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Today looks like it’s a day for surprises. I didn’t expect Marriott to announce the huge Bonvoy devaluation that we’ve seen, while the cataclysmic changes that I was expecting American Airlines to make to its awards charts never materialized. Instead, what American Airlines announced today was a wholesale change to how AAdvantage elite status is earned.
Key AAdvantage changes announced today
- Elite Qualifying Miles, Elite Qualifying Dollars, and Elite Qualifying Segments are all being eliminated from 1 January 2022.
- Elite status will be earned using a single metric – Loyalty Points
- 1 Loyalty Point will be earned for every eligible AAdvantage Mile earned
- Eligible AAdvantage miles include select earnings from flying, credit card spending, shopping portal spending, and more.
- The number of Loyalty Points needed to earn AAdvantage elite status will not correlate to the number of Elite Qualifying Miles needed in the current iteration of the AAdvantage program.
- Loyalty Points will be used to decide upgrade priority
- The elite qualification year will now run from 1 March through the end of February.
- AAdvantage elite status will now be valid through 31 March each year.
- No changes have been made to the American Airlines award charts.
- No changes have been made to how redeemable miles are earned.
Loyalty Points needed for elite status
American Airlines isn’t changing the elite status levels of the AAdvantage program but with the elimination of Elite Qualifying Dollars, and Elite Qualifying Segments, this is what the elite status targets now look like:
- AAdvantage Gold status – 30,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum status – 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status – 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status – 200,000 Loyalty Points
There are no other metrics for earning AAdvantage elite status, just Loyalty Points.
The new elite year
Historically, AAdvantage elite status has been earned between 1 January and 31 December of every year with elite statuses valid through 31 January of the year following the year in which the elite status was earned.
Not any more.
Going forward, AAdvantage elite status will be earned in the 12 months from 1 March every year and elite statuses will be valid through 31 March of the year following the year in which the elite status was earned (e.g. if you earn elite status in November 2022, you’ll have the benefits of that status through March 2024).
How Loyalty Points are earned
American Airlines Loyalty Points can be collected from AAdvantage Miles earned through the following sources:
- Flying with status-qualifying airlines
- AAdvantage co-branded credit card purchases
- Earnings from the American Airlines eShopping portal
- Earnings from the AAdvantage Dining program
- Earnings from the Simply Miles program
Key: Not all miles earned from all of the above will count towards the Loyalty Points needed for elite status.
Loyalty Points from flying with American Airlines
All flyers will earn 5 base miles/dollar spent with American Airlines on base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges. Government taxes and fees do not attract mileage earning.
AAdvantage elites will also earn bonus miles which will also count towards their Loyalty Points total:
- AAdvantage Gold status – 2 bonus miles/dollar (40% bonus)
- AAdvantage Platinum status – 3 bonus miles/dollar (60% bonus)
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro status – 4 bonus miles/dollar (80% bonus)
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum status – 6 bonus miles/dollar (120% bonus)
All of these miles add to a flyer’s redeemable mileage balance and count towards a flyer’s Loyalty Points balance in a ratio of 1 mile = 1 Loyalty Point.
What this effectively means is that the higher a flyer’s elite status, the easier (and cheaper) it is to earn/retain elite status.
For example, an AAdvantage Platinum member qualifying for elite status on American Airlines flying alone would have to spend $25,000 on base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges. An AAdvantage Executive Platinum member would only have to spend $18,182 to achieve the same result.
Loyalty Points from flying with Partner Airlines
The partner earnings charts have not been changed (see here) and Loyalty Points are earned from three different sources:
- Standard redeemable miles earned
- Cabin bonuses earned
- Elite status bonuses earned (40%/60%/80%/120%)
The best way to explain this is with a worked example.
Here’s the American Airlines earnings chart for flights booked through British Airways:
You can ignore the EQMs, EQDs, and EQSs as they are irrelevant when it comes to earning Loyalty Points.
An AAdvantage Platinum member would earn the following from a 10,000-mile Business Class flight booked into “C” Class:
- 10,000 base miles = 10,000 Loyalty Points
- 2,500 cabin bonus miles = 2,500 Loyalty Points
- 6,000 elite status bonus miles = 6,000 Loyalty Points
Total earnings: 18,500 miles = 18,500 Loyalty Points
As credits towards American Airlines elite status continue to be earned based on the distance flown and not the cost of the fare, it continues to be true that flyers will earn more credits when booking partner fares when fare prices are low.
Loyalty Points from credit card spending
America Airlines co-branded credit cardholders (Citi and Barclays) earn 1 Loyalty Point for every base mile earned on the card.
What this means is that cardholders will earn 1 Loyalty Point for every dollar of spending put on their AAdvantage credit cards as bonus points earned in categories where more than 1 point/dollar is on offer (e.g. for spending made with American Airlines) will not earn more Loyalty Points.
Welcome bonuses will not count towards Loyalty Points earnings (if only!)
Loyalty Points from portals, dining & more
Amerian Airlines has confirmed that 1 base mile earned by shopping through the AAdvantage eShopping portal, the Simply Miles shopping program or the AAdvantage Dining program will earn 1 Loyalty Point.
It appears as if American hasn’t actually completed negotiation with the rest of its partners as we’re told that miles earned from other sources may also be brought in to count towards Loyalty point earnings but there is no more news on that front for now.
These miles will not count towards Loyalty Points earnings
While there are a lot of new ways to earn Loyalty Points, there are still quite a few ways of earning redeemable miles that will not count towards a flyer’s Loyalty Points total. Specifically, none of these sources of redeemable miles will increase an AAdvantage member’s Loyalty Points total:
- Credit card welcome bonuses
- Bonus miles offered by AAdvantage co-branded credit cards
- Miles bought, transferred, or gifted through the AAdvantage program
- Miles bought through the American Airlines mileage multiplier
- Miles generated from transfers from partner programs (e.g. conversions from Marriott Bonvoy)
- Taxes and fees on flight bookings
- Bonus miles offered by either of the shopping portals or the AAdvantage Dining program
- Miles earned from partners not already mentioned (e.g. car rental companies)*
While not specifically mentioned by American Airlines, I strongly suspect that miles earned from the Hyatt partnership will not count towards an AAdvantage member’s Loyalty Points total.
*The list of partners whose redeemable mileage earnings will count towards Loyalty Points earnings will almost certainly change so the small list provided above is not going to be exhaustive.
Elite Choice Rewards are staying
The Elite Choice Rewards that American Airlines now offers Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members are staying around but with a few key changes:
Firstly, they’re now called Loyalty Choice Awards.
Secondly, these are what the Loyalty Choice Rewards targets now look like:
- Level 1 – 125,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 2 – 200,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 3 – 350,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 4 – 550,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 5 – 750,000 Loyalty Points
Thirdly, in order to be able to be eligible to earn Loyalty Choice Rewards, a flyer will need to credit 30 segments on American Airlines or qualifying partner airlines to the AAdvantage program in a membership year.
Upgrades will be based on Loyalty Points
In recent years, American Airlines upgrades have been based on two key things:
- Elite status
- 12-month rolling Elite Qualifying Dollars total
With the elimination of EQDs, a flyer’s 12-month rolling Loyalty Points total will be used to ascertain their place on the upgrade list.
Elite status will continue to be the key driver of a flyer’s place on the upgrade list but where two or more flyers on an upgrade list share the same elite status, their 12-month rolling Loyalty Points balance will decide who gets priority.
I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to digest all of these changes so I’ll write a fuller breakdown of my thoughts in the coming days. For now, however, here are a few key things that I’m taking away from these changes:
- Earning AAdvantage Elite status from flying alone is getting more expensive
- Earning status is a lot easier if you already hold status and this may put people off from looking for greener pastures – once they lose their AAdvantage status it’s not going to be cheap to get it back.
- Booking cheap premium cabin awards on partner airlines continues to be an economical path to AAdvantage elite status.
- Big spenders will now be able to earn AAdvantage elite status from their credit card spending alone.
- People who are fully immersed in the AAdvantage ecosystem (flying, shopping portals, dining, etc…) will find it easier than before to earn AAdvantage Elite status.
- This will be a simpler system for a lot of people to understand
More thoughts to come when I’ve had a chance to catch my breath! 🙂
American Airlines has completely revamped the elite staus earnings part of the AAdvantage program and made it more spending-based than ever before. Gone are EQMs, EQDs, and EQSs and we’re left with just “Loyalty Points” which are directly related to base miles earned from flying, credit cards, shopping portals, and select other partners. Bonus miles earned from premium cabin bookings and from elite status bonuses will also now count towards elite status but travelers will have to credit at least 30 segments to the AAdvantage program if they want to enjoy the Loyalty Choice benefits.
Overall, this is a huge change to how elite status is earned with American Airlines, and it’s a change that some will like and some will hate.
It’s going to take a few days and weeks for all the details to be clarified, for all the information to sink in, and for all the necessary calculations to be done but that’s when we’ll have a much better picture of what life in the AAdvantage program will look like.