American Airlines Loyalty Points are the new program that allows elite status to be earned. Status can be earned with any activity you engage in, not just flying. They have created an easy system where virtually everything counts. The Loyalty points you earn over 12 months will determine your status.
Gold: Earned 30,000 miles
Platinum: 30,000 Miles Earned
Platinum Pro Platinum Pro: 75,000 Miles Earned
Executive Platinum: 125,000 miles; 200,000 miles
This system will result in more elites and members will be able qualify for the same status or higher than they have had previously, though there are exceptions.
Heather Samp, American AAdvantage Programs Managing Director for Member Engagement, spoke to me about the program.
The New Status-Earning Years Run March through February
The new system will use points earned between March and February. The status will remain valid until March 2023. You will be an Executive Platinum if you earn 200,000 points between March 2022 and February 2023.
Heather Samp explained that this change is due to something she's noticed over years. Members are incentivized based on status but the holiday period is the end of the year, so the last thing they want to do is to requalify. Credit card statements that include holidays usually close in January. They would like holiday co-brand spending to be included at end of earning year.
Two months of extended status and double dipping
All current status will be extended until March 31, 2022. They are giving two additional months to elites who failed to requalify (as easy as American made it), and using those two extra months to earn the next year's status.
Members receive an additional 2 months (January 2022 and February 2022), in addition to the 12 months 2021, in order to achieve 2022 elite status. This is on top of their 2021 activities. This is effectively the second month of the elite 2021 program.
You can also earn 2023 elite status through Loyalty Points by adding 2 additional months (January and Feb 2022) to the 12 months that began March 2022.
Choice Awards Starting at 125,000 Loyalty points
Loyalty Choice rewards are now known as Elite Choice Rewards. They offer a variety of benefits such as miles and confirmed international upgrades. These can be purchased at 75,000, 100,000 qualifying mileage, and more. These will be available at Platinum Pro level and higher for members who have flown at least 30 segments with American Airlines or qualifying partner airlines (oneworld and JetBlue). This requirement is fulfilled by American Airlines AAdvantage travel awards.
A member who has at least 30 flight segments will be eligible for a variety of benefits.
125,000 points (Platinum Pro qualification)
200,000 points (Executive Platinum qualification)
There are many options available, including systemwide upgrades, bonus mileage, Admirals Club Day passes, and other to be determined. You might be able to get Admirals Club membership or gifting status.
It's a bit complicated to figure out what counts as a loyalty point
The system could be very simple and say all miles count. But that is not the case. They claim that all flights on American, oneworld and JetBlue are counted. They believe credit card purchases count, along with miles earned through their online shopping portal Rewards Network dining partnership and SimplyMiles. They expect that the list will grow, but for now nothing else counts. Heather Stamp said that they are still in contact with other partners.
Credit card bonuses don't count as loyalty points, so it is not surprising that they aren't. It is not possible to earn base miles through any credit card category bonus. With a co-branded card, you may earn 3 miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines. However, only one loyalty point will be earned.
Auxiliary spending on American Airlines does not count. You don't earn loyalty points if you spend money on your flight, whether you buy a Main Cabin Extra or accept a post-purchase upgrade offer. American Airlines does not attach ticket numbers to award miles.
Heather Samp noted that these points would in some ways be unfair to elites who often receive these items for free and don't have the chance to earn Loyalty Points. However, Executive Platinums get 6 extra points per dollar in flight bonuses which makes this program seem more favorable to them than it is to others.
The new program does not have a minimum earning guarantee towards membership (so the 500 minimum qualifying mile guarantee for shorter flights has been ended). Basic Economy tickets earn Loyalty points. The Basic Economy earned elite status in 2021 has been just eliminated.
Loyalty points are not applicable to purchases, transfers, or gifted points. Credit card multipliers, credit card accelerations, multipliers, acquisition bonuses, and other promotional bonuses are also excluded.
American Airlines Loyalty points will determine your upgrade priority
American Airlines currently awards upgrades based upon elite status and rolling 12 month qualifying dollar. This means that the more money you spend, the higher you will be on the upgrade list.
Upgrade priority will change as elite qualifying dollars disappear. Instead of qualifying dollars, loyalty points will be used to determine the upgrade tiebreaker.
This is the beauty of this deal: every dollar spent on their cards can potentially increase a cardmember's upgrade chances. Barclays cards were the only ones that earned qualifying dollars. They could only do so at certain dollar thresholds ($25,000 business and $50,000 Aviator Silver). Although the amounts were not within reach of some, they are available to all.
They will use your rolling EQD value multiplied by your elite status bonus to determine your initial loyalty points in the program.
Gold and platinum members who have earned 500-mile upgrades through their flying will see their clock reset to March 31, 2022, instead of January 31, 2022. American has not yet indicated whether 500-mile upgrades will be affected by the new system.
Miles Flown Still Matters
Miles flown for elite status will still count in one dimension: lifetime status. This status is still available after 1 million miles (Platinum), and 2 million (Gold), with additional benefits for every incremental million miles.
American AAdvantage is aware that their lifetime status offer is not competitive (tops out as Platinum status), and was looking into ways to fix this before the pandemic. We hope that the project continues to move forward.
There is no devaluation coming
I had heard of other changes being made by the program, and that made me nervous. The former head of the program stated that award charts were in the process of being eliminated. Evidently, the other projects are now on hold.
Today's announcements do not include redemption changes. Heather Samp also said that any major changes will not be made in 2022.
Some Elite Qualifying Scenarios
Executive Platinum members would require just over $18,000 to maintain their status at an earn rate 11 miles per dollar on flights. This is higher than the $15,000 annual spending requirement. It's about what United requires. This is without mentioning credit cards or online shopping portals.
Check out my 2019. Take my 2019. To keep my Executive Platinum status, I had to fly 80,000 miles and make $12,000. To keep Executive Platinum, I would need to spend $10,000 with the same $90,000. card (no shopping portals or other relevant earn).
In other words, I was earning 20% of all my qualifying miles and 20% from my credit card purchases. The same spending will continue to earn you Executive Platinum at 45%.
However, someone who starts with no status but earns Executive Platinum can expect a long and costly road. It would cost $27,012 to fly all alone.
$6000 to earn Gold (at $5 miles per dollar to earn 35,000 points)
Platinum: Spend $6429 more to earn Platinum (the next 45,000 point at 7 miles/dollar).
Spend $6250 more to earn Platinum Pro (the next 50.000 points at 9 mile/dollar).
$8333 more to earn Executive Platinum (the next 75,000 point at 11 miles/dollar).
It is easier to maintain status by flying in this program than to gain new status. A base member earns only 5 miles per dollar to become a Gold and elite flying bonuses increase with each tier. The high cost of status via flying alone is not the only thing that matters, as other activities are often more profitable.
Also, it is worth noting the fact that partner activity and card cards travel a lot farther for elites of lower status because they earn less.
You should know about Gold, which is the lowest level in status. In this new system, credit card spending of $30,000 will earn you Gold. To earn 10,000 qualifying miles, it took $40,000 (or 40% of the way to Gold), but there was no help with qualifying dollars. Low levels of status for non-flyers are not difficult, and high levels of status for big spenders are simple. The bottom line is that the program rewards spending more than just flying.
American Airlines Loyalty points are quite revolutionary
One year ago, I said that elite status should be awarded to airlines based on non flight activity. It is possible to get status on Air Canada or other airlines without any flight activity. This is usually only possible for the lowest-tier status. This was tried by US Airways (which is now American's management) at the end 2006. It was a surprising idea that it didn't catch on before now.
In the U.S., there hasn't been much innovation in the loyalty space for airlines in many years. The only thing that has happened is to find ways to make customers more demanding while offering less. This is one the most interesting things we've seen in a while.
Seven years ago, and even earlier, I wrote about the reasons why passengers with the highest ticket revenues aren't the most profitable or best customers. These were the main points.
Many corporate customers purchased tickets due to a sales agreement. Many business travelers bought tickets when an airline offered non-stop flights on the route. This was a way of rewarding them for spending money and not generating incremental returns for the company.
However, airlines don't do a great job of rewarding higher margin activities such as co-brand credit cards spend, purchasing seat upgrades, or engaging with partners who purchase miles at higher prices that the banks.
It is amazing how simple everything counts and the high-profitable role that ancillary miles sales play at the airline. The AAdvantage program was the main reason the airline was profitable before the pandemic. It doesn't all count. I suspect they are trying to get additional revenue from partners to offer Loyalty points and not just miles for transactions. The question of what exactly counts is still up in air.
Qualifying dates will be March-February, with transaction dates on partner activity (shipping date rather than purchase dates for merchandise, statement close dates instead of spend dates for credit card), which can cause confusion.
It seems that there is still much work to be done on the program, but this seems like an exciting step. That alone makes me feel energized about the program.
American Airlines Loyalty points: Good or Bad for Members?
Credit card spending alone will result in a lot of people being able to earn status. However, they won't be eligible for systemwide upgrades or other benefits. It's no coincidence that American used to give lifetime elite status based upon all the miles earned in an account. This was back when 70 million milers were getting business credit cards and large business expense reimbursements from consumer cards.
This will result in more elite members. Heather Samp stated that it is not yet clear how 2019-style flying will return, or what routes or travel days are elite-heavy. It is possible that the Monday-out, Thursday back flying might not be the same. They believe that elites will be spread more widely across their system, and not all of them flying the Thursday LaGuardia Dallas Fort Worth flight at 5 p.m. She acknowledges that there will be an increase in elites, but believes they are well-equipped to manage that growth.
Many members will benefit from American Airlines Loyalty points program to earn status. Some members won't like it. If this is the case, and we keep our partner award pricing and award charts, it seems like a good outcome. They have stepped out of the box and done what everyone else does, which I like.