American announced two different ways this morning to keep your current status or buy up to a higher level, and neither one involves getting on their aircraft.
Bringing Back One Method, and Introducing a New One
American has offered some sort of ‘buy back’ program for the past decade; a way for members who didn’t fly enough to keep their status in the next year to pay to do so (with a price that varied based on how close they were).
There’s been some speculation that they wouldn’t for 2014, but they will. No doubt that while planes are full their not offering double elite qualifying miles during the year (when last year they offered that at both the beginning and end) means the elite ranks aren’t so swelled that letting members pay to re-up or boost their status will be manageable. They won’t be creating too many elites to fulfill benefits, certainly relative to some past years.
This year American has two methods —
- If you are within 5000 miles or 5 segments of Gold, or within 10,000 miles or 10 segments of either Platinum or Executive Platinum, you can pay to pull yourself up to the level you’re close to. You can do this regardless of your current status level (in other words you can use to to achieve a status higher than what you currently have).
- And if you’re further away than that, you can pay a larger fee to renew your current status level (Golds and Platinums can renew at their current level, Executive Platinums can pay to renew Platinum).
Anyone within shooting distance of the next elite tier can pay for a ‘boost’. And eligibility for a buy back is pretty open, much more so than in the past. Even someone that bought back their status last year can buy it back again. The only members ineligible for a buyback are those who took a stats challenge where they were given status for 3 months and didn’t meet the terms of the challenge.
Here are the prices if you are within 5000 miles or 5 segments of Gold, or to straight up renew if you are a current elite that is more than 5000 miles off from reaching Gold.
Here are the prices if you are within 5000 or 10,000 miles or 5 or 10 segments of Platinum, or to straight up renew if you are a current Platinum or Executive Platinum that is more than 10,000 miles off Platinum for 2014.
Here’s the pricing if you have flown within 5000 or within 10,000 miles or 5 or 10 segments of Executive Platinum (there is no option to just ‘renew’ or buy back Executive Platinum):
No More Soft Landings
For the first time, AAdvantage will no longer do ‘soft landings’. It used to be that a member would receive a status level in the following year no worse than one level below what they are in the current year, regardless of their flying. An Executive Platinum that does not requalify will automatically become a Platinum in the coming year. A Platinum member would do no worse than Gold. But for the coming year, each member is set to receive the status they earn through flying. An Executive Platinum who didn’t fly at all would not get Platinum, they would become a General Member.
That means that an Executive Platinum who didn’t even requalify for Platinum would need to buy back (or pay to ‘renew’) at the Platinum level.
Fewer Members Used to Be Eligible for Buy Backs, But Those Used to Be Cheaper, Too
Last year’s offer to buy back status required you to have flown at least two elite qualifying segments in the prior year, and precluded anyone who had done a buyback for 2012 to do another for 2013.
There’s no minimum flying requirement this year, and folks who bought back status a year ago can buy back again.
Here’s last year’s buy back pricing:
Gold was $409 or $559 depending on how close you were. While there was no ‘boost’ option, in some sense the offerings were similar with the difference being that you had to have an existing status level in order to use boost; you couldn’t boost yourself to a higher status level than you had earned in the previous year. This year Gold costs you $399 or $649 depending on how close you were. The pricing isn’t that different.
Platinum was $619 or $769 depending on how close you were. This year Platinum costs you $699, $899, or $1199. So prices have gone up, but eligibility is broader.
There was no buyback option for Executive Platinum, and there still is not, but you can buy up for $1199 or $1799.
Is it worth it?
This pricing may be cheaper than what it would have cost to mileage run for status, though you may also find lower airfares than the cost of this offer though this may not be more expensive than the flight and the value of your time spent flying back and forth around the country — you get to spend time with family or doing something productive over the holidays and your year end weekends.
Whether the price makes sense probably depends on what your travel plans are for 2014. If you’re going to be flying more in 2014 than in 2013, it can make good sense — especially in my view for Platinum and Executive Platinum where that allows you to earn double miles on your flying (fly 50,000 miles, earn 50,000 bonus miles which I believe are worth more than the price to buy back or up to Platinum) and also gets you higher up on various waitlists. Executive Platinums do fantastically with upgrades — both domestic and international.
As an alternative, elite status challenges are cheaper — $120 to sign up for a Gold challenge, $240 to sign up for a Platinum challenge at last report I’m aware of although those aren’t recent. You do not get the status during the challenge but rather earn status on an expedited basis based on lower flying requirements during the 90 days of your challenge.
American has also been willing to offer 90 days of status while challenging you to keep that status, and without charge, especially for United’s top tier elites.
If you want to take advantage of the buyback you’ll have to wait until January, and the offer will be available through May 31.