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Dear American Airlines AAdvantage elite status: We're done. It's me, not you — or whatever I'm supposed to say. You might have won over some high-spending infrequent travelers with your switch to Loyalty Points. But, I'm out.
After your recent changes to Loyalty Points and switch to revenue-based earnings for partners, I'm exploring other opportunities. Feel free to let me know if you have a change of heart and plan to reward travelers for flying like you did for decades.
Here's why I'm no longer pursuing American Airlines AAdvantage elite status — even after earning high-level AAdvantage elite status each year since 2015.
The American Airlines Loyalty Points Game
Under this new frequent
flyer spender elite earning system, you no longer need to fly to earn elite AAdvantage elite status! Instead, American Airlines now awards elite status to anyone who spends enough on an American Airlines credit card, through a hotel booking platform, or via shopping portals.
It's a brilliant strategy… if you're an airline whose primary goal is to sell miles to mileage partners. If you actually care about generating loyalty with flyers, I'd argue it's not such a good strategy. And indeed, reports indicate that the new crop of Executive Platinum fliers are downright clueless.
Personally, I'm not going to dedicate $17,000 per month in credit card spending on an American Airlines credit card to get top-tier elite status. I'd much rather earn a slew of credit card sign-up bonuses rather than spend on a mostly 1x-earning AAdvantage credit card. And there are only so many times you can sign up for a Motley Fool subscription.
In the past, I might "mileage run" a $240 roundtrip fare from NYC to Paris.
But here's how wild the @americanair Loyalty Points scheme is. Even flying this deal 10x (even after an 80% elite status bonus!) would earn fewer elite status credits than just signing up for Motley Fool pic.twitter.com/hrijAyCIBr
— JT Genter (@JTGenter) July 25, 2023
Even after the switch to Loyalty Points, I continued to credit Oneworld flights to American Airlines. At a decision point in April 2022, I decided to stick with American Airlines — at least for one more year — rather than switch to British Airways.
While I didn't requalify for Executive Platinum elite status in 2022/2023, I still ended up with Platinum Pro. I even had a plan to requalify for Executive Platinum status. But, after approving my application online, Barclaycard seemed to completely lose any record of approving me for a new account. By the time my new AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard® arrived in the mail, it was too late to spend my way to Executive Platinum status.
The Nails in the Coffin
American Airlines has made two recent changes that serve as nails in the coffin of my loyalty to the American Airlines AAdvantage elite status program.
First, American Airlines raised the threshold for earning Loyalty Point Rewards — formerly known as Loyalty Choice Rewards. Rather than offering the choice of four Systemwide Upgrades (or a choice of other rewards) when AAdvantage members earn Executive Platinum elite status at 200,000 Loyalty Points, American Airlines raised the threshold to 250,000 Loyalty Points — stringing along AAdvantage members for another 50,000 Loyalty Points (which they surely hope will mean another $50k in credit card spending).
Then, on a recent Friday afternoon — notoriously a time that companies try to bury bad news — American Airlines posted on its website that it was switching to a revenue-based mileage earning system for British Airways and Iberia. On its surface, that might not sound like too negative of a change… until you run the numbers.
When I checked the impact that this new system would have on a recent British Airways trip I took, I found that my mileage and elite status earnings would be 82% lower in the new system: 8,465 AAdvantage miles/Loyalty Points vs. the 46,022 I earned under the current system.
And then there's elite status earnings on award flights. Delta was the first U.S. airline to offer travelers elite status on reward travel, awarding Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Dollars on award flights. United has since followed by letting travelers earn Premier Qualifying Points on award flights.
Then there's American Airlines. The airline that always seems to be following its competitors has… still not introduced elite status earnings on mileage awards. After years of waiting, I suspect that it's an intentional decision by American Airlines to double down on granting AAdvantage elite status to credit card spenders rather than flyers.
And Yet, I'll Still Earn AAdvantage Miles
While I'm no longer earning elite status through AAdvantage, I'm not ditching the AAdvantage program entirely. American Airlines has maintained its incredible Oneworld partner award chart, leaving it unchanged since 2015. And I still value being able to book:
- Japan Airlines business class to Japan for 60,000 AAdvantage miles each way.
- Qatar Qsuite business class to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent for 70,000 AAdvantage miles each way.
- Cathay Pacific business class to Southeast Asia for 70,000 AAdvantage miles each way.
So, I'll continue to earn 2.5 AAdvantage miles per dollar saved annually through a Bask Mileage Savings Account. And I'll continue to earn AAdvantage miles from shopping, hotel stays, etc. where it makes sense. I just won't be factoring in the Loyalty Points I'm earning when doing so. I want to earn miles to redeem for flights, but the status no longer matters.
So, What's Next?
After years of flirting with the program, I'm finally going to try my luck with British Airways. Sure, the Executive Club program is showing its age. British Airways is matching American Airlines in switching to a revenue-based Avios earning program in October 2023. But British Airways' quirky Tier Points system still rewards travelers for flying.
Now I'm switching my flight searches. Rather than looking for long-haul partner premium economy flights — as had been the sweet spot in the AAdvantage program — I'm looking to take as many over-2,000-mile flights as I can. I even booked my first tier point run: An open jaw from Barcelona to San Francisco returning to Budapest in business class.
If my math is correct, I'll score 640 Tier Points on just this one trip. That's enough for me to lock in British Airways Silver tier, which gets me Oneworld Sapphire status. This status will grant me access to Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges when flying American Airlines, even on purely domestic itineraries.
Two-Player Mode Makes It Easier to Switch
My new British Airways elite status will get me into lounges and preferred seats when flying American Airlines. But what about first-class upgrades? Well, I'd be remiss not to point out that my wife is still going for American Airlines AAdvantage elite status.
One of the perks of AAdvantage elite status is being able to upgrade a companion. And now that all AAdvantage elites get upgrades on award flights, Katie's only targeting Platinum Pro elite status this year, instead of the Executive Platinum status she's earned every year since 2015.
Our new two-player strategy is for Katie to earn Platinum Pro AAdvantage elite status for the upgrades and other AA-specific perks. Meanwhile, I'll earn British Airways Executive Club status which will let us access lounges when flying domestically.
American Airlines' switch to Loyalty Points may have plenty of fans, but I'm not one of them. As a frequent traveler, I'm finding it harder than ever to earn AAdvantage elite status… from actually traveling. After a few more negative policy changes by American Airlines, I'm no longer going to mess with trying for AAdvantage elite status.
Instead, I've begun to credit my American Airlines and Oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive Club. With just one round-trip flight, I'll secure Oneworld Sapphire elite status. And I'm hoping I can chip together enough flights during my Tier Point year to earn Oneworld Emerald elite status for my eighth straight year.
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