In recent years, frequent flyers have become more than accustomed to negative changes being made to airline loyalty programs – nasty surprises so often wrapped up as ‘enhancements’ that were only made on the back of customer feedback.
So it, therefore, comes as a bit of a shock when an airline actually announces largely positive changes to its loyalty program, but that’s exactly what American Airlines and its AAdvantage program unveiled on Tuesday.
The changes cover several areas, including improvements in upgrade benefits, the ability to redeem miles for upgrades with select and new reward choices for elite flyers, as well as improvements to Basic Economy tickets and other benefits only reserved for AAdvantage members.
Most of the improvements announced by AA on Tuesday haven’t come into effect and this particular improvement doesn’t even yet have an anticipated date for when it will apply, although the airline promised it is ‘coming soon’.
- You’ll soon be able to earn miles when you pay for a cash upgrade – something that wasn’t previously allowed.
- AA will soon let AAdvantage members manage systemwide upgrades online or in the mobile app rather than being forced to wait on hold for the call center.
- You’ll also soon be able to use AAdvantage miles for upgrades on other airlines.
American Airlines hasn’t yet realised which ‘select partner’ airlines will permit AAdvantage members to use their miles for upgrades on that carrier’s metal and a press release from AA suggests this improvement could be coming a lot further down the road in 2024 than the other changes.
Loyalty Points = More Loyalty Points
Earning Loyalty Points is the method that AAdvantage uses to achieve different elite status tiers, but Loyalty Points also unlock separate Rewards at set threshold amounts.
Going forward, when you hit three separate thresholds, you’ll be able to claim even more Loyalty Points as your Reward – the idea behind this is that rather than claiming an immediate reward, you bank Loyalty Points faster in order to achieve a higher elite status tier faster.
The thresholds are as follows:
- 15,000 Loyalty Points – earn an additional 1,000 Loyalty Points
- 175,000 Loyalty Points – earn an additional 5,000 Loyalty Points
- 250,000 Loyalty Points – earn an additional 15,000 Loyalty Points (up to twice)
To put this into perspective, you require 40,000 Loyalty Points to unlock AAdvantage Gold, 75,000 Loyalty Points to unlock AAdvantage Platinum, 175,000 Loyalty Points to unlock AAdvantage Platinum Pro status, and 200,000 Loyalty Points to unlock AAdvantage Executive Platinum.
Other rewards for Loyalty Points include:
- 15,000 threshold: Group 5 boarding
- 60,000 threshold: 20% Loyalty Point bonus
- 100,000 threshold: 30% Loyalty Point bonus
- 175,000 threshold: 20,000 bonus miles, systemwide upgrades
- … and so on!
Elite members get to spend miles for Flagship First Dining
Flagship First Dining is AA’s a la carte dining experience within only a few select Flagship Lounges and is normally only open to Flagship First or Flagship Business Plus passengers on premium international or transcontinental flights.
There are currently only three Flagship First Dining locations in Dallas Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami, with a sit-down dining experience, chef-inspired dishes and hand-crafted cocktails.
In the near future, AAdvantage elite members starting from Platinum Pro will be able to use miles to pay for a single-use Flagship First Dining pass… details, however, remain scant.
Making certain improvements exclusive to AAdvantage members
As part of the rollout of these improvements, AA is making changes that will be exclusive to AAdvantage members. That’s not to say you have to have elite status with the AAdvantage program; you just have to be a member… presumably as a tool to encourage more signups going forward.
- Members will be able to cancel non-refundable Basic Economy fare tickets online and receive a partial Trip Credit (for a fee).
- Request same-day standby on an American Airlines or American Eagle flight
- One-day passes for Admirals Club access and Flagship Lounge single-visit passes will be restricted to AAdvantage members.
- Free of charge 24-hour trip hold will only be extended to AAdvantage members.
The Basic Economy cancellation policy will come into effect later this month, and same-standby changes are taking effect in March and all the other changes are coming into force at some point later.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.