I know I’m stating the exceptionally obvious here, but can American please improve its lifetime elite status program already?
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American’s lifetime status program is uncompetitive
Many major airlines have lifetime elite status programs, whereby you can earn elite status with the airline for life after completing a certain amount of activity.
The current American AAdvantage lifetime elite status program is lackluster, and so much worse than the programs you’ll find at Alaska Mileage Plan, Delta SkyMiles, and United MileagePlus. For context, American’s current million miler program only lets you earn up to AAdvantage Platinum status for life, which is the second lowest of American’s five elite tiers.
As a point of comparison:
- With its million miler program, Alaska lets you earn up to MVP Gold 75K status for life, plus allows you to nominate a companion to get the same status, plus gives you upgrade priority over others in the same tier
- With its million miler program, Delta lets you earn up to Delta 360 status for life, which is the carrier’s invitation-only elite tier
- With its million miler program, United MileagePlus lets you earn up to Global Services status for life, which is the carrier’s invitation-only elite tier; on top of that, you can nominate a companion to receive your status as well
Now, in fairness, there’s a reason that American’s lifetime status has historically been capped pretty low. Up until 2011, American counted all AAdvantage miles earned toward 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 toward 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.”
How & why American should overhaul its lifetime status
With American’s Loyalty Points system, the airline allows customers to earn elite status in a variety of ways, including through credit card spending. While I think the system makes a lot of sense, a lifetime status program is valuable in terms of giving people a long-term incentive to fly with an airline. After all, filling seats is at least one of the reasons that an airline loyalty program exists.
What do I think American should do to improve its million miler program? Of course all existing lifetime elite status should be honored. Then using the current metric of lifetime status being based on “butt-in-seat” miles, enhanced status should be offered, as follows:
- One million flown miles should earn you AAdvantage Platinum for life
- Two million flown miles should earn you AAdvantage Platinum Pro for life
- Three million flown miles should earn you AAdvantage Executive Platinum for life
- Four million flown miles should earn you Concierge Key for life
Now, if American were feeling generous, the airline could also throw in status for a companion, as Alaska and United do. But even the above would be a massive improvement, and would at least make American’s lifetime status program (almost) average.
I think American is underestimating the extent to which this long-term incentive would keep people on the hamster wheel, who might otherwise consider splitting travel between airlines. The current program just seems really short-sighted.
American’s current lifetime elite status program is beyond lackluster. You can earn at most AAdvantage Platinum status, and you can’t nominate a companion for status. Alaska and United both recently improved their million miler programs, and United has long had the most lucrative million miler program.
Hopefully American follows the lead of other airlines here, and makes some positive changes soon. I mean, the airline isn’t exactly doing a great job making money, so anything that incentivizes long term loyalty and business from big spenders seems like a smart strategy.
What do you make of American’s million miler program? What changes would you like to see, and do you think we’ll see them?