American Airlines Discontinuing Soft Landings for AAdvantage Members

May 22, 2013

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Historically some airlines, like American, have given “soft landings” to elite members who didn’t quite re-qualify for their elite status. Instead of dropping these elites to the cold hard world of non-elites, they’d drop them down a level to hopefully keep them engaged and wanted to keep their business with the airline and earn back their lost status. Sometimes they’d even be able to buy back the higher status, which could be seen as a win win for the airline- keep the customer loyal and draw in new revenue instead of losing them to a competitor.

American has also been known to bump members up if they were short a few miles to their earned status, so if you flew 99,000 EQM’s instead of the required 100,000 EQM’s for Executive Platinum status, American would give you the higher status.

But not anymore!

According to this Flyertalk post, American sent out an email to some AAdvantage members saying they would no longer would be offering soft landings.

Elite status on American must now be earned each year.
Elite status on American must now be earned each year.

Here’s what the email says:

“Can you believe we’re almost halfway through 2013? Hopefully you’re on track to achieve your goal of elite status qualification for 2014. To check how many elite qualifying points, miles and segments you’ve earned thus far, simply log in to your account.

Previously, based on your prior year status, you benefited from an exception to receive a higher level of elite status than you actually earned. Next year, regardless of your current status, your elite status for the next membership year will be based on your elite qualifying activity in 2013.

We invite you to achieve the highest level you can to earn the greatest benefits. You can also find details about qualifying for elite status here.”

Why The Change of Heart?
American has historically been really generous with EQM promotions, running several double EQM promos and even enhancing their Elite Rewards program to reward frequent flyers who go above and beyond the basic elite requirements.

Airlines are copycats and I’m sure American looked around and realized that their major competition was no longer continuing this generous policy. Delta stopped doing soft landings after they launched Rollover Medallion Qualifying Miles in 2010. United rarely does soft landings, however they will offer MileagePlus members the chance to buy back their status if they were close and didn’t quite make it.

See: Airline Status Match and Challenge Information for those struggling to maintain status

While this is bad news for those who may be banking on a soft landing, I think it is a wakeup call that you can’t expect the airline programs to continue their generous ways- especially as we see more consolidation and less competition. In the end these are loyalty programs, so if you aren’t loyal enough to maintain your status- do you really deserve it?

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