American Airlines Status Extensions & More – The Good, The Bad & The Pointless


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American Airlines has now joined Delta, United and Alaska Airlines in announcing status extensions for its elite members and, just like its competitors, American used the status extension announcement to reveal a few more moves that it’s taking. From a customer perspective, some are good, some are bad and some are utterly pointless.

This is a log post so if you’re interested in a specific aspect of what American Airlines has announced feel free to click on one of the links below and you’ll jump to the appropriate section:

AAdvantage Status Extensions

The Facts

All American Airlines AAdvantage elite status holders will have their status extended for a year. Statuses will no longer expire on 31 January 2021 and elite flyers will now enjoy host status benefits through January 2022.

American has said that the updated status expiration dates will appear in members’ accounts “by 15 May 2020”.

Executive Platinum members who now get to keep their status through to January 2022 but who do not meet the new qualifying criteria for Executive Platinum status this year (see below) will not be issued with more Systemwide upgrades.

Thoughts

Clearly this is good news for American Airlines elites but it’s hardly unexpected. Ever since Delta and United announced that they were extending elite statuses for their flyers a little over a week ago we have been waiting for American Airlines to follow suit…and now it has.

It’s also not surprising that American will not be issuing more Systemwide upgrades for Executive Platinum members who only keep their status courtesy of the extensions that have just been announced – I think it would have been expecting too much of the airline to issue more upgrades especially as the thresholds for earning status this year have been reduced considerably.

Lower AAdvantage Status Targets For 2020

The Facts

American Airlines has announced that it has reduced the requirements for status earning for this year for all 4 of its status levels.

  • EQD requirements have been lowered by between 33% and 50%
  • EQM requirements have been lowered by 40% across the board
  • EQS requirements have been lowered by 50% across the board

AAdvantage members who manage to hit these thresholds in 2020 will have their status adjusted appropriately through January 2022 (assuming the status they earn is higher than the status tey hold now) but this is not a route to adding another year of status on top of the status extension that has just been announced.

The new lower qualification thresholds will take effect by 15 May 2020 and once these changes are in place, members who reach the lower thresholds during 2020 will receive their status immediately upon qualifying or retroactively once the changes take effect.

Thoughts

This is a similar move to the one we have already seen United make and it’s a move that American Airlines is hoping will give flyers an incentive to book with it once travel restrictions are lifted.

It’s interesting to note that the reductions in elite status requirements are mostly between 40% and 50% as that may give some indication of how long the airline thinks normal (normal-ish) service will be unavailable. The reduced targets would appear to suggest that American expects flyers to lose between 5 and 6 months of flying time this year so, assuming most people haven’t been able to travel since the beginning of March, this would suggest that American doesn’t expect people to start traveling with any freedom much before the beginning of August or possibly even the beginning of September.

Just how generous this move turns out to be will depend completely on when we all feel we can return to the skies with any confidence but, for now, it’s good to see American making an effort to keep 2020 interesting.

Admirals Club Memberships Extended…For Some

The Facts

  • Admirals Club members who have purchased their membership directly from American Airlines will have their memberships extended by 6 months – this applies to memberships that were active as of 1 March 2020 and for memberships purchased by 31 May 2020.
  • Flyers who hold Admirals Club one-day passes purchased directly from American Airlines and whose expiry date is 1 March 2020 or later will have the expiry date of those passes extended by 6 months.

American Airlines has made no comment about Admirals Club memberships obtained through a 3rd party.

Thoughts

There’s both good and bad news here. The good news is reserved for those who have purchased Admirals Club access directly from American Airlines and is somewhat obvious.

The bad news is reserved for those who have Admirals Club membership courtesy of their Citi AAdvantage Executive card as American isn’t (apparently) extending these memberships at all…and that’s interesting. United appears to have done something similar with its co-branded cardholders but Delta has not.

American Express has recently said that it is working with its cobrand card partners to ensure that cardholders don’t miss out on using the benefits that come with their cards, and this has been borne out (at least in part) by the fact that Delta has announced that all Sky Club memberships with an expiry date of 1 March or later will have their expiry date extended by 6 months and by the fact that Delta SkyMiles Reserve cardholders are getting 6 months extensions to their one-time Sky Club guest passes…so why haven’t American Airlines/Citi announced something similar?

Citi and American may yet come up with something for Citi AAdvantage Executive Card holders but the fact that they haven’t managed to work something out yet doesn’t look great.

Systemwide Upgrade Expiry Dates Extended

The Facts

All unused Systemwide upgrades with an expiration date of 31 January 2020 will have their expiration date extended to 31 July 2021 (a 6-month extension).

No mention has been made of Systemwide upgraded that were added to itineraries that, subsequently, had to be canceled.

Thoughts

A 6-month extension to Systemwide upgrade expirations seems fair. A lot of people seem to think that travel will be back to some state of normalcy by the beginning of 2021 so AAdvantage members with Systemwide upgrades sitting in their accounts should have at least 6 months in which to use those upgrades.

I don’t expect American Airlines to make any announcements about systemwide upgrades that have been “lost” as a result of cancelled travel but it’s probably worth calling up the airline to see what they’re prepared to do. If you’re a profitable customer I suspect American will show a bit of leeway, if you’re a cheapskate like me I wouldn’t hold out too much hope 🙂

Lower Thresholds For Executive Platinum Rewards

The Facts

American Airlines Executive Platinum elites will be offered lower thresholds for the rewards normally on offer to those earning a minimum of 150,000 Elite Qualifying Miles.

The thresholds for Executive Platinum rewards have been reduced by 40% across the board.

Thoughts

Considering the elite status requirements for 2020 have been reduced it’s not surprising to see the thresholds for EXP rewards being reduced too. As with the reduced elite status requirements, the generosity of this move will depend entirely on how many months of this year elites will be able to travel.

Million Miler Status Promotion

The Facts

Up until 2012, AAdvantage miles earned through credit card spending counted towards American Airlines Million Miler status but, since then, only “butt-in-seat” miles have counted. Now there’s a short-term exception.

Here’s what American Airlines has announced:

We’re introducing a limited-time promotion to help you reach Million Miler℠ status and receive benefits like elite status. For all eligible Citi / AAdvantage® and AAdvantage® Aviator products, as well as select AAdvantage® credit cards outside the U.S., every dollar spent on net purchases that post between May 1, 2020, – December 31, 2020, will count as 1 mile toward Million Miler℠ status.

I have not seen any official statement that says that bonus miles earned through credit card spending (e.g bonus miles earned) will count towards Million Miler status.

Thoughts

This appears interesting but for most people it’s utterly pointless.

American Airlines Lifetime Gold status (which requires a member to accumulate 1,000,000 miles) is a status whose primary benefits you can (mostly) get with a credit card that costs $95/year so there is absolutely no point in putting spend on a credit card just to reach this status.

American Airlines Lifetime Platinum status (which requires a member to accumulate 2,000,000 miles) is a status I hold and which has been devalued so significantly in recent years (especially with the introduction of Platinum Pro status) that it’s really not worth very much at all.

Yes, Platinum status still matches to oneworld Sapphire status which has its uses outside of the US, but if you’re expecting to receive a significant number of complimentary upgrades or enhanced service levels just because you hold this status you’re going to be disappointed.

The fact is that AAdvantage credit cards generally offer poor earning levels in most spending categories so anyone moving their spending to a Citi AAdvantage card just to earn miles towards Lifetime Status is giving up better earnings for a status level that isn’t really worth all that much.

Even if you’re “not very far” from reaching the 2,000,000 mile marker I still can’t see why you’d increase your spending on an AAdvantage credit card – keep spending on the more valuable cards you hold and earn Liftetime Platinum status organically.

If you don’t think that’s feasible you probably don’t travel enough to need that status in the first place.

Award Reinstatement Fee Changes

The Facts

  • American Airlines says that it’s waiving award reinstatement fees for bookings made by 31 May 2020 for travel through 30 September 2020.
  • Reinstatement fees for awards booked on or after 1 June 2020 will be waived as long as the reinstatement is made at least 60 days in advance of travel
  • For awards booked on or after 1 June 2020 with reinstatements made within 60 days of travel, a new fee structure has been introduced:

  • The flight award change/reinstatement fee will be waived for:
    • Members using more miles to purchase a higher cabin on the same flight(s).
    • Executive Platinum members using miles from their account, including for Web Special awards.
  • Fees apply to each award ticket changed or reinstated.

Thoughts

There’s good news and bad news in this part of the American Airlines announcement and the bad news is more than a little sneaky.

There appear to be two pieces of good news here:

Firstly, it’s good news that all award reinstatement fees for travel through 30 September are being waived as this should get a lot of non Executive Platinum travelers with existing bookings off the hook if travel doesn’t get going in the next few months.

Secondly, it would appear that American Airlines hasn’t put an end date on the new policy of “no award reinstatement fees for changes made more than 60 days from travel” so, for those of us who normally have to pay such fees (i.e those of us who don’t have top-tier status) this is good news.

Now here’s the bad news…

American Airlines has long had a policy of not charging fees for award changes where the origin and destination on the booking remained the same and this policy has applied to all flyers irrespective of status. The introduction of the new fee structure from 1 June will put an end to this.

While all changes outside of the 60-day window before travel will be free of charge, any changes made within the 60-day window will incur a charge for travelers who don’t hold top-tier status. As award availability often only changes (gets better) as you approach the date of departure, a significant proportion of all award changes take place within 60 days of travel so this move is a money-raising exercise by American and has little to do with “giving [customers] more flexibility”.

Also, where American Airlines has charged change/reinstatement fees in the past, those fees have been $150 for the first passenger and $25 per passenger for all other passengers on the same itinerary…but not any more. From 1 June 2020 the new fee structure will kick in.

For solo bookings, this isn’t actually bad news as no solo traveler is worse off under the new fee structure, but most others are definitely worse off.

For a 2 person booking, the fees that will be charged (within the 60-day window) will be higher under the new structure unless miles have come from an account where the traveler has Platinum status and the change being made is taking place 7+ days from departure.

For bookings of 3 – 4  passengers, the fees that will be charged (within the 60-day window) will be higher under the new structure unless the miles have come from an account where the traveler has Platinum Pro status and the change being made is taking place 7+ days from departure.

For bookings of 5 or more passengers, the fees that will be charged (within the 60-day window) will be higher under the new structure unless the miles have come from an account where the traveler has Executive Platinum status.

As most people do not travel solo this is going to be seen as a very negative change by a large percentage of American Airlines flyers. The fact that this permanent change has been done under the cover of the current crisis, isn’t a good look for American airlines.

American Airlines Vacations Credits Are Coming

The Facts

On 1 July 2020 American Airlines says it will be sending out one-time credits for bookings made through American Airlines Vacations.

  • The size of the credit offered will vary according to AAdvantage status as of 30 June 2020.

  • Package must include round-trip flights and hotel
  • There is a minimum spend requirement of $2,500.
  • Offer is valid for new reservations made by phone on/after 1 July 2020 (800-321-2121).
  • All travel must start by 20 December 2021 for this promotion to apply.
  • Multiple hotel stays are valid for promo as long as the total nights booked is greater than the minimum stay requirements.

Thoughts

The first thing to note is that I’m pretty sure this is useless for any AAdvantage members based outside the US as all American Airlines Vacations bookings appear to have to originate in the United States.

if you’re based in the US this will be a nice offer if you generally use American Airlines vacations anyway but it probably won’t be all that enticing for most other travelers.

Hotels booked through American Airlines Vacations will mostly not qualify for elite stay credits, they won’t qualify to earn the hotel’s loyalty currency, and guests will not be entitled to elite status benefits – for boutique hotel bookings this isn’t an issue but for big chain hotel bookings it probably will be.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has finally announced the status extensions we have been expecting for over a week and it has thrown in a few other announcements into the mix as well. If all you really care about is the status you hold there isn’t anything particularly scary or bad in what American Airlines has announced…and there are a number of other positives too.

Unfortunately, American Airlines can’t help itself and once again it couldn’t resist adding some customer-unfriendly bits into what should have been a wholly positive announcement and I don’t think that reflects well on the airline.

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