MIAMI — Starting on August 1, American Airlines’ (AA) Aadvantage users will earn their mileage based on the price of the tickets, shifting from a mile-flown based award in the latest of a series of changes to the frequent flier program.
“American Airlines is evolving AAdvantage to continue our tradition of having the best loyalty program in the world by rewarding our most loyal customers with the benefits they value the most,” said Andrew Nocella, American’s Chief Marketing Officer.
American also announced two other changes in the awards: a new elite status level—placed between its current platinum and executive platinum levels—which is set to be introduced in 2017, besides a new elite status qualifying requirement, based on a minimum dollar amount spent. According to the airline, travelers should now spend at least $3,000 in order to be eligible for its lowest elite status.
Frequent-fliers in the programs at Delta and United can skip most elite qualifying miles (EQD) requirements by spending at least $25,000 on their respective airline-branded credit cards. However, this has not been implemented yet for American.
The second change announced is related to the upgrades for elite fliers. Currently, the carrier ranks upgrades upon the elite status of the travelers, then by full-fare tickets and finally when the upgrade was requested. But now, starting in “late 2017” AA will upgrade priority to a “12-month rolling EQD total,” which means that upgrades will be granted to those who earned the most elite-qualifying dollars during the previous year.
The new mileage accrual model is part of a major restructuring of Aadvantage, previously announced last November, leveraging its offer just like other competitors such as Delta and United.
According to airline industry analyst Robert W. Mann, while the changes made in the model reward spend and not low-fare and travel hacker—earning miles without getting on a plane— these “conflict with the recognition of “lifetime customer value”, to wit, changes that devalue ‘Lifetime Platinum’ and similar elite credentials awarded on the basis of long-term loyalty to the carrier, recognizing multi-millions of miles traveled.” Therefore, this may cause long-term loyal customers to disenfranchise “whose business the carrier now apparently does not care to further recognize.” Mann said.