American Airlines Shocks Flyers: Positive AAdvantage Program Changes For 2024

American Airlines has announced upcoming changes to the AAdvantage program, and they are (1) most importantly, not big changes and (2) generally positive. That’s not something we’ve come to expect!

  • No changes to how status is earned. They aren’t increasing the amount of activity you need to earn status between March 2024 and February 2025.
  • No changes to the cost of award tickets.
  • More benefits just for being a member of the program.

Redeem Miles For Flagship First Dining Access

American Airlines is introducing a new “Enhance With Miles” option. Platinum Pro members and higher will be able to redeem miles for access to the airline’s Flagship First Dining. They haven’t yet released how much this will cost.

Flagship First Dining is a sit-down restaurant with high quality food and beverage options inside some of the airline’s business class lounges. My expectation is that the cost will be… prohibitive. They charge more than I’d pay for access to their business class Flagship lounges. And the cost of the current option under ‘Enhance With Miles’ – gifting status for a single trip – is expensive.

However I’m still hopeful that members use this option, because if American Airlines can make the economics of Flagship First Dining work even as they eliminate first class (from Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A321T aircraft as those get reconfigured) then it’ll be a reason to keep the product. Indeed, it could even be a reason to re-open the Los Angeles First Dining facility.

DFW Flagship First Dining

Currently there are only Flagship First Dining options in Miami and at Dallas – Fort Worth, since JFK First Dining is now just a part of the business class Greenwich lounge and long haul and premium transcon first class passengers have access to the shared American-British Airways Chelsea lounge, which isn’t as good as JFK’s Flagship First Dining used to be.

Partner Airline Upgrades Are Coming

While Star Alliance has had an upgrade product that allowed members to use their miles for upgrades across member airlines, oneworld and SkyTeam haven’t had this.

American Airlines has offered the ability to use miles in a limited fashion to upgrade on British Airways and Iberia, and not even other joint venture partners even though Qantas upgrades were talked up at the start of 2016. American and Alaska offer reciprocal upgrades as a benefit to each others’ elite members.

Soon (“in 2024”) American will offer a new option to or mileage upgrades on “select” airline partners. They’re not offering more details than this at this time.

I’d speculate that this may simply be access to the broader long-delayed oneworld alliance upgrade program. Although there had also been some talk of separately introducing upgrades with joint venture partners Japan Airlines and Qantas.

British Airways Club Suite

Better Travel Benefits For Joining The Program

Being an AAdvantage member already gets you a better boarding position which in turn means a greater likelihood of having access to overhead bin space. That’s an incentive to join the AAdvantage progam.

American is moving more benefits underneath being a member of the program – things you’ll be able to do with the airline, and things that previously required AAdvantage status. What Delta has shown us, with free inflight wifi, is that there’s a big bet that attracting members to the program means converting members to credit card customers. These are inexpensive ways to acquire AAdvantage customers, and overall a reason to join.

  • Free same-day standby on domestic flights for all AAdvantage members starts March 1. Of course, American’s standby policies are more restrictive than those of competitors. Inventory is more limited (and standing by as a paid first class passenger is limited as well). Most importantly, American still requires you to follow the same routing if you’re taking connecting flights. If you were connecting in Charlotte to get home, you can’t connect in Dallas Fort-Worth instead.

  • Extended Trip Credit members who cancel travel online get an extra six months of validity for their trip credit. Generally that means 18 months instead of a year.

  • Buy passes to Admirals Clubs and Flagship lounges it appears this will be restrictive to customers who are members of AAdvantage. Day passes to Admirals Clubs are $79 and Flagship lounge single visit passes will cost $159 or 15,900 miles.

  • Itinerary holds will require AAdvantage membership Free 24 hour holds (for bookings seven or more days prior to departure) will be restricted to members. While in some sense a restriction, it’s something anyone can generally overcome, and implicit is a suggestion that reservation holds will remain after testing the elimination of these holds.

  • Get trip credit when cancelling basic economy tickets Later in January members will be able to cancel and retain travel credit, after $99 fee, for basic economy fares. This is an improvement compared to forfeiting the value of tickets entirely.

While there are real opportunities for continued improvement here, I don’t see any of these changes as negative overall.

More Changes To Come?

American Airlines specifically calls out that there are no changes to the AAdvantage award chart. That’s important for members because the greatest value from the program comes from awards on their airline partners, and the price of those hasn’t changed since October 2016. It’s these awards that are the ‘killer app’ of the program, offering a consumer advantage relative to Delta and to United (which has more partners and frequently better availability on those partners).

A couple of weeks ago American Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja dropped breadcrumbs about future changes to the program but those really don’t seem to be reflected here.

Over time we may see more variable mileage earning based on where you book your ticket and whether you have an AAdvantage credit card; redemption price changes for partner awards; and changes to the value proposition of their co-brand credit cards. Announcement of those changes do not necessarily have to coincide with the start of a status membership year.

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. Yeah, gotta give credit where credit is due. Hopefully others will be motivated to stop the loyalty death spiral — lookin’ at you Delta….

  2. Honestly I’m surprised carriers don’t do free wifi only for CC holders. I don’t need free bags because that comes with basic status, but free wifi so I don’t need to expense it would be great.

  3. Doing away with the 15% award rebate for the 175k LP level in the 2024-2025 loyalty year. This was very valuable for some, say on a two pax R/T in J to the South Pacific, a 48k miles rebate.

  4. Yes, these are relatively small, but legitimate, improvements (or lack of devaluation) overall. I echo Nate about the wifi. I guess they must be selling it often enough that they don’t think giving it as a perk to cardholders would offset that.

  5. Nice… but I would still like to see “standby via alternate routing” return as a perk.

    Even if it was just for domestic or North American flights for Platinum Pro and up, they could sell it as an added benefit for achieved status. This could improve the experience at no additional cost to the airline.

    That perk saved me hours when AA used to do it, and really increased my quality of life traveling.

    (…and they know how to do it, because they will happily still do it for a passenger when AA goes IrrOp for whatever reason.)

    Gary — If you have the ability to communicate that up for 2025, it would be appreciated.

  6. @ DaveS — I bet they sell tons of WiFi. Whenever I fly Spirit, I am shocked by the percentage of passengers apparently paying more than their base airfare just to use WiFi for 2 hours.

  7. I actually wonder if the free standby is to AA’s benefit, in that it reduces load on later flights, which are more likely to cause misconnects and disruption. Fewer people standing in line, fewer heads in hotel beds, fewer meal vouchers (at least when they did those) is less money walking out the door every day.

    And for those knowledgeable enough to take advantage, it’s a better experience. Wins all around, I’d think.

  8. Trip credit will be 12 months, non-members are losing 6 months: “For Trip Credit issued on or after March 11, 2024, AAdvantage® members have 12 months to use their Trip Credit when canceling their trip on or the American app and their AAdvantage® number is included in their reservation. Non-AAdvantage® members have 6 months.”

  9. I thought the 24 hour cancellation was a law?
    If Jon is right and it’s going to 6 or 12 months, wow. I think 12 is criminal as it is. Not everyone travels a lot, and even when you do travel you don’t have a lot of choice in carriers when you live away from a major city. Or you might find an opportunity to use miles.
    You pay them hard cash, you should get a lot longer to use it.

  10. @CSue they’re talking about 24 hour *holds* not cancellations. Airlines are required to offer one or the other. American has been the best of both worlds, offering both. It sounds like they’ll continue to allow 24 hour cancellations, but they’ll also continue to offer *holds* to members.

  11. I guess they’re trying to be more proactive for the airlines impending call to Capitol hill on points usage and devaluation.

  12. Loyalty point system is really hurting road warriors. Small business owners travelling like once a year but running all their business expense through an american credit card now competing with loyal road warriors getting their points the hard old school way. I travel monthly and saw zero upgrades after making platinum pro and just made exec and again no upgrade for my flight this month. Pretty frustrating.

  13. No love for Executive Platinums unfortunately. The most important perk used to be being able to cancel award tickets fee-free. Now that everyone has that, would love to see something unique come back. Perhaps being able to book award tickets 360 days out (instead of 330)?

  14. So AA is screaming its oneworld partners by making perks available for its members but not those of e.g. BA, JL, QR, etc. etc.? If I ran oneworld or were at BA in charge of the Joint Business I’d be very, very, very pissed.

  15. @Jon – I wonder if the trip credit will now be 6 / 12 months from date of cancellation? It seems very punitive for non-members who book more than 6 months out an essentially no change/cancel ticket as it gets close in for them, especially if paying more for the Main Cabin fare. I also feel that will cause issues with the DOT when people buy it on 3rd party sites, see that it is flexible, and that caveat isn’t adequately explained.

  16. I don’t know how they can say that award tickets aren’t increasing since you know most will cost more as time goes on and the published “award chart” doesn’t seem to mean much these days. If they really wanted to spin this they could say they are lowering award ticket amounts and put out some meaningless chart and continue to charge more and more.

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