American Airlines Introduces Elite Choice Rewards for Top-Tier Elites

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For years, the benefits of AAdvantage elite status have been the same for each member. But, starting in 2021, American Airlines is switching to giving its high-level elites their choice of elite rewards. And the great news is that this isn't a sneak devaluation. Instead, American Airlines elites can choose to get even more upgrades than before.

American Airlines also elevated its Platinum Pro elite members to Oneworld Emerald elite status as of June 30, 2021. That grants access to better lounges, faster check-in, additional checked baggage allowance, and more when flying on Oneworld partner airlines.

Elite Choice Rewards for Platinum Pro

From its introduction in 2016 through 2020, AAdvantage Platinum Pro elite members have received unlimited upgrades on short-haul flights, 80% mileage bonus, two free checked bags, and complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred seating.

AAdvantage elite benefits for 2020
AAdvantage elite benefits for 2021

All of those elite benefits are remaining in place for 2021. In addition, upon qualifying for Platinum Pro elite status in 2021 and beyond, Platinum Pro elite members will get an elite choice reward. Members can choose one of the following:

  • One systemwide upgrade
  • 20,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (25,000 for AAdvantage credit card holders)
  • One-time 15% off award discount
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
  • Six Admirals Club one-day passes
  • $200 American Airlines travel voucher

Elite Choice Rewards for Executive Platinum

Let's address the elephant in the room. As part of this change, Executive Platinum elite members will no longer automatically earn four systemwide upgrades upon qualifying. But, don't worry Executive Platinum elites. American Airlines isn't coming for your systemwide upgrades. In fact, Executive Platinum elites can end up with a total of five systemwide upgrades—choosing 1 when you qualify for Platinum Pro and up to another 4 when you reach Executive Platinum.

Upon qualifying for Executive Platinum elite status in 2021, members will get the choice of two of the following:

  • Two systemwide upgrades
  • 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles (or 30,000 for AAdvantage credit card holders)
  • Carbon emissions offset
  • $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
  • Gift of Gold status
  • $200 American Airlines Trip Credit (flight discount coupon for awards earned before June 30, 2021)
  • Individual Admirals Club membership [requires both choices]
  • 10,000 bonus Elite Qualifying Miles
  • Choice of Bang & Olufsen products
    • Beoplay H9 3rd Gen. over-ear noise-canceling headphones, Beoplay E8 Sport wireless earbuds, or Beosound A1 2nd Gen. portable speaker.

American Airlines Elite Choice Rewards for 2021

Details of Elite Choice Rewards

As you can see, elites have a choice from a diverse menu of elite choice rewards. Some are pretty straightforward. Others aren't as clear. Thankfully, American Airlines shared the fine print with us at AwardWallet.

One-time 15% off award discount

This is the type of benefit that could either be a dud or really appealing depending on the fine print. And the good news is that it's the latter. Platinum Pro elite members that choose this option will get a 15% award rebate on a round-trip award for up to two passengers. Crucially, partners award bookings are eligible:

Your 15% off award discount is a rebate that will be applied post travel and can be used to discount the miles required for AAdvantage awards for up to two passengers traveling round-trip travel anywhere on American Airlines, American Eagle®, oneworld airlines or partner airlines.

Say you have the miles (and find the award availability) to book two passengers in Cathay Pacific First Class between the U.S. and Asia. This incredible experience costs 110,000 miles each way per person—or 440,000 miles total for two passengers round-trip. If you applied this elite choice reward to this booking, you'd get a rebate of 66,000 AAdvantage miles.

One important thing to keep in mind that this is a rebate instead of a discount. So, you'll still need the full number of miles in your account to book the award. Then, you can apply this elite choice reward after travel to get the rebate.

AAdvantage bonus miles

This is an interesting elite choice reward in a couple of aspects. At the Platinum Pro level, members can choose 20,000 bonus miles (or 25,000 for AAdvantage cardholders). Then, at the Executive Platinum level, elite members can choose 25,000 AAdvantage miles (or 30,000 for AAdvantage cardholders) up to two times.

Miles-hungry Executive Platinum elites can get up to 85,000 bonus miles if they use all of their elite choice rewards for bonus miles—as long as they are an AAdvantage cardholder.

The value of this choice definitely varies between the two levels. At the Platinum Pro level, elites could boil their choice down to either one systemwide upgrade or 20,000 (or 25,000) bonus miles. However, at the Executive Platinum level, elite members choose between two systemwide upgrades and 25,000 (or 30,000) bonus miles.

So, I could see some top-tier elites opting to get 20,000 (or 25,000) bonus miles at the Platinum Pro level and then opting for systemwide upgrades at the Executive Platinum level.

Elevated Oneworld Elite Status for Platinum Pro

There's more good news for Platinum Pro elite members. In addition to getting an elite status reward, AAdvantage Platinum Pro elite members will also be elevated to Oneworld Emerald elite status.

This doesn't change the benefits that Platinum Pro elite members get when flying on American Airlines. However, this change gets Platinum Pro elite members access to Oneworld First Class lounges, First Class check-in, additional checked baggage allowance, and more when flying on Oneworld airlines.

Oneworld Emerald benefits

This is an interesting move by American Airlines. Along with some recent changes—such as eliminating award booking and cancellation fees for all AAdvantage members—this really narrows the incentive for AAdvantage members to go for top-tier Executive Platinum elite status.

Why Make This Change

In addition to adding an elite choice reward, elevating Platinum Pro elite members to Oneworld Emerald elite status is yet another improvement for this elite tier level. This may seem like an odd move, but I have a hunch why this is happening, and it involves Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld in March 2021.

Alaska's top tier elite status—MVP Gold 75K—requires at least 75,000 qualifying miles. That's the same mileage requirement for American Airlines Platinum Pro elite members. So, I was curious to see if Alaska's top-tier status would get Oneworld Emerald (the top tier) or Oneworld Sapphire (the middle tier) elite status. Now that American Airlines Platinum Pro elites will be Oneworld Emerald members, this sends a pretty clear signal that Alaska MVP Gold 75K elites will get Oneworld Emerald elite status.

Final Thoughts

The rollout of elite choice rewards was teased in October 2020, and now we have the details. As far as I can see, it's all good news. Executive Platinum elite members that love their systemwide upgrades can end up with five systemwide upgrades: 1 when qualifying for Platinum Pro and 4 when reaching Executive Platinum elite status.

However, Executive Platinum elite members that don't get much value from getting four systemwide upgrades now have the option to choose a benefit that's more valuable to them—or a mixture of elite rewards.

I've qualified for Executive Platinum elite status for the past five years. However, going into 2021, I wasn't sure if I'd keep up my streak. Yet, I can't help but excitedly consider which elite choice rewards I'd choose. And, I imagine other elites may also feel reinvigorated about AAdvantage elite status thanks to these new options.

What do you think about these new American Airlines elite choice rewards?

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Comments

  • What is the Carbon emissions offset ? Are they planting a tree every couple times someone take a flight ?

  • Enrique Forbes says:

    This is good news. Nevertheless, they should consider a more flexible option nowadays, with the current situation of travel diminished is really difficult to reach those high Elite statuses.

  • I like the idea of giving choices for elite benefits, then it can be more customized to people.

  • This is all good but really they should have expanded this down to the lower level elites. Even if it was just crumbs. Like say 5,000 miles for Platinum or a 15% discount for Gold, etc.

  • Those are some pretty good choices, wish I even had a chance of earning AA status. I’m not sure which reward I’d pick; my no-status mind goes towards the bonus miles, but if I had actual status, maybe the voucher? Probably still the miles, as have the potential to save more than $200.00. Would be a nice dilemma to be in… if only…

  • This is a really positive change for the Aadvantage program. I have been contemplating switching from SA/UA Plat to OW/AA Plat Pro and this might just be the catalyst. Getting OW Emerald is definitely a big plus (once travel resumes) and AA is also planning to extend their service to India finally, Now i just wish they can come up with some local partners in India and Asia.

    • Eh, the OW program has quite some partners in Asia.

      There is Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and SriLankan Airlines.

      Esp. with Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines it’very easy to get to India with short stopovers. They have very high quality flight and good lounges. And both JAL and QA are very competitive in pricing. Als Malaysia Airlines offers flights to the three big destinations.

  • I wish Delta made it this easy..

  • This is interesting to me as a first time executive platinum. I have no idea how easy it is to use the SWUs. I guess I will have some time to figure it out. Nice to have options.

  • I think the additional options are nice. I won’t qualify for the elite but nice for others (and yourself!)

  • I like this change (even though I’m not AA elite)! Airlines are getting innovative during this turbulent time. Btw great to see JT writing for this blog. I like your articles on TPG as well!

    • Thanks Bill! It’s great to be here at AwardWallet. I’ve been over here since March (2020) but I’ve mostly worked behind the scenes assigning and editing posts. It’s nice to get to write some as well though!

  • This AAdvantage development is awesome. This is a phenomenal improvement across the board.

  • Good to see them getting creative with the rewards. Pretty easy to do, not sure why it took a pandemic to do it.

  • All of a sudden the Platinum Pro status seems very attractive.
    I had given up on Executive Platinum, but maybe PP will be doable.

  • Great if you’re elite, would be nice to reward the less elite as well. Not everyone is a premium business traveler

  • Picking your rewards a la carte like this seems like a better way to please more people that are notoriously hard to please….