Everyone knew that 2021 would be an odd year. It might not be a total loss, like 2020, where American like most everyone else just extended status. However business travel hadn’t returned in the first half of the year in a meaningful way, and much of long haul international travel remained out of reach. Customers who normally made their status on international business class tickets just weren’t doing so, yet no one wanted to lose these customers when their business returned.
American started by,
- reducing the requirements to earn status in 2021 including waiving spend requirements for levels up to Platinum Pro for those doing sufficient co-brand card spending.
- Introduced three promotions for existing elites to keep their status.
- Straight extending the status of Concierge Key members.
Clearly things weren’t working out as hoped, and their projections were for the elite program to shrink dramatically so they took steps to counteract this and encourage customers to fly for status by placing that status within reach.
Then American even rolled out two more ways for existing elites to keep their status next year:
- $2000 qualifying dollars in spend on the airline this fall, or
- $15,000 spend on co-brand credit cards over four months.
At this point any existing elite who wants to keep their status should be able to do so without doing very much flying. These newest offers make it so easy for elite members to keep their status that many now become ‘free agents’. With American status secured, why not defect when another airline has a better schedule or price?
American Airlines, then, should focus on providing greater incentives to requalify for elite status on the basis of qualifying miles and qualifying dollars. They’ve made that doable this year through reduced requirements and promotions. Now they should encourage people to follow that path.
To be sure there are ‘elite choice’ benefits for earning Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status but these alone aren’t reasons to forego the easy options and stick with the program for 2021.
Members who earn their status with credit card spend don’t earn systemwide upgrades, for instance, but those are rarely confirmable in advance any longer. And someone like me earns status domestically, and redeems miles for international travel… on partners that offer a better travel experience.
It’s time for American Airlines to add big bonuses for requalifying for elite status this year, or the structure they’ve set up may give them elite members in 2022 but will cost them business this year.