American awards lifetime (lowest-tier) Gold status at 1 million miles and lifetime Platinum status at 2 million miles. There is no option to earn higher lifetime elite status the way that there is on Delta and on United.
Two changes in 2017 combined to significantly devalue lifetime Platinum 2 million miler status (and those with millions beyond that).
- The introduction of Platinum Pro 75k status
- Prioritizing upgrades based on spend over the previous 12 months
Platinum Pro, aside from being an absurd name (even ‘Platinum 75K’ would have been better), is a new higher tier above Platinum. American went from 3 elite levels to 4. So lifetime Platinums went from being one level from the top tier to being one above the bottom. That immediately puts Platinum 2 million milers lower on the upgrade list.
Platinum Pro elites also receive unlimited complimentary upgrades, which means they request their upgrades on nearly every flight. Platinums have to pay for their domestic upgrades either with complimentary ‘stickers’ earned via flying or paid stickers. As a result there are more elites with higher status on the upgrade list on every flight a lifetime Platinum takes, not merely on some flights. That makes upgrades tougher to get as well.
The introduction of a new elite tier above Platinum should have come with the ability to earn lifetime status at that level. It didn’t.
But the new change going into effect May 20 really adds insult to injury. Within each elite tier upgrades will be prioritized based on the amount you’ve spent with American over the past 12 months. They’re prioritizing most recent spend over lifetime spend. Lifetime elites who aren’t earning a higher status today are almost by definition those who spend a great deal of money in the past, but not as much in the last year. It’s retirement status. And retirement status, low spend over the last 12 months, drops to the bottom of the upgrade list even among Platinums.
All of a sudden Platinum members are behind Executive Platinums on award tickets since that’s a new benefit, behind Platinum Pros since that’s a new higher status level, and behind most Platinums because the upgrade list is ordered based on recent spending.
Now you know what American Airlines thinks of your lifetime of loyalty. And there’s not much you can do about it. (Although a simple fix would be to award lifetime elites the qualifying dollars associated with achieving their tier.)
When United removed lifetime elite benefits they specifically promised months earlier not to take away, customers sued and a judge summarized,
United’s defense here is that the airline’s very best customers—its Million Mile Flyers—should have known better than to believe United’s promise of “lifetime” benefits. This defense amounts to a confession of consumer fraud. United could not—honestly and legally—promise “lifetime” benefits while reserving the right to cancel its promise at any time and for any reason.
Yet there was nothing customers could do about it.