MIAMI — American Airlines today further updated changes to its AAdvantage frequent flyer program originally revealed in June, including the creation of the new Platinum Pro elite level and a new benefit for members of invitation-only Concierge Key, a program similar to United Airlines’ Global One and Delta Air Lines’ 360.
The effort, to be fully implemented in 2017, is part of the carrier’s ongoing plans to move AAdvantage toward reward passengers who spend the most, as opposed to top mileage accumulators.
Gary Leff, an American Airlines Executive Platinum member and writer of the View From The Wing blog, notes that travelers cannot qualify for Concierge Key with a specific amount of flying or a published amount of spending. “However $50,000 or more in a year may be enough or buying a $50,000 ‘AAirpass,’” he said. “Concierge Key is also given out to decision-makers of big corporate contracts.”
Starting in January, Concierge Key members will get higher priority for upgrades or wait-list requests, bypassing Executive Platinum travelers. That includes a 120-hour upgrade window for free 500-mile upgrade requests. Members will have to meet a minimum spend threshold, via Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs), along with either Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) in order to qualify for elite status on the airline.
The Concierge Key program has always existed, said spokeswoman Sunny Rodriguez. “It still remains invitation-only and is still a small program. The only change we’re announcing today is the change to the upgrade policy.”
Concierge Key members earning their status based on spending disproportionately to buy premium cabin tickets to begin with, which is how they’re earning that status, said Leff. “Concierge Key members receiving their status through sales, as influencers of major corporate travel spend don’t travel as frequently,” he noted. “There aren’t that many Concierge Key members to begin with, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000.”
Until now, American offered Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold status under the AAdvantage program. Now, it adds a new elite level, named Platinum Pro, that fits between Platinum and Executive Platinum. “It is a new level that fills a gap between Platinum and Executive Platinum for those who sit between 75,000 and 100,000 miles,” said Rodriguez.
Like Delta and United, these AAdvantage changes will reward passengers who spend more, with the higher their elite status level, the more they will earn. Gold member receive seven miles per dollar spent, a 40 bonus, while Platinum members earn eight miles per dollar spent, a 60 percent bonus. Members of the new Platinum Pro program earn nine award miles per dollar, an 80 percent bonus and Executive Platinum members earn 11 miles per dollar, a 120 percent bonus.
If travelers aren’t spending enough on their air fares to qualify for status, they can help push themselves up by their spending on the airline’s Aviator MasterCards to earn more Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs). Members will need to meet a minimum spend threshold, via a mix of EQDs, Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs), in order to get elite status.
Later in 2017, Concierge Key and Executive Platinum members will be able to use their 500-mile upgrade benefits on award tickets. Executive Platinum members will continue to receive upgrade confirmation 100 hours before their flight after Concierge Key member upgrade requests have been confirmed. The 500-mile upgrade window for Platinum members will change to 48 hours and later in 2017, Executive Platinum members will be able to use their complimentary 500-mile upgrade benefit on award tickets and American will adjust how it prioritizes upgrade requests.
Concierge Key members flying on premium tickets for work, and economy tickets for leisure, will in fact trump other Executive Platinum members, said Leff. “Perhaps they should, but with as few upgrades remain available — with full planes, with first class fares having fallen to be a small premium over coach, and with monetized upgrades via miles and cash copay available to anyone — this won’t make the larger pool of Executive Platinum customers happy,” he noted. “And it shouldn’t, if only because of the lack of notice.”
The issue is that AAdvantage elite members have been flying all year for their status benefits next year, Leff explained. “They were told 100,000 miles was the top level, and would put them at the top of the upgrade list. Having done that, they now learn the deal has changed,” he said. “The roll out here is unfortunate to say the least. Of course it’s most unfortunate for customers who aren’t at the top of American’s food chain.”
American Airlines is doing everything it can to help customers understand the changes, said Rodriguez. “Through our online tools, we’re showing members what they’ll earn under the new revenue-based program while they’re booking fares them the dollar amounts needed to earn award miles,” she said. “We added bonus elite miles for premium classes earlier this year. We feel like these changes are balanced for our members that will give our customers the best benefits.”