American Airlines announced a slew of changes to its American Airlines AAdvantage loyalty program Tuesday. There’s a lot to digest, but so far, I’m pleasantly surprised that there’s not a major devaluation. In fact, there are surprisingly some things to like about the news.
The best thing to come out of the announcement is that the carrier didn’t make it harder to earn top-tier Executive Platinum status for 2025, meaning I’ll stick with my plan of striving to requalify for the same status next year. To succeed, I’ll need to accrue 200,000 Loyalty Points once the new status-earning year kicks off March 1.
The lack of tweaks to qualification requirements isn’t the only positive from American’s most recent program changes. Here are five AAdvantage changes I’m excited about — including one that also worries me.
New Loyalty Points rewards
American Airlines has added an exciting new perk that elites can choose from once they’ve accumulated various levels of Loyalty Points. You’ll now be able to select 1,000 Loyalty Points as soon as you’ve acquired 15,000 Loyalty Points. Previously, your only options were a one-time priority check-in and Group 4 boarding, or five Preferred Seat coupons. Those benefits were duplicative of or even inferior to the perks you get as a top-tier elite, so this is a nice change for those with status.
Once you earn 175,000 Loyalty Points, you can now pick 5,000 additional Loyalty Points. That option is in addition to the current choices, which include two systemwide upgrades or 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles. I’m not as excited by this choice as an elite since I value the upgrade certificates more, but it’s good to have options.
At the 250,000 Loyalty Points threshold, you can pick 15,000 additional Loyalty Points as a reward. That comes on top of previous options like two more systemwide upgrades or up to 30,000 bonus miles.
All in all, while the new choices aren’t spectacular (I would have loved another opportunity to select upgrade certificates), it’s a positive at the margins. I will definitely choose another 1,000 Loyalty Points at the 15,000 Loyalty Points level.
The ability to upgrade on partner flights
This could be a big one, though details are elusive for now. American says it will introduce the ability to upgrade flights on some partner airlines using AAdvantage miles at some point this year.
Currently, you can use systemwide upgrade certificates on select British Airways flights. You can also upgrade with miles on some British Airways and Iberia flights. However, there are lots of restrictions.
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If American makes it easier to upgrade with miles on both British Airways and other partner airlines like Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines, it could be a game changer.
Flagship First access
In my opinion, this one is a really cool enhancement.
Once you hit AAdvantage Platinum Pro status, you can redeem miles to dine in one of American’s ultra-exclusive lounges. You’ll be able to spend your miles for access to the Flagship First dining facilities in Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Miami International Airport (MIA) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
I’m curious to see if this ends up being prohibitively expensive, but for now, I’ll consider this change a win and take a “wait and see” approach for the pricing.
Limiting some perks to only AAdvantage members
American is putting some benefits behind a membership paywall. Additionally, members will now be able to cancel basic economy tickets, which hadn’t been changeable before, for a fee of $99.
Other new perks for AAdvantage members include being able to buy one-day passes to the Admirals Club lounges and the Flagship Lounges, free same-day standby and complimentary 24-hour ticket holds. Those perks had previously been available to everyone.
Earning Loyalty Points for upgrades
There’s one change that I’m especially happy about, though I’m also worried about what the fallout could be.
American Airlines has gotten increasingly aggressive at selling upgrades. I’ve regularly grabbed offers to upgrade transcontinental flights on my trips to and from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on American Airbus A321T planes (including Flagship First). In fact, I’ve been sold upgrades for as little as $242.
However, unlike Delta Air Lines, American Airlines previously did not award Loyalty Points or additional redeemable miles for upgrades purchased with cash. That will change going forward. Sometime in 2024, you’ll be able to earn redeemable miles and additional Loyalty Points when you pay with cash to upgrade to a premium cabin.
While the change sounds fantastic on the surface, my main concern is that American has already made upgrades harder to get for free — a key reason to strive for Executive Platinum status — and that may become even more true now that there’s added incentive to take advantage of an upgrade offer before a flight.
There’s a lot to love about the changes American Airlines rolled out Tuesday. I’m most excited about the potential for additional reward options and more ways to upgrade on partner flights.
I’m also looking forward to some of the previously announced changes, such as the spending bonuses that American had previously rolled out. There is a 20% to 30% Loyalty Points bonus on spending with several American partners and programs, including American Airlines Vacations, AA Hotels, SimplyMiles and the AAdvantage eShopping and Dining portals. At the 60,000 Loyalty Points level, you’ll get a 20% spend bonus, and at the 100,000 Loyalty Points level, you’ll get a 30% bonus.
I got hooked back into the AAdvantage universe back in 2022 when I enrolled in a status challenge and quickly qualified for Executive Platinum status. Now, I’ve requalified for 2024.
I’m excited to see what American does with the program this year and beyond. If these latest changes are a sign of what to expect for the rest of the year, I look forward to continuing to go all-in on AAdvantage.