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American Introduces AAdvantage Changes: Revenue Earning, Platinum Pro Status & More

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Update 11/7/16: AA has confirmed that Platinum Pro status will not be awarded upon reaching a Million Miler threshold. Previously, members speculated that (very) frequent flyers would earn this status after earning 3,000,000 lifetime miles, however Million Miler status will continue to be available only through the Platinum level.

It’s another big day for AA’s AAdvantage program, and as with the airline’s last major announcement, most of the changes here aren’t so great for the majority of American Airlines flyers. There are four components to today’s announcement:

  1. Revenue-based redeemable mileage earning, which kicks in August 1, 2016.
  2. A new elite level, called Platinum Pro, which launches January 1, 2017
  3. A new spend requirement for earning any elite status level, which launches January 1, 2017
  4. Changes to complimentary upgrades, which launches January 1, 2017

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Revenue-Based Earning

Let’s start with the change slated to take effect first — revenue-based redeemable mileage earning. Beginning August 1, you’ll no longer earn redeemable miles based on the distance flown. Rather, just as Delta and United have done in recent years, American is introducing a revenue-based structure, in which you’ll earn miles based on the fare you’ve paid (excluding taxes and fees).

Here’s how those earnings break down:

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This structure more or less matches what Delta and United offer their members. Currently, miles are awarded based on distance flown, with Gold members earning a 25% bonus and Platinum and above earning a 100% bonus. Under the new system, base members (without elite status) will earn 5 miles for each dollar spent on the fare, AAdvantage Gold members will earn 7 miles per dollar, Platinum members will earn 8 and Executive Platinum elites will earn 11 miles per dollar.

Of course, this new structure most benefits AA customers who book expensive tickets. For example, say you’ve booked a round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles for $340. Of that, $300 counts as the “base fare,” which is used to calculate earnings. Currently that fare doesn’t factor in at all when it comes to the number of redeemable miles awarded — for an economy ticket, you’ll earn roughly 5,000 miles as a base member and 10,000 miles as a top-tier elite. Under the new structure, however, base members would earn 1,500 miles ($300 x 5) and Executive Platinum members will earn 3,300 miles — far less than they would have before.

With an expensive business-class ticket on the same route, however, the situation ends up being quite a bit different. Currently, members earn 150% of the miles flown (before elite bonuses) with tickets booked in a premium cabin. So that ~5,000-mile round-trip journey would earn 7,500 miles for a general member or 12,500 for a top-tier elite. Assuming the customer paid a base fare of $3,000 for their trip, they’d earn quite a bit more under the new structure — 15,000 miles as a base member and 33,000 as an Executive Platinum.

So, deep-pocketed business travelers should be pretty happy about this change, while leisure flyers will generally end up netting far fewer miles. Note that flyers can earn a maximum of 75,000 miles per ticket with the new revenue-based earning system.

American AAdvantage Platinum Pro

Next up is a brand-new elite status, designed to match Delta’s and United’s Platinum level. American is calling this new tier “Platinum Pro,” and the requirements are much the same as what Delta and United have in place for their Platinum members. Platinum Pro members will need to earn 75,000 elite-qualifying miles or 90 elite-qualifying segments plus 9,000 elite-qualifying dollars in a calendar year (more on EQDs below).

The new tier will sit between Platinum and Executive Platinum, and members of that level will receive “complimentary auto-requested upgrades on all eligible flights within North America and between the U.S. and Central America,” two free checked bags and Oneworld Sapphire status (the same level as “regular” AA Platinums). Additionally, Platinum Pro elites will earn 9 redeemable miles per dollar spent on flights, which is one more mile per dollar than Platinum members. The benefits of the new Platinum Pro tier are a bit light, and are mean to build upon the preexisting Platinum status.

Elite-Qualifying Dollars (EQDs)

Now, some especially unfortunate news. Last year, when American detailed its 2016 program changes, one of the highlights was that the airline wasn’t following in Delta and United’s footsteps by adding an “elite-qualifying dollars” requirement for earning elite status. While that’s true for this year, as of January 1, 2017, EQDs are going to factor in. Here’s how AA explains it:

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So these requirements exactly match United’s — you’ll need to “earn” anywhere from 3,000 to 12,000 elite-qualifying dollars in order to earn the corresponding elite status tier. This is in addition to the number of elite-qualifying miles or segments you’ll need to earn. EQDs are calculated using the base fare plus any carrier-imposed surcharges, excluding taxes and fees. In addition, an AA rep confirmed that the carrier is reviewing the possibility of credit card spend waivers — which both United and Delta have with their co-branded cards — but nothing is currently available.

Flying with partner airlines is where you’ll have to pay especially close attention. If you travel on any flight that is marketed by AA, you’ll earn miles and EQDs based on the price of the ticket, regardless of who is operating the flight. If you travel on a flight that’s marketed by a partner airline, you’ll earn miles based on the distance of the flight with a multiplier based on the booking code. You’ll also earn EQDs for Oneworld/Alaska Airlines-marketed flights based on the award miles earned with a multiplier based on the booking code. So this new partner-earning process seems to be a bit more generous than what Delta and United offer, since those carriers only award EQDs on partner flights if they’re marketed by Delta or United, respectively.

As of late June, American will begin showing estimates for award miles, elite-qualifying dollars, elite-qualifying miles and segments during the booking process.

Changes to Upgrades

Finally, American will be making some changes to upgrades, which will take effect later next year. Here’s what’s changing:

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So, essentially, your upgrade priority will be based not only on your elite status level, but also the number of elite-qualifying dollars you’ve “earned” in the past 12 months. So if two Executive Platinum members with otherwise identical flight details are in the queue for an upgrade, the member who has spent more with the airline in the past 12 months will fall higher on the list.

Additionally, later next year, Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members’ award tickets will be eligible for upgrades after all revenue passengers. At least that’s a bit of good news!

Bottom Line

With all of these changes, there are sure to be winners and losers:

  • Winners: Those who spend a lot; Executive Platinums and Concierge Key will get award upgrades.
  • Losers: Leisure travelers, especially those who fly economy on long-haul flights; those who can’t hit the EQD level and will drop in status.

The key things we’re waiting to hear back on are the credit card waivers and exact partner-earning rates, but there’s definitely a lot to take in with these coming changes.

What do you think of these changes from AAdvantage?

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