American Didn’t Just Leak New Elite Status Rules

Several months ago the American Airlines website erroneously listed the miles required for top tier Executive Platinum status as 120,000 instead of 100,000. That was quickly corrected.

Yesterday an American AAdvantage member posted a message they received from AAdvantage Customer Service on Flyertalk with that same ‘mistake’:

It’s our pleasure to assist our valued AAdvantage Executive Platinum® members. Thanks for contacting us here at AAdvantage® Customer Service.

Please know that the new qualification for Executive Platinum status is now at 120,000 Elite Qualifying Miles/Points in a calendar year.

If you earn a total of at least 175,000 elite points by year-end, I will add 6 more systemwide upgrades into your account. I am hopeful you can achieve this goal since you are currently at 150,895 elite points.

Now, I’ll have to ask you to contact us again when you earn 175,000 elite points, since the adjustment won’t happen automatically. But I’m documenting my promise in your account so you won’t have any problem in receiving these complimentary upgrades when you reach this goal. You are truly a special customer and we’re very pleased for the opportunity to earn your satisfaction.

Thank you for participating in the AAdvantage program. We appreciate your business.


As you can see from the note, it still appears to be policy that flying on high fares beyond merely requalifying for elite status will lead American to award more confirmed international upgrade certificates upon request.

But what set my Facebook feed on fire of course was the reference to requiring 120,000 miles for top tier elite status instead of 100,000.

The initial concern of course was that this wasn’t just a mistaken agent. It’s the same ‘mistake’ that was made earlier in the year on a published website that American quickly corrected. So once could’ve been a mistake, but twice seemed more like an indication of things to come.

Indeed, it does seem likely that elite qualification criteria will tighten at AAdvantage at some point.

  • Both Delta and United claim too many elites to deliver benefits.

  • Delta requires more miles (125,000) as well as minimum spending requirements, although they waive those spending requirements and award qualifying miles for spending on their co-brand credit card and don’t cap that at 10,000 like American does.

  • United has minimum spending requirements that can’t be waived for 100,000 mile status via credit card spend, and their true top tier elite level (Global Services) can’t be earned just by miles flown.

So American’s top tier 100,000 miles flown, with a separate path for fare-based “points” is probably the easiest for most people to earn — even leaving aside that they’re now the world’s largest airline so there are more flight opportunities on which to earn those miles.

As a result it wouldn’t surprise that they might have ‘too many elites’ to manage benefits for.

And they’re generally more generous to their elites, both at mid-tier and top tier.

  • 50,000 mile flyers still earn 100% bonus miles for their flights, double the competition

  • 100,000 mile flyers get 8 confirmed upgrades on any American route (subject to availability) from any fare. Delta only offers half that many, United requires more expensive fares for theirs.

Since American has been repeatedly mentioning higher qualification criteria, and since it makes sense that they could tighten qualification, it’s seemed imminently plausible that these were information leaks rather than mistakes.

However, American AAdvantage not only hasn’t changed the qualification criteria for top tier elite status from 100,000 miles (or points) to 120,000, they say they didn’t ‘slip up’ and reveal what they’re doing next year. Unequivocally from American:

The [Advantage Customer Service] email posted on Flyertalk has been traced back to a very new agent that indeed made a mistake. …We’re assuming he was confused since it’s 120 segments [required for AAdvantage Executive Platinum status] and since he’s new, he thought it would also be 120k miles/points.

…And to make this clearer… I’m suggesting this was him sharing something completely erroneous that isn’t planned.

While American may well change qualification rules at some point, that’s not done and the agent making a mistake didn’t have inside knowledge about what American’s plans for status criteria are.

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. I hope you’re not right. 100,000 butt-in-seat miles ought to qualify for something serious. The amount of time I spend away from my family and the pressing to use AA and get to the 100,000 in years where my business travel is nearer 60,000 means I’m a loyal AA traveler, always my first choice even when there’s a small fare difference. Tell me I no longer get Systemwide upgrades or complimentary upgrades and I’m likely to scale back business to more like 40k, and just pick whatever’s cheapest or most convenient for personal travel. 10 years of 100,000+ EXP and 30 years of business travel really ought to be worth more than platinum provides.

  2. Other than earning redeemable miles, I think that AA is not as generous as DL to mid-tier elites. That is especially true for flyers who reach 75,000 miles and would qualify for Platinum status on DL. DL upgrades are complimentary for mid tiers who are fortunate enough to score them with increased DL emphasis on first-class monetization whereas upgrades are mostly paid on AA. C+ and MCE are free for all mid tiers on both airlines, but DL throws in a drink and even a meal on some flights. DL Platinums also have benefits with respect to fee waivers and booking mileage awards. If AA raises the mileage and points requirements for EXP, as I would expect it will at some point, do you think it will create a new mid-tier level with some of the benefits of DL Platinums?

  3. So how likely am I able to request another 8 upgrade cert when I reach 150k? I think that was the bonus for 150k milestone 2 years ago.

  4. Ì received my new executive platinum card and 8 systemwide upgrades valid through Feb 2017 when I hit the 100,000 mile threshold in May, so if they are going to change, it is likely at least a year away. Was going to apply my miles to Alaska for the rest of the year but now may rethink to get the extra systemwide upgrades at the 175,000 point level.

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