American Airlines Handing Out Gobs Of Miles In Exchange For Upgrade Certificates

News and notes from around the interweb:

  • If you’re upset about American’s plan to convert 500 mile upgrades to 250 Loyalty Points some people who complain are getting miles instead, in one reported case up to 5000 miles per expiring certificate (25 x 5000 = 125,000 miles!).

    American confirmed that it will consider alternative compensation methods for those who reach out to express their dissatisfaction. “We welcome our members to contact us and will respond to any requests on a case-by-case basis,” a carrier spokesperson wrote in a statement.

    Update: It appears American is only doing this for purchased 500 mile upgrade certificates (whether with miles or money) and not earned upgrade certificates. And American has updated its terms so that no one can go buy these now and then cash them in for a generous mileage payout.

  • Russian carrier S7 has been suspended from the oneworld alliance

  • Delta updates its statement calling COVID a ‘seasonal virus’ after a backlash (HT: @crucker)

  • Iggy Azalea learns about American Airlines’ 15 minute cutoff time. (HT: Paul H)

  • Transparency.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I tried calling AA immediately after TPG posted the story yesterday regarding 500 mile upgrades, and they offered nothing. The agent was useless just telling me to disregard my unexpired upgrades and when I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, he transferred me to a customer service agent. That agent told me they can only be used at this time for companion upgrades (?) and specifically mentioned (unprompted by me) that there is no plan to trade them for loyalty points. Lame.

  2. Gary, I just called and spoke to someone in the AAdvantage department. They had no clue about this other option and said the loyalty points conversion was all they had information about.

  3. Loved the last article/story on “Transparency” – this is how it should be. This is how it should be, point.

  4. I’ve been extremely aggrieved about AA’s 500 mile upgrades for sometime. For customers who travel primarily internationally, they are of zero value. I have a 3 figure number of unused stickers at this point. There was a time that AA was allowing those with non-US addresses on their AAdvantage accounts to exchange them, but I haven’t heard of them doing that for a while.

  5. AA management doesn’t tell the people answering the phone what they are announcing!!?? Typical

  6. Your post had me very excited at the prospects for my 50+ certs. The comments lost the wind in my sails. Keep us posted on developments. Sounds like it’s not worth calling yet.

    thanks for keeping us posted.

  7. Yesterday I ordered a pair of flip flops from a website and was prompted to tip the warehouse workers. This after being given the options of 20%, 25% and 30% for a carry-out dinner order. How do we reverse this insane tip creep?

  8. Guys, read the TPG article. It said that people with lifetime status on AA already were given some flexibility on a case-by-case basis to convert to miles instead of loyalty points as loyalty points don’t help them since they already have lifetime status. Also, if you have lifetime status on AA then you are one of their biggest customers, so they are of course going to try to keep you happy. This isn’t a blanket amnesty program and they aren’t going to care about those of us who aren’t their biggest spenders, because Loyalty points actually helps AA, not us. If we get enough Loyalty Points from the conversion that we are almost to status, we might book some of our travel with AA to get the status, and thus stay in their ecosystem, they aren’t just going to give out free miles to everyone who is unhappy. And yes, I realize that those with upgrade certificates tend to be bigger spenders on AA, but it’s not a given that we still are, especially after more limited travel the last 2 years, so this is definitely a way for AA to get people back on their planes, they aren’t going to give up that opportunity.

  9. Called EP line (no lifetime status). First agent had no idea, was asking if I wanted to buy more 500 mile stickers. HUCA. Second agent transferred me to AAdvantage customer service. They verified my account and said 250 LPs was the only option right now. I asked if other options would be available in the future, and eventually they agreed to submit an email request for an exception. Told me some one would reach out to me with other options if any were available, but no guarantees there would be other options. So sounds like, at least for now, they really are looking at this on a case-by-case basis. About 30 minutes all in on the phone.

  10. Congrats to those who got in relatively early on getting higher offers for the AA 500 mile upgrades. Like with the points for expiring Hyatt certs earlier, this type of one-off generosity for loyal members is gonna get killed by everyone and their mother begging for free stuff by complaining.

  11. I just spoke with American about my upgrade sticker conversion. I was told nothing could be done above the standard conversion rate.

  12. Called and no go. They said they don’t have a date for conversion of the stickers, so I could call back a later time, but currently there were no other options. They did have to call another department so maybe if I had higher status or was lifetime it would have worked.

  13. Re: transparency in Portugal, they probably brought the wireless credit card machine to the table as well and didn’t have to take the card away to the back somewhere. Why don’t businesses in the US have these magical machines so we can simply tap and go (with card or phone). So annoying when I get back pretty much any other country where they all use these machines.

  14. I emailed AA…explained I buy first class tickets anyway, especially since the pandemic, and 500 mile upgrades (have a whole bunch) and are of no value. Lets see what happens..worth a shot.

  15. Save your effort. I spent 45 minutes on the phone going through three layers of CSR. I am Lifetime Platinum so thought that gave me a chance. They are familiar with the TPG article (one of the people on the phone even referenced it). The current policy (based on what they told me) is to offer compensation only for purchased upgrade stickers. I told the CSR that I did purchase upgrade stickers and she gave me the date of my last purchase (it was in 1999) and the date I used them up (three months later). I was also told that all of the 27 remaining upgrade stickers were earned from flying. So, Gary, your headline about AA handing out “gobs” of miles doesn’t appear to be accurate, or at least not anymore, and it sounds like AA kept good records on which stickers were purchased and which were earned through flying.

  16. I’m a Lifetime Platinum. Just called the number provided at The Points Guy link. The CSR told me no, she’s been getting questions like this about converting the 500-mile upgrades to regular AA miles, and that the only course is converting them to Loyalty Points.

  17. @Doug – regarding tip creep. This is a huge growing problem in the U.S. especially. It’s quite simple, if private sector companies would pay a decent wage, this would eliminate a lot (not all) of the tipping expectation that has invaded the U.S. That will never happen though due to corporate greed. Example – wait staff in restaurants. Pay them a living wage and thus, eliminate the need for tipping in order to survive. It works in other countries. Yes, even if that means building it into the price of the item. Same goes for hotels and the RIDICULOUS “resort fee”, “amenity fee”, whatever the hell you want to call it. Build it into the rate and be DONE with it!!

  18. I’m being given the run around on getting my paid 500 mile upgrade certificates converted to LPs…….AA Twitter won’t help and told me to call in……EP desk transfered me to a worthless AADV “customer service” agent who said it’s not possible at this point and I said I have read otherwise on social media……now on hold to speak to a 3rd person….WTH?

  19. Regarding the portable CC devices used in Europe, they are starting to appear in the US. I was just in Las Vegas and they’re more common there than anywhere I’ve seen in the US so far. Remember that we got Tap To Pay way after Europe and the Europeans have had PINs on their cards while US consumers refuse to use them. As advanced as we are, a lot of US consumers and retailers are very reluctant to embrace change.

  20. Like DSK, I’m lifetime Platinum, too. I also earned Platinum last year. Just completed a very satisfactory round with AAdvantage Customer Service. It started after the TPG article … I sent a respectful e-mail via the Contact Us link. It took a few weeks before they got back to me. Then we had a few more rounds of polite e-mails where they produced a report showing what upgrades/stickers I have bought, earned and used over the last 20 years. We agreed that my purchases amounted to about half of my upgrade balance, and those were what should really have been up for discussion. All considered, I was dealt with fairly and in reasonable time. Very happy to say that! Thanks, TPG, for alerting me to this.

  21. Follow up here. Received email from AAdvantage CS Executive Liason. I was offered choice of the following for the stickers that I had purchased (no alternative options for those earned through flying):

    250 LPs/sticker
    Tavel credit equal to amount paid for all of the stickers purchased
    Refund of amount paid to original payment method.
    5,000 miles/sticker.

    Took the miles obviously. Added nice six figures to my mileage balance.

  22. Gobs of miles!
    Just landed in my aa account.

    I am reaching out to you to follow-up on your request for more options
    to exchange your purchased 500-mile upgrades. I appreciate the
    opportunity to assist an AAdvantage Gold® member.

    Based on our internal records, your 52 unused 500-mile upgrades were
    purchased. We can offer you the following refund options for the 52
    purchased and unused 500-mile upgrades:

    A. 13,000 Loyalty Points (250 Loyalty Points x 52 purchased 500-mile
    B. 260,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles(5,000 bonus miles x 52 purchased
    500-mile upgrades)

    Once you have decided on a preferred option, please respond to this
    e-mail directly and I will ensure the exchange is promptly executed. I
    look forward to hearing from you and helping to bring closure to this

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