Why my American elite status just became much more valuable — and yours may have, too
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Even before the pandemic changed travel as we knew it, I had begun questioning the value of airline loyalty. There were two reasons.
Last year, I redeemed miles (and found deals) for first and business class flights like no other year before. Who needs loyalty if you’re already flying up front? Further, my attachment to American Airlines was wearing thin. American continued to eliminate routes from my home in New York and customer service and delay meltdowns hit a peak in 2019.
But I still valued American’s Oneworld partners, frequent upgrades and redeeming AAdvantage miles. So I persisted with my loyalty. And now, that looks to be paying off.
With a new partner in JetBlue and the earlier announced Alaska tie-up, American appears to be doubling down on a newfound 2020 strategy. That is, relying on other airlines for its domestic network and connecting that to its own international flights. As an American elite in New York, that plan will work in my favor.
Here are five reasons why these latest partnerships will reward my loyalty to American.
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Avoiding American’s weakest link: Domestic flying
With new partnerships, that means more opportunities to fly domestically from New York on, well, not American.
The airline offers a remarkably varied domestic experience. If there’s one thing you can expect, it’s that your in-flight experience will be consistently inconsistent.
On one hand, you can have a premium transcontinental first class flight to Los Angeles (LAX) with direct aisle access seating and a la carte lounge dining from coast to coast. Then, you can fly home and connect through Charlotte (CLT) and fly on an ancient legacy US Airways plane with no power outlets or seatback screens.
Service is another erratic category for American. While every airline has varying degrees of stellar – and not-so-stellar – service, I have found American’s to be the most unpredictable. From employees who are devoted to passengers to those who belittle them, it truly runs the gamut.
And while American has significantly improved on this front, domestic flight delays have been a serious issue in the past. If you recall, it was less than a year ago that American was calling passengers to apologize for summer travel delays.
Related reading: Is American Airlines Flagship First worth it?
Product on JetBlue, service on Alaska
As mentioned, American Airlines already has a stellar premium transcontinental product between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
And the only airline that might have it beat is now a strategic partner. JetBlue Mint is a highly regarded business class experience. As TPG’s Zach Griff noted, the battle for America’s best lie-flat seat just heated up. Thankfully, both products will be more easily accessible, courtesy of my loyalty to American.
JetBlue economy is no slouch either. You can expect seatback entertainment, free high-speed Wi-Fi and premium snacks. Best of all, JetBlue has more legroom in its economy cabin than any equivalent main cabin seat on American Airlines.
American’s partnership with Alaska unlocks the Seattle-based carrier’s reputation as having some of the best customer service for a U.S. airline. That is an exciting development, especially if you’re flying to the West Coast as an AA loyalist.
American – alongside its Alaska and JetBlue partners – will dominate the transcontinental market from both a service and product angle once both partnerships are fully implemented.
Related reading: Why Alaska frequent flyers have so much to look forward to
New ways to earn (valuable) American miles
JetBlue and American haven’t officially announced what reciprocal frequent flyer benefits will look like. However, at the very least, we can expect the ability to earn redeemable miles through each carrier. Hopefully, elite mileage earnings will also be implemented.
For Alaska, reciprocal mileage earning already began earlier this spring, even before Alaska’s official entry into the Oneworld alliance. That means I’ll be able to earn AAdvantage miles on all flights operated by Alaska Airlines, regardless of whether its marketed by American or Alaska.
I value my American AAdvantage miles for two reasons. First, I primarily use miles for premium cabins on partners such as Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways. Second, Web Special awards – American’s version of dynamic award pricing – has fit my needs so far.
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Just plane content ???? Made my way to Asia and back, all in first class. Flight 1: CX 831 JFK-HKG My last portion of the mistake fare of the century ($700 roundtrip) on an amazing @cathaypacific first class flight. Flight 2: JL 6 HND-JFK Burned 80,000 @americanair AAdvantage miles to fly @japanairlines_jal first class from Tokyo to New York, one of the best uses of American miles. I love this hobby.
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Expanded international flying
As part of the tie-up with JetBlue, American is set to expand its international footprint from New York. This is a drastic shift from a yearslong draw-down at JFK in favor of a neighboring international hub at Philadelphia (PHL).
New American routes to Tel Aviv and Athens are a solid step forward. However, the number of long-haul flights from JFK are still barely a drop in the bucket compared to United and Delta. With American continuing their dominance at PHL, I can’t envision a huge number of additional routes. My biggest wish list route out of JFK? A flight to Asia.
American has a solid widebody business class product. At the very least, every seat gives you direct aisle access. And with systemwide upgrades at the ready thanks to my Executive Platinum status, I am looking forward to using them on a new route out of JFK.
Related reading: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers
More routes out of New York
American’s reputation in New York City has deteriorated in large part due to reduced flying out of the tri-state area airports, particularly at JFK.
The explanation was that JFK would be a niche business traveler hub and focus primarily on premium routes. LaGuardia (LGA) still has a sizable domestic American presence but the airline is still a distant fourth in the city behind Delta, JetBlue and United.
Partnerships with Alaska and particularly JetBlue will open the door to an array of new domestic route options for American loyalists in New York and Boston. For instance, JetBlue will provide access to 130 new routes from both the Boston and New York City-area airports.
Related reading: JetBlue announces 30 new routes, adds Mint service from Newark
I’m fortunate enough to live in a city that’s a hub for four major airlines. With a smorgasbord of travel choices, I have still remained with American through thick and thin. And that now looks to be paying off.
However, that still doesn’t mean I’ll stay loyal for loyalty’s sake. When travel rebounds, I’ll assess my travel and airline needs. For now, I have American Airlines elite status valid through 2021. With these latest partnerships, that makes me one excited customer for at least another year.
Featured photo by Cassiohabib / Shutterstock.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
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.
- 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.