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It’s no secret that I’m an American Airlines loyalist. Living in Miami, American is the obvious choice, but beyond that I think AAdvantage elite status is incredibly valuable even if you don’t live in a hub city. I value Executive Platinum status well above the top-tier equivalent with United or Delta, and I feel the same about the AAdvantage program compared to MileagePlus and SkyMiles.
To give you a better sense of why I value my American Airlines status so highly, I thought I’d offer some examples.
1. Earning miles is easier
Since Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus changed to revenue-based frequent flyer programs, they can’t hold a candle to the AAdvantage program with respect to earning miles. For example, as an Executive Platinum member I’ll earn 19,040 miles for my recent economy flight from New York to São Paulo on American Airlines. By comparison, SkyMiles Diamond Medallions and MileagePlus Premier 1K members would earn only 13,618 miles for a similar fare on Delta or United, respectively.
That’s a difference of almost 30%, and doesn’t even take into account how much more valuable AAdvantage miles are to begin with. Of course, some flyers come out ahead with the new revenue-based earning structure, but pound for pound, I think the AAdvantage program is much more rewarding.
2. Premium Promotions for Premium Fares
Speaking of revenue-based earning, American took a swipe at its main competitors by offering lucrative mileage bonuses in premium cabins throughout 2015, and specifically basing those bonuses (at least partly) on the distance flown. As AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin put it, “A mile flown continues to be a mile earned in AAdvantage.” That’s salt in the wounds of Delta and United flyers who are feeling the pinch of the new SkyMiles and MileagePlus programs.
American went one step farther by then introducing a double elite qualifying points promotion, which is a fair way to reward top-tier flyers without hurting leisure and discount fare customers.
3. More upgrade opportunities
One of the Executive Platinum benefits I value most is the 8 Executive VIP systemwide upgrades, which you can use at the time of purchase on any flight, anywhere in the world, and even on other passengers. By comparison, United gives Premier 1K members 6 Global Premier Upgrades, and Delta gives Diamond Medallions just 4 Global Upgrade certificates.
Furthermore, American lets you use EVIPs to book any fare class. United won’t let you use GPUs for certain discounted fares (specifically, Z, P, S, T, K, L, G or N fares) to most regions outside of North America. Delta doesn’t limit the use of Global Upgrade certificates by region, but does prevent you from using them on basic economy E fares and (strangely) Premium Economy W fares.
4. Exceptional transcontinental service
American offers 3-cabin service on transcontinental flights between JFK and LAX/SFO, with 10 fully lie-flat first class seats in a 1×1 configuration. American is also the only airline that offers complimentary upgrades on premium transcontinental routes for top-tier elites. United makes you use upgrade certificates, while Delta temporarily got rid of them altogether, though now sometimes offers upgrades to diamond elites.
5. First class partner awards
United increased the cost of its partner awards last year, so you pay more in order not to fly on United metal, even when using MileagePlus miles on the same route. For its part, Delta won’t let you book first class partner awards at all, even on partners that do have true first class cabins. Plus, Delta has blackout dates when you can’t redeem on certain partners. American doesn’t employ these kinds of shenanigans: partner awards cost the same as awards on AA metal, and while they aren’t necessarily easy to find in some cases, there are no blackout dates.
As an example, consider how many miles you’d need to fly first class from JFK to East Asia using partner awards on the three major domestic carriers. American would charge you 67,500 miles for a MileSAAver award to Hong Kong in first class on Cathay Pacific. United would charge you 80,000 miles on two-cabin flights, or a whopping 120,000 miles on three-cabin flights. As for Delta, well … it’s a long walk.
6. Off-Peak awards
American’s Off-Peak awards (also known as MileSAAver awards) are among the most prized mileage redemptions out there — readers even voted them into the semifinals of the TPG Travel Rewards Tournament earlier this month. These awards cover a wide range of dates and destinations, saving you anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 miles on round-trip flights to Hawaii, Europe, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Japan, and Korea.
7. Awesome customer service
I’m sure some of you will disagree with me, but I think the American Airlines elite customer service is superior to what you’ll get on other domestic carriers. Apart from the hard benefits (like the Executive Platinum service desk, waived ticketing service charges, and waived award change and reinstatement fees), I’ve found AAdvantage agents on the whole to be helpful and flexible in sorting out any difficulties I might encounter during my travels. I ultimately feel like I get taken care of on American Airlines, and I can’t say the same for experiences I’ve had elsewhere.
Most recently, I had a great experience with AAdvantage customer service while trying to find first class availability from São Paulo to San Francisco. Despite there being no seats at the MilesAAver level, the Executive Platinum agent I spoke with was ultimately able to open up space for me simply because I asked. Now that is customer service!
8. Great co-branded credit card options
I now hold both the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard and the Barclaycard Aviator Silver Card, and each one offers me the opportunity to earn up to 10,000 elite qualifying miles annually. That helps me maintain Executive Platinum status from year to year, not to mention the other great benefits like Admirals Club membership from the Executive card, and a 10% mileage redemption rebate (up to 10,000 miles) from the Aviator card. In contrast, United has no cards that earn elite miles.
9. Visibility on ExpertFlyer
ExpertFlyer is one of my favorite tools for award booking, especially for the ability to set alerts so I’ll be notified when the award space I want becomes available. American Airlines shows its full award inventory on ExpertFlyer, including upgrades. Delta, on the other hand, doesn’t show any flight availability whatsoever, making it that much harder to book using SkyMiles. While this doesn’t pertain to Executive Platinum status specifically, it’s yet another area where the AAdvantage program shows up one of its main competitors.
10. No elite spending requirements
Along with the revenue-based mileage programs, last year Delta and United instituted revenue requirements for earning elite status. Delta Medallion and United Premier members now must meet spending thresholds on airfare in addition to earning elite miles or flying elite segments. Delta does waive the requirement for US-based Medallion members who spend spend $25,000 dollars during the year on a Delta American Express credit card, but it remains one more obstacle to gaining elite benefits. Thankfully, American Airlines has no such revenue requirements, so you can qualify for elite status solely on miles, segments, or points.
11. Strong partnerships
Unlike Delta — which punishes SkyMiles members for flying with partners, and in some cases goes so far as to award no MQMs at all for partner flights — American Airlines has more equitable relationships with its Oneworld and other partners. In particular, I appreciate being able to earn miles on Alaska Airlines and British Airways.
I fully admit to being a mega fan, but I think my love for AAdvantage and Executive Platinum status is justified. I’d love to hear from you about your favorite (or least favorite) parts of the program. Please share your thoughts in the comments below! WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply. TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200 CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually *Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points Terms Apply.
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: Delta Sky Club and Centurion lounge access, $200 annual airline fee credit and up to $200 in Uber credits annually
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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