American Airlines ditches physical elite status cards, luggage tags

Sep 25, 2020

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There are many perks of airline elite status.

Some of the most lucrative ones include space-available complimentary upgrades, free checked bags, lounge access when traveling internationally and more. Top-tier elites even get upgrade certificates that can be applied to bump up to long-haul business class.

When achieving elite status, many flyers are naturally excited about their accomplishment. And what better way to celebrate than by adding a bag tag prominently displaying your status to your carry-on?

Well, from now on, you won’t be receiving a bag tag or physical membership card when achieving elite status with American Airlines.

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Instead, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the airline (and first reported by Gary Leff), AAdvantage elites who qualify for status will now receive a digital membership welcome kit. This online pamphlet will outline the benefits of your status, provide you with the elite-only reservations phone number and congratulate you on your achievement.

American will continue sending physical mailers for its top-tier, invite-only status, ConciergeKey, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.

Some elites will surely be upset that they can’t wear their status on their bags. But with reduced demand for travel, there’s less flying going on nowadays.

Photo from The Points Guy archives

The pandemic is likely also the reason why AA decided to forgo sending out these mailers. As the airline looks to cut costs and reduce cash burn, sending physical mailers is a substantial line item.

Related: The complete guide to American AAdvantage elite status 

Aside from the missing bag tags, American’s move doesn’t have too many other implications. You don’t need a physical AAdvantage membership card to earn miles or access AA lounges. However, gaining entry to some international partner lounges might have been easier with your physical card. Either way, pulling up your status on the latest version of the AA app should be enough to get you entry. 

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The other part of the travel journey that might be disrupted is the check-in experience. The airport kiosks can use the physical membership card to look up your reservation. Without the cards, you’ll need to either enter your AAdvantage number or reservation record locator to pull up your flight. But now that the future is touchless, most elites will likely end up checking in with their phones, bypassing the kiosks all together.

If you’re a newly-minted AA elite or recently requalified (at the reduced thresholds), don’t wait by the mailbox. Your membership kit is waiting for you online. 

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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