American Goes for Revenue-Based Elite Status… In a Really Good Way

Delta has minimum spending requirements in addition to minimum flying requirements to earn what has become revenue-based elite status.

    You basically have to spend a minimum of 12 cents per flown mile to earn status ($3000 for 25,000 mile status, $6000 for 50,000 mile status, and so on). That’s less than average airfares, so inconvenient to some but not to most.

United has the same approach, basically aping Delta’s approach exactly.

Elite programs manage their costs and also the number of people at each tier so they can consistently deliver promised benefits. With planes full, Delta sees themselves as having had too many elites (their marketing approach was ‘when everyone’s elite, no one is’). But United’s business is difference so it’s unlikely that it actually makes sense to have the exact same requirements as Delta in order to get the same manageable elite tiers.

It’s been striking that American hasn’t gone to revenue-based elite status. Except that they have, and in fact they were first.

    American revenue-based elite status
    American shows how happy their premium customers are.

For several years American has offered three separate ways to earn status:

  • Miles flown
  • Segments flown
  • “Points” which are miles adjusted up or down based on fare class. Expensive fares earn more points, cheapest fares earn fewer.

The key point is these are separate. Unlike earning bonus qualifying miles for premium fares, which get your mileage total up faster, someone who flies on a mix of expensive and inexpensive tickets doesn’t necessarily get to status faster. But someone who flies exclusively on paid premium fares can earn top status without actually flying as many miles.

American just announced that in 2015 they’re accelerating points-earning on premium fares.

That’s a great approach, and it remains separate from earning status based on miles which does not change.

Here’s the bonus earning formula

    American revenue-based elite status

The bonus points-earning applies to American and US Airways flights, and to their codeshare flights on British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Qantas and Japan Airlines (i.e. joint venture partners).

This is an add-on to American’s 2015 bonus-miles earning for premium cabin fares.

American is offering add on bonuses for business and first class tickets, now both in redeemable mileage-earning and for elite qualification, instead of replacing their program with a revenue-based one.

I like this approach, and hope that it works well for American and AAdvantage so that it remains attractive going forward.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Dear Gary,
    I have been reading your blog for quite a few years via the daily emails and have always enjoyed immensely.
    However the new email format that only has part of the post is terrible!! many times i choose to read them offline and therefore cant get the remainder of the post.
    Its one thing to have the click and bait style on the blog to drive up clicks,I understand you make a living off this…but doing the same for the emails is going too far in my humble opinion
    Please Please Pease change it back.


  2. This is the opposite approach. DL and UA were trying to slim down elite ranks with MQD/PQD. AA is actually increasing elite ranks.

    2 roundtrips on DFW-HKG in paid F is already 97.5K EQP with this new bonus structure. It makes earning EXP so super easy.

  3. Not sure how earning EXP by taking two $20k round-trip flights is “so super easy.” You can get the same amount of points by flying in paid J (not D or I) for “only” ~$12k RT, but that’s still not going to be an option for most people who pay for their own travel.

  4. Īm assuming this will be retroactive to Jan 1. Any idea when will AA adjust the YTD EQP counter?

  5. @ Ven & Chas: See the T&C specifically excluding these types of ineligible fares. Lucky addresses it.

  6. @ Mike: not retroactive. From April 7th on.

    T&C from promo excluding PEK fare: “Airline tickets issued as a result of airfare offered inadvertently or by mistake will not be eligible for elite-qualifying points.”

  7. Since they’re trying to increase elite ranks, isn’t this suggestive of trouble at AA?

    I want desperately for them to keep the program structured as it is now, but I don’t think this is good news in the long term on that front.

  8. Good interim move to respond to UA and DL without alienating a major element of elites. Doubt it will swell the elite ranks all that much. The US influx is being digested, but as noted, not many people are going to spend $20K for two Asian returns just to get ExecPlat since they’re like to have already earned that status through their corporate paid travel that would be in higher fare classes. May just accelerate the process of moving from Gold to Plat and Plat to ExecPlat for a few…maybe attract a few UA and DL customers who can shift corporate flying enough to qualify for elite, but only using AA as a secondary program. If this is how AA will respond after 2015 to the Revue-based requirement competition, then there’s no need to panic for non-expense account AA elites.

  9. Since AA does not offer extra EQM for premium cabins, EQP was their way of addressing that situation, rewarding people who do pay for premium cabins. Effectively, this is similar to the 2x/3x EQM promotion UA ran a few years ago.

    On the flip side, cheap, discounted coach fares only earn 50% EQP, not 100%.

  10. This is great for me, although I wish the added points bonus also applied to non-codeshare One World flights. The last two years I’ve qualified as a lowly Platinum on points, buying mostly discount Business or First and premium economy on BA (1.5x points). This year I’ll fly twice transcon on P fares, and twice to Europe in Premium Economy (hopefully upgraded to Business on points) and make 2-3 trips on Alaska – qualify for Platinum for less than $6,000 out of pocket while flying less than 40,000 miles mostly in Club World and domestic First. I am sure I am paying more per mile but I am flying reasonably comfortably everywhere I go and it’s never been my objective to maximize my time spent in airports and airplane seats.

  11. Be careful, the DeltaPoints douchebag is sure to lash out and say we are just a bunch of over entitled flyers who shouldn’t use a brain when it comes to purchasing our tickets. Give Delta (his mothership) a few more minutes to draft his talking points…

  12. Gary, please bring back full text feeds. The new click inducing strategy will cause readers like myself to unsubscribe from your feed/emails and use other credit card links.

  13. +1, the new truncated RSS feed is such a pain. Readability sort of works, but often omits content, and that’s not good for anybody.

  14. Hi Gary

    I was very confused by this post, I decided to call American and ask for a better explanation. Yes their program did change but the way you earn status miles did not. They are providing a bonus for earning redeemable miles. I hope I got this correct,. For details I know you will be much more capable of clarifying this than I ever could. This is at least what the American Advantage person told me.

  15. @Leonard – no, there are two changes

    (1) bonus redeemable miles for premium cabin fares
    (2) bonus elite status POINTS when flying on premium cabin fares. The way you earn status miles did not change. For folks who qualified by flying 25,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 miles nothing changes. For folks who used the “points” method instead (which privileges premium fares and penalizes cheap ones) premium fares just became better / it’s easier to earn status now when buying more expensive tickets.

  16. I swear I am just as confused as I was when I started. I enjoy your post and have learned allot and share them frequently. But I am apparently too thick to understand this one.

    Item 1 I get completely and was clearly explained to me. I even get part of point number 2.

    According to American this part of earning more elite miles for a premium ticket has not changed. This according to the person I spoke with has remained and it is this way for economy through first. What I was disappointed to learn compared to Usairways, if you purchase a deeply discounted or supersaver seat you only earn half the qualifying miles. I also realized there are different levels of purchasing refundable seats that earn just 1 mile for each flown. This is considered a discount ticket but not a supersaver discount ticket. You can pay double for the same ticket and earn 1.5. Although I just purchased a first class seat for less than the discounted seat and earned 1.5.

    It is this part you wrote that I don’t understand. According to the person I spoke with the only thing that changed with American is the bonus miles for redeemable seats. Comparing it against the old USAir it has changed and it depends on what kind of seat you purchase if it is better or worse.

    For folks who used the “points” method instead (which privileges premium fares and penalizes cheap ones) premium fares just became better / it’s easier to earn status now when buying more expensive tickets.

  17. Gary-Thanks for the info. This is good for me. When does this start and is the start based on when you bought the ticket or when you fly?
    Thanks for all you do!

  18. Given that this ends 12/31, I am suspicious that it is a “stop gap” until larger changes are announced for 2016.

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