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I’ve said all along that I didn’t think American would simply copy what United and Delta are doing in terms of moving to a revenue-based frequent flyer program. American was the first frequent flyer program and they’ve got a top-notch team, so I think they’re watching closely as flyers react to what I perceive as many negative changes over at United and Delta.

Changing loyalty programs can be a tough decision, but moving from Delta to American has made sense for a lot of people, especially those based in Miami. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Just this past weekend we answered the question of a TPG reader asking if they should switch from Delta to American and we got tons of feedback on Facebook, blog comments and email that many TPG readers have switched to American and couldn’t be happier. While no program is perfect for everyone, I think American is taking an interesting approach with the introduction of their premium class promotion in December where you can earn up to 12,000 bonus miles per leg and today American announced a Double Elite Qualifying Point Promotion. By doing this, American is rewarding top tier customers, while not completely cutting back on leisure and discount fare customers.

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This promotion is clearly another way to entice people to book those expensive fares, though as much as I am an American Airlines fan (and Executive Platinum), I actually detest the EQP system for a couple reasons:

1) I spend enough to get EQMs on my AAdvantage Aviator Silver and Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard cards, though they’re worthless if I qualify on points since you can only qualify on either EQPs or EQMs. This promotion means nothing to those who qualify on the latter.

2) I like using my hard earned EVIPs (systemwide upgrades) from achieving Executive Platinum and they’re most valuable on upgrading cheap economy fares to business class, like I’m doing later this week on a NY to Sao Paulo trip. However, cheap economy fares are .5 points per mile, so you’re penalized for earning those upgrade certificates.

3) It is confusing. Not knowing whether you’ll qualify on EQPs or EQMs makes it hard to plan for the year, including whether to hit the spend requirements on the credit cards.

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This promotion will also water down the elite ranks with those who otherwise wouldn’t have made Executive Platinum, so I can see a lot of people (myself included) who make Executive Platinum the “hard way” annoyed at new ranks of top tier elites- especially since all US Airways Chairmen Elite members became Executive Platinum just a couple weeks ago.

Promotions like these that reward premium flyers are still better than going to completely revenue based programs. While I don’t see a huge deal with revenue based mileage earning (I may actually benefit from it because I buy last minute airfare often on short routes), they worry me because the next logical step is revenue-based “dynamic” award pricing- pegging the value of redemptions to the cost of the ticket, which would be the death knell of aspirational frequent flyer programs.

I’m going to stick with AA since they reward me with amazing opportunities to use my miles like flying home from Tokyo on Japan Airlines in first class.

However, until then, I’m going to support the programs that allow me to earn valuable miles and travel the world in style like flying JAL First Class to Tokyo, Emirates First from Dubai and Lufthansa First from Munich – three amazing flights, all for an out of pocket total of $426.07.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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