What is American Airlines elite status worth in 2022?
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Selecting an airline you remain loyal to is a critical yet difficult decision. Unless you’re a hub captive and “forced” onto a specific carrier, many travelers can pick an airline based on the perks it offers elite members, including bonus miles, lounge access and priority airport benefits.
In 2022, American massively overhauled how you earn status by introducing Loyalty Points. In this guide, we’ll crunch the numbers to see if pursuing elite status makes the most sense for you, especially with these new criteria. I’ll consider each tier’s various benefits to help you answer the following question: Is it worth pursuing status with the American Airlines AAdvantage program?
Let’s dive in.
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Before we get to the AAdvantage program’s elite status tiers, a couple of disclaimers.
First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level.
Everyone has their own way of valuing the various benefits of loyalty programs. Some may always pay for first and business class and thus have no need for complimentary upgrades. Others may travel exclusively in the U.S. and don’t care about free lounge access on international itineraries. Feel free to adjust the numbers I use to make them more relevant to your travel habits.
Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch, these values are a bit skewed since the first 30,000 Loyalty Points you earn will provide no benefits. I’ve provided some analysis for those of you in that position toward the end of the post.
This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. For the sake of the airline portion of the series, I assume you will earn 20% more Loyalty Points than the minimum required for the given status level.
There are many ways to earn Loyalty Points beyond flying, but as the author, it’s difficult to estimate the cost of earning Loyalty Points. After all, there is an opportunity cost involved with spending on an American cobranded credit card, but only if you have another rewards-earning credit card in your wallet.
Likewise, if you’re buying things through the shopping portal or with a cobranded credit card, you likely have a lower cost per Loyalty Point if you’re purchasing things you already need to buy. With that in mind, I’ll assume you earn 25% of your Loyalty Points through non-flying activity and the remaining 75% by flying.
It’s also important to remember that current elite members earn status faster than non-elite members, given they earn more miles and Loyalty Points per dollar spent on flights. General members without elite status earn 5 miles (and thus Loyalty Points) per dollar on flights, while top-tier Executive Platinum elite members earn 11 miles per dollar.
In this article, we show benefits and qualification metrics based on requalification. If you’re earning American elite status for the first time, you’ll get less value for your first year. Don’t worry — we’ll show you how to calculate this at the end of the article.
For this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus miles earned based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler.
All that being said, let’s look at the four AAdvantage elite status tiers:
American elite status tiers
Here’s a quick overview of American’s AAdvantage status tiers:
|AAdvantage Gold||AAdvantage Platinum||AAdvantage Platinum Pro||AAdvantage Executive Platinum|
|Qualifications||30,000 Loyalty Points.||75,000 Loyalty Points.||125,000 Loyalty Points.||200,000 Loyalty Points.|
|Elite mileage bonus||40%.||60%.||80%.||120%.|
|Priority check-in, security and boarding||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Free checked bags||One bag.||Two bags.||Three bags.||Three bags.|
|Main Cabin Extra seating||At check-in.||✓||✓||✓|
|Complimentary same-day flight changes||✓||✓|
|Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades on select routes||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Confirmed first-class upgrades as early as||24 hours before departure.||48 hours before departure.||72 hours before departure.||100 hours before departure.
Highest waitlist priority.
|Complimentary upgrades on award flights on select routes||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Loyalty Choice Rewards (minimum of 30 flight segments)||One.||Two-plus.|
|Complimentary alcoholic beverage and snack in the main cabin||✓|
|Preferred seating on Alaska Airlines||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Premium-class seating on Alaska Airlines||Y, B or H fares after ticket purchase; all other fares at 24 hours before departure.||Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N fares after ticket purchase; all other fares at 72 hours before departure.||All fares except Saver fares after ticket purchase.||All fares except Saver fares after ticket purchase.|
|Upgrades to first class on Alaska||✓||✓|
|Even More Space seats on JetBlue at check-in||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Complimentary same-day switch on JetBlue||✓||✓|
How much is each American elite status tier worth? Here’s our analysis:
AAdvantage Gold: $560
The lowest tier in American’s program is AAdvantage Gold status, requiring 30,000 Loyalty Points. I’ll assume you earned 36,000 Loyalty Points total, with 27,000 of them being earned by flying. This equals roughly $3,860 in spending on American flights if you start with Gold status out of the gate.
|Cabin upgrades||As an AAdvantage Gold member, you’ll enjoy unlimited complimentary upgrades on most short- to medium-haul flights within North America. You’ll be prioritized below all other AA elite members, but it’s certainly better than nothing!||$150.|
|40% mileage bonus||Gold members will earn 7 miles for every dollar spent on flights, 2 miles more than a non-status flyer. Based on the assumed spending above, that would give you an additional 7,720 miles, worth $135.||$135.|
|Priority check-in, security and boarding||Gold members can also utilize priority services at the airport, with elite lines for check-in and security plus early boarding. These can be helpful if you’re running late but certainly aren’t the most valuable benefit out there.||$50.|
|Checked bag fee waiver||As a Gold member, you’re allowed to check one bag for free on all American flights, a privilege that costs regular travelers $30 per flight. The savings can really add up if you frequently need to check bags, but since this perk is also available on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® ($99 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months), I’m going to cap it there.||$50.|
|Complimentary same-day standby||Gold members can stand by for a later flight free of charge. That said, all travelers can stand by for an earlier flight, regardless of elite status. I will assume limited use and give this a value of $25.||$25.|
|Priority phone line||Getting priority access to phone agents can be helpful during storms or other major problems, but it’s not the best perk out there.||$25.|
|Complimentary access to preferred seats/Main Cabin Extra||As a Gold member, you can access preferred seats at the time of booking, and you can also grab Main Cabin Extra seats for free within 24 hours of departure. These perks also extend to up to eight passengers traveling on the same reservation as you. Domestic MCE seats even come with free drinks as of June 2018. It’s hard to pin an exact value on this since each flight charges different fees for these seats, so I’ll stick with a conservative $100 valuation.||$100.|
|Partner benefits||American belongs to the Oneworld alliance, and Gold members will enjoy Oneworld Ruby status, though this only provides priority check-in and standby. Additionally, you’re also eligible for benefits on JetBlue, like a free checked bag and Even More Space seat at check-in.
When you fly with Alaska AIrlines, you’re eligible for two free checked bags, Premium Class seating 24-hours before departure and other limited benefits.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
AAdvantage Platinum: $1,720
The second tier in American’s program is AAdvantage Platinum status, which requires 75,000 Loyalty Points. I’ll assume you earned 90,000 Loyalty Points in total, with 67,500 earned from flying. This assumes you spent roughly $8,440 to requalify for status.
|Cabin upgrades||Like Gold members, Platinum travelers will enjoy complimentary waitlisted upgrades on most short- and medium-haul North American flights.||$375.|
|60% mileage bonus||As a Platinum member, you’ll earn an extra 3 miles per dollar spent when compared to non-status flyers. With $8,440 of spending, that equates to 25,320 extra miles, worth about $450.||$450.|
|Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery||The first three perks here are the same as those offered for Gold members, but you get priority baggage delivery.||$125.|
|Checked bag fee waiver||Platinum members can check two bags for free on domestic flights, though they’re limited to 50 pounds apiece.||$125.|
|Complimentary same-day standby||Same benefit as Gold members, slightly more utilization.||$35.|
|Priority phone line||Same benefit, twice the utilization, though Platinum phone agents will be slightly more knowledgeable.||$60.|
|Complimentary preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats||Platinum members can select both preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking. Depending on the flight length, this can save quite a bit of money.||$350.|
|Partner benefits||Platinum travelers will be granted Sapphire benefits when traveling on Oneworld airlines, including the same priority check-in and standby offered to Gold members plus priority boarding and lounge access when traveling internationally. This also extends to American’s Flagship lounges when departing on or connecting to a same-day, qualifying international flight in any class, a great perk when you’re connecting through O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami or New York’s JFK airports.
JetBlue perks are also enhanced, with two free checked bags and priority bag delivery.
AAdvantage Platinum Pro: $3,845
The third tier in the AAdvantage program is Platinum Pro, which requires 125,000 Loyalty Points each year. For this valuation, I assume 150,000 Loyalty Points earned, with 112,500 earned from flying alone. This works out to $12,500 worth of flights.
|Cabin upgrades||Same benefit, more frequent utilization.||$800.|
|80% mileage bonus||Platinum Pro members will earn an extra 4 miles per dollar spent over non-status travelers. With $12,500 of spending, that equates to 50,000 extra miles, worth $885.||$885.|
|Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery||Same perks, more frequent utilization.||$200.|
|Checked bag fee waiver||Same perk as Platinum members but with slightly more frequent utilization.||$200.|
|Complimentary same-day standby and flight change||Platinum Pro flyers will enjoy the same standby perks as lower-level elite members. However, they also can make complimentary same-day flight changes. I’ll assume that you utilize one of these benefits three times during the year, though if you regularly need to adjust your plans on the day of your flight, you could get significantly more value from these two perks.||$200.|
|Priority phone line||Same benefit, more frequent utilization and more knowledgeable agents.||$100.|
|Complimentary preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats||Same benefit, more frequent utilization.||$560.|
|One Choice Reward||Platinum Pro members can choose from one of seven rewards upon qualification. These range from a single systemwide upgrade to bonus AAdvantage miles.
Here’s a look at what Platinum Pro members can choose from:
The systemwide upgrade is generally seen as the most valuable benefit on this list. You can use this to upgrade from coach (excluding basic economy) to business class or from business class to Flagship First on any American-operated flight of up to three segments. These can also be transferred to family members or friends, even when they’re not traveling with you.
Note that you do need to find upgrade inventory for your desired flights (C for domestic first class or international business class and A for international first class), and I’d strongly recommend using ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to set alerts if there aren’t seats at the time of booking.
This can be worth thousands of dollars on a high-end international flight — especially on flights from the U.S. to Asia. That said, I’ll value it conservatively at $500.
|Partner benefits||Platinum Pro elite members have Oneworld Emerald status when traveling on any Oneworld carrier. This includes first-class lounge access and check-in on international flights, and all of the benefits of Oneworld Sapphire included with Platinum status.
Additionally, you’re eligible for the same JetBlue benefits as Platinum members, but you gain the ability to make same-day flight changes.
You’re eligible for space-available upgrades to first-class, Premium Class seats after ticketing and three free checked bags when flying Alaska Airlines.
AAdvantage Executive Platinum: $7,975
The AAdvantage program’s final tier is Executive Platinum status, which requires 200,000 Loyalty Points. However, I’ll assume you earned 240,000 Loyalty Points, with 180,000 earned by flying. This means you would have spent $16,365 on flights to requalify.
|Cabin upgrades||Like with the previous tiers, Executive Platinum travelers will enjoy unlimited, complimentary upgrades on all short- and medium-haul flights (including award tickets). However, Executive Platinum members will be given higher priority on the upgrade list.||$1,500.|
|120% mileage bonus||Executive Platinum members will earn an extra 6 miles per dollar spent over non-status travelers. With $16,365 of spending, that equates to 98,190 extra miles, worth about $1,740.||$1,740.|
|Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery||Same perks, more frequent utilization.||$325.|
|Checked bag fee waiver||As an Executive Platinum member, you can check up to three bags for free on all American flights — though the weight is capped at 70 pounds. While most travelers probably aren’t checking three bags on every flight, it’s still nice to have that option.||$325.|
|Complimentary same-day standby and flight change||Same benefit as Gold, Platinum and Platinum Pro.
Like Platinum Pro flyers, Executive Platinum members can switch to a different flight on the same day without incurring the $75 fee. I’ll assume that you’d utilize this four times.
|Priority phone line||Executive Platinum members get a dedicated phone line, and this often results in more personalized support. We’ve even heard from some travelers that this is their most valued benefit, so I’ll boost the value from Platinum Pro.||$150.|
|Complimentary preferred/Main Cabin Extra seats||Same benefit, more frequent utilization.||$910.|
|Two Choice Rewards, including systemwide upgrades||Like Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum members can pick rewards after qualifying for status. Executive Platinum members can pick two rewards from this list:
This benefit is a replacement for the four systemwide upgrades Executive Platinum members previously received. I’d recommend using your two rewards for these upgrades as they’re likely to yield the most value. That said, you may want to mix and match if you don’t foresee yourself traveling long-haul in the near future. You may want to select the bonus miles in this case as they don’t expire so long as you have activity in your account once every 24 months.
Note that you can earn more rewards after earning 350,000, 550,000 and 750,000 Loyalty Points in the same membership year. At each Loyalty Points threshold, you can select two of these benefits. Here’s a look:
Since it’s unlikely that Executive Platinum members will earn more than 350,000 Loyalty Points, I’ll assume you pick two systemside upgrades for both benefits, with a value of $500 per upgrade.
|Complimentary drink and snack in the main cabin||As an Executive Platinum, you’d hopefully be riding in first class for most of your trips, but if not, you can pick a drink and snack for free.||$50.|
|Partner benefits||Same benefits, more frequent utilization.||$650.|
What if I’m starting from scratch?
As I mentioned at the outset, these numbers are based on the benefits you’d enjoy by spending a full year with the given status. However, if you’re starting from scratch, the calculations become a bit more complicated since you won’t start to enjoy any benefits until you hit the 30,000 Loyalty Points mark and earn Gold status.
As discussed, Loyalty Points are harder to earn if you don’t currently hold status with American. For example, an Executive Platinum member earns 11 miles and Loyalty Points per dollar spent with American, which is 120% of the 5 miles per dollar that a general AAdvantage member earns.
Let’s say that you’re on a $1,500 flight to Europe. Assuming that the base fare is $1,500, here’s what each member would earn:
- General AAdvantage member: 7,500 miles and 7,500 Loyalty Points (5 miles per dollar).
- Gold AAdvantage member: 10,500 miles and 10,500 Loyalty Points (7 miles per dollar).
- Platinum AAdvantage member: 12,000 miles and 12,000 Loyalty Points (8 miles per dollar).
- Platinum Pro AAdvantage member: 13,500 miles and 13,500 Loyalty Points (9 miles per dollar).
- Executive Platinum AAdvantage member: 16,500 miles and 16,500 Loyalty Points (11 miles per dollar).
In this case, an AAdvantage member without elite status earns 25% of the 30,000 Loyalty Points needed for AAdvantage Gold, while the Executive Platinum member earns 55% of the 30,000 Loyalty Points needed for AAdvantage Gold.
Clearly, without currently holding status, you’re at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to earning Loyalty Points. Luckily, when you make it to AAdvantage Gold, you immediately start earning 40% more miles and Loyalty Points, but that’s still a far cry from 11 miles per dollar at the Executive Platinum level.
Is it worth it?
Given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status with American Airlines? Like any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this. It depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few overarching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? If you qualify for status in 2022, your status will last until March 31, 2024. It’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Executive Platinum, for example, the valuable perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
- What’s the incremental value of one tier over another? Many of you may wind up within striking distance of the next tier, so be sure to consider whether the benefits are worth pushing for it. There’s no sense in going out of your way for perks that don’t matter to you.
- How well does American’s route map match your typical travel patterns? Pursuing elite status with an airline that you don’t fly regularly is a fool’s errand. Be sure to consider American’s service from your home airport(s) and how easy it is to get to your desired destination.
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many trade-offs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you book a one-stop American flight if United had a cheaper nonstop option? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn AAdvantage elite status (or any elite status, for that matter).
- Could you enjoy elite-like perks with a credit card? The final consideration involves travel rewards credit cards. Many airline cobranded cards offer perks to cardholders that can mirror what you’d enjoy as an elite member. For American travelers, the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard includes the first checked bag free on domestic itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation, preferred boarding and a 25% inflight discount on food and beverages purchased on domestic flights. Likewise, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® provides an Admirals Club membership (with lounge access for your authorized users) in addition to the first checked bag free on domestic itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation, priority boarding and the 25% inflight food and drink discount. It may be better to pay a flat annual fee for one of these cards and gain access to perks that matter to you without going out of your way to earn elite status.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as many different factors come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation as you determine if AAdvantage elite status is for you.
Elite status can make your travel experience less stressful and more rewarding, but pursuing status with a given airline or hotel chain may not make sense if it doesn’t align with your typical travel plans. Understanding how much the benefits are worth can go a long way toward making this decision, so I hope my analysis of the AAdvantage elite program has been helpful.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about American Airlines elite status, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest information.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen, Chris Dong and Andrew Kunesh.
Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images.
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