From zero to Executive Platinum: Why and how I qualified for American's top-tier status without plans to fly the airline
Last May, I boarded my first American Airlines flight in nearly a decade. Now I'm a top-tier Executive Platinum member with American, even though I don't have any firm plans to fly the airline.
What about American Airlines led me to shift so much of my business? Here's why and how I qualified for Executive Platinum status with American Airlines.
United Premier 1K isn't what it used to be
For the last decade, I've lived in San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and London, so United Airlines has been my airline of choice. I first qualified for Premier 1K status about eight years ago, and while 1K status still offers many benefits, it's no longer the status crown jewel it used to be.
In 2016 and 2017, I received Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs) on most of my eligible United flights. However, last year one of my few CPUs on 35-plus eligible flights was for a no-frills weekday trip from Puerto Vallarta (PVR) to Denver (DEN).
And it's not looking like United CPUs are coming back. On a recent Boeing 777-200ER flight from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Dulles International Airport (IAD), I was 52nd on an upgrade waitlist. First class, which had 50 seats, was fully booked.
My days of paying for economy class and flying first class on United Airlines seemed to be behind me.
The United woes extend beyond upgrades — United no longer has a partner award chart, and during the early days of the pandemic, it increased award rates on partners without notice. We hoped that was temporary. However, this unwelcome change hasn't gone away.
So, is the grass greener at American? Well, my newly-minted American Airlines elite status started with my quest to earn American miles.
Related: How to earn miles in the American Airlines AAdvantage program
More valuable redeemable miles
Even though American Airlines recently retired its Web Specials and MileSAAver awards, many of its partner sweet spots remain intact for now.
Some of our favorite AAdvantage business-class redemptions include flights from the United States to the Middle East and South Asia for 70,000 miles in Qatar Airways Qsuite, and from the U.S. to Europe for 57,500 miles in Finnair's new business-class seat. You can also use 80,000 miles to fly from the U.S. to Japan in first class on Japan Airlines.
For comparison, United Airlines MileagePlus now charges over 121,000 miles for one-way ANA first-class flights on the same route.
I recently used 42,500 AAdvantage miles to travel from Europe to the Middle East in Etihad Airways business class, which requires calling American to book.
For one-way business-class flights from Europe to the Middle East, United charges at least 50,000 miles. Unlike with American AAdvantage, United's MileagePlus members can't use their miles for creme-de-la-creme seats like Qatar Qsuite and Etihad business class.
I also booked a flight for later this year from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines in business class for 70,000 miles, which was funded by my Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard sign-up bonus.
The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
But there was another benefit to my push for valuable miles.
Related: How to redeem miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage program
Having initially focused on earning redeemable American miles, I began to earn status-qualifying Loyalty Points, since you generally earn 1 Loyalty Point for every AAdvantage mile
Here's a look at my favorite benefits of Executive Platinum status.
Oneworld Emerald status
For the last four months, I've been a Platinum Pro and am now an Executive Platinum on American — both come with Oneworld Emerald status.
And I love it.
Oneworld Emerald provides some key perks that Star Alliance status doesn't offer. For one, Emerald gives you access to preferred or reserved seating on Oneworld flights.
So, as an American Airlines top-tier elite, I could select complimentary extra-legroom seating on a Royal Air Maroc flight from Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Casablanca International Airport (CMN) and upper-deck business-class seating on a British Airways A380. Those pesky advance seat fees can reach the triple digits on long-haul flights.
Meanwhile, top-tier United elite members must pay advance seating fees in many fare classes on airlines like Lufthansa, Copa Airlines and Swiss.
Additionally, Oneworld Emeralds are welcome into Oneworld first-class lounges (with some notable exceptions) — I loved the Qantas first-class lounge at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the British Airways Galleries Lounge at London's Heathrow Airport (LHR).
Meanwhile, Star Alliance elite members can't access first-class lounges like the new SilverKris First lounge at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) and the Lufthansa first-class lounge at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) using their status.
For frequent international travelers, Oneworld Emerald can make a big difference.
Related: Your complete guide to Oneworld alliance benefits
Alaska Airlines benefits
American Airlines elite members effectively receive status on Alaska Airlines, thanks to the reciprocal elite partnership the two carriers have recently strengthened.
Executive Platinum members are eligible for Alaska Premium-class upgrades after booking (not applicable on Saver fares) and receive first-class upgrades just after Alaska's MVP 75K elite members.
Some TPG Executive Platinum elite members have reported recent upgrade success on Alaska Airlines transcontinental flights, including routes like New York-JFK to Seattle (SEA). While your experience may differ (and I haven't flown Alaska on a transcontinental flight), my impression is that transcontinental upgrades are much more common on Alaska than on United.
Executive Platinum members are also entitled to three checked bags and complimentary same-day flight changes on Alaska.
As a San Francisco-based traveler, United has occasionally rebooked me on Alaska when something went wrong, and I'll be glad to have Alaska benefits when this inevitably happens again.
Related: All American and Alaska elites now eligible for reciprocal complimentary upgrades
How I earned Executive Platinum status
You'll need to earn Loyalty Points to qualify for American Airlines status. As mentioned, you generally earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 AAdvantage mile you earn. Here's how I earned enough Loyalty Points for Executive Platinum status. Use this for inspiration as you search for creative ways to earn Loyalty Points.
May-August 2022: General member earning 30,000 Loyalty Points
American Airlines adjusted its elite qualifying year from January 1-Dec. 31 to March 1-Feb. 28 when it introduced Loyalty Points for the 2022 elite qualifying year. That allowed AAdvantage members to start earning Loyalty Points on January 1, 2022, but I didn't earn my first Loyalty Point until May 2022.
Here's a look at how I earned 30,000 Loyalty Points as a general member, subsequently qualifying me for entry-level Gold status (note, American has since increased some elite status requirements, so you'll need to earn 40,000 Loyalty Points for Gold status in 2023.).
- 10,500 Loyalty Points from $2,100 in qualifying spending on American Airlines flights (5 Loyalty Points per dollar).
- 8,500 Loyalty Points from the AAdvantage Shopping portal.
- 5,000 Loyalty Points from converting 500-mile upgrades from a 2018 United Airlines status challenge (I didn't complete the American Airlines flight requirements in 2018 to extend my status).
- 4,000 Loyalty Points from AAdvantage Dining.
- 2,000 Loyalty Points from Uber SimplyMiles promotions.
August-October 2022: Gold earning 50,800 Loyalty Points
With 30,000 Loyalty Points, I qualified for Gold status. Subsequently, I began earning 40% more Loyalty Points on my air travel than I did as a general member, making it easier to earn Loyalty Points through my British Airways and American Airlines flights during this time frame. Also, now that I had elite status with American and Hyatt, I began to double dip on most paid Hyatt stays by earning 1 Loyalty Point per qualifying dollar spent at Hyatt properties.
This is how I earned 50,800 Loyalty Points from August to October.
- 28,000 Loyalty Points from a discounted British Airways business-class ticket credited to AAdvantage.
- 12,500 Loyalty Points from the AAdvantage Shopping portal.
- 2,000 Loyalty Points from AAdvantage Dining.
- 5,000 Loyalty Points from SimplyMiles.
- 2,100 Loyalty Points from $300 in qualifying spending on an American Airlines flight (7 Loyalty Points per dollar spent).
- 1,200 Loyalty Points from Hyatt dual accrual.
November 2022: Platinum earning 5,800 Loyalty Points
Passing the 75,000-Loyalty Point requirement for Platinum status, my sought-after benefits began to kick in, including complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating, Oneworld Sapphire (which can be used to access many Oneworld business class lounges on most long-haul itineraries) and a 60% Loyalty Point bonus on paid tickets.
Here's how I earned 5,800 Loyalty Points in November.
- 2,800 Loyalty Points from an Alaska Airlines economy-class ticket credited to AAdvantage.
- 1,500 Loyalty Points from $190 in qualifying spending on an American Airlines flight (8 Loyalty Points per dollar spent).
- 1,000 Loyalty Points from Hyatt dual accrual.
- 500 Loyalty Points from SimplyMiles.
December 2022-March 2023: Platinum Pro earning 68,500 Loyalty Points
At this point, I had earned over 85,000 Loyalty Points and planned to finish the status year (Feb. 28, 2023) as a Platinum member. But overnight, I became a Platinum Pro member when I registered for an American Airlines status challenge for World of Hyatt elite members. The challenge offered me a route to Executive Platinum status if I earned 67,000 Loyalty Points in the next four months.
Although this status challenge for Hyatt elite members is now closed, if you hold status on another airline, you can call American AAdvantage customer care and ask to enroll in the Instant Status Pass. You'll be asked to provide documentation of your competing airline status. If approved, you'll be an AAdvantage elite member for four months, with the opportunity to extend your status by meeting certain Loyalty Point thresholds.
Here's a breakdown of how many Loyalty Points I earned between December and March:
- 35,500 Loyalty Points from a discounted British Airways business-class ticket credited to AAdvantage.
- 16,500 Loyalty Points from the AAdvantage Shopping portal.
- 8,700 Loyalty Points from $960 in qualifying spending on an American Airlines flight (9 Loyalty Points per dollar).
- 3,500 Loyalty Points from credit card spending to meet a sign-up bonus on the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard.
- 2,300 Loyalty Points from Hyatt dual accrual.
- 2,000 Loyalty Points from a Royal Air Maroc economy-class ticket credited to AAdvantage.
Since I earned 67,000 Loyalty Points during Phase 1 of the status challenge, I moved into Phase 2 as an Executive Platinum, where I'll now need to earn 67,000 Loyalty Points in the next four months. If I don't meet this requirement, my status will drop to a lower tier of the AAdvantage program.
From qualifying for Executive Platinum status a month ago, I've earned 30,000 Loyalty Points from Rocketmiles stays, and I'm on my way to extending my status.
Related: Quick Points: Earn 75,000-plus American miles and Loyalty Points in a week with Rocketmiles
With the gamification of Loyalty Points, many AAdvantage members qualify for upper tiers of the program — and I'm no exception. What started as a pursuit to earn redeemable AAdvantage miles landed me top-tier American status.
Even though I have no firm plans to fly the airline in the coming months, I'll continue to earn its valuable redeemable miles (and, subsequently, Loyalty Points toward maintaining my status).