American Airlines joins Delta and United in extending elite status and more

Apr 13, 2020

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It may have taken a bit longer, but American Airlines is the last of the big 3 U.S. airlinaes to extend elite status in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

This move doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Delta led the industry with its sweeping status extensions, and United quickly followed suit later the same afternoon. Alaska Airlines — which just reinstated a partnership with American — then announced its own extension on Tuesday, April 7.

So, what are the details of AA’s elite-status extension?

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American Airlines AAdvantage elite status extension

Well, the airline is granting another year of status to all its current elites. That means your current status will be valid through Jan. 31, 2022.

RELATED: Complete guide to American AAdvantage elite status

One big question in this announcement was how it applied to those who earned status outside of the standard qualification metrics — like World of Hyatt elite travelers that were gifted status in 2019 or those who completed a status challenge. Fortunately, these are all included, per an American spokesperson:

“Customers who received elite status valid through Jan 31, 2021 by meeting our standard qualification levels, through a challenge, granted as an exception or gifted as part of a promotion will be extended through Jan 31, 2022.”

It’s worth noting that this extension only applies to those with current status valid through Jan. 31, 2021. If you had a limited-time offer for elite status with a different expiration date, it appears that you won’t be eligible.

AA is also extending its secretive, invite-only ConciergeKey status until Jan. 31, 2022. Delta and United, on the other hand, have already stated that they’re not making any adjustments to their super top-tier statutes — yet.

Finally, American has confirmed to TPG that these status extensions will not include additional Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) for existing Executive Platinum members — though as you’re about to see, you do have a shortcut to snag more of these in 2020.

Earning AAdvantage status in 2020

In order to incentivize flying with American when it’s once again safe to do so, the airline is lowering elite-status qualifying thresholds for 2020. 

Here’s the full chart with elite qualifications for the rest of the year:

Metric Gold Platinum Platinum Pro Executive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) 15,000 30,000 45,000 60,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) 15 30 45 60
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) $1,500 $4,000 $6,000 $9,000

Interestingly, all three major U.S. airlines are using different strategies to encourage frequent fliers to get back in the air.  Delta’s rolling over all elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) earned this year to 2021, which doesn’t necessarily help you earn status in 2020 — but makes it significantly easier in 2021. United, on the other hand, is lowering all elite-qualifying thresholds, but by 50% across the board. 

American, while similar to United, isn’t cutting all thresholds by 50%. Instead, it’s using a tiered approach. All EQS requirements are cut in half, EQM requirements are lowered by 40% and EQD requirements are cut at varying levels, from 33% to 50%. This means that AA is making it much easier to earn some status levels compared to others. And this puts Gold status in reach for those with just two or three international trips this year. 

RELATED: All about American Airlines elite-qualifying miles

AA is also making it easier to earn Executive Platinum rewards. These are additional benefits that you’d typically earn for surpassing higher thresholds above and beyond Executive Platinum status. These were previously granted at 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs, but with the lower EQM threshold noted above (60,000), it makes sense that these would be lowered as well.

For the remainder of 2020, they’ll be slashed by 40%. Specifically, you can choose one of the follow rewards after hitting the reduced thresholds.

90,000 EQMs 120,000 EQMs 150,000 EQMs
2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) 2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) 2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs)
40,000 bonus miles 40,000 bonus miles 40,000 bonus miles
Gift of AAdvantage Gold status Gift of AAdvantage Platinum status Gift of AAdvantage Platinum status

Earning AAdvantage status in 2021

Delta and United are both making it much easier to earn status in 2021. As I mentioned, Delta’s doing that by rolling over all MQMs. United hasn’t announced details but promised to make adjustments for next year.

American, though, hasn’t made any announcement about earning status in 2021. With competitive pressure from the other major U.S. carriers, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a similar announcement later this year.

Extending systemwide upgrades

Like Delta and United, AA is extending the validity of existing Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) that expire on Jan. 31, 2021. Each year AA’s top-tier Executive Platinum (and Concierge Key) elites get four of these certificates. You can also earn SWUs as a Million Miler or as an Executive Platinum reward.

SWUs earned in the 2019 elite year will now expire on July 31, 2021, as opposed to their original expiration date of Jan. 31, 2021.

RELATED: How to use American systemwide upgrades

AA’s other upgrade instrument, 500-mile upgrades, never expire, so there’s no need for those to be extended. Just note that you need to be an elite member in order to use those upgrades.

American Airlines Vacations credit

This is quite a unique perk among the major loyalty programs – elite members will receive up to a $400 credit to use toward an American Airlines Vacations package. Gold members will receive $300, Platinum and Platinum Pro will receive $350 and Executive Platinum will receive $400.

“This promotion underscores that we want our travelers to come back when they’re ready.” said Bridget Blaise-Shamai, Vice President of Customer Loyalty & Insights and President of the AAdvantage program, in a phone interview with TPG.

This promotion is valid for new Vacations bookings made after July 1, 2020 for travel by Dec. 20, 2021. The package must include round-trip airfare and hotel and meet a minimum spend requirement of $2,500.

Although this may not be for everyone, AA is now the second U.S. airline to offer unique perks with their vacations package. Earlier this year, JetBlue announced that all of its vacation packages will now include free changes (as long as they’re made more than a week before departure).

Making it easier to earn lifetime status

If you’re a very loyal American Airlines flier, this could be great news for you. AA is making it a lot easier to earn lifetime elite status by granting 1 mile toward Million Miler status for every $1 spent on eligible, cobranded credit cards between May and the end of the year. This promotion applies to all Citi / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside of the U.S.

This could represent a good opportunity to add a new card to your wallet, as a few of American’s cobranded cards are currently offering lucrative sign-up bonuses:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness 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.

While the bonus miles won’t count toward lifetime status, any spending on the above cards will.

RELATED: Your guide to American Airlines lifetime elite status

Back in 2011, all redeemable miles earned from any source — including credit card spend and sign-up bonuses — counted as Million Miler miles. Then, in December of that year, AA introduced a refreshed Million Miler program that only awarded Million Miler miles for base miles.

RELATED: Best American Airlines credit cards of 2020

As such, this limited-time promotion could help some long-time AA fliers cross the Million Miler threshold.

Extending Admirals Club memberships and other benefits

All Admirals Club memberships as well as one-day passes are being extended by six months. This applies to all active memberships purchased before May 31. Note that this doesn’t include memberships that come with the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

RELATED: American Airlines Admirals Club membership guide

For day passes, the extension applies to any unused passes expiring between March 1 and May 31. Unfortunately, AA doesn’t have any changes to announce about the expiration of cobranded card companion certificates.

Waived award reinstatement fees

Like it’s doing with paid tickets, AA will now waiving all award redeposit and change fees for travel booked by May 31 for travel through Sep. 30.

RELATED: Can I cancel or change my award ticket due to coronavirus travel waivers?

If you book award travel after June 1, you can make free changes and redeposits at least 60 days in advance. If you’re trying to change plans within 60 days of departure, there will be a new change and cancellation fee chart, as below:

Elite status tier 60 days or more Between 7 and 59 days Less than 7 days
Executive Platinum $0 $0 $0
Platinum Pro $0 $50 $75
Platinum $0 $75 $100
Gold $0 $100 $125
Regular member $0 $125 $150

The previous award change and redeposit fee was $150, regardless of status (except for Executive Platinum members who could always make free changes and cancellations). As such, this is certainly a welcome improvement, especially if you’re an advance planner.

AA status challenge changes

Delta and United have both announced extensions to members currently enrolled in a status challenge. AA promises to do something similar soon. According to a spokesperson, “We’re working through details for members who are currently participating in an elite challenge. We will have more information to share soon.”

Bottom line

Though it might’ve taken AA a bit longer than Delta and United, it’s great to see them extending status for all elites. Interestingly, the details are a bit different from the other U.S. legacy carriers. Unlike Delta and United, AA isn’t making it any easier to earn status in 2021 at this time (though it is for 2020). It’s also giving all elites a credit for a future vacations package, as well as making it easier to earn Million Miler status on the airline.

All in all, if you’re looking for some good news in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that the Big 3 all extended elite status across the board.

CURRENT OFFERS: Earn bonus miles and spend your way to lifetime status with these American Airlines credit cards.

All photos by the author. 

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