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There was a time when the American Airlines AAdvantage program was the clear leader in the airline loyalty sector and when the airline saw it as a genuine asset to its business. Nowadays all of that is rapidly becoming a distant memory as the current leadership team at American Airlines continues to dismantle AAdvantage and with it what little loyalty that is still felt towards the increasingly hard-to-like airline.
It’s true to say that up until a few years ago the American Airlines AAdvantage program was way too generous with its benefits when compared to its closest rivals so it was only natural that a few cuts should be made here and there…but what we’ve seen hasn’t been just a few cuts here and there.
With a little thought the AAdvantage program could have been trimmed of some of the excess fat without destroying the goodwill that it generated and without alienating thousands of flyers that really liked (even loved) American Airlines. Sadly that’s not what happened and when Doug Parker and his cohort took over they took a cleaver to the AAdvantage program when a scalpel would have done a better job.
We’ve seen mileage earning rates slashed, benefits cut, statuses devalued, award costs skyrocket, premium saver awards disappear, service decline and upgrades become harder to clear. There really hasn’t been any truly good news for years.
If we sit back and take an honest look at AAdvantage in its current guise I can’t imagine how anyone could make an argument that says that the program generates loyalty. There’s nothing left to be loyal for or to.
Sure, perhaps at the very apex of the traveler pyramid there are those who still do well out of the AAdvantage program – I’m genuinely happy for them – but an airline loyalty program needs to work for more than a few hundred (thousand?) people for it to have any value…or for it to even have a reason to exist.
The problem here lies squarely with American Airlines management and one of the latest changes to the AAdvantage program (announced yesterday) underscores just how little thought they actually give to their loyalty program’s members.
Yesterday American Airlines announced that, to qualify for top-tier Executive Platinum status in 2020, AAdvantage members will have to earn $15,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) in 2019. That’s up from $12,000 EQD in 2018 or an increase of 25%.
It no secret that American Airlines is doing this simply because that’s what United Airlines has done recently (you can hear the bleating of the sheep if you listen closely) but let’s examine the timing of American Airlines’ announcement.
Yesterday was 5 November and, as American Airlines’ own calendar shows, we can now book travel into October 2019:
With over 9 months of 2019 currently open for bookings American Airlines changed the goal posts regarding the requirements to qualify for top-tier status.
Right now there are a lot of people out there who have been booking their 2019 trips with an eye on qualifying for (or re-qualifying for) Executive Platinum status and they have probably make quite a few bookings based on the assumption that they’ll be able to hit the status requirements that had been published.
Unfortunately one of those requirements got changed yesterday…and by quite some margin.
Giving AAdvantage members effectively no notice at all that the requirements for top-tier status are changing epitomizes how the current management team at American Airlines feel about AAdvantage members and their customers as a whole.
Their motto is clearly “screw them, let’s just do what best for us”.
How else do you explain the lack of notice for the changes in top-tier qualification or that upgrades are often not cleared as the airline strives for D0 (which they still fail to achieve), or the fact that boarding is often called early with no updates posted on monitors, or the fact that the airline doesn’t update its departure boards when flights are delayed or the fact that a lot of the staff manning the telephones nowadays are as about competent as Wile E Coyote?
It’s a disgrace.
I gave up on AAdvantage at the end of 2017 and I’m delighted that I finally broke that cord.
At one time breaking away from AAdvantage would have been a hugely tough thing to do….but it was actually remarkably easy.
Now that the airline has shown yet more disregard for its flyers (this time it’s the top-tier flyers that are being hit) I’m expecting to see a lot more travelers follow suit.
Hopefully one day the airline will get the message…but I doubt it will be any time soon.