Significant Changes Coming To American Airlines AAdvantage In 2019

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American Airlines has just announced a series of changes to the AAdvantage loyalty program that will come into effect on 1 January 2019. The changes affect how many Elite Qualifying Dollars are required to earn top-tier status, how many elite qualifying miles are earned with select partner airlines and more.

Here are the changes in summary:

  • The Elite Qualifying Dollar Requirement for top-tier Executive Platinum status is moving up from $12,000 EQD to $15,000 EQD
  • Elite Qualifying Miles earnings are increasing on select British Airways, Finnair, Iberia & JAL bookings to match earnings on American Airlines bookings:
    • Full fare First Class will earn 3 EQM/mile up from 1.5 EQM/mile
    • Discounted First Class fares will earn 2 EQM/mile up from 1.5 EQM/mile
    • Full fare Business Class will earn 3 EQM/mile up from 1.5 EQM/mile
    • Discounted Business Class fares will earn 2 EQM/mile up from 1.5 EQM/mile
  • Full fare Economy Class bookings on American Airlines (Y fare) will see EQM earnings cut from 1.5/mile flown to 1.0 /mile flown.
  • The number of miles, EQM and EQD earned on “special fares” (consolidator fares, bulk fares etc..) is changing for the good and for the bad. Here’s the new earnings chart:

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  • New bonuses are being introduced for Executive Platinum members earning more than 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles:
    • At 150,000 EQM members get a choice of 2 Systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles or the option to gift AAdvantage Gold status.
    • At 200,000 EQM members get a choice of 2 Systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles or the option to gift AAdvantage Platinum status.
    • At 250,000 EQM members get a choice of 2 Systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles or the option to gift AAdvantage Platinum status.

a close up of a logo


Oh boy. What is there left to say?

Yes, the changes could have been worse and there are some net positives in here but overall this is another hit to the AAdvantage program and to American Airlines as a whole.

Personally I can honestly say that I don’t care about any of this I no longer have a stake in the game – I stopped crediting most of my oneworld flights to the AAdvantage program at the end of 2017 and have just hit Gold status with British Airways – but I still don’t really like to see AAdvantage continue to be decimated.

There was a time where most flyers had a reason to look to AAdvantage as a program that offered them something and a program that engaged them and perhaps even encouraged them to fly a bit more than the otherwise would have flown – that’s the effect the program had on me.

Now the only “winners” in the AAdvantage program are those who spend a LOT of money with American (often someone else’s money) while everyone else gets next to nothing….but even the big spenders have to put up with American’s woeful service levels.

an airplane flying in the sky

Here are just a few things that American Airlines flyers and AAdvantage members have seen change since US Airways’ management took over:

  • The number of miles most people earn in the AAdvantage program is now a fraction of what it was just a few years ago
  • The bottom two status levels (Gold & Platinum) are shadows of their former selves
  • Minimum spend thresholds have been introduced (and increased for top-tier qualification today)
  • The ability to earn dollars towards the minimum spend thresholds through credit card use has been cut.
  • Premium cabin saver award space has become almost no existent for flights on American Airlines
  • Systemwide upgrades have never been harder to clear
  • The number of seats in aircraft has increased significantly – premium cabins have got smaller (making upgrading harder) while Economy Class cabins have been so densely packed that they’re unbelievably uncomfortable now….in fact some are so uncomfortable that even American Airlines’ own pilots are calling management out about them.

American Airlines management seems to think that it can survive on cuts, cuts, cuts and more cuts but what it doesn’t seem to appreciate is that without improvements (of which there have been few) they’ll soon reach a point at which there’s nothing left to cut…..and what are they going to do then?

Doug Parker (the CEO of American Airlines) has made two predictions in the recent past: The first was that American Airlines stock value would hit $60 by November 2018 and the second was that American Airlines will never make a loss again.

Here’s the American Airlines stock price at the time of writing (so that’s prediction #1 gone down the drain)….

a graph showing the price of a company

….and prediction #2 will rapidly suffer the same fate if Parker and his management team don’t remove their heads from their collective backsides and realise that there’s more to running the world’s biggest airline than cuts.

At some American will have to offer the flying public something they want – if it’s not a good loyalty program then it has to be good product and good service but American Airline is nowhere near being able to offer either of those right now and I’m left seriously wondering if it ever will.



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