn a higher elite status level than one bestowed by the MM status is the same for DL and UA as well (I reached UA 1MM in 2016).

    2. Joe Guest

      @DCS so are you at 2MM with UA?

    3. Steve Diamond

      Lifetime gold is better than nothing. I think there is a lot to criticize AA for but this isnt one of them. No one is choosing to fly Delta or UA over AA because in 10 years they will have 1MM miles and wants better status on one airline over the other. If you reach 1MM you are flying a lot anyways and probably have top tier status and do the same routes so often...

      Lifetime gold is better than nothing. I think there is a lot to criticize AA for but this isnt one of them. No one is choosing to fly Delta or UA over AA because in 10 years they will have 1MM miles and wants better status on one airline over the other. If you reach 1MM you are flying a lot anyways and probably have top tier status and do the same routes so often you dont have a choice on carrier really. This is great for someone retired who might have had 10+ years of exec platinum but now only flys once or twice a year and still has lifetime gold.

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Eric Oborski Guest

I totally agree with you that AA should offer Platinum Pro for 3 million milers and Executive Platinum for 4 million milers. I have almost 5 million miles with AA and feel cheated with this program. Mainly because I have almost 3 million miles with United which gives me Platinum status for life and I also have 1 million miles with Delta. Had I known before when I was racking up 400-500k miles per year split between all airlines I would have concentratrd most of my business with United and Delta.

1
Michael Guest

With American Airlines, if you’re a lifetime gold status member you still have to start from zero loyalty points to achieve platinum, platinum pro or executive platinum each qualifying year. That doesn’t make sense. Why not start at the gold level since you’ve already achieved that? That’s a big negative reason to try and obtain lifetime status with American Airlines

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Bob Guest

I agree. Having recently crossed the 3 million mile mark and only receiving 4 systemwide upgrades makes me feel a little cheated. I've obviously been very loyal to AA and still only have Platinum status, which is now much easier for others to get. I can expect my future upgrades to be that much more difficult. I'm definitely considering switching back to Delta for my future flights, they offer better perks.

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