American Airlines Guts The AAdvantage Program – Elite Qualifying Dollars & New Status Level Added

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American Airlines has just released details of what the AAdvantage program is going to look like going forward and it’s almost universally bad news for miles & points collectors and those of us who’ve enjoyed what used to be the best airline loyalty program out there. The Delta-isation of AAdvantage is upon us so those with a weak disposition should probably stop reading now.

Elite Qualifying Dollars Introduced

From 1 January 2017 American Airlines is adding  Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) to status qualification requirements.

There will be two ways to qualify for AAdvantage status with American Airlines

  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) + Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)
  • Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) + Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)

How with EQD’s be awarded?

EQDs will be awarded based on the following:

  • Ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding any government-imposed taxes and fees) on American-marketed flights – basically using the same methodology as used for the calculation of award miles earned.

Because American Airlines has no way of seeing the breakdown of fares booked through partner airlines, if you book through one of them (BA, Cathay Pacific, JAL etc…) this will be the rule:

Flights marketed by oneWorld carriers and Alaska Airlines will earn EQDs based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class purchased

I don’t really understand how American can call that “earning EQD” as there isn’t an actual dollar amount in that calculation but presumably this is just a way to get a number they can then use for working out what stays you’ve achieved.

Now that American Airlines is introducing  EQDs they will be removing the rule that 4 segments must be traveled on American or American Eagle during the qualifying year to receive elite status.

I’ll show how EQD will affect elite qualification a little further down.

New Elite Status

Contrary to rumors a few months back there doesn’t appear to be a new top-tier status being introduced but there is a new tier above Platinum Status – welcome to “Platinum Pro”

In 2017 you can start earning toward a new level, Platinum Pro, with benefits like:

Complimentary upgrades on flights within North America and between the U.S. and Central America
Earn 9 award miles/U.S. dollar (80% bonus)
2 free checked bags
oneworld® Sapphire status

Qualification for Platinum Pro does not begin until 1 January 2017 so AAdvantage members cannot reach this status in the 2016 qualification year.

There is no mention on what effect this has (if any) on the oneWorld status of Platinum status holders but you can be sure that this is bad news for tupgrade priority….which has also changed, but more on that later

Earning Elite Status in 2017

From 1 January 2017 these will be the requirements for earning Elite Status:

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 09.20.31

There doesn’t appear to be any information in the news release or in the FAQs that says if non-US based AAdvantage members will be excused the EQD requirements as they are on Delta and United – but as they have introduced a way of working out an EQD figure from partner flights it does’ look like there will be an exemption….which puts them behind Delta and United for non US-based flyers.

Upgrade Priority Changes

Per American Airlines:

The way your upgrade request is prioritized will change later in 2017. You’ll be listed according to your elite status level followed by the number of EQDs earned in the last 12 months.

Here are the new 500-mile upgrade clearing times adjusted for the new, Platinum Pro, status level:

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 09.40.38

According to Gary over at VFTW, Platinum Pro status holders will not have to use 500-mile certificates for upgrades.

There is one piece of good news:

Starting later in 2017, Executive Platinum members can use their complimentary 500-mile upgrade benefits on AAdvantage® award tickets for travel on American from Main Cabin to the next class.

But that should be tempered by the knowledge that American Airlines is planning on introducing Premium Economy seating to domestic flights in 2017 so Economy Class awards will almost certainly only upgrade to Premium Economy on aircraft fitted with the new cabin.

Changes to Award Mileage Earnings

By complete coincidence I’ve already gone through most of these changes in a post earlier today but there are two pieces of news we know now:

  • The new earning rates will be in place from 1 August 2016.
  • The minimum mileage guarantees are going away:

Effective August 1, minimum mileage guarantee on shuttle flights is going away for AAdvantage® members. The elite member minimum mileage guarantee is also going away, but the 500-mile EQM minimum will still be awarded on eligible flights.

In addition we now know that American Airlines will publish details of how miles will be awarded on partner marketed flights by 15 July.

Bottom Line

I’m going to take some time to let all of this sink in before I give a comprehensive critique of the changes….but I don’t need any more thinking time to say that the changes are pretty bad for the vast majority of flyers.

At first look there doesn’t appear to me too much to differentiate the new elite qualification criteria from those of Delta or United and, with the new earning rates coming in to play on 1 August 2016 there is less and less to differentiate the 3 legacy carriers in the US.

AAdvantage members may be taking a beating today but it’s “choice” that appears to have actually died.


  1. […] The announcement on Monday that American Airlines will be introducing minimum spend criteria to its AAdvantage program spurred me into taking another look into how elite status can be earned on the Big 3 US legacy airlines. Yesterday I took a look at the criteria set by American, Delta and United for those wishing to attain status in their rewards programs and today I’m going to take a look at how easy each airline makes it to earn the required number of miles that each elite status level requires. […]

  2. […] Yesterday I wrote about how travelers can use American Airlines AAdvantage Miles to upgrade domestic and international flights so it seems appropriate to take a look at how American prioritizes upgrades that have been waitlisted and how it prioritizes complimentary and 500-mile upgrades. I’ll take a look at how the system works right now and also touch on how the system will be changing once the recently announced devaluations come in to full effect. […]

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