Well, looky here! It’s not very often that an airline updates their frequent flier program and it’s full of positive changes. But then again, we’re living in unprecedented times. American Airlines has updated their AAdvantage program for elites and here they are in a nutshell:
NOTE: The changes below are in addition to already extending all elite status by a year, so instead of your status expiring on January 31, 2021 you now have until January 31, 2022 unless you requalify.
They’re adjusting elite qualification requirements
Since business travel is basically dead, American Airlines has lowered all qualifications for elite status by about 20% across the board. That means in 2021 they’ve adjusted Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD), Elite Qualifying Mile (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS) requirements. See the screenshot below for their new milestones.
They’re giving you a head start on elite qualification for 2021
Traditionally, earning elite status reset every calendar year. So you had until January 1 to December 31 to qualify. This year, they’re giving customers a head start. “All base EQMs, EQSs, and EQDs earned based on flights taken from October 1 – December 31, 2020, will also count toward your 2021 requirements. We’ll automatically roll them over after January 1, 2021. Keep in mind, bonus elite qualifying credits, such as those earned from an AAdvantage® credit card, will not roll over.”
They’re waiving the EQD requirement for select elite levels
American is waiving the EQD (Elite Qualification Dollars) requirement for select elite levels if you spend $30,000 on purchases with your eligible AAdvantage credit card. This is a good way to get people to spend on their credit cards.
Adjusting EQM thresholds for Executive Platinum rewards
Previously, members who qualified for Executive Platinum status received a choice of 1 reward upon reaching 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs. “For 2021, we’ll adjust the levels required to earn these rewards to 120,000, 160,000 and 200,000 EQMs.”
Introducing the flexibility to choose your rewards
“Starting in early 2021, when you qualify for Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum status, you’ll have the flexibility to choose the rewards that matter most to you. For our Platinum Pro members, you’ll be able to enhance your current benefits by choosing from a list of rewards such as a systemwide upgrade, Admirals Club® day passes, AAdvantage® bonus miles and more. For our Executive Platinum members, systemwide upgrades will now become one of many reward options – you can choose to maintain up to the 4 systemwide upgrades you receive today, or you’ll have the flexibility to select from a list of additional rewards. All of your other existing Executive Platinum benefits will remain the same.” More information will be coming soon.
Expanding elite benefits to Basic Economy fares
One of the best perks to come out of this is that they are allowing elites their usual perks even on Basic Economy tickets. “In addition to enjoying Priority Access and Preferred Boarding, elite members purchasing a Basic Economy fare can now use elite benefits to upgrade, reserve a Preferred or Main Cabin Extra seat or use Same-day Confirmed Flight Change.” That’s a significant money-saving addition because some Basic Economy fares are much cheaper than Main Cabin fares (regular coach).
According to AA’s Basic Economy’s page, you keep:
-Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seat benefits based on elite status
-Complimentary confirmed same-day flight changes for Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members
-Priority or preferred boarding privileges
-Checked bag benefits***
Note: Award miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars earn based on ticket price (includes base fare plus carrier-imposed fees; excludes government-imposed taxes and fees) on flights marketed and operated by American Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) earn at a reduced rate of 0.5 per mile/flight segment flown on flights marketed by American. Effective for travel starting January 1, 2021, Basic Economy fares won’t earn EQMs, EQSs or EQDs.
Eliminating award change fees
Although United was the first airline to eliminate change fees, American quickly followed and upped the ante. Not only are they eliminating change fees on cash tickets but also AAdvantage award travel within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’re also waiving change fees for all other tickets bought by December 31, 2020, for future travel regardless of fare type or itinerary.
AAdvantage mile expiration paused for the rest of 2020
Finally, they’ve paused the expiration of AAdvantage miles through December 31, 2020. If your miles were set to expire on or before December 31, 2020, they will now expire on January 1, 2021, if there’s no additional activity in your account before then. RELATED READING: How to Prevent American Airlines Miles from Expiring.