Yesterday American Airlines finally announced its response to managing its frequent flyer program in light of the new coronavirus reality.  American joins, the other major US airlines, Delta, United, Alaska, and Southwest, in automatically extending elite status earned in 2019 through the begining of 2022.  American also announced other frequent flyer program changes including making it easier to achieve lifetime status and a credit for use with American Airlines vacations.

I am very interested in these changes because American Airlines is where I maintain my primary frequent flyer account.

Elite Status

Expiration.  Elite status that expires on January 31, 2021 is extended to January 31, 2022.

Qualifying Requirements.  Here is the new table for qualifying dollars, qualifying miles, and qualifying segments with old requirements added.  The lowered requirements apply to qualifying in 2020 only.

Qualifying metric Gold
oneworld® Ruby
oneworld® Sapphire
Platinum Pro
oneworld® Sapphire
Executive Platinum
oneworld® Emerald
EQDs $1,500 ($3,000) $4,000 ($6,000) $6,000 ($9,000) $9,000 ($15,000)
EQMs 15,000 (25,000) 30,000 (50,000) 45,000 (75,000) 60,000 (100,000)
EQSs 15 (30) 30 (60) 45 (90) 60 (120)

Systemwide Upgrades.  SWUs expiring on January 31, 2021 are extended through July 31, 2021.  No SWUs are included with Executive Platinum status that is automatically, but those who meet the requirements to attain Executive Platinum in 2020 will receive 4 SWUs expiring extended through January 31, 2022.

Executive Platinum Rewards.  For 2020, members who exceed the threshold for Executive Platinum will get to choose rewards at 90,000, 120,000 and 150,000 EQMs.

Million Miler Lifetime Status.  Once again miles earned with an American Airlines credit card count toward achieving lifetime status.  Gold comes with 1,000,000 lifetime miles and 35,000 AA miles.   Platinum comes with 2,000,000 lifetime miles.  This is a nice gesture, although, except for 4 SWUs at 2 million miles and each million miles thereafter, many believe the AA lifetime status is close to worthless.  This change applies to all eligible Citi® / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator credit card products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside the U.S. for spend on net purchases posting to AAdvantage accounts between May and December 2020.

Award Reinstatement and Change Fees.  There are four changes.  First, award reinstatement and change fees for awards booked by May 31, 2020, for travel through September 30, 2020 are waived.  Second, award travel ticketed on or after June 1, 2020, there will be no change and reinstatement fees when the change is made at least 60 days before travel.  Third, there is no fee for using more miles to purchase a higher cabin on the same flight(s).  Fourth, a new reduced fee structure will apply to changes made with fewer than 60 days before travel.

Elite status Change made 60 days or more before travel At least 7 days, but fewer than 60 days before travel Fewer than 7 days before travel
Executive Platinum $0 $0 $0
Platinum Pro $0 $50 $75
Platinum $0 $75 $100
Gold $0 $100 $125
Regular member $0 $125 $150

American Airlines Vacations Credit

Beginning July 1, 2020, American is offering a credit to be applied to trips booked through its in-house vacation broker.  Providing this benefit in response to the coronavirus situation is unique among US airlines.  The credit is based on elite status as of June 30,2020.

Elite status Credit amount
Gold $300
Platinum and Platinum Pro $350
Executive Platinum $400

In addition to normal conditions on AA vacations, to take advantage of this offer the travel must be booked by December 31, 2020 and the vacation packaged must cost at least $2,500.

Final Thoughts

American was late to the party but it brought a couple of surprises like credit card spend counting toward million-miler status, credits for its vacation program for elite members, and lowering the threshold for earning status this year in addition to rolling over this year’s elite status.

Reintroducing credit card spend as a way to reach million-miler status, is a nice gesture except such status is the least valuable among the Big 3 US airlines.  The credit for AA vacations (booking hotel and flight) will encourage me to try harder to take advantage of this program.  AA vacations sometimes has very appealing business-class fares.  The negative is hotels will not recognize elite benefits or count those nights toward status in a hotel frequent guest program.

The lowered threshold for Executive Platinum for 2020 and the travel I’ve done so far in 2020 leave me short of qualifying by about 15,000 qualifying miles and $4,000 qualifying dollars.  I can reach those qualifying miles and dollars easily with one trip in business class on one of American’s Oneworld partners.  It would be nice to get four more SWUs.  I just need to find a low-cost business class fare on say Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines.  Finding cheap business class fares will be easy.  The problem will be if and when it will be safe to travel again in 2020.

Have travel programs you participate in made changes due to coronavirus?