It’s common for airlines to offer some sort of status challenge or status match program, in order to lure frequent flyers who are loyal to competing airlines, but are considering a switch. In the United States, most major airlines offer some sort of a status match challenge opportunity, including Alaska, Delta, Southwest, and United. In this post I wanted to take a look at the program offered by American.
American AAdvantage refreshed its status challenge program in late 2022, coinciding with the new Loyalty Points system for elite status qualification, which makes it possible to earn elite status through credit card spending. The new program is called “Instant Status Pass,” so let’s go over the details.
AAdvantage Instant Status Pass program
American AAdvantage’s Instant Status Pass program isn’t particularly straightforward. The first thing to understand is how you’re eligible for this:
- You may see an offer in the promotions tab of your AAdvantage account to enroll in this offer
- You can call AAdvantage customer service at 800-882-8880 in order to enroll
- If you’re enrolled in the American AAdvantage & World of Hyatt partnership and have elite status with Hyatt, you may be eligible for a special challenge
- There will typically be a cost to participate in the Instant Status Pass program, and the cost will vary by person, depending on your existing status, the status you’re going for, etc.; some people may even be targeted for a free status challenge
Ordinarily a status challenge requires completing some activity during a limited window (usually a few months), and then you receive the status for an entire year. American wants to make sure people stay more engaged, so the airline requires members to complete challenges in three consecutive phases (each four months), in order to maintain status for an additional year.
When you enroll in Instant Status Pass:
- In phase one, you’ll receive elite status for four months, and during those first four months you have to earn a certain number of Loyalty Points in order to maintain the status for another four months
- In phase two, you’ll receive the status for another four months, and have to earn a certain number of Loyalty Points to maintain the status for an additional four months
- In phase three, you’ll receive the status for another four months, and have to earn a certain number of Loyalty Points to maintain the status for an entire additional year
In phase one, each elite tier requires earning the following number of Loyalty Points (this is roughly one third of the normal annual requirements, which makes sense):
- The AAdvantage Gold status challenge requires earning 10,000 Loyalty Points in the first four months
- The AAdvantage Platinum status challenge requires earning 25,000 Loyalty Points in the first four months
- The AAdvantage Platinum Pro status challenge requires earning 42,000 Loyalty Points in the first four months
- The AAdvantage Executive Platinum status challenge requires earning 67,000 Loyalty Points in the first four months
After completing the first phase, you’ll receive an email with instructions for the second phase. Then after completing the second phase, you’ll receive an email with instructions for the third phase. You can generally expect that the second and third phases have similar Loyalty Points requirements, and that this essentially requires you to just earn the same number of Loyalty Points as you’d usually need over the course of a year, just in smaller, four month chunks.
Loyalty Points can be earned in a variety of ways (including through non-flying means), so in theory you could complete this challenge with credit card spending, for example.
My take on American’s Instant Status Pass concept
I have mixed feelings about American’s Instant Status Pass concept. On the plus side, I think most would agree that this won’t do much to dilute status, since it takes a lot of effort to maintain status, and it’s only awarded in four month increments.
Furthermore, I’m impressed by the thought that went into this status challenge concept. The issue with some challenges is that members will be really active in the program for a few months (during the trial period), until they earn their status for a year, and then they drop off.
What American is doing here is a smart way to engage prospective customers, and offer them something upfront while still making sure they stay on the “hamster wheel,” even after the first trial period. That’s smart.
All that being said, I can’t help but feel like all of this sounds a bit complicated for the average consumer, and lacks transparency. In many cases people will be paying a significant amount of money upfront in order to be able to participate:
- Understanding this concept is complicated to begin with
- On top of that, American won’t tell people what the second and third challenges are, so you don’t fully know what you’re signing up for
Now, I imagine over time we’ll get lots of data points, and will be able to determine what’s required during phases two and three. But for now I’d say this program is a bit confusing.
If you’re looking for a status match challenge with American Airlines, then the Instant Status Pass promotion is for you. While different members will be eligible for different offers, the idea is essentially that you have an initial four month period during which you need to earn roughly one-third of the standard Loyalty Points requirements.
You then have two more four month periods where you need to complete certain activity in order to earn status for an additional year. This program seems both complicated, and a good way to engage members beyond an initial trial period.
What do you make of American’s Instant Status Pass program?