No Decision Made on American Airlines Million Miler Program Qualification

by on April 30, 2011 · 13 comments

in American

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Achieving “million miler” status as a frequent flyer is an important milestone because it locks in elite status for life (or for as long as your airline is around). This is a nice thing to secure during your road warrior days, so you can have the peace of mind that you will be rewarded for your loyalty well beyond the years you are traveling most.

Most airlines (see list below) calculate million miler status based on actual flown miles, whether on that airline or on alliance partners. However, American calculates all regular miles earned – even on credit cards. So that 100,000 mile bonus you got for a Citi credit card would get you 10% of the way to lifetime Gold status. Not a bad deal, huh?

Well, as with all good things, they must come to an end – or so has been speculated by the frequent flyer community. In the past couple months there has been a fever pitch of speculation that American is going to end the gravy train and switch to a much stricter model, similar to the other US airlines.

However, yesterday I attended the Travel Executive Luncheon hosted by Frequent Flyer Legend and Flyertalk & Milepoint founder Randy Petersen and the last portion of the session was a panel with the heads of United Mileageplus, American AAdvantage, Delta Skymiles, Hyatt Gold Passport and American Express Membership Rewards. I live -Tweeted from the event, so check out my tweets from yesterday for an overview, but the lifetime qualification question was asked and American answered.

In a nutshell, no decision has been made and when there is a decision, “it will be communicated aggressively.” While that doesn’t tell us much, it does tell us that there is still time to accrue as many miles that will count towards lifetime elite. I’m not anywhere close to a million miles on AA, but if I was, I’d be working diligently to cross the next threshold.

As soon as announcements are made, I’ll update you here, but in the meantime, check out the million miler programs of the legacy US carriers:

American: Calculation: Flown AA & partner airline miles and all miles earned, including credit card spend, dining and hotel transfers (the most generous earning possibilities). Award: One million= Lifetime Gold Status.  Two Million= Lifetime Platinum Status. You also get 8 upgrade stickers (US Residents) or 4 EVips (international addresses) for the first million. 4 Evips are awarded for each additional million accrued.
Continental: Calculation: Flown Continental & partner airline miles and all other Elite Qualifying Miles (from credit card, class of service bonuses and promotions). Award: One million= Silver Status, Two million= Gold Status, Three million= Platinum, Four Million= Presidential Plus. You also get to designate a spouse or significant other to  share your status, which is incredibly generous, in my opinion.
Delta: Calculation:Flown Delta & partner airline miles and all other Elite Qualifying Miles (from credit card, class of service bonuses and promotions).  Award: One million= Silver,  Two Million= Gold Medallion. Four million= Platinum Medallion. Delta also awards gifts for reaching levels, such as leather wallets, luggage, bonus miles, Tiffany gift certificates and drink coupons. You cannot currently attain top tier Diamond status through million miler status.
United: Calculation: Flown United/United Express flights only. Award: One million = Premier Exec Status for life, 2 regional upgrades and 3 system-wide upgrades every year. Two million= Red Carpet Club access, gift (luggage, Ipod for ex), 4 SWUS. Three million= 1K Status for life, gift, 4 SWUS. Four million= increased upgrade status, gift and 4 SWUS.
US Airways: Calculation: Flown miles on US Airways/America West flights. Award: Lifetime silver status.

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  • Ryan

    So, obviously AA *is* thinking about whether or not to change… a good follow-up question would have been, what is the trigger for making a decision? Are they simplye taking time to analyze it and determine if or what to adjust? Are they waiting to see what the new UA does (- though UA and CO are already different enough from AA’s program)? I don’t know, to me their answer implies they will change it (probably making it less easy to obtain), just a question of if it will be in 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months.

  • Irene


    on Continental, how do you designate spouse or significant other to share your status? Is this a new option? This is the 2nd year I have platinum and never knew about sharing status.


  • The Points Guy

    @Ryan- I think its inevitable, but the fact is that its not official- yet. I dont think they would have answered any followup questions about it- in general, they were very buttoned up, except for Delta’s Jeff Robertson who was pretty candid

    @Irene- The Continental designation for a spouse is only after you hit one milllion lifetime elite miles- not for regular status.

  • Undici

    Did anyone by any chance aks if AA will bring back a hotels points to AA miles promo back? similar to the one they did last year? That would be nice.

  • Greg

    I have over a million miles in my United FF account, but these were not accrued solely from flying (credit card, other promotions). Since Continental rewards million mile status regardless of method accrued, would I be granted lifetime status on Continental if I transferred my UA miles to Continental as outlined in your recent post? Since the two airlines are merging, there is still the question of whether UA will adopt CO’s policies or will UA’s policies override CO’s. Do you have any inside info on who will win in the million mile benefits war?

  • Gord

    Because of the likely near term changes coming to the program, what do you think of converting large amounts of SPG points (500k) and Amex rewards points (200k) to AA miles to cross the 1MM threshold and get the status? I do put a lot of value in the SPG points (e.g., used 88k to book $5k worth of resort hotel accommodations recently) but if this is my last shot at lifetime (or any) status on any airline (actual flight miles will never get me there on any airline), I am wondering whether people think it is worth the depletion of SPG points and Amex points for the status on AA and the benefits that come with it?

  • The Points Guy

    Its really up to you. I don’t think its a bad use of SPG points, but as you point out, they are generally most valuable when using for expensive hotels and cash and points. If lifetime status is valuable to you and if you may only get it by transferring SPG, then I say go for it. If you can get lifetime anyway with regular AA flying (if they do change the rule soon), then don’t bother with the SPG transfer. FYI Amex points do not transfer to AA

  • Greg

    Please Show me some love by commenting on my question too. Thanks! ;)

  • The Points Guy

    @greg- sorry! didn’t mean to ignore you. Currently both United and Continental only count in-flight miles towards lifetime status and I don’t expect that to change with the merger. American is the only major US airline that allows all types of miles to count towards lifetime status. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Greg

    Thanks PG! I appreciate the response and knew you’d come through for me. Based on the requirement for both UA and CO for only in-flight miles, I’m glad I just landed in HI and am continuing to add to that total. Thanks again!

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