American Airlines is making big changes to its Barclaycard-branded AAdvantage Aviator credit cards. If you’re a frequent flyer who is hoping for elite status with American, updates to its Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) — essentially the money you need to spend on an Aviator card that counts toward earning elite status — could cause major turbulence.
Please buckle your seat belt and move your seat into an upright position.
A major EQD change
The changes, which go into effect either Jan. 1, 2019 or Jan. 1, 2020, depending on when you signed up, affect each of the AAdvantage Aviator cards — Blue, Red and Silver.
While Aviator Silver cardholders will be eligible to earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $50,000 on purchases per calendar year, Red and Blue cardmembers will no longer be eligible to earn any EQDs.
Previously, the Blue and Red Aviator cards allowed flyers to earn up to 3,000 EQDs per year after spending $25,000. Silver cardholders used to be able to earn up to 6,000 EQDs per year — 3,000 after spending $25,000 and another 3,000 after spending $50,000.
If you’re an Aviator cardholder, when the changes take effect depends on when you signed up. If you signed up prior to Jan. 1, 2018, the updates will be implemented Jan. 1, 2019. If you signed up anywhere from Jan. 1, 2018 to Oct. 31, 2018, the changes will be implemented Jan. 1, 2020.
A sign of the times
Let’s say you’re not an Aviator cardholder and you barely fly American. Well, do you fly United? Or Delta? Because both of those airlines also recently made changes to their elite status programs, too.
Starting in 2019, United flyers hoping for top-tier elite status will need to earn $15,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD), up from the previous mark of $12,000 PQDs.
Big fan of Delta Air Lines and want to achieve its Diamond status? In January of this year, Delta changed one easy way to attain that level. Prior to January 2018, flyers could meet the spend requirement for Diamond status by racking up $25,000 per year on eligible purchases. Now, in order to hit that Diamond status marker, flyers have to spend $250,000 per year.
The bottom line is that airlines — no matter which you prefer — seem to be making it more difficult to achieve elite status.
Depending on how you look at it, this could be both good and bad. A positive spin: Thinning out the top tiers is smart. It’s called “elite” for a reason. A negative spin: Flying just got more expensive.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Travel rewards bucket list: Showering on a plane
American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide
How to get started with frequent flyer programs