Big AAdvantage Changes: New Elite Tier, Spend Requirement, Revenue Based Earning & Is There Any Creativity In Airline Loyalty?

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AAdvantage 2017 Changes

AAdvantage 2017 Changes & Revenue Based Earning

American Airlines announced today the date that their AAdvantage loyalty program will go revenue based on the earning side. That date is August 1, 2016. As a reminder, here are the earning rates for travel on or after that date:

  • AAdvantage® member – 5 miles for every U.S. dollar
  • Gold member – 7 miles for every U.S. dollar (40% bonus)
  • Platinum member – 8 miles for every U.S. dollar (60% bonus)
  • Executive Platinum member – 11 miles for every U.S. dollar (120% bonus)

Here is a sample of what you will earn:

AAdvantage 2017 Changes

In most cases and for most people this will represent a significant drop in miles earned for paid flights. For those of us who look for value, it is really bad news. Partner flights will still earn based on a percentage of miles flown.

New Elite Status Tier

In 2017 American will launch a new 75K level elite tier called “Platinum Pro”.  This new tier will have the following benefits:

  • Complimentary upgrades on flights within North America and between the U.S. and Central America
  • Earn 9 award miles/U.S. dollar (80% bonus)
  • 2 free checked bags
  • oneworld® Sapphire status (Same as Platinum)

This is probably good news for some since this new tier will be eligible for complimentary domestic upgrades. If you don’t care about the systemwide upgrades and constantly are struggling to get to 100K, then this might be good news for you. (Of course the rate at which you earn will change the equation as well.)

Elite Qualifying Dollars

In 2017 elite status will also have a spend component to it. Here is how Elite Qualifying Dollars will be calculated:

  • Ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding any government-imposed taxes and fees) on American-marketed flights
  • Flights marketed by oneworld® carriers and Alaska Airlines will earn EQDs based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class purchased

And here is how much money you will need to spend to gain each level of status:

AAdvantage 2017 Changes

As of now there is no announcement as to whether credit card spend on a co-branded card will waive the EQD requirement, but my guess is that will be the case. Both Delta and United waived their spend requirements with $25K or more in spend on their co-branded cards.

Is There No Innovation in Loyalty?

Delta was the first to move to this revenue based model of loyalty program and have had success with it. United then pretty much copied everything Delta did and now we see American doing exactly the same thing. With the exception of small differences, all three of the major U.S. airline loyalty programs work the same. While this is to be expected somewhat, I wonder if innovation is dead in this space or if it will take economic hardship to bring about changes.

To be clear, none of this information today was unexpected. We sort of knew that Elite Qualifying Dollars were coming and the earning rates were previously announced as well. I hadn’t heard anything firm about a new elite tier, but given that other programs have four tiers, it isn’t a shock either. Overall these changes just reinforce the truth that loyalty is not loyal and that mileage earning will be best from spending and other means as opposed to actually flying.

Conclusion

Nothing announced today is a shock, although the August 1, 2016 date for earning may sting a bit for those looking to qualify for next year. I personally am at about 44K EQMs right now, so I need to decide how important getting Executive Platinum is and whether or not it is worth scheduling some mileage runs for the next month or two. You can find all of the changes including frequently asked questions on the American Airlines website.

Let us know your thoughts on these changes in the comments.


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