American Airlines Has Purged Its Accidental ConciergeKey Members

Last summer, after more than a decade as an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member, I was elevated to ‘top secret’ ConciergeKey status. The airline rarely talks about ConciergeKey, meant for their highest-spending customers. I was one of the ‘accidental ConciergeKeys’.

  • American revamped how status is earned, no longer just counting flights but looking at most miles earned. Customers doing a lot of credit card spend and online shopping are much higher margin than those who just fly. (Selling miles is more profitable than selling tickets.)

  • For the first time, the most profitable customers of AAdvantage overall were invited into ConciergeKey mid-year. And I had earned 7 million miles from American’s way-too-generous year-end 2021 SimplyMiles promotion.

There were plenty of others like me. It seemed that anyone who took advantage of SimplyMiles earning 5 million or more miles. This included several readers (I had heavily covered the offer).

ConciergeKey has been amazing. Benefits I took advantage of,

  • Emails to reservations for things I needed. I received text messages and was met at gets when dealing with delays.
  • No cash co-pays on mileage upgrades.
  • Met at gates with a golf cart when I had long connections. (I never received a tarmac transfer, currently a GMC from one gate to another on tight connections at hubs.)
  • Use of business class Flagship lounges when flying domestically, even on arrival, as well as Flagship check-in. At New York JFK this means access to the Soho lounge on domestic trips, and Chelsea on international.
  • Guaranteed next flight, they actually booked me onto a sold out flight to get me where I was going when my flight was cancelled.

Chelsea Lounge, New York JFK

I received the status in July, valid through March 2023. I’d hoped that the status would last ‘a minimum of 12 months’ and therefore I’d be renewed and keep it through March 2024. But that wasn’t to be. Others, like me, who got invited to ConciergeKey after earning millions of miles through the SimplyMiles deal – for the redeemable miles, having no idea it would have any effect on status – aren’t being renewed either apparently. These ‘accidental ConciergeKeys’ are being shed from the rolls.

I’ll never be in the league of those spending $50,000 – $60,000 on high yield tickets, and without a twice in a lifetime type of promotion like December 2021’s deal I’m unlikely to ever see that status again.

According to a company memo, it seems that many current ConciergeKeys who date from before the pandemic were simply extended again. That same policy didn’t apply to those of us who had it under a new approach, however.

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. Just received the ‘your in’ message this morning from AA Conciege Key, currently in Scotland traveling on business, was quite surprised as my loyalty points only added up to 380k for the end Feb Cut off, needless to say, very pleased, as, just on this trip greeted off the plane at Heathrow London and a Merc was waiting to take myself + co workers from t2 to t5, which, for those who know is a dash from the gate to a cramped standing room only 12 minute bus ride alone around the airport campus and not fun at 6.30am on a wet, cold morning in London.

  2. Gary what did the AA company memo say? Did it offer insight into how they decided who to retain?

  3. Ah yes, the simplymiles debacle where a very small few gobbled up all the miles immediately and everyone else was left reading the shrill posts across the blogosphere. Not saying I wouldn’t have done the same if given the chance, but tacky nonetheless.

  4. Interesting, sort of like that special inner place at the Admiral’s Club. (When the door open I peaked in at Miami’s Gate 30 AC. It looked the same but I guess the food is better.)

    And just to post some positive news on a site that has to report when things don’t work: I would like to say that just had a terrific experience with AA’s gate agents. My PUJ-CLT flight wouldn’t connect to CLT-MSP due to weather in Minneapolis so with my okay was rerouted to MIA. Got on the next morning’s plane there and its computer died on the pre-flight check. Would have had to wait for a trip via DFW that afternoon and then that was late so I wouldn’t have made the connection to MSP for another day anyway.

    But the agent in Miami got me on a “sold out” evening flight to Minneapolis so despite 13 hours in the Admiral’s Club I got home only 1 day late. (Even got an email my luggage was in ahead of me.) Everyone was helpful and tried to find fixes. I was impressed with their efforts and am writing the airline to say that. It’s a complex system and I get it that things don’t always go right, but when people care and do their best sometimes things work out.

    But I will add: Be proactive! When the Miami plane couldn’t take off everyone just seemed to sit there, wondered what to do and then lined up at before the gate agent to get help. By that time I’d used the AA app and my cell phone to confirm the next reservation. I learned that in Cape Town when the pandemic hit. Got off the cruise ship after a week of playing “Flying Dutchman” circling the Cape of Good Hope and immediately (and of course politely) worked with Qatar Airlines to revise my flight and get out of there before the coming lock down. Again, most of the other passengers waited for someone to tell them what to do. That’s not the way to roll with sudden changes in travel plans. (The Qatari plane broke down and we ended up in Oman for a while, but that’s another story.)

  5. TLDR: AA is going to lose me and those around me’s excess spend, but I am a small fish so they don’t care.

    Honestly, not sure how AA evaluates the requirement, but I am disappointed that I was not renewed. I am not sure how I got CK initially as I was not a particularly high spender, and I did not take advantage of the SimplyMiles promotion. However, having CK definitely drove a LOT more revenue to AA than normal. I was flying AA and prioritizing AA metal everywhere including flying with a stop vs cheaper non stop options. I was using cash vs points, and paying for business vs coach. I was influencing my spouse, parents and siblings purchasing and spend habits again stops vs non stops, cash vs points, and credit card spend (cumulatively millions in base spend).

    Now with the change to EXP being simply based on LP (easy to get with CC spend), there is no incentive for me to a) book using cash and b) booking premium class on AA metal or crediting it to AA.

    Cumulatively I had or could influence non-hub captured LAX and NYC spend of around $60K+ premium cabin travel (does not include my travel for work) and excess CC spend of around $5M that I will be directing away from AA. And more revenue since my family and I typically gave away the SWU’s to friends, further incentivizing them to fly AA.

    Again small potatoes, but enough of people like me and cumulatively that is a lot of lost business. Oh well should be fun trying new products using my war chest of points and not making irrational decisions.

  6. Loyalty programs are on final approach to being eliminated wholesale and replaced with something else. The industry and the way it captures revenue has changed fundamentally since the pandemic, and the programs as the exist will end up being redrawn, spun out, or eliminated completely and fully handed over to the credit card companies. It is only a matter of time.

  7. Aadvantage is just like the old Twilight Zone with Rod Serling: “we control the vertical we control the horizontal.”

    I got 1M miles credited by Citi. For a short time I was a Mile Millionaire.

    AA reversed it and wouldn’t even talk about me reimbursing the cost.

    Some analyst emailed me, telling me they would cancel my reservations.

    Caused me to cancel my plans to attend a wedding.

    They should’ve let me reimburse the cost.

    Don’t know who to talk to at Citi, either.

    I’m back on Delta.

  8. @Johnson ‘s comment isn’t valid. The Simplymiles conservation deal wasn’t that limited. Almost anyone willing to do it was able to grab tons of miles so it really isn’t tacky. Besides Gary normally wouldn’t qualify for CK but gave one of us AVgeek little guys a chance to see behind the status 🙂

  9. I’m back on AA as ExPlat. Moving from UA after 5 years as 1K. Boy do I regret it. Since I’m based in Dallas and due to flight schedule revisions from CoVid the UA connections were no longer tenable. But my experience as a 1K is FAR better than ExPlat. AA has devolved into a shoddy, ramshackle outfit.

  10. Gary, we all know how much it’s going to hurt every time you hear “Now boarding our Concierge Key members….”

    I can see it now: Gary’s in the concourse. “Now boarding our Concierge Key members” comes across the intercom. Gary half-rises out of his seat, pauses, then sits back down with a dejected expression on his face. Ouch !


  11. Gary, one more simplymiles datapoint: i bought 4.1M and received ck. Got two pre-emptive tarmac transfers and one i had to request. At the moment i am still ck and praying!!

  12. They never talk about concierge key except at the beginning of every boarding. (I am a Group 1 loser.)

  13. @Todd – log into your account, does it show March 31, 2023 or March 31, 2024 as your CK expiration date? And how many loyalty points have you earned since SimplyMiles? Would love more data points!

  14. Off topic but….when I was flying out of Newark in the New Terminal A. …I asked for the location of the Admirals Club…ground staff were not happy. It appears according the the AA staff…”they forgot to add the Admirals Club and the Credit Union” for the employees..Someone had to sign off on the plans multiple times …and no one noticed….well they now “plan” on building on soon….Just thought anyone flying out of EWR would like to know…

  15. Disappointed ex-CK says:

    Among your comments made was that you took one stop flights that cost more than non-stop flights to get better miles. OK, so who pays for your tickets: you or the company?

  16. Company usually requires direct flights when available.

    So the extra revenue from taking one vs non stop or premium cabin flights comes from my discretionary spending.

    Again, aware not the most rationale decision but the things status makes you do haha.

  17. A lot of ruffled feathers in this string…
    @Gary, sorry you didn’t get renewed. If I were the gambling type, I would have bet on you being renewed. But at least now, you can go back to bashing AA with the zeal they deserve.
    I am in the limbo land of assuming I’m not getting renewed, but no status either for next year (should be EXP) which is a royal PITA since it kills any effort to achieve a status match somewhere else.
    I have a lot of sympathy with @Disappointed ex-CK. Being CK has certainly driven spend to AA by me. I have decided to use up my miles this year — they’re not exactly going to increase in value are they? And thereafter use Google Flights to just find good Business and First class deals. I’m not a domestic flyer much, so the way I fly in those classes internationally who needs status? Looking hard at Turkish since they fly from my home airport in the UK, and from airports close to my US base, and go everywhere. Emirates as a fall-back.
    Wondering just how United out of Houston stacks up versus AA as an international airline. Last time I was on a United flight it was a B727, which tells how recent my experience with them is. I would sooner cut my leg off with a rusty knife than patronize Delta again (I was Platinum).

  18. @Gary Sorry you weren’t renewed, but though we all know you will deny it your coverage of AA became drastically more positive after you were minted as a CK. Poor decision by AAdvantage not to renew you on that basis alone but no one would ever accuse AAdvantage of big picture thinking. I look forward to seeing how you cover AA moving forward.

  19. @LRon: “@Gary Sorry you weren’t renewed, but though we all know you will deny it your coverage of AA became drastically more positive after you were minted as a CK. Poor decision by AAdvantage not to renew you on that basis alone but no one would ever accuse AAdvantage of big picture thinking”
    I have to agree w/you. WhyI would have plonked good money down on his renewal. The difference in coverage was almost an overnight shift. I don’t blame @Gary too much for it though. He’s human like the rest of us and some influences can be subtle even if we try to push them aside.

  20. I am in the same boat – thinking my CK status will be gone at the end of March. I flew every week of the year but only domestic. So bummed to lose it. I exclusively took AA last year, but will not without CK. I amassed about 300k points.

  21. Do you even travel anymore, and did you actually take advantage of it besides a few random trips? Seems you mostly armchair a travel/miles/whatever blog these days, Gary. Laughing at AA giving it to you and the fact you never actually did much with it. You are like a starving person walking by a farm who takes a carrot and just sits there looking at it. And decides to write a poem about it instead of eating.

  22. @Stuart – I’m literally on a trip right now, my second one of the week, I do not understand why you consistently push this idea that I do not travel? Truly bizarre.

  23. American Airlines would not agree that my coverage was positive. See, for instance

    I do share specific details of my experience, and those were certainly positive while I was a ConciergeKey, from golf cart pickups to better irrops handling. People were nicer to me, and I reported that.

    Now it’ll be back to the standard experience as an Executive Platinum.

  24. I love how half of us think Gary is an AA stooge and half think he’s a hater. Same with Delta. That’s probably a good sign.

  25. If I ever got ConciergeKey status, the one thing I would look forward to more than anything else, would be to ask the gate lice that line up in the priority lane before anyone has even been called, “could you move, please?”

  26. @Luke: There is no need to wait for ConciergeKey status. Become a Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive cardmember or AAdvantage Gold, then tell those pesky gate lice to scram. You can also ask a family with a few free-range children if you can join their family for a few minutes during pre-boarding, which will temporarily increase your boarding priority to beat out ConciergeKey® members.

    More information on the American Airlines boarding order..
    Group Boarding pass type
    ConciergeKey® members ConciergeKey®
    Group 1 First
    Active duty U.S. military with military I.D.
    AAdvantage Executive Platinum®
    (Business on a 2-class international plane)
    Group 2 AAdvantage Platinum Pro®
    oneworld® Emerald℠
    (Business on a 3-class plane)
    Group 3 AAdvantage Platinum®
    oneworld® Sapphire℠
    Group 4 AAdvantage Gold®
    oneworld® Ruby℠
    Premium Economy
    Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive cardmembers
    Travelers who bought Priority boarding
    Eligible corporate travelers

  27. @Ken – I am Executive Platinum and also a frequent paid first class traveler, so I pretty much always board with group 1. However, as a good citizen, I also always stand a few feet back from the priority lane until I’m actually called. It bugs the sh*t out of me when other elite / first class passengers literally line up inside the priority lane before boarding starts, as if there couldn’t possibly be anyone more important than them. I haven’t always flown first class, so I feel like I have a bit more appreciation as someone who’s worked his way up to this “status” in life; the kind of behavior I’m describing just reeks of entitlement to me. Just once, I’d love to be ConciergeKey, for the sole purpose of politely telling that category of traveler to get the f*ck out of my way. (I’m also a New Yorker, what can I say…)

  28. Why the rush to board? I’d much rather keep stretching the legs, work at the gate than be crammed on board. Lot of work to get CK just to be able to flex on a lower boarding group 🙂

    @johnsen I bought around 1.5 miles from the simply miles promotion and didn’t pull the trigger until about the third night of it being available. Wish I’d bought 5m miles :(. It certainly wasn’t a mad dash.

  29. @Gary my acct says valid through 3/31/23. I dont know if these factor in but my wife and i fly AA twice per month domestically (90% using points), i have the executive WEM card, i was plat pro prior to CK.

  30. @mick – i bot miles in three tranches over two days so it wasn’t really mad dash as others portray it. Certainly there were tons of miles to go around for whoever wanted them. After my first two smaller purchases i called citibank and asked them if i could reverse the charge if the miles did not come to me as advertised. i took screenshots and made notes of everything. After that call i maxed out a $10k card then i tried to go back later the same day with another card but it was all over by then (i think day three or four of the promo). As posited by others, i gotta think it was a mistake and there was not a limit to the number of miles which could be obtained. If a window of opportunity is open (and you recognize it as such) you gotta jump fast. This was a classic case of that wisdom.

  31. @Gary, because you don’t review anything anymore, rarely add any data points to experiences, and I think your trips mostly involve AUS to wherever on WN. You pontificate while others actually do the hard work. That is fly, take photos, review, and actually contribute to the conversation of what really matters. You probably have it in you but found it’s easier to armchair the whole thing and take the easy route out. I don’t mind the clickbait after clickbait post if it’s at least interspersed with something, anything, to make you seem credible or relevant anymore.

  32. @stuart – no one is here for gary’s hotel reviews which i see as a commodity. Gary offers a fairly unique combo of knowledge and insight. Perhaps to you what “really matters” is not quite the same as the rest of his readers.

  33. @todd. I agree. I bought one tranche. Then thought (after a few wines) let’s go again. All my mates are like “thanks for the heads up” yet I know they wouldn’t have hit go on such a weird promotion.

    Bitterness on this promotion is weird. There wasn’t a set amount of miles available that everyone gobbled up at the expense of others. Literally three days in you could have taken your pick.

  34. @Stuart – you don’t like my blog, keep coming back into the comments, and make all sorts of incorrect assumptions but we all make life choices I guess. I travel a lot more than more bloggers, though unlike most I also have a full time job that involves travel still and that travel is mostly domestic. The notion that I ‘don’t add data points’ is utterly silly. But I don’t post a lot of photos of American Airlines domestic first class because that seems uninteresting?

    I’ll probably post some reports on upcoming trips, but honestly Paris in a couple of weeks does anyone want another report of the Park Hyatt Vendome or BA/AF business class? Maybe they do! I don’t choose my accommodations or flights primarily for the review value, so a lot of my travel doesn’t get reviewed. Park Hyatt Sydney? Park Hyatt Tokyo? American Airlines international business? Maybe I’ll write up my upcoming Fiji Airways flights. Certainly interested to learn what people find interesting.

  35. @Gary – i was hoping for some last minute aa magic but i guess not! I am on the last 10 day leg of a 44 day sfo-sin-syd-akl-bne-mel-hkg-tyo. Stayed at park hyatts in syd, akl & mel. Syd ph was awesome due to location but akl was a nicer hotel. So, there is my high quality review, maybe i should start a blog

  36. @Hungry – Flagship First Dining is still available in Miami and Dallas. It has not re-opened in Los Angeles. And it has been replaced by the Chelsea lounge at JFK. There haven’t been passes offered to CKs in the past year.

  37. Flagship dining passes expired last May during COVID shutdown of Flagship dining. I kept trying to get some reinstated when I was spending time at DFW or MIA but they said no. Even though we couldn’t have used them, they said no more passes 🙁 And I was flying first class, just not “flaghsip” first.

  38. I’ve been CK for 7 years, lost my status this year with close to 500K LPs earned . The only perk I will miss is picking me up during short connections; boarding is absolutely irrelevant unless you have huge ego. Interestingly enough, I almost lost my flight to Santiago last week due to my first leg being 90 minutes late. I had to run through 30 gates to catch flight at the last moment. The point is, since they knew they will not extend my CK status, they did not care to pick me up; $7K ticket didn’t mean too much. Way to go AA!!

  39. Do you really think they knew?? I asked my CK agents and they said they didn’t have a list. They kept telling me they would be shocked if I didn’t get renewed. Well, lots of shocked agents. I flew on the 25th and 26th and still got my Escalade to take me across the tarmac and got into Flagship. As far as boarding first, I agree. I actually did not like that part. People rushed in front anyway and got on. Then there are the looks and people asking how you got to be CK because they fly a lot and spend a lot of money, too. I preferred to stay quiet and go on with group 1 unless I was called to preboard. I too was let go this year. We need to start a new post-CK club. Would really love to chat with others in the same boat.

  40. I can’t think of any other reason; few empty CK golf carts drove by while I was rushing to my gate.
    In any case, I don’t think I will lose anything since 90% of my travel is international and I fly business most of the time. I almost reached EP in March of this year-LOL; more business will now go to other companies in 11 remaining months! BTW, while I was talking to an agent today about my itinerary, she told me that they are not done with invites for this year – don’t know if that is true.

  41. I just logged into my account and noticed I was upgraded to CK. No idea how. Didn’t think I spent over $50k last year. I usually have 2-3 flights a week. But just domestic. I’m literally mine blown.

  42. Surprisingly I was awarded CK today 3/5/23 In 2022 I had 2.2M loyalty points that all disappeared on 3/1/23. 3/23 I already have nearly 200k loyalty points all from Credit Card charges. I never purchase flights in 15 yrs . Only use miles. Been Ex Platinum for about 1 yr My cl status is thru 12/2024

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