Your guide to American Airlines lifetime elite status
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The number “one million” has an alluring ring to it, conjuring up images of the millionaire lifestyle and all the luxury that provides. Grinding out one million miles flying with the same airline, however, might not be as glamorous.
Still, road warriors who remain fiercely loyal to the same airline for decades of travel can look forward to a badge of honor at the end: a lifetime of elite status plus the bragging rights and snazzy luggage tags that come with being a “million miler.”
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How to earn American Airlines lifetime elite status
American Airlines has made a lot of changes in recent years. Most recently, the airline introduced Loyalty Points, which completely changed how AAdvantage members qualify for elite status.
At a high level, the good news with Loyalty Points is that you can earn status on American for lots of activity beyond solely flying on American Airlines flights. The downside is that if you’re going to focus on earning AAdvantage status exclusively through flying American, it’s going to cost you much more than before.
If you’re looking to jump off the yearly hamster wheel of Loyalty Points, loyal AAdvantage members can enjoy a lifetime of elite status once they reach the following thresholds:
- One million miles: AAdvantage Gold status for the life of the program and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles.
- Two million miles: AAdvantage Platinum status for the life of the program and four one-way systemwide upgrades.
- Each additional million miles: Four one-way systemwide upgrades.
At one million miles, you’ll earn lifetime AAdvantage Gold status. Gold status provides a host of perks, including a 40% mileage bonus (7 miles per dollar spent instead of 5 miles per dollar spent), priority check-in, security and boarding and free preferred seats at check-in. In addition, after your first million miles, you’ll also earn 35,000 bonus AAdvantage miles, worth $619.50 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
At two million miles, you’ll earn AAdvantage Platinum status for life, which comes with a 60% mileage bonus (8 miles per dollar spent), free preferred or Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking and Oneworld Sapphire benefits. You’ll also get four one-way systemwide upgrades, which allow you to upgrade a paid ticket into a higher class of service on eligible flights. Under the right circumstances, systemwide upgrades can get you hundreds of dollars worth of value (though you’ll need to find available upgrade space to use them).
After two million miles, you start to run into the problem of diminishing marginal returns. After all, each additional million miles you earn will only get you four more systemwide updates rather than continuing to climb the AAdvantage elite status ladder.
To check your progress toward these thresholds, log in to your AAdvantage account, navigate to your account page and then click on “activity.” You’ll see your current balance and Million Miler balance at the top.
It’s also important to clarify what miles count toward Million Miler status with American. After all, Million Miler miles aren’t the same as redeemable AAdvantage miles, nor are they the same as Loyalty Point-eligible miles. Instead, they fall into an entirely separate category and only count toward your lifetime status qualification.
According to American Airlines, “flight distance on American marketed flights or the base miles earned for travel on eligible partner marketed flights” count toward Million Miler qualification.
So, you’ll earn 1 mile toward Million Miler status for each mile flown on American-marketed flights. And for partner flights credited to your AAdvantage account, you’ll earn 1 mile toward Million Miler status for each base mile you earn based on that partner’s specific award chart (you can access charts for each airline partner at this link). However, elite bonuses and class of service bonuses don’t apply, and you’ll only earn toward Million Miler status on revenue flights.
Is AAdvantage lifetime status worth it?
While there are plenty of shortcuts to earn elite status in a given year, like by leveraging credit cards that offer Loyalty Points, there isn’t much you can do to shortcut your way to lifetime elite status. Even if there was, this isn’t the most rewarding way to invest your time and resources.
After all, a million miles is a lot of flying. TPG points and miles reporter Kyle Olsen has occasionally flown American for over 10 years, but he hasn’t even earned 50,000 lifetime flight miles. (At that rate, it will take him about 200 more years to reach one million lifetime flight miles.)
Even though lifetime status qualification is accelerated significantly for American Airlines’ frequent flyers, the resulting status won’t be anything special. For example, if you accrue 100,000 Million Miler miles with American each year, you’ll qualify for Million Miler status after 10 years. But even then, you’ll only get American’s lowest level of elite status — which is presumably significantly lower than the status you earn through flying.
Having some status is certainly better than nothing, but Gold status is hardly special enough to command a traveler’s loyalty. I’m much more likely to pick an airline based on price and convenience than the enticement of low-level elite status for life.
Related: The best travel credit cards
Even if an AAdvantage member was able to give Tom Stuker, the world’s most frequent flyer, a run for his money and log 20 million miles on American, the resulting lifetime elite status would top out at AAdvantage Platinum. The perks are noticeably better than Gold, but that’s still not a great return on what likely amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent with American Airlines.
Long story short, it’s nice that American offers a lifetime elite status plan. Still, I certainly wouldn’t recommend devoting your loyalty to the carrier-based solely (or in large part) on its Million Miler program.
Lifetime elite status is meant to be an exclusive reward for an airline or hotel’s most loyal and long-term customers. In the case of American Airlines, reaching one million (or more) Million Miler miles doesn’t actually get you a whole lot in return. After all, United Airlines allows you to earn its highest status (Premier 1K at three million miles and Global Services at four million miles) through its million miler program.
If you’ve decided to be loyal to American for reasons that truly matter — price, convenience, quality of fleet and service — and you end up flying a million miles, it will be nice to never have to worry about qualifying for elite status again. That said, you should treat a program like this as a nice surprise rather than going out of your way to plan for it.
Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
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