Yesterday, the big news for American Airlines travelers was the announcement that American has entirely revamped how elite status is attained in the AAdvantage program. There were couple of other pieces of news released at the same time that span the current elite qualifying period and the start of the next, and those pieces of news are discussed here.
‘Double Dip’ for elite rank in 2021/22 and 2022/23
One unintended consequence of American Airlines’ decision to make the elite status qualification year run from March to February would have been that for the first two months of 2022, AAdvantage members would not have a select qualification year to which they could credit their activity – the 2021 qualification year would end on December 31, 2021. The new qualification year will not begin until March 1, 2022.
Fortunately, American Airlines spotted this, and the company has devised a solution. It’s better than that. It’s a really great strategy.
American Airlines has stated that any elite-qualifying activities in January and February 2022 will count towards elite status for the 2021 qualification year as well as the upcoming 2022/23 qualification year.
Both the 2021 and 2022/23 qualifying years have now been extended by 14 months
This is definitely for the best since if you don’t have any form of AAdvantage elite status when the new qualifying standards go into effect (on March 1, 2022). You’ll have an uphill battle to gain a meaningful degree of elite status. Further, without spending a significant amount of money.
Elite statuses have been extended (a little bit)
As part of American’s major announcement yesterday, we learned that the airline is transitioning from an elite earnings year that runs from January 1 to December 31 to a year that goes from March 1 to whatever the final day of February happens to be that year.
This is because credit card spending will now count toward elite status. Further, American wants AAdvantage customers to be able to have the miles they earn in December (a heavy spending month for many individuals) contribute towards their current year’s elite status.
Because American Airlines will not begin the next elite qualifying year until March 1, 2022, the airline has announced that it will extend all existing members’ elite credentials until March 31, 2022. (ordinarily, they would have expired on January 31, 2022).
All elite statuses will now expire on March 31. As is the case presently, elite status advantages are available for an additional month after the elite earnings window expires (which will now be February every year).
What this implies for some AAdvantage cardholders?
Cardholders of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard may earn an extra 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year.
The introduction of Loyalty Points in 2022 will change
However, you’ll have an extra two months (until February 28, 2022) to earn the 10,000 elite qualifying miles toward elite status in 2022. That means that if you’re approaching $40,000 in card purchases on the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard this year — and those EQMs are useful in your pursuit for status — you now have more time to reach your EQM-boosting spending level.
In addition, if you spend $40,000 in eligible purchases between January 1, 2022, and February 28, 2023, you will get 10,000 more Loyalty Points (because elite qualifying miles are being phased out). So, again, that’s an extra two months – and those Loyalty Points will contribute toward your 2023 status.
Let’s look at a basic example. If you make purchases worth $25,000 in 2021 and $15,000 in January 2022, you will exceed the $40,000 spend level and receive the 10,000 elite qualifying miles that contribute toward your 2022 membership year. Furthermore, the $15,000 spent in January 2022 will count toward your extra Loyalty Points for the 2023 elite year (though you’ll still need to spend another $25,000 on purchases with the card by the end of 2022 to receive the 10,000 Loyalty Points for 2023 status).
This implies that a little judicious expenditure in the first two months of 2022 may help you achieve a better rank for both 2022 and 2023.
The Fundamentals of American Airlines’ New Loyalty Points System
To achieve American Airlines AAdvantage elite status beginning in 2022, you must accumulate a certain amount of Loyalty Points:
- 30,000 for AAdvantage Gold
- 75,000 for AAdvantage Platinum
- 125,000 for AAdvantage Platinum Pro
- 200,000 for AAdvantage Executive Platinum
The timeframe for achieving AAdvantage elite status is also changing. Instead of a calendar year, you have to collect Loyalty Points from March 1 through February 28 of the following year. Then, whatever elite rank you gain is good until March 31 of the following year.
To receive Loyalty Choice Rewards, you must travel a minimum of 30 segments and meet specific Loyalty Point thresholds:
- Level 1: 125,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 2: 200,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 3: 350,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 4: 550,000 Loyalty Points
- Level 5: 750,000 Loyalty Points
As you can see, it’s all about accumulating Loyalty Point.
The Loyalty Points System Is Simple Unless It Isn’t
American Airlines has capitalized on its “simplicity” in launching its new program. In an email to AAdvantage members, the company announced the “new, simpler AAdvantage® program,” emphasizing that members “receive 1 Loyalty Point for every qualified AAdvantage® mile earned*.”
However, American Airlines did not maintain this scheme as basic as that. For example, there is a long list of non-qualifying mileage earnings, and AA won’t confirm or deny whether miles earned via some partners, such as Bask Bank, would count. As a result, not every AAdvantage mile results in a Loyalty Point. And these exceptions prohibit the software from being genuinely simple.
Let’s have a look at what kinds of activities qualify for Loyalty Points.
Earning Loyalty Points by Flying
When traveling on American Airlines, JetBlue, and Oneworld partners, you’ll earn Loyalty Points, even if you’re in basic economy. In addition, all AAdvantage miles earned from traveling on these airlines will be counted as Loyalty Points, including elite incentives.
When flying American or JetBlue, AAdvantage members will get 5 Loyalty Points for every dollar spent, while top-tier Executive Platinum elites will earn 11 Loyalty Points for every dollar spent.
When you travel with Oneworld airlines, you’ll earn Loyalty Points at the same rate as AAdvantage miles, but how many miles you earn depends on the distance and ticket class of your journey.
It’s worth noting that American Airlines has various non-alliance airline partners through whom you may earn AAdvantage points. These airlines, however, are not “Loyalty Point-qualifying carriers.”
Earning Loyalty Points Through Spending
In addition to earning Loyalty Points for flying, you will also earn Loyalty Points for credit card spending and spendings via qualifying partners like AAdvantage Dining, SimplyMiles, and the online Shopping site.
There is, once again, a snag. Not all AAdvantage miles earned via these means are eligible. American Airlines does not accept spending incentives, bonus miles, sign-up bonuses, or point conversions from other programs. For example, if you charge a $100 restaurant bill to your Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll earn 200 AAdvantage miles but just 100 Loyalty Points.
There is no limit to how many Loyalty Points you may earn using non-flying ways. For example, you may now spend $200,000 on an AAdvantage credit card to achieve 200,000 Loyalty Points and top-tier Executive Platinum status.
Credit Cards Play an Important Role in Qualifying
Under the new AAdvantage reward program, earning elite rank by flying alone will be prohibitively costly. Nonetheless, spending enough money on an AAdvantage credit card will be feasible to attain top-tier Executive Platinum elite membership without ever setting foot on an aircraft.
That’s by design.
If you start with no status, here’s how much you’ll need to spend on flights (excluding taxes, government fees, checked bag costs, and so on) to obtain AAdvantage elite status:
- $6,000 to get Gold
- Platinum requires a total of $12,429 to get.
- Platinum Pro costs $18,679 to get.
- Executive Platinum requires a $27,012 investment.
That’s correct. Even if you travel 270 trips for $100 apiece (before taxes and fees), you will fall short of attaining American Airlines Executive Platinum elite membership.
Under the new method, you’ll need to spend approximately twice as much on airfare to get the same level of elite status as previously. However, flying isn’t the only method you’ll earn elite credits in the future.
You will also earn Loyalty Points when you use an AAdvantage credit card or earn miles via certain AAdvantage partners. Unless you spend a lot of money on flight, you’ll need to earn AAdvantage points via one of these other means to achieve AAdvantage elite status.
Regaining AAdvantage Elite Status
Assume you’re an AAdvantage Platinum elite who spends roughly $6,500 per year on American Airlines flights. Going future, that spending will earn you 52,000 Loyalty Points. To re-acquire Platinum elite status, you must earn another 23,000 Loyalty Points.
To earn those Loyalty Points only from flights, you’d have to boost your travel expenditure by more than 44 percent. Alternatively, you may spend an average of $2,000 every month on an AAdvantage credit card. Then, you would earn at least 24,000 AAdvantage miles in addition to 24,000 Loyalty Points. It will be a far simpler option for many people than paying an extra $3,000 on the flight.
Finally, American Airlines has indicated that it would extend the elite statuses of all AAdvantage members until March 31, 2022, as a one-time gesture to cover the transition period between the conclusion of the existing elite qualifying system and the launch of the new one.
Furthermore, the airline has said that during the first two months of 2022, all elite-qualifying activities would count towards elite status meanings in 2021 and the new 2022/23 qualification year.