American Airlines is Completely Revamping Elite Status Qualification

American Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft (Source: American Airlines)

American Airlines AAdvantage is making a shocking change to the way that its members can earn elite status. Instead of the combination of the rather-confusing EQD, EQM and EQS, AAdvantage members will simply need to accumulate “Loyalty Points”.

Rather than just miles accumulated while flying, the concept of Loyalty Points will include some, but not all, on-the-ground partner transactions. You will even be able to earn AAdvantage elite status simply through credit card spend.

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How many Loyalty Points will I need?

AAdvantage is changing the qualifying period away from calendar years. Instead it will run from March 1st until the end of February of the following year.

Starting on January 1, 2022, you will earn Loyalty Points.  (this means that for 2022 only, you will have 14 months to earn Loyalty Points)

  • AAdvantage Gold status –> 30,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum status –> 75,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro status –> 125,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum status –> 200,000 Loyalty Points

How do you earn Loyalty Points for flights?

You can earn Loyalty Points when flying American Airlines or any partner airline. But rather than the current system of EQM and EQD, the number of redeemable miles earned will equal the number of Loyalty Points earned.  This means that you will earn Loyalty Points from:

  • The base mileage earned
  • Any bonuses due to your elite status (40-120% on AA for Gold – Executive Platinum members)
  • Any cabin bonuses (i.e. the extra for flying in Premium Economy, Business Class, etc.)

And for the avoidance of doubt, Basic Economy fares ARE eligible to earn Loyalty Points (although you might not earn many…)

Two things are immediately obvious:

  1. Elite status members will find it MUCH easier to earn/retain status than those starting from scratch
  2. Flying on a partner airline is still going to make far more sense than flying a cheap fare on American

How do you earn Loyalty Points on the ground

It is clear that AAdvantage has not quite thought through the implications. Certain ground partners are definitely eligible for earning Loyalty Points:

  • co-branded credit card spend – base earning only, no sign-up bonuses or category accelerators
  • AAdvantage shopping portal
  • SimplyMiles
  • AAdvantage dining

Other partners are definitely excluded:

  • purchased or gifted miles
  • conversion of points from another program (Marriott, Citi Thank You (when available), etc.)

It remains unclear, however, whether other partner transactions will count as Loyalty Points. i.e. rental cars, miles earned when staying at Hyatt hotels, etc.

American AAdvantage Loyalty Choice Rewards

In 2020 American Airlines introduced the concept of Elite Choice Rewards. Instead of just handing out systemwide upgrades to the eligible, the idea is that both Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can choose whatever rewards they value most. This idea will continue with the new AAdvantage program.

HOWEVER, in order to qualify for Loyalty Choice Rewards, the Platinum Pro / Executive Platinum member must ALSO have logged 30 flight segments on American Airlines or its airline partners. In an interesting twist, award flights DO count.

There will be Loyalty Choice Rewards perks at the following tiers:

  • Level 1 — 125,000 Loyalty Points
  • Level 2 — 200,000 Loyalty Points
  • Level 3 — 350,000 Loyalty Points
  • Level 4 — 550,000 Loyalty Points
  • Level 5 — 750,000 Loyalty Points

The options available as Loyalty Choice Rewards are likely to be familiar to existing Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members…

Bottom line

These changes are so shocking that it is hard to reach a quick conclusion. I am sure that many American Airlines frequent flyers will be happy to see such a major simplification (or perhaps will just be relieved that there is no award chart devaluation). But it might also mean that you will NEED a co-branded credit card to have any real chance of becoming an Executive Platinum member, especially if you are starting from nothing.

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments section…