American Airlines: Qualifying for Status With Elite Qualifying Points

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Most airlines award either Elite Qualfying Miles (based on how far you fly and in what class of service, which generally benefits long-haul flyers) or Elite Qualifying Segments (number of individual flights you take, which is better for short-haul flyers). Most will give a 50% EQM bonus on first class or refundable economy fares (sadly no bonus on segments). However, American Airlines does not do this and instead they have a third qualification system, which is heavily weighted towards premium fares: Elite Qualifying points.

While I generally qualify for my American elite status by EQMs (I take long cheap trips and then hope for complimentary domestic upgrades or I use my systemwides to upgrade to business, like I did when I went to China last year). However, I just purchased a couple cheap business class fares from NYC to Santiago, Chile for $900 a pop, so I started to think that I may try and qualify for Executive Platinum based on points this year. The JFK-Miami-Santiago roundtrips clock in at about 10,415 miles, so 10,415 EQMs, but 15,622 Elite Qualifying Points. So with two trips I’ll be at over 31,000 elite qualifying points (almost 1/3 to Executive Platinum!), but just shy of 21,000 Elite Qualifying Miles.

With 2013 in full swing, and following last week’s news of a merger between American Airlines and US Airways, I wanted to share my thoughts on AAdvantage elite status qualification for 2014 and how you can maximize your 2013 travel to achieve AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum or AAdvantage Gold status more quickly.

Earning Elite Status By Points

Elite status is earned via miles, segments or elite qualification points earned on eligible fares purchased for travel on American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection, as well as oneworld member airlines and their affiliates, Alaska Airlines (including Horizon Air), and American Airlines codeshare flights an AA-coded flight number is included on the ticket at the following levels:

Elite Status                           Miles/Points Required       Segments Required

Executive Platinum                 100,000                                        100

Platinum                                    50,000                                          60

Gold                                            25,000                                          30

So since the numbers you need are the same, initially it might look like elite-qualifying miles and elite-qualifying points are the same thing, but that in fact is not true at all.

Flyers earn elite-qualifying points for flights on American Airlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection and American Airlines marketed codeshare flights (info for other participants can be found at the links above) in the following ratios:


So the higher the fare code or class of service you buy, the more elite-qualifying points you earn, ranging from 0.5-1 point per mile flown on deeply discounted economy tickets (like most of us buy) all the way up to 1.5 points per mile on full-fare economy, business and first class fares.

As an example, a flight on American Airlines from LAX to Washington Dulles equals 2,295 base miles. Based on your class of service, the elite-qualifying points you would earn on this flight are as follows:

  • Discount Economy (G, G, N, O, S): 1,148 (0.5 points per mile)
  • Discount Economy (H, K, M, L, W, V): 2,295 points (1 point per mile)
  • Full Fare Economy: 3,443 points (1.5 points per mile)
  • Business: 3,443 points (1.5 points per mile)
  • First: 3,443 points (1.5 points per mile)

The points system obviously favors big spenders like business travelers whose companies mandate that they purchase full-fare economy or business-class tickets, even over elite travelers who earn bonus miles but not bonus elite miles (except like everyone else on premium fares like these).

Just like with elite-qualifying miles and segments, membership levels are determined based on qualifying activity between January 1 – December 31, and you begin to receive benefits immediately upon qualification. These benefits will run until the end of the next membership year. Membership years run from March 1 through February 28 (or 29 in a leap year) of the following year. For example, if you were to reach AAdvantage Executive Platinum status today, you would receive benefits through February 28, 2015.

Elite Rewards

On top of elite status benefits, as a thank you to their most valued flyers, AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold members may also become eligible for additional rewards when they reach a certain number of elite-qualifying points above and beyond those necessary to qualify for their status threshold.

While rewards for 2013 points earned have not been released, 2012 rewards options were as follows:


While the rewards are significant at each level and include increasing numbers of AAdvantage bonus miles, upgrades, Admirals Club access and more, you really hit pay dirt when you reach Executive Platinum status. Once there, you not only receive enhanced rewards from the previous levels, but you are also able to select any TWO options as opposed to one for Platinum and Gold members. With that, 35,000 bonus miles can quickly become 70,000, or two systemwide upgrades can become four, all in addition to what you’d already be receiving at that level. Work any double miles promotions that may be forthcoming into your strategy – like those I discussed here back in November – and reap the benefits even more quickly.

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