The Math Tells Me Not To Credit Flights To American Airlines

a green chalkboard with math equations

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I’ve been trying my hardest not to be one of those travelers who complains incessantly about an airline devaluing its frequent flyer program only to keep handing that same airline his/her cash on an ongoing and frequent basis.

American Airlines has destroyed the AAdvantage program for travelers like me (for a very small minority it may have improved) so my plan has been to avoid flying American Airlines as much as possible…but it’s been quite hard.

I split my time between Los Angles and London and, more often than not, the better fares between the two cities are to be found on American or on British Airways….and as BA shares revenue with American on its transatlantic routes flying BA is as good as flying with American.

a map of the united states

I also currently hold top-tier American Airlines status and that gives me perks that I don’t get when I book away from oneworld airlines (First Class lounges, seat selection for free at the time of booking, bonus miles etc..) so I’m incentivized to be a hypocrite and to continue flying with an airline that I no longer really want to patronise.

My answer to all of this has been to (a) fly less between the two cities, (b) to fly between Europe and Asia a lot more than I fly across the Atlantic, and (c) to only book Economy Class fares when booking with American to minimise the amount of cash I’m giving Doug Parker and co.

Is any of this significant to American? Of course not….but it makes me feel less of a hypocrite 🙂

Having said all of that I do have a lot of intra-Europe short-haul flights booked for next year (as well as a couple of long-haul trips) and, as they’re mostly on oneworld carriers, I need to consider where I should credit my flights.

In the past I would have credited these kinds of flight to the AAdvantage program without so much as a second thought….but not any more.

a close-up of a label

American’s introduction of a minimum spend criteria for elite status has changed the nature of the game and it’s no longer obvious that AAdvantage is the right place for me to be crediting my flights.

Looking At The Math

Crediting my currently booked flights to American Airlines would earn me:

  • 40,640 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)
  • 26,533 Redeemable Miles (RDM)
  • 2,523 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)

I already have Lifetime Platinum status on American and, as I really don’t value the additional benefits of Platinum Pro status, it’s really Executive Platinum or nothing for me.

While I’m already 40% of the way to earning enough EQM to retain AAdvantage Executive Platinum status (EXP) I’m still almost 9,500 short of the EQD target I’d need to hit as well – that’s a lot.

If I was to credit my currently booked flights to the other obvious rewards program (British Airways Executive Club) this is what I’d earn:

  • 275 Tier Points
  • 14,835 Avios

Considering I’d need a further 1,225 Tier Points for top-tier status and considering how lowly I value Avios this doesn’t look like a better option…..but there’s more.

I know that I’m probably going to add the following to my existing bookings next year:

  • 2 x Europe – Asia Business Class trips on Qatar Airways
  • 1 x transatlantic trip in Economy Class (to try to use up my Systemwide upgrades)
  • 1 x medium-haul Business Class trip
  • 1 x intra-Europe short-haul Economy Class trip

a bar with bottles of alcohol on the shelfDespite all my Qatar Airways flights I still haven’t reviewed the A380 Business Class Product – That’s a job for 2018

These flights change the outlook completely.

At a minimum this is what my estimated earnings would be after I factor in the flights above:

American Airlines AAdvantage Estimated Earnings At Year End

  • 94,154 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)
  • 112,910 Redeemable Miles (RDM)
  • 6,617 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)

It’s here where you can see the real damage that the minimum spend requirement inflicts.

I’m less than 6,000 miles short of the EQM target for top-tier status, I have a healthy haul of AAdvantage miles but I’m only just over half-way to the EQD target required for top-tier status (12,000 EQD).

a close up of a logo

To earn enough EQD for Executive Platinum status I would have to:

  • Spend a further $5,383 with American Airlines or
  • Fly a further 21,532 miles in British Airways Business Class or
  • Fly a further 26,915 miles in Qatar Airways Business Class

All of those are expensive options that really don’t appeal.

So what happens if I credit my predicted flights to British Airways?

British Airways Executive Club Estimated Earnings At Year End

Assuming I’m booked into the lowest fare class that each trip-type allows this would be how my year with BA would end:

  • 1,605 Tier Points
  • 54,035 Avios

While that is a truly woeful number of Avios (in reality I’d probably earn a little more as I’ve assumed no status change during the year) that is enough Tier Points for British Airways Gold status and that equates to oneworld Emerald status (which is what I value).

Thoughts

Based on the travel I already have booked and the oneworld flights I’m expecting to take next year it doesn’t make much sense to credit my flights to American Airlines.

As things stand and if I credit my flights to British Airways I don’t have to book any more travel than what I’ve listed out above and I’ll have British Airways Gold status for the following year.

a business card with a gold ribbon

Not only does BA Gold status give most of the benefits that I currently enjoy but it will also give me access to American Airline lounges on all domestic routes should I find myself traveling within the US.

If I was to credit my flights to American I wouldn’t just be short of Executive Platinum Status but I’d even be short of Platinum Pro status thanks to the Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement. To earn the benefits I currently enjoy for another year would require me to take at least a further two trips at a flight cost of at least $4,000…and then there’s all the other costs associated with taking a trip (like eating out, hotels etc…).

Why would I bother?

Yes, I’d far rather earn AAdvantage miles than Avios as my redeemable currency…but not so much that I’m prepared to stay away from home even more and spend the best part of another $5,000. I’d have to be an idiot to do that! 🙂

Bottom Line

In prior years I wouldn’t have hesitated in booking a quick transatlantic trip to get me over the 100,000 miles needed to hit American’s top-tier status but, now that there’s a minimum spend criteria, it just isn’t worth it.

What’s actually happened is that, in my case, American’s new elite criteria has seen me spend less with the airline than I may otherwise have spent and I’m reasonably sure that wasn’t the point of the exercise.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am in virtually the identical position … a current AA Executive Platinum (for 2 years), and turned to BAEC this year to maintain my OW Emerald status due to the gutting of the AAdvantage program. The minimum spend for me was too big a hurdle, and unlike Delta, AA won’t waive that for overseas members. Nor do they offer an option to contribute with credit card spend like they give for US members. AA no longer seems to value non-US customers.

    I managed to obtain BAEC Gold in 60 days, with an almost identical plan to yours. 2x Europe to Asia, (140 tier points x 8 flights), plus a few intra-Europe on BA, and a return paid-for AA business class to the US to use up my SWU’s (travelling in what AA mistakenly calls First).

    I agree, the Avios levels are not all that generous. Then again, I’m just using my Avios for intra-Europe purposes to avoid the ludicrous carrier penalties BA charges on long-haul – a previous topic you have covered. I will be switching to BA for my transatlantic journeys from now on. Yes, BA and AA revenue share, but I’m sure the economics are still better for BA if I direct my business to them.

    Thanks for the post.
    There may be a fair number of us that are thinking just the same thing ..bye-bye to AA. It was nice knowing you.

    • 60 days to get BA Gold is great going (nicely done). I use Avios is the same way as you (intra-Europe…especially for positioning flights) and considering how hard it has become to use AAdvantage Miles economically I’m not sure I’ll be missing out as much as I thought.

      It’s a shame to have to say goodbye to the AAdvantage program (and I’m certainly not saying I won’t be back) but, when a management team guts a rewards program to the extent that we’ve seen with AAdvantage, staying “loyal” makes absolutely no sense. Time to do the math and do what’s best for us 🙂

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