A Complete Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Status A Complete Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Status

A Complete Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Status

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Ever wondered how you can get those cushy upgrades and other perks from American Airlines AAdvantage elite status? There's more to it than just seat upgrades, so let's look at what the perks are, how you earn them, and the various status levels within AA's loyalty program.

Imagine this:

  • Instead of shuffling through a 30-minute security line, breeze through with priority security screening.
  • Rather than struggling to find a seat at the gate, grab a snack and a comfy chair in the Admirals Club.
  • Instead of talking your way out of a middle seat, spread out in first-class, thanks to a complimentary upgrade.

In this guide to American Airlines AAdvantage elite status, we're walking you through everything you need to know to enhance your travel experiences on American Airlines. There are four tiers in AAdvantage elite status, and we'll walk you through what they are, the different requirements, and the different perks they offer.

get first class upgrades with American Airlines AAdvantage elite status
Flagship First Class on American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER.

Getting Started

American Airlines' frequent flyer program is called AAdvantage. Founded in 1981, it's the second-oldest airline loyalty program in the world—and the oldest that you've probably heard about.

The first step to earning elite status is to sign up for a free AAdvantage account and get an AAdvantage number. American Airlines uses this number to track your flights and purchases to award “miles” for each. You'll also earn Loyalty Points on qualifying activities—more on those later. The more you fly and the more money you spend, the higher you can ascend in the AAdvantage program.

Glossary of Terms

There are some terms we will use a lot in this article, so it's best to know what they are from the start.

  • AAdvantage miles: These are redeemable miles earned on qualifying flights and purchases with partners. You can use (redeem) them for all kinds of things—including award flights, seat upgrades, and lounge memberships. Having a ton of these doesn't necessarily mean you've earned any status level since you could get a bunch of these from a credit card sign-up bonus, even though that doesn't count toward status.
  • Miles Flown: These refer to the number of miles flown during a flight. This term is important for Million Mile progress and mileage earnings on most partners.
  • Loyalty Points: This is the new metric that determines everything with American Airlines AAdvantage elite status.

Related: Your Complete Guide to American Airlines AAdvantage Loyalty Points

AAdvantage Elite Status Qualification

Prior to 2022, you had to keep track of 3 metrics to earn elite status with American Airlines AAdvantage: Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) and Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS). Now, the program has simplified earning elite status to just one metric. Everything about how you earn your status is based on Loyalty Points.

Chart shows number of Loyalty Points needed to earn the different levels American Airlines AAdvantage elite status

Thus, for 2022 and beyond, you will earn Loyalty Points and need to pass the following thresholds for status:

  • Gold: 30,000 Loyalty Points
  • Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points
  • Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points
  • Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points

Earning Loyalty Points

We have an entire guide to earning Loyalty Points. But, as an overview, you earn Loyalty Points from the following activities:

  • Flying with American Airlines or Oneworld partners
  • Flying with select partners outside of this alliance: JetBlue and GOL.
  • AAvacations.com bookings
  • BookAAcruises.com bookings
  • Staying at partner hotels
  • Renting a car from preferred partners
  • Online shopping portals
  • Participating in the American Airlines Dining program
  • Spending money on American Airlines credit cards

Elite Status Timelines

There are two timelines to be aware of when earning American Airlines AAdvantage elite status:

  • Qualification period — which runs from March 1 through the end of February in the following year
  • Membership period — effectively the period in which you enjoy the status you've earned, it starts the day you qualify and runs through the next year and all the way to March 31 of the next year

Since that can be confusing, here are some examples:

  • A member qualifies for Platinum status during the qualification period March 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023. That status will be valid until March 31, 2024. From March 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024, this member needs to requalify for status for the ensuing year.
  • In the following qualification period (March 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024), this person only qualifies for Gold status. The former Platinum status will change down to Gold status on April 1, 2024 and be valid until the end of the membership period (March 31, 2025).
Image of the bar and seating area at an American Airlines Admirals Club lounge
AAdvantage elite status can get you access to American Airlines Flagshsip Lounges.

AAdvantage Elite Status Benefits

As you might expect, the higher the elite status tier, the better the benefits. Here's a chart summarizing some of the best perks for each status tier:

 UpgradesUpgrade WindowComplimentary Main Cabin Extra & Preferred SeatsComplimentary BaggageElite Mileage Earning BonusOther Notable Benefits
GoldComplimentary auto-requested upgrades on all American Airlines flights.24-hour•Complimentary M.C.E. at check-in
•Complimentary Preferred Seats
1 free checked bag40%
PlatinumComplimentary auto-requested upgrades on all American Airlines flights.48-hourComplimentary M.C.E. and Preferred Seats2 free checked bags60%
Platinum ProComplimentary auto-requested upgrades on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights.72-hourComplimentary M.C.E. and Preferred Seats3 free checked bags80%•Complimentary same-day flight change
•Choice of 1 Loyalty Choice Reward
Executive PlatinumComplimentary auto-requested upgrades on American Airlines and Alaska Airlines flights - including American Airlines award flights.100-hourComplimentary M.C.E. and Preferred Seats3 free checked bags120%•Complimentary same-day flight change
•Complimentary upgrades on award tickets
•Choice of 2 Rewards, with the ability to earn more after earning more Loyalty Points

First-Class Upgrades

Complimentary seat upgrades are by far the best benefit of American Airlines AAdvantage elite status. Whenever a premium cabin has empty seats, American Airlines uses a system of status and seniority to upgrade AAdvantage elite members to fill them.

The primary way AA determines which passenger gets an upgrade is by their elite status tier. The higher your elite status, the higher you'll appear on the upgrade list. If there are multiple passengers with the same tier level, priority follows the tie-breaker criteria of your rolling 12-month Loyalty Points balance.

Since Loyalty Points are new to the AAdvantage program in 2022, EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars, a spending metric) from the previous program will be converted into Loyalty Points as a tiebreaker. Note that you won't actually receive these Loyalty Points; they're just ‘in the computer' for upgrade priority.

Later in 2022, airport upgrades will become automatic. Gate agents will not need to clear them manually, and the upgrade process will be completed by the computer 40 minutes before take-off. That means upgrades should be complete before boarding begins.

American Airlines Featured image of a plane on the ground with sunset in the background

500-Mile Upgrade Certificates are Changing

Members with any level of AAdvantage elite status now receive complimentary upgrades on all flights within North America. Gold and Platinum elites no longer need to use 500-mile upgrade stickers for themselves. Instead, these certificates are only needed for upgrading a travel companion on your same reservation. This is a major change as of March 2022.

Additionally, this will further change later in 2022 (date TBD). After this change, one travel companion on your same reservation will upgrade with you if your upgrade is approved. 500-mile upgrade stickers will not be required.

Once this change goes into effect, any remaining 500-mile upgrade stickers will convert into 250 Loyalty Points for your 2022 status qualification year.

Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs)

If you reach AAdvantage Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum, you can choose Systemwide Upgrades as a reward. These can be used to upgrade one cabin class on a one-way itinerary (three segments max) operated by American Airlines. Even better, you can apply these to anyone you like—even if you're not flying with them!

For example, say you book a one-way economy ticket from Phoenix (PHX) to London (LHR) via Dallas (DFW). If upgrade space is available, you can immediately upgrade your class of service to business class for both segments. This would require just one systemwide upgrade since it has only 2 segments on one ticket.

The one downside is that SWUs don't last forever. Once they are issued, they're valid for one year. That means it could make sense to hold off on choosing them as your Choice Reward until you know you can use them.

A man waits at an airport, sitting in a chair with his feet resting on his suitcase

Ultra-Frequent Flyers

The rewards don't stop once you've reached Executive Platinum status. AA has a few tricks up its sleeve to continue rewarding your loyalty for reaching 350,000 Loyalty Points and beyond.

Loyalty Choice Rewards

Once you've earned Platinum Pro status and flown 30 eligible flight segments, you will earn a Loyalty Choice Reward. As the name implies, there are rewards you get to choose from. These range from bonus miles to Systemwide Upgrades, American Airlines vouchers to lounge memberships, and headphones to charity donations.

Chart shows American Airlines Loyalty Choice Rewards qualification requirements, reward levels, and how many options are available at each level

AAdvantage Million Miler Program

The Million Miler program is designed to award extended benefits to anyone who's been flying long enough to accumulate one million miles flown. For this, AA bases mileage earned towards Million Miler status on distance flown on AA-marketed flights (butt-in-seat miles) and base miles earned on qualifying partner flights.

Here's what you can expect when reaching these beautifully round numbers:

  • 1,000,000 miles — AAdvantage Gold status for the lifetime of the account and 35,000 bonus award miles
  • 2,000,000 miles — AAdvantage Platinum status for the lifetime of the account and four one-way Systemwide Upgrades
  • Each additional 1,000,000 miles — Four additional one-way Systemwide Upgrades

It's worth noting that you do not “start here” if you want to move to a higher status. If you're a million miler with Gold status for life, that doesn't reduce the number of Loyalty Points needed to move up to Platinum. You will still need to qualify for other higher status tiers the same way as everyone else.

AAdvantage Concierge Key

Concierge Key is the highest level of American Airlines AAdvantage elite status

There exists an elite status tier even higher than AAdvantage Executive Platinum. This status is called Concierge Key, and it's invite-only. Nobody really knows the metrics required to procure an invite. However, many reports indicate that it typically entails spending upwards of $50,000 with American Airlines annually.

As you'd expect, this status comes with even better benefits. For instance, AA has been known to give Concierge Key members with tight connections plane-to-plane transfers in a Cadillac. Additionally, they receive complimentary upgrades up to 120 hours before departure, complimentary Admirals Club Access, and access to Flagship First check-in. In short, American Airlines rolls out the red carpet for these most-loyal travelers.

AAdvantage Elite Status When Flying Oneworld Partners

Oneworld alliance has 14 member airlines, whose logos are shown in the image

Each tier of American Airlines AAdvantage elite status coincides with respective status with Oneworld:

  • Gold — Oneworld Ruby
  • Platinum — Oneworld Sapphire
  • Platinum Pro — Oneworld Emerald 
  • Executive Platinum — Oneworld Emerald

Oneworld status entitles you to benefits when flying with Oneworld partners. Ruby members receive priority check-in and standby plus preferred seats, while Sapphire members receive priority boarding and lounge access, plus extra checked baggage and priority baggage handling. Naturally, Oneworld Emerald elites receive the best benefits—including priority lines at security checkpoints, priority boarding, and first-class lounge access.

Oneworld-Map-300x141

Shortcuts to AAdvantage Elite Status

What if you have elite status with another airline and want to switch your loyalty to American Airlines AAdvantage? Well, I've got good news and bad news.

Let's start with the bad news. Unlike Delta and Southwest, AA doesn't offer direct status matches for elite members from other airlines. So, even if you're a Delta Diamond or United Premier 1K, AA won't offer you a free match to AAdvantage Executive Platinum.

Status Challenge

The good news, however, is that AA does offer a status challenge program. You don't need to have elite status with any other airline, and you don't need to have any planned travel with American. Simply call AAdvantage customer service (888-697-5636 or 800-882-8880), and request info on a status challenge.

While AA doesn't publish anything about this option, the reported details are relatively well known:

  • You can't currently have status that you earned from a previous challenge. If you previously earned status via a challenge, that status membership period must have ended.
  • You can utilize a status challenge to earn AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status.
  • You can choose whether you want to have the status while completing the challenge or not.
  • AA requires you to pay a fee to accept a challenge. This fee varies by person, the elite tier you're vying for, and whether you want the status during the challenge. Reports indicate prices anywhere from $100 to $600.
  • You'll have 90 days to reach the Loyalty Point requirements to complete the challenge and retain your status.

Some other things to note:

  • Officially, the start date for a challenge can be backdated up to five days. However, some AwardWallet members report in the comments below that they have been able to backdate the start date by seven days.
  • If you complete a challenge requested before June 15, your status lasts through the end of the current membership year. If you complete a challenge after June 15, your status may be valid through the end of the following membership year.

With a little bit of planning, status challenges can be an easier way to earn AA status than the traditional method.

Free Status Offers / Challenges

An even easier way to earn American Airlines AAdvantage elite status is to wait for them to give it to you! Ok… you could be in for a VERY long wait. But, American Airlines has been known to periodically offer free elite status.

For example, AwardWallet's Patrick received one such offer for AAdvantage Platinum status—without any fees or strings attached.

Sometimes American Airlines will give AAdvantage elite status for free!

This offer included a challenge to extend his status by earning 4,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs, a spending metric in the old loyalty program) within about 100 days. AAdvantage tends to send these offers out in the last few months of the year, so be sure to keep an eye on your inbox.

Shortcut to Status via Hyatt Partnership

We have seen various versions of this partnership and its status shortcut. You can earn elite status with AA if you have status with Hyatt and complete the requirements, which change each time the offer comes around. However, these tend to be much simpler than the standard qualification metrics.

Mimic AAdvantage Elite Status With a Credit Card

Many benefits of AAdvantage elite status can be replicated simply by holding the right credit card. No need to pay for status or spend more on flights.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (review) offers several elite-style perks for only an annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months. First, you get one free checked bag for you and up to four traveling companions on every itinerary. Second, your entire travel party gets preferred boarding (Group 5). Third, you get a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you pay with your card.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
Annual Fee$99, waived for first 12 months
Welcome Offer Earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
The AA Platinum Select card is a great choice for anyone who travels at least a few times per year with American Airlines. Cardholders get a free checked bag on domestic itineraries, priority boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight purchases.

With these perks, it's easy to justify the annual fee of $99, waived for first 12 months.
  • Free checked bags for you and up to 4 companions on domestic itineraries
  • Priority boarding to help you win the race for overhead bin space
  • A 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at restaurants
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent at gas stations
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases

If you want to take things to the next level, consider the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review). If there was one card that could fool you into thinking you're an American Airlines VIP, this is it.

Cardholders get priority check-in, priority security screening, priority boarding, one free checked bag for you and up to eight companions, a 25% discount on inflight dining—oh, and a full Admirals Club membership! With so many valuable benefits, it's by far our favorite premium airline credit card.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Offer Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
The AA Executive Card card is by far the most cost effective way to gain access to American Airlines Admirals Club lounges. Even better, you can extend the benefit to up to 10 authorized users on your account at no additional cost. In addition, this card offers a free checked bag, on domestic AA flights, priority checkin and boarding, and a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.
  • Complimentary Admirals Club membership for the primary cardholder
  • Complimentary Admirals Club membership for up to 10 authorized user accounts
  • No charge for authorized user accounts
  • First checked bag free on domestic AA flights for you and up to 8 companions
  • Priority check-in, TSA screening lines, and boarding
  • 10,000 bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Earn 2X miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1X mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year

Bottom Line

If you find yourself flying AA all the time, you owe it to yourself to look into AAdvantage elite status. No, the requirements aren't easy to achieve. And no, you're not going to have the red carpet rolled out as soon as you reach AA Gold. But, if you fly often enough, all of the benefits—no matter how small they may seem—can make a huge difference.

Otherwise, if you only fly AA a few times a year, consider applying for an American Airlines co-branded credit card. You'll get several of the same benefits for far less effort and less money invested.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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Comments

  • Thanks for sharing this guide! appreciate the insights.

  • Now I understand how this works! Thanks

  • Going from decades as an EXP to realizing I can’t take AA anymore. I’m just “Gold” now which will expire in a few weeks. I’m now redeeming my miles as I have switched loyalty to a different airline. I got a retention rate of $800 to keep Gold. Wow! I also paired up with Marriott (lifetime Platinum elite, but had been Ambassador for as many years) and looks like both are right next to each other at the bottom. Years of being a road warrior and picking the wrong loyalties.

  • bulstrode says:

    Interesting article

  • Can we now qualify for lifetime status with bask account miles?

  • Carlos Levin says:

    Seguramente será más difícil conseguir un upgrade con tantos candidatos nuevos.

  • Renato Loayza says:

    Muy interesante el articulo, gracias por ello. Finalmente pude entender el uso de: 500-Mile Upgrade Certificates
    En mi opinion el programa es un poco complicado, pienso q mientras mas simple mejor, comprendo q AA quiere dar muchas opciones a los viajeros, sin embargo creo q cae en un esquema complicado de entender q uno ya no sabe cuando y como acumular millas ni como usarlas.

  • “The start date for a challenge can be backdated up to five days.”

    I once did a status challenge and they were able to backtrack it by 7 days. Probably not the norm but I was able to snag Gold this way with a flight paid for by a third party. 😀

    • Thanks for sharing ur personal data point of actually being able to backtrack 7 days. Perhaps it’s even worth an edit to the article – as in “some AW members have reported backdating as far back as 7 days” – since it’s valuable info to know.

  • Michel Buraglia says:

    I was once a platinum on American Airlines and it has many benefits.

  • Excellent guide and really informative. I managed to get executive platinum via business travel but haven’t managed to get away due to the various restrictions that there’s been in the UK. Hopefully this will soon be over and we’ll be able to get back to travelling.

  • Congratulations on this great guide. I hope that soon I will become Elite! I see it very possible! Thanks

  • Great info!
    Thanks for sharing

  • Jacquelyn Evans says:

    Award Wallet is the best travel app I have ever had, and especially during Covid by far the easiest way to track miles expiration. Just saw that my hundreds of thousands of AAdvantage points expire this summer – American likes to hide this expiry on their website!
    American needs but needs to get with the times – and the other major US airlines – and go with no expiration for points; given that we will be in a pandemic for months to come, extending their points expiration to June 2021 is not long enough for customers who are still at high risk for traveling and is a poor way to thank those of us who are over the age of 65 and lifelong American fliers,

  • I think apart from this article it’s hard to find an up to date article on the AA scheme

  • I have Executive Platinum status for the first time this year and I appreciate the upgrades. I shouldn’t have any trouble re-qualifying next year except dates are so low that the EQDs are hard to achieve. I might have to pay to upgrade a few times at the end of the year to get the EQDs.

    I also have the AAdvatage Executive Card. If you have people you can trust with a credit card, up to 9 authorized users are free and they also get in to the Admirals Club with their cards. My family thought I was awesome when I got them their cards.

  • Vinicius Peres says:

    Great guide. Maybe one day I’ll become Elite!

  • American’s Elite program seems to beat United’s.

  • angelo fonseca says:

    This is a very explanatory guide. Congratulations on the work. This makes our life better and easier.

  • But will you actually be able to get any upgrades no that there will be many more folks with status competing for upgrades

  • I can see this if someone travels AA a lot. If I would hold the Amex Plat card would it be better? Since you can get a known traveler credit and some fees credited, plus they have more lounge options. I know this post is all about AA but I feel the Amex Plat would be better, even if you travel AA a lot?

    • Interesting! I usually think of the Amex Platinum being a better pair with Delta than American, since it grants SkyClub access when flying Delta. The Amex Platinum does provide Centurion Lounge access in most of AA’s hubs (CLT, DFW, LAX, MIA, JFK, LGA, PHL, PHX), so I definitely see it being a good match for AA flyers. However, it doesn’t provide the elite-like perks (free bags, priority boarding, etc) that the AA cards we highlight in this post.

  • I don’t fly AA very often. I think it would be easier to qualify and I get a AA co-branded card.

    • That’s the right move for many. As much as it’s enticing to get elite status, the credit card route to perks is a lot easier and cheaper!

  • Unfortunately, airlines have effectively closed the mileage run loophole and made earning miles so much more difficult.

  • I definitely like to get the elite status bonuses but I would not go out of my way to fly their airline just to get them. I dont think I fly enough to enjoy the benefits anyway.

  • Great guide, interesting to learn a few things I didn’t know re. AAdvantage

  • I did not know that AA would give away Platinum status on a case by case basis.