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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 status, we’re going to take a look at American’s mid-tier status, Platinum.
Platinum is the middle of American’s three elite status tiers. To achieve it, you must fly 50,000 qualifying miles or 60 segments or earn 50,000 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 through the final day of February of the following year. So if you earned your Platinum status now, 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. Like most people, I generally qualify for my American elite status by EQMs because I fly on long routes as cheaply as possible.
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.
Once you’ve earned 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:
- Access to the Platinum Service Desk reservation line at 1-800-843-3000.
- 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 (aisle and window) 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.
- AAdvantage award charge fees waived when using miles from your AAdvantage account.
- Check two bags free of charge (for you and your companions up to 9 on a reservation).
- Discount for Admirals Club membership (for complimentary snacks, drinks and WiFi).
- As a Platinum member with AA, you will have Sapphire status for oneworld partners and earn priority check-in and preferred seating when traveling with one of the member airlines.
- Same-day standby.
- You will also get priority check-in and boarding when traveling on Alaska Airlines, along with two checked bags free of charge.
1. Platinum Desk Service: 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: 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 a Platinum member 1,000 miles – that equates to a 200% bonus in terms of redeemable miles.
5. Waived Award Change Fee: American will charge a normal non-elite member $75 for making or changing an award booking to within 21 days of travel, but Platinums get this fee waived when redeeming miles from their own account. Note, this is not the $150 fee American will charge you for changing an origin or destination, which only Executive Platinums get waived.
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 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. Platinums get a $50 discount on single membership and $150 off married couple membership.
8. Sapphire Oneworld Membership: American is a member of the Oneworld alliance, so AA elites get certain benefits when flying member airlines including priority check in, access to preferred seating when available, and priority standby and waitlisting. You also get access to Business 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 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. 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 flyer programs which provide complimentary, space available upgrades to members based on their status tier. Instead, AAdvantage Platinum members earn four 500-mile electronic upgrades for every 10,000 qualifying base miles flown (including guaranteed minimum miles) during their membership year (March 1 or the date you qualify for elite status, through the last day of February).
They can then use those upgrades to 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.
To put that in perspective, upgrading from LAX-JFK would cost you 5 of them, which you’d need to fly 20,000 miles to earn if you’re already a Platinum (or 20,000 above Gold qualification if you’re just qualifying for the first time), or buy for $150 after earning at least Gold status status. Not that you’d have much upgrading on a heavily trafficked route like that after all the Executive Platinums get their complimentary upgrades. But it’s still worth a shot, and you should have better luck on regional routes and on less business-travel-heavy days like Wednesday and Saturday.
You can request your upgrade when making your reservation, but for Platinums, the upgrade window is 72 hours out. If you don’t have enough for your flight, AAdvantage elite members may buy upgrades with AAdvantage miles at a rate of 35,000 miles for eight (8) upgrades, but you can also purchase them for $30 each, so I’d save my miles and pay instead. Non-elite members can also purchase and use 500-mile upgrades, but can only use them on full-fare economy tickets (Y & B). AAdvantage Platinum members who purchase full-fare economy Y and B tickets can upgrade for free as soon as at the time of booking.
How To Keep Your Platinum Status
To keep your Platinum 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 two 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 elites will have two options.
- Boost: If you end the year close to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum, or Gold status but don’t quite make it, you can boost to the next level. If you are up to 10,000 miles or 10 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost to the status for the cost of $899. If you are within 5,000 miles or 5 segments short of achieving Platinum, you can boost for $699.
- Renew: If you are you already Platinum and are way off from retaining it and out of “boost” range, you can buy it back for $1,199.
Even though Platinum status is just mid-tier on American and you have to earn and redeem those elite upgrades in 500-mile increments, having it can still save you a ton of money on things like bags and seating options, as well as making for a much more pleasant travel experience thanks to priority check-in and boarding, and you do earn some other benefits like mileage bonuses and same-day standby. However, it’s at American’s top-tier Executive Platinum level where the benefits really start to get lucrative.
Any AAdvantage 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.