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For the next installment in my ongoing series on the current elite status programs for the major airlines that started with Delta and American Airlines AAdvantage Gold and AAdvantage Platinum status, we’re going to take a look at American’s top-tier status, Executive Platinum, which I believe is the most lucrative airline elite status program available (and luckily I am a member).
Executive Platinum is the highest of American’s three elite status tiers. To achieve it, you must fly 100,000 qualifying miles or 100 segments or earn 100,000 points in a calendar year (January 1-December 31). You begin receiving elite benefits immediately upon qualification, and as long as you meet the standard requirements, your benefits will last through the end of the next membership year, which runs from March 1 of the next year and through the final day of February of the year after. So if you earned your Executive Platinum status today (December 18, 2013), it would be good through February 28, 2015, but if you earned it very early next year like in March, it would be good through February 29, 2016.
The Difference Between Elite Qualifying Miles And Points
Unlike most airlines that award either Elite Qualifying Miles (based on how far you fly and in what class of service, which generally benefits long-haul flyers) and/or Elite Qualifying Segments (number of individual flights you take, which is better for frequent short-haul flyers), American has a third qualification system, which is heavily weighted towards premium fares: Elite Qualifying points. It is generally cheaper to qualify on elite qualifying miles, because most discounted fares only earn .5 points per mile flown.
However, if you fly higher fare classes, it’s worth keeping track of your points. That’s because since the numbers of miles or points to qualify 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 based on fare class.
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. For more information on miles vs. points, read my post here. Sadly, you cannot combine miles and points, so if you fly a mixture of premium and discounted fares, you still may have to qualify based on miles.
Once you’ve earned Executive Platinum status (and the change is reflected in your AAdvantage profile), you can begin taking advantage of numerous benefits. You can find the full listing here, but here are additional details on them:
- Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades with a 100-hour upgrade window- even on transcontinental routes, which is unique- Delta (beginning March 1, 2014) and United both require upgrade certificates or miles to upgrade on premium transcontinental routes.
- Eight Systemwide Upgrades that can be used on pretty much any published fare class- even for international flights, with no co-pays required
- Access to the Executive Platinum Service Desk reservation line (agents are generally senior and empowered to bend the rules when necessary)
- Priority access check-in, security screening lands and boarding to avoid lines. In airports where there is not Business check-in, you can use the First Class check-in.
- Access to preferred seats for you and up to 8 companions, or Main Cabin Extra.
- 100% bonus on base miles for eligible flights.
- Minimum of 500 AAdvantage miles per flight segment on applicable routes.
- Guaranteed Economy Class Availability
- Waitlist Priority for Purchased First or Business Class
- Waived ticketing service charge.
- Waived AAdvantage Award Change and Reinstatement Charges when using miles from your own account- even on award tickets for other people
- Check two bags free of charge (for you and your companions up to 9 on a reservation).
- Discount for Admirals Club lounge membership
- As an Executive Platinum member with AA, you will have Emerald status for oneworld partners, which includes lounge access when traveling internationally, priority check-in and preferred seating when traveling with one of the member airlines.
- Same-day standby free of charge (same day confirmed changes still cost $75, which is one of the things I hate most about the program).
- Expanded Award Seat Availability
- You will also get priority check-in and boarding when traveling on Alaska Airlines, along with two checked bags free of charge.
- Complimentary food and drink in the Main Cabin
1. Executive Platinum Desk Service: Executive Platinums have a dedicated customer service line where they can reach a representative relatively quickly and they’ll have your account information on hand to help with what you need.
2. Priority AAccess: This can be a real time-saver with dedicated check-in and security lanes, especially at congested airports with horrible layouts like LAX.
3. Preferred Seats: While American charges for preferred seating near the front of coach or on aisles and windows, as well as for roomier Main Cabin Extra seats, Platinums get this for free.
To take a quick example, on a flight from JFK to London, a preferred seat would cost you $89 extra each way, and a Main Cabin Extra seat would cost you $123 more – so this can be a real moneysaver, and a way to make sure you get a decent non-middle seat on those long flights.
4. Mileage Bonus: Executive Platinum members receive a 100% mileage bonus on base miles for every flight, which is a pretty great bonus for mid-tier status – and one that only Delta matches among the 4 (soon to be 3) legacy carriers. These bonus miles are only redeemable award miles not elite-qualifying miles. They also receive a 500-mile minimum on flights. For example, a one-way flight between Los Angeles and San Francisco would earn a regular member 337 miles. But that same flight would earn an Executive Platinum member 1,000 miles – that equates to a 200% bonus in terms of redeemable miles.
5. Waived Award Fees: American will charge a normal non-elite member $75 for making or changing an award booking to within 21 days of travel and $150 for changing an origin or destination or canceling an award and reinstating their miles, but Executive Platinums get both these fees waived when redeeming miles from their own account.
6. Free Checked Bags: American will charge normal flyers $25 for a first checked bag and $35 for a second checked bag on domestic tickets, but Executive Platinums can check two bags for free, and this benefit extends to up to 8 travel companions on your reservation – so that’s a total potential savings of $1,080 per roundtrip, though you’d have to be traveling in a group of 9 with each person checking 2 bags to get that maximum potential value. You can find a list of baggage fees here.
7. Admirals Club Discount: Admirals Club membership normally costs $500 for the first year and $450 for subsequent years for single memberships, or $825 or $775 for married couple memberships. Executive Platinums get a $100 discount on single membership and $250 off married couple membership.
8. Emerald Oneworld Membership: American is a member of the Oneworld alliance, so AA elites get certain benefits when flying member airlines including First/Business class check in, extra baggage allowance, Fast Track at security lanes, access to preferred seating when available, and priority standby and waitlisting. You also get access to premium Business and First Class and frequent flyer lounges (with one guest) when traveling internationally, regardless of the class of service flown that day. North American itineraries within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean are not considered international destinations.
9. Free Same-Day Standby: Normally American charges $75 just to standby for a different flight within 24 hours of departure, as well as to confirm it, but Executive Platinums can standby for free, though they would still have to pay $75 for a confirmed flight change the same day. Personally, I just buy American’s Choice Plus Fares which waive these charges altogether as well as providing several extra benefits like a mileage bonus for $44 each way.
10. Guaranteed Economy Class Availability: EP’s and a companion can book a full-fare ticket for travel in the Main Cabin even on sold-out American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection flights when they book at least 24 hours in advance (excludes codeshare flights). That means even if you have to make last-minute plans, if you can buy that full-fare ticket at least 24 hours ahead of time, you’re guaranteed a seat – someone else is getting the bump.
11. Expanded Award Availability: Executive Platinums have exclusive access to additional MileSAAver award seating for travel on American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection flights for themselves and a companion. This is not an award seat guarantee, but it does mean that the Executive Platinum desk might be able to find an award seat on a flight you need that you can’t see yourself and that other flyers don’t have access to.
12. Complimentary Main Cabin Food & Drink: EP’s get a complimentary beverage from the alcoholic beverage selection along with one snack or food-for-sale items, when flying in the Main Cabin onboard American Airlines or American Eagle operated flights.
13. Alaska Privileges: You get priority check-in and boarding when traveling on Alaska Airlines, along with two checked bags free of charge – pretty straightforward.
You’ll notice I’ve listed this separately. That’s because American’s upgrade policy is a bit different than other elite frequent flyer programs which provide complimentary, space available upgrades to members with priority based on their status tier. Instead, American only offers complimentary upgrades to its top-tier Executive Platinum members while all others must earn and redeem 500-mile electronic upgrades and then use them to request space-available upgrades. So Executive Platinums still come in ahead of the pack even though Platinums and Golds must submit upgrade requests.
Unlimited Complimentary upgrades: Executive Platinum members receive unlimited complimentary upgrades based on availability on American and American Eagle flights within and between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, The Bahamas and Bermuda; and between the U.S. and Central America. They must ask for it when booking the reservation and the upgrade window is 100 hours – well in advance of the 72-hour window for Platinums and 24 hours for Golds. Beyond being eligible above other elite status tiers, when vying for upgrades against other Executive Platinums, the upgrade will be based on the fare purchases, beginning with Y or B, and then the date/time the upgrade was originally requested.
Companion upgrades: EPs can request a complimentary upgrade for one companion whenever the companion is traveling with them on a full-fare ticket in the Main Cabin. Companions traveling on any other eligible fare must be upgraded using 500-mile upgrades.
500 Mile Upgrades can be used to upgrade from economy to the next class of service for travel on American Airlines or American Eagle within and between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, The Bahamas and Bermuda; and between the U.S. and Central America. One upgrade unit is required for every 500 miles of travel. Each flight segment requires at least one upgrade.
AAdvantage Executive Platinum members who purchase full-fare economy Y and B tickets are also eligible to upgrade for free as soon as at the time of booking.
Systemwide Upgrades: In my opinion, this is probably the single most valuable benefit of Executive Platinum elite status. Systemwides, or EVIP’s, can be used on pretty much any paid (non-government, military or award) fare – even discounted economy fares – and can be used on American Airlines flights to upgrade from Economy to Business or Business to First, meaning they can be worth thousands of dollars each. You used to have to call to in to request one, but American just added a new functionality to AA.com where you can request one on eligible flights and fares. Another good way to figure out if it’s worth requesting one and what your chances are is to monitor your flight on ExpertFlyer since you can search AA upgrade availability there and gauge your upgrade probability.
How To Keep Your Executive Platinum Status
To keep your EP status, you must hit the requirements again since, though historically American had given “soft landings” to elite members who didn’t quite re-qualify for their elite status, American has discontinued this policy.
However, they did just institute a new program with new options for frequent flyers to requalify for status if they fall short of the miles that they need this year.
From January 2014 through May 31, 2014, American Executive Platinums can boost their way up to elite status again.
- Boost: If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Executive Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $1,799. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost for $1,199. Unfortunately there is not a renewal option for Executive Platinum, which usually requires 100,000 miles or 100 segments.
- Renew: Unfortunately, there’s no paid renewal option for Executive Platinum status.
Due to several factors including the fact that (for now) there are no revenue requirements for elite status, you can earn it based on flying or on the fares you buy, and some super valuable benefits like systemwide upgrades that can be applied to pretty much any published fare, and American’s new planes coming online, I think American AAdvantage Executive Platinum status is the best top-tier airline status out there and the one that I’m sticking with for 2014.
Any AAdvantage Executive Platinum members out there who want to chime in with your own experiences with things like service, upgrades and more, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.