American Airlines Announces Extended Elite Status and Other Changes

Elina GellerApril 15, 2020

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Following in the footsteps of Delta and United, American Airlines has announced its own customer-friendly updates that include extending elite status and other perks for its flyers.

Although the changes are mostly positive, American has included one negative change. Previously, if you wanted to change the date on your award ticket, as long as the origin/destination airports and cabin class remained unchanged, you were able to make the change without a fee. Starting June 1, 2020, any changes to award tickets within 60 days of travel will be subject to a fee. Executive Platinum elites are exempt from the fee. All the other changes are great for American loyalists, as we will detail below.

Given the lack of travel due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, airlines have been stepping in to give their customers more leeway when it comes to maintaining loyalty. Here’s who will benefit from the positive changes provided by American Airlines:

  • Elite members.

  • Non-elites looking to attain status.

  • Admirals Club members.

  • Holders of AAdvantage co-branded credit cards.

  • Customers who need to reinstate award tickets.

Extending elite status for AAdvantage members

If you’re an American Airlines elite and your status is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, the airline will automatically extend your status by one year through Jan. 31, 2022. The updated expiration date should be visible in each account by May 15, 2020. Given the amount of work that many flyers put in to achieve elite status, it's nice to not have to worry about losing status because of an unsafe travel environment.

Lowering elite status qualification requirements

To attain one of the four elite status levels with American, you need to earn a combination of Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) along with Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs).

For 2020, American has significantly reduced the requirements for earning status. Regardless of which status level you’re aiming for, you are required to spend a certain amount of EQDs with the airline.

Below, we have detailed the original requirements compared with the new:

The EQM and EQS thresholds have been reduced by 40% and 50%, respectively. The EQD requirements have been lowered by 33% to 50%, with the largest reduction for those aiming for Gold status. By implementing the highest discount for Gold, it seems as though American wants to make it easier for flyers who do not hold elite status to consider shifting their loyalty to the airline.

Note: United also reduced elite qualification requirements, albeit at a higher discount of 50%, so comparatively speaking, United’s reductions are slightly more friendly to loyalists.

Extending expiration of systemwide upgrades for Executive Platinum

Once you reach Executive Platinum status with American, you receive four complimentary systemwide upgrades. If you earn Executive Platinum in 2020, your systemwide upgrades will have an expiration of Jan. 31, 2022. The expiration date on already earned but unused systemwide upgrades that are expected to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, will be extended by six months to July 31, 2021.

Reducing qualifications for Executive Platinum rewards

American’s highest elites have another perk to look forward to: reduced qualifications for earning additional rewards. Previously, Executive Platinum members who flew a whopping 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs qualified for one of the following awards:

  • Two systemwide upgrades.

  • 40,000 bonus miles.

  • Gift of Gold status (at 150,000 EQMs) and Platinum status (at 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs).

As of May 15, 2020, the EQM requirements for earning these rewards have been reduced to 90,000, 120,000 and 150,000, respectively.

Extending Admirals Club memberships by six months

American is extending the expiration date of all Admirals Club memberships and one-day lounge passes by six months. The extension applies for all memberships and unused passes purchased from March 1, 2020 through May 31, 2020.

This change makes a lot of sense since flyers who purchased these memberships have been unable to use them due to the flying restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Offering an opportunity to spend toward Million Miler status

Those who are very devoted to American Airlines can rejoice at this news. From May 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, every $1 spent on net purchases on eligible AAdvantage co-branded credit cards will count toward Million Miler status.

In the good old days, miles that you earned from credit cards used to count toward Million Miler status. However, in 2011, American ended the gravy train and determined that only the distance in miles flown or the base miles earned for travel on eligible partner flights counted toward this lifetime status. So as of 2011, if you wanted Million Miler status, you needed to actually fly 1,000,000 miles.

Miles earned toward the Million Miler status are in a separate category of their own; they are not redeemable miles and they do not count toward EQMs. To see your Million Miler balance, log into your AAdvantage account. When you reach 1,000,000 miles, you will earn Gold for the life of the program and 35,000 bonus miles.

If your loyalty is with American Airlines or you’re not too far away from lifetime status, getting an eligible credit card could make sense. Products that qualify for this offer include all Citi AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator cards, as well as some international AAdvantage credit cards.

Current offers on U.S.-based eligible products are listed below:

Offering an American Airlines Vacations credit up to $400 for elites

If you’re an American elite and book a trip with American Airlines Vacations, you will be eligible for a one-time credit up to $400 based on your status tier:

  • Gold: $300.

  • Platinum and Platinum Pro: $350.

  • Executive Platinum: $400.

This credit will be based on your status held on June 30, 2020. Elites can use the credit starting on July 1, 2020, by calling American Airlines at 800-321-2121. Various terms and conditions apply to this offer, so make sure to check out the fine print.

Modifying award reinstatement and change fees

Although the updates to award reinstatement fees are positive, the updates to change fees are somewhat negative. Let's start with the bad news first.

Bad news: Award change fees

Previously, if you wanted to make changes to an award ticket, as long as the origin/destination airports and cabin class remained the same, the changes were free. So if you had an award ticket from London-Heathrow to Los Angeles in economy and decided two days before your flight to fly out a week later, that change was free as long as there was award space in your cabin. (Economy Web Special awards did not benefit from a fee-free change.)

Now, for any award tickets booked on or after June 1, 2020, changes will be governed by the following fee chart:

Fee-free changes will only be allowed if the change is requested at least 60 days before your flight. Any changes made less than 60 days prior to the trip will include a fee that reduces with higher elite status levels.

On the plus side, changes that included a change in destination, airline or cabin class used to require the payment of a $150 fee unless you were an Executive Platinum elite. So for these types of changes, the fees will now be lower.

Good news: Award reinstatement fees

The good news is that for awards booked by May 31, 2020, for flights through Sept. 30, 2020, award reinstatement fees will be based on the chart above. American typically charges a $150 fee to redeposit miles back into your account for the first ticket and $25 for each additional ticket reinstated at the same time. Usually, Executive Platinum elites do not have to pay the fee; however, all other flyers do. The reduced fee structure is a welcome change in this case.

The bottom line

Although we are happy to see American follow in Delta's and United’s footsteps of instituting positive changes for elites and other flyers, the implementation of a new award change fee chart is a negative development for non-elites who want to make date changes to award tickets departing in fewer than 60 days.

What do you think of the changes? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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