This will be a multi-part series on why the American Airlines AAdvantage program is a great frequent flier program. We will go over the benefits of American Airlines and the oneworld alliance providing strategies to maximize the benefits this program offers to domestic and international travelers. There will also be emphasis on the benefits of elite status in the American Airlines program. This series is starting out with the intention to help the person new to the AAdvantage program; but we will be covering specific more advanced topics in the future. Explaining AA mileage and partner mileage redemptions will also be a focus, with some insight on optimizing the use of credit card promotions for US residents.
First, a little bit about myself. I have been traveling frequently for five years now, and throughout all the travel experiences I’ve had, it feels like I have earned a Masters in Travel. I highly value flexibility in my travel and I like to maximize my options when traveling from a perspective of miles, points and accommodation options. While I love the luxury experience in the air, on the ground I like more of a down to earth cultural travel experience. I generally book economy class travel, since I don’t have all the money in the world, and rarely buy business class or first class seats unless it’s a great deal. I very much enjoy being flexible – it allows me to go with the flow and enjoy what life throws at me, such as a great deal to Barcelona that I flew in 2013. ($550 round trip!)
To enjoy this level of flexibility, you will need to earn the Executive Platinum status in the American Airlines program. Depending on your needs and budget American Airlines Gold and Platinum elite status are also quite valuable when you are in a bind as they will usually offer you assistance, especially when unexpected circumstances arise. While not the topic of this initial post, there are potential (time sensitive, most recently offered in July 2015) short-cuts to mid-tier elite status (AAdvantage Platinum) by enrolling in programs like FoundersCard or through the AAdvantage challenge program.
The AAdvantage program has three elite status tiers:
Gold (25,000 elite qualifying miles/points)
Platinum (50,000 elite qualifying miles/points)
Executive Platinum (100,000 elite qualifying miles/points)
American Airlines has three ways to earn elite status, through elite qualifying miles (EQM) or elite qualifying points (EQP). The least common and often most difficult qualification method is via elite qualifying segments. In general it’s easier to qualify by flying 25,000 EQM versus qualifying on 25,000 EQP, as more EQPs are awarded when you purchase more expensive fares. The elite status qualifying year is from January 1st to December 31st, and to attain and retain the elite status every year you must fly either 25,000, 50,000 or 100,000 miles per year. Once you’ve gained elite status the following re-qualification year is much easier. It is also more comfortable as you are provided with upgrade instruments, which will allow you to sit in business or first class for the same price as the economy ticket! Keep in mind that you have flexibility to book with any of American Airlines oneworld partners and usually you can find a partner airline to get you where you need to go.
You can use any of the following partner oneworld airlines to accrue EQM or EQP to earn elite status on American Airlines.
So how hard is it to earn elite status on American Airlines?
If you do some minimal planning of trips in the coming year, you can easily attain Gold status (entry level elite status) on American Airlines. Let’s say for example you have the following travel planned for next year from Portland, OR (PDX) :
- Flight to London for vacation
(American Airlines, PDX-DFW-LHR-DFW-PDX, 12732 EQM round trip)
- Flight home to New York to visit family once a year
(Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, PDX-LAX-JFK-LAX-PDX, 6617 EQM round trip )
- Flight to Vegas with friends
(Alaska Airlines, PDX-LAS-PDX, 1525 EQM round trip)
With the these three trips planned, you will have a total of 20874 EQM already. If you booked one more trip to visit your family that would add another 6617 miles and put you over the 25,000 mile threshold for you to attain American Airlines Gold Status.
With Gold elite status you are entitled to some benefits that allow you to be more flexible with your travel:
- Priority security lane and boarding
You can arrive to the airport later and you’ll spend less time in the security lines.
- Check a bag for free
Whenever you want to check a bag, it will be free (I use this to check beer/liquor for my friends).
- Same Day Standby
If you book the cheaper flight of the day, you can save money and/or choose a flight that better fits your schedule.
With Platinum Status your flexibility increases:
- Up to two checked bags for free
- Priority Baggage Delivery
Your bags will come out as one of the first bags off the belt so you can get out of the airport quicker!
Finally with Executive Platinum Status you have even more flexibility:
- Up to three checked bags for free
- Same Day Change
You can be guaranteed (confirmed) a seat on the flight you want to change to instantly (when you request at the airport or over the phone).
- Global upgrade certificates from almost any fare basis
You’ll receive 8 systemwide upgrades when you qualify or re-qualify for Executive Platinum status. Upgrades are valid, when available, for one-way travel on any US Airways or American marketed and operated flight (up to 3 segments) and you can give them to anyone, even if you’re not traveling with them.
These benefits and more details can be found on the American Airlines website.
There are other perks that higher level elite status provide and I will cover them in more detail in future installments. In addition I’ll be covering multiple topics about American Airlines and the oneworld Alliance.
If you are a beginner I would love to know if you have any questions, desires or topics for future AA posts.
If you are a knowledgeable AAdvantage individual, what advanced topics are of interest?