These lucky travelers are about to earn American Airlines elite status without leaving home

Jul 9, 2020

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One of the best ways to fast track to elite status is by participating in a challenge.

Once you’ve enrolled in a status challenge, you’ll typically be given status for a few months. During this time you’re required to fly a prorated number of flights (and spend a fraction of the normal amount) to secure status throughout the rest of the year.

Travelers who were in the midst of participating in a status challenge when coronavirus halted travel faced an issue: They couldn’t complete their challenges due to the myriad of stay-at-home and quarantine orders.

Each U.S. airline approached this situation differently. Today, we’re the first to exclusively report that American Airlines will become the most generous of the big three U.S. carriers in how they’re handling status challenges.

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For those who got close to earning status

If you were enrolled in an active challenge on March 31, with an end date of April 1 or later, there’s a good chance that your AAdvantage account was updated with elite status through Jan. 31, 2022.

If you completed at least 80% of the elite qualifying dollar (EQD) requirement of your eligible challenge, your account will be automatically updated with the full status that you were working toward. That’s great news for those who were close to completing a challenge but couldn’t cross the finish line.

This is by far more generous than both Delta and United. Both airlines are requiring that customers restart their challenges when they’re ready to travel again, assuming they weren’t fully completed.

Of the major U.S. carriers, Alaska Airlines was the most generous since it granted full elite status through Dec. 31, 2021 for anyone enrolled in a challenge, regardless of how much flying they’d done.

Only time will tell if any of the other carriers decide to match American’s move.

An American Boeing 737 in Miami (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

A fresh start for everyone else

American is also welcoming back members who didn’t meet 80% of the EQD requirement. These members will be given a new challenge opportunity. Sadly, none of the original progress will roll over, so you’ll need to start from scratch. The updated challenge opportunities will be communicated “soon.”

An American Airlines spokesperson confirms that many of the challenges will have lower thresholds than the ones before the pandemic. Additionally, a majority of the offers will be reverse challenges, so members can enjoy the benefits of temporary status while working toward their goals.

Either way, it certainly stings if you were really close to the 80% threshold and just missed it by a few dollars.

Related: Complete guide to coronavirus and airline elite status 

Details of the new status challenge offer

Each affected customer will have a new, unique challenge offer, which will be communicated directly from the AAdvantage team. Depending on when the new offers are released, travel will have hopefully resumed across the board, making it easier to earn towards the goals.

American Flagship First (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

This is the latest move in a string of updates to the AAdvantage program. It all started when the carrier extended all currently valid elite status through Jan. 31, 2022. As part of the news, AA also introduced an offer for booking a Vacations package, as well as a promotion to earn lifetime Million Miler status through credit card spend. Additionally, the carrier debuted an automatic mileage reinstatement feature, which makes it easy to cancel awards online and get your miles back instantly.

Though these are primarily customer-friendly adjustments, American made some negative changes too. It removed its beloved legacy award search tool. The Fort Worth, TX-based carrier also updated its award fee structure, which removed some of the flexibility of Saver and AAnytime awards.

Nonetheless, for those who were in the midst of completing a status challenge, this new policy will likely bring good news, depending on how much money you spent with the carrier through Mar. 31. If you were at 80% or more of the way through your EQD requirement, you’ll be elite through next year. If not, you’ll have reduced thresholds to hit in a new challenge.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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