American Airlines joins Delta and United in extending elite status and more

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One big question in this announcement was how it applied to those who earned status outside of the standard qualification metrics — like World of Hyatt elite travelers that were gifted status in 2019 or those who completed a status challenge. Fortunately, these are all included, per an American spokesperson:

“Customers who received elite status valid through Jan 31, 2021 by meeting our standard qualification levels, through a challenge, granted as an exception or gifted as part of a promotion will be extended through Jan 31, 2022.”

It’s worth noting that this extension only applies to those with current status valid through Jan. 31, 2021. If you had a limited-time offer for elite status with a different expiration date, it appears that you won’t be eligible.

AA is also extending its secretive, invite-only ConciergeKey status until Jan. 31, 2022. Delta and United, on the other hand, have already stated that they’re not making any adjustments to their super top-tier statutes — yet.

Finally, American has confirmed to TPG that these status extensions will not include additional Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) for existing Executive Platinum members — though as you’re about to see, you do have a shortcut to snag more of these in 2020.

Earning AAdvantage status in 2020

In order to incentivize flying with American when it’s once again safe to do so, the airline is lowering elite-status qualifying thresholds for 2020. 

Here’s the full chart with elite qualifications for the rest of the year:

MetricGoldPlatinumPlatinum ProExecutive Platinum
Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM)15,00030,00045,00060,000
Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS)15304560
Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD)$1,500$4,000$6,000$9,000

Interestingly, all three major U.S. airlines are using different strategies to encourage frequent fliers to get back in the air.  Delta’s rolling over all elite-qualifying miles (EQMs)earned this year to 2021, which doesn’t necessarily help you earn status in 2020 — but makes it significantly easier in 2021. United, on the other hand, is lowering all elite-qualifying thresholds, but by 50% across the board. 

American, while similar to United, isn’t cutting all thresholds by 50%. Instead, it’s using a tiered approach. All EQS requirements are cut in half, EQM requirements are lowered by 40% and EQD requirements are cut at varying levels, from 33% to 50%. This means that AA is making it much easier to earn some status levels compared to others. And this puts Gold status in reach for those with just two or three international trips this year. 

AA is also making it easier to earn Executive Platinum rewards. These are additional benefits that you’d typically earn for surpassing higher thresholds above and beyond Executive Platinum status. These were previously granted at 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs, but with the lower EQM threshold noted above (60,000), it makes sense that these would be lowered as well.

For the remainder of 2020, they’ll be slashed by 40%. Specifically, you can choose one of the follow rewards after hitting the reduced thresholds.

90,000 EQMs120,000 EQMs150,000 EQMs
2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs)2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs)2 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs)
40,000 bonus miles40,000 bonus miles40,000 bonus miles
Gift of AAdvantage Gold statusGift of AAdvantage Platinum statusGift of AAdvantage Platinum status

Earning AAdvantage status in 2021

Delta and United are both making it much easier to earn status in 2021. As I mentioned, Delta’s doing that by rolling over all MQMs. United hasn’t announced details but promised to make adjustments for next year.

American, though, hasn’t made anyannouncement about earning status in 2021. With competitive pressure from the other major U.S. carriers, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a similar announcement later this year.

Extending systemwide upgrades

Like Delta and United, AA is extending the validity of existing Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) that expire on Jan. 31, 2021. Each year AA’s top-tier Executive Platinum (and Concierge Key) elites get four of these certificates. You can also earn SWUs as a Million Miler or as an Executive Platinum reward.

SWUs earned in the 2019 elite year will now expire on July 31, 2021, as opposed to their original expiration date of Jan. 31, 2021.

AA’s other upgrade instrument, 500-mile upgrades, never expire, so there’s no need for those to be extended. Just note that you need to be an elite member in order to use those upgrades.

American Airlines Vacations credit

This is quite a unique perk among the major loyalty programs – elite members will receive up to a $400 credit to use toward an American Airlines Vacations package. Gold members will receive $300, Platinum and Platinum Pro will receive $350 and Executive Platinum will receive $400.

“This promotion underscores that we want our travelers to come back when they’re ready.” said Bridget Blaise-Shamai, Vice President of Customer Loyalty & Insights and President of the AAdvantage program, in a phone interview with TPG.

This promotion is valid for new Vacations bookings made after July 1, 2020 for travel by Dec. 20, 2021. The package must include round-trip airfare and hotel and meet a minimum spend requirement of $2,500.

Although this may not be for everyone, AA is now the second U.S. airline to offer unique perks with their vacations package. Earlier this year, JetBlue announced that all of its vacation packages will now include free changes (as long as they’re made more than a week before departure).

Making it easier to earn lifetime status

If you’re a very loyal American Airlines flier, this could be great news for you. AA is making it a lot easier to earn lifetime elite status by granting 1 mile toward Million Miler status for every $1 spent on eligible, cobranded credit cards between May and the end of the year. This promotion applies to all Citi / AAdvantage and AAdvantage Aviator products, as well as select AAdvantage credit cards outside of the U.S.

This could represent a good opportunity to add a new card to your wallet, as a few of American’s cobranded cards are currently offering lucrative sign-up bonuses:

While the bonus miles won’t count toward lifetime status, any spending on the above cards will.