American Airlines Is Selling Pointless Status Again And Some Offers Make No Sense At All


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You know that the year is drawing to a close when American Airlines starts sending you emails suggesting that you pay them quite a bit of cash in exchange for a bump up to a status level you probably don’t need (or which offers few worthwhile benefits). Two such emails have recently dropped into the TFM household’s inboxes and, try as I might, I just don’t understand the logic behind them.

Throughout 2018 I’ve been crediting most of my oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive club because, as I worked out last year, it’s a cheaper way for me to earn toptier status…..but I’ve continued to credit Joanna’s and MJ’s flights to AAdvantage.

As Joanna and MJ were never going to be close to earning airline status this year, and as we prefer AAdvantage Miles to Avios, it made sense to continue to crediting their oneworld flights to American Airlines rather than having their flights credited to the BAEC.

Both Joanna and MJ have earned nearly enough Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) for American Airlines Gold status but as they’re considerably short of the minimum spend requirement American Airlines is offering them Gold status in return for cold hard cash.

The thing is that, aside from the fact that American Airlines thinks we’re dumb enough to pay for a near useless status (more on that later), I don’t understand the basis on which they’re making their cash offers.

Neither Joanna or MJ have any more oneworld flights booked for 2018 so their qualification year is essentially over, and this is where they’re both at:

Joanna

MJ

I realise that I’ve blurred out the exact numbers but you should still be able to see that MJ has earned more Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) and more EQM and has flown more segments too….so why would American Airlines want to charge MJ $929 for AAdvantage Gold Status and Joanna only $875?

I’ve checked to make sure that I haven’t somehow got the offers mixed up a couple of times (I haven’t) and I’m at a loss to explain American’s thinking.

Technically it would be easier for MJ to earn Gold status (organically) than it would be for Joanna so why is she being asked to pay more?

If anyone had any ideas please let me know in the comments because I’d love to know what I’m missing.

Why This Is All Mostly Irrelevant Anyway

Apart from my interest in how American Airlines is working out what to charge for status this whole issue is pretty much irrelevant.

While American Airlines does it’s best to persuade AAdvantage members that Gold status comes packed with benefits….

…the reality is that the status is almost entirely pointless.

  • You’re highly unlikely to clear any upgrades if you’re hold lowly Gold status
  • Flyers earn so few miles on American Airlines flights (now that earnings are based on the cost of the fare) that the 40% bonus is mostly insignificant.
  • The “complimentary preferred seats” don’t offer any extra legroom or come with any real benefits – they’re essentially window and aisle seats in the area behind the Main Cabin Extra seating.
  • Gold status may well offer complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating 24 hours before departure but that doesn’t mean very much when, more often than not, all Main Cabin Extra seats have been reserved well before this window opens.
  • The”exclusive service desk” doesn’t really exist – it’s the standard desk and a “Gold desk” in name only.

The 1 free checked bag benefit for the status holder and up to 8 others traveling on the same reservation can be very useful…..but when you can get a free checked bag for up to 5 people simply by holding the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard (which costs $99/year) why would you bother trying to get AAdvantage Gold status?

Bottom Line

Ignoring the mystery behind how American Airlines works out what to charge for status there’s an important point here – it’s easy to get ripped off.

For the overwhelming majority of people receiving these offers the cost of buying status will far outweigh the benefits the status will bring. These are mostly very poor deals.

Yes, there will be those for whom the math make sense but I’m not writing this post for the small minority – the vast majority of people who are given the chance to buy American Airlines status will be offered a bad deal.

Even if you think that the deal is a good one for you I’d urge you to think again. Is it really a good deal or are you just persuading yourself that it’s a good deal because you like the idea of having status?

Bear in mind that Gold status is virtually useless and that Platinum status really only has merit if you plan to do a lot of overseas travel where the status will get you access to Business Class lounges – if you’re offered either of those statuses I highly doubt whether you’ll recoup in benefits the cash American is asking you to pay.

When it comes to Platinum Pro status some may be able to make it worth while (most won’t) and with Executive Platinum status the temptation to buy will be greatest because of the systemwide and domestic upgrades….but will you really fly enough to make the most of those?

Please think hard before you hand over your money to an airline that demonstrates time and time again that it doesn’t care about you or its loyalty program.

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