American Airlines Increases Elite Qualification Requirements, Slashes Special Fare Shortcut
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If there’s one constant across the US airlines, it’s copycat syndrome — whether that’s restricting lounge access, rolling out basic economy or increasing checked baggage fees. And this condition flared up yet again today, as American Airlines matches Delta and United in elite-qualifying spending requirements while slashing one of the few remaining shortcuts to reaching elite status.
Increase Spending Requirement for Executive Platinum Status
Coming right on the heels of AA upping the spending requirement for its invitation-only Concierge Key elite status, American Airlines announced today that the spending requirement for earning Executive Platinum will be 15,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars starting in 2019. This means that would-be top-tier elites will need to spend an additional $3,000 — plus taxes and fees — to achieve the same status as before. The Elite Qualifying Miles and Elite Qualifying Segment requirements are remaining unchanged at 100,000 EQMs and 120 EQSs.
United made this same $3,000 increase for its top-tier 1K elite status in late September, while Delta has required 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Dollars since 2015.
American Airlines has confirmed that there will be no changes to Gold, Platinum and Platinum Pro elite qualifications in 2019.
Additional Benefits at Elite-Qualifying Mile Thresholds
While making it harder to reach Executive Platinum status, American Airlines is also increasing the benefits for its most frequent flyers. Starting in 2019, members who qualify for AAdvantage Executive Platinum status will be able to start choosing additional rewards when they reach 150k, 200k and 250k EQM thresholds.
At 150,000 EQM, elites will have the choice between:
- Two additional Systemwide Upgrades (making 6 awarded for the year)
- 40,000 bonus award miles ($560 at current TPG valuations)
- Gift Gold elite status (valued at $970 assuming 30,000 miles flown with the status)
At both 200,000 and 250,000 EQM, elites will have the choice between:
- Two additional systemwide upgrades
- 40,000 bonus award miles
- Gift Platinum elite status (valued at $2,185 assuming 60,000 miles flown with the status)
This means that elites that reach 250,000 EQMs in 2019 will automatically be able to get as many as ten Systemwide Upgrades. Currently, Executive Platinum elites get four at requalification plus two at 150k EQM and another two at 200k EQM (for a maximum of eight).
American Airlines is announcing two changes to the earning front, though the exact impact of the changes hasn’t gone live yet, and AA was light on details in the announcement. Here’s what we know so far:
- Partners: According to the announcement, American Airlines is “improving the amount of EQMs members will earn when flying on one of our transatlantic or transpacific joint business partners — British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Japan Airlines.” The changes haven’t gone live yet, but we will update you when we learn the details.
- Full-fare Economy: American Airlines full-fare (Y) economy fares currently earn 1.5 Elite Qualifying Miles per mile flown. AA is dropping this to 1 EQM for 2019 flights. This will mean that all American Airlines-marketed economy flights — except Basic Economy — will earn 1 EQM per mile flown. Basic Economy earns 50% of flight miles as EQMs.
Special Fare Changes
One of my favorite ways of reaching American Airlines’ Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement without spending $12,000 is by utilizing Special Fares. Anytime that an American Airlines economy flight costs less than 10 cents per mile, I’d book the flight through a portal or AA Vacations to earn 10% of flight miles as EQDs. For example, when I “flew across the country for a loaf of bread” earlier this year, I earned 483 EQDs from a $105 round-trip fare that would’ve otherwise earned 60 EQD (after subtracting taxes and fees from the base fare).
Now, this shortcut is being slashed. Starting in 2019, the cheapest (booking codes Q, O and B) Special Fares will earn just 5% of flight miles as EQDs and 25% of flight miles as award miles. Both of these rates are half of the current earnings.
However, if you’re booking expensive Special Fares, there’s good news. The EQD rate for Special Fares in three-cabin first class and full-fare business (which includes domestic first class) is increasing from 30% to 40% of the miles flown. Meanwhile, class of service bonuses for these fares are doubling from 50% to 100% of miles flown.