Shortcut elite status, lounge access and more with 50% off AA AirPass entry

Nov 9, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest promotion.

The unprecedented drop in travel demand has triggered some incredible flight deals for those willing to commit to future flights. Among them is this one: up to half-off membership in American Airlines’ AirPass program. This is similar to the promotion the airline offered in the spring.

American Airlines introduced AirPass (formerly known as AAirPass) in 1981 to boost cash flow in a financially difficult period. The program became famous for offering passes for unlimited first-class travel for life, but that perk was discontinued when it cost the airline millions in revenue.

Today, the updated program allows travelers to pre-pay for unrestricted travel at a discount and enjoy benefits like a complimentary Admirals Club membership, automatic AAdvantage elite status, instant upgrades and more. It’s ideal for business travelers who frequently book full-fare flights at the last minute and for those who want a shortcut to VIP benefits.

It recently also added several new perks, including the ability to book AirPass flights on select partners and a complimentary annual Wi-Fi subscription beginning in 2021.

Typically, membership requires an annual commitment of $10,000 to $30,000, but for a limited time, as the airline faces another cash crunch, you can join for even less.

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Unlock instant elite status, lounge access and more with an AirPass membership. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Promotion details

Through December 31, 2020, American Airlines allows fliers to join AirPass for as little as $5,000 per person, down from the usual $10,000. Those funds become your available balance to book travel during a one-year membership term. While still a significant investment, the price may be easier to justify for those on the fence about joining. And it still comes with the full range of benefits, including instant elite status.

An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed to TPG that this is the lowest AirPass entry point ever. “This promotion brings customers more access to the flexibility and guaranteed rates of the program, helping them look forward to future travel when the time is right for them,” the spokesperson said.

Related: The best airline credit cards

To join, fill out this form on American Airlines’ web site or call 1-800-433-6355.

American Airlines is not the only company to incentivize travelers who are ready to invest in future travel. Many hotels are running similar offers in the form of discounted gift cards. You can think of it as giving these companies a short-term loan, and in return, you’ll save money on your future travels.

Related: Save money on your next trip and help the hotel industry at the same time

AirPass benefits

Members get to book unrestricted flights at fixed, discounted rates. This means you can book the last seat available on a flight without paying a last-minute price, and you won’t pay any fees if you need to change or cancel your plans.

In addition to American Airlines flights, you can now book AirPass flights on Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines. You can now also use AirPass funds to purchase Five Star Service.

The program offers instant Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum and even coveted Concierge Key status, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. The discounted $5,000 membership level includes Gold status, while invite-only Concierge Key status requires upwards of $50,000 in spend.

In addition to the benefits that come with the elite status, all members get a complimentary Admirals Club membership, a minimum of two free checked bags, confirmed upgrades at the time of booking (when available) at no extra cost, complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating at time of booking and complimentary premium snacks and drinks in coach. Plus, starting in 2021, members will get a complimentary annual wi-fi subscription.

Related: Complete guide to American AAdvantage elite status

Score extra legroom with complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating at the time of booking. (Photo by TPG Staff)

The elite status benefit follows the typical status calendar, and you’ll keep your elite status until the year of the AirPass contract expiration. You’ll also maintain all the other benefits for the life of your contract, even if you’ve spent all the funds in your account.

Members can also use their AirPass balance to book flights for colleagues or companions traveling with them and share benefits. Beginning November 15, members will be able to book AirPass travel directly with American through aa.com.

Related: Use this trick to earn American Airlines elite status through hotel stays

Is it worth it?

The main selling point of AirPass is the ability to book flexible travel at discounted rates. The program’s website has a tool that lets you estimate AirPass fares, but just to give you an example, a one-way first-class flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to Chicago (ORD) booked through AirPass costs about $500 and a Flagship First Class flight from New York-JFK to London Heathrow (LHR) costs about $3,800.

These fares are significantly lower than comparable unrestricted and fully refundable published fares. Savings vary by route and class of service, and there may be cases where publicly available “flexible” fares cost less, but it is certainly possible to get value from your membership from just one flight.

(Photo by American Airlines)

All AirPass travel is considered full-fare, so you’ll earn 3x Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) when booking business or first class, 1.5x EQMs for premium economy and 1x EQMs for economy. As is the case with other tickets, award miles are based on spend and status level.

TPG values AAdvantage Gold status at $930, assuming you fly enough to earn it organically. However, once you factor in all of the additional benefits like complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking (instead of within 24 hours of departure), two free checked bags (instead of one) and instant upgrades, your status will be more similar to Platinum status, which is worth around $2,200.

An Admirals Club membership for regular AAdvantage flyers usually costs $650, so you should be able to recoup roughly half of your membership commitment before factoring in the discounted airfare. Additionally, the complimentary wi-fi subscription works out to about another $600 in savings per year.

An AirPass membership could land you an upgrade to first class. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you don’t think you’ll get much value from the discounted airfare, there are ways you can unlock elite-style benefits and Admirals Club membership for a lot less with a co-branded AA credit card. For instance, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® has an annual fee of $450 and provides an Admirals Club membership, priority check-in and boarding privileges, your first checked bag free, the opportunity to earn bonus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and more. American Airlines also sometimes lets members buy-up to elite status for around $650 to $2,000, though that’s typically a poor value proposition.

For more on American Airlines and the coronavirus outbreak, see:

Featured photo courtesy of Andres Morales (Ajetsetter) for The Points Guy.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Based on TPG’s most recent valuations, the 50,000 miles are worth $700. In addition, you can earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) toward elite status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year. As of July 23, 2017 this is the only card that offers Admirals Club lounge access so if you are an AA flyer this card might make sense for you.  Aside from lounge access the primary cardholder will receive a Global Entry application fee credit every 5 years, first checked bag free for up to 8 travel companions on domestic itineraries and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases on American Airlines flights.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Regular APR
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
Recommended Credit
Excellent

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