American Airlines Changes Its Loyalty Program Rules Yet Again

Confused by the tweaks airlines are making to loyalty programs lately? Well, buckle up and break out a calculator.

American Airlines Changes Its Loyalty Program Rules Yet Again

American Airlines announced even more changes to its AAdvantage program.

Photo by Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This past week, American Airlines announced more upcoming changes to the way fliers will earn miles and elite status.

Just late last year, American announced that its AAdvantage program would go revenue based, which means miles are awarded based upon ticket price not distance flown. As with Delta and United, members will earn five miles per dollar spent. Elite-level fliers earn a progressive number of bonus miles depending on status, ranging from a total of 7 to 11 miles per dollar spent. Effective August 1, all flights earn miles based upon the cost of the ticket (even if you bought a ticket prior to this announced change).

This past week, however, American announced even more changes. Some are good, like the addition of another elite level called Platinum Pro, given to those who fly 75,000 base miles a year. American is also letting Executive Platinum members (the highest elite tier) enjoy space-available upgrades on award tickets (something Delta does and United offers for those who have certain United-branded credit cards).

But with the good, of course, comes the bad. American will soon require a minimum spend requirement to achieve elite status (in addition to meeting the minimum mileage levels), which means those who buy cheaper tickets will take longer to earn status than the big spenders.

Delta and United have similar minimum spend policies, but holders of the airlines’ cobranded credit cards are exempt if they charge $25,000 in any type of purchase to their credit card during the year.

American has announced no such waiver yet. To earn Gold status, fliers must spend at least $3,000 with American and fly 25,000 base miles a year; Platinum status requires $6,000 and 50,000 flown miles per year. Top-level Executive Platinum status requires flying 100,000 base miles per year and spending $12,000 with American.

If you fly partner airlines, redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles will be earned using a yet-to-be-announced calculation based upon the fare and distance traveled. You read that right: more complication.

Even when you attain status, American is re-jiggering the priority list for upgrades, soon based upon a rolling 12-month calculation of how much you spend with the airline. Previously, upgrades were prioritized upon one’s elite level and ticket purchase date.

The slew of requirements to reach elite status and reductions in earning policies are enough to make your head spin. Surely, most people have little time to do the calculations needed to attain an airline’s status. It seems easier to fly the most convenient airline these days rather than jump through hoops to earn miles and achieve status, right?

Then again, there is the joy of using miles to fly first class to Hawaii for free. I still choose to endure the confusion, but many others may not.

>>Next: The Best Travel Rewards Cards Without Annual Fees

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.
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