American Airlines is making several changes to status-earning and adding milestones at which you’ll receive additional benefits for 2023.
They’re also removing the flight requirement to earn milestone benefits; increasing the Loyalty Points required for Gold status, while leaving all other levels the same; lifting the cap on the number of miles you can earn for a ticket; and changing mileage-earning on basic economy tickets. It’s also going to take more Loyalty Points to earn choice benefits for Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members.
Both semi-frequent and heavy users of AAdvantage gain here, while those squeaking into Gold, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum need to stretch a bit more with the program to stay even. Changes aren’t as significant as what I expected to see, considering that Loyalty Points as a metric for status – where most AAdvantage activity counts towards qualifying, not just flying – is only a year old and there was bound to be tweaking.
I spoke with Heather Samp, American’s Managing Director in charge of the AAdvantage program, to get a window into what’s happening next year – which, by the way, doesn’t start until March 1. One of the things many flyers miss about the changes to AAdvantage status put in place in 2022 is that the current status-earning year runs through the end of February (rather than December). So there’s still over two months left in the member year to earn status for next year.
Changes To Status Qualifying For 2023
American is raising the requirements for earning Gold status, but also offering some benefits before you reach Gold.
This year earning Gold takes 30,000 Loyalty Points. Next year it will require 40,000 Loyalty Points. However they’ve introduced a Loyalty Points Rewards (the new name for Loyalty Choice Rewards) milestone at just 15,000 Loyalty Points which provides Group 5 boarding, and a choice of either:
- Priority check-in, security, and Group 4 boarding on one trip, or
- 5 preferred seat coupons
All AAdvantage members receive group 6 boarding. Hitting 15,000 Loyalty Points moves that up, to board with Main Cabin Extra and AAdvantage credit card customers. (Golds and Citi Executive cardmembers board in group 4.)
Sadly existing elites won’t see much of a benefit at this level, since they already receive all of the benefits and there’s no alternative selection. But Heather pointed out to me that an elite might not requalify and so the 15,000 point choice could still be relevant.
Fortunately, all other status level thresholds remain the same:
- Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points
- Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points
- Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points
Heather tells me not to expect any changes to the lifetime status program either.
No More Minimum Number Of Flights To Unlock Choice Rewards
Under the new status program which launched last year, there were numerous ‘choice benefits’ offered at qualification for Platinum Pro (125,000 points) and Executive Platinum (200,000 points) and for ‘overachieving’ Executive Platinums at the 350,000; 550,000; and 750,000 Loyalty Point levels.
These choice benefits were somewhat divorced from status, though, because a member didn’t just need to earn the Loyalty Points to receive these choice benefits, they also needed to fly a minimum of 30 flight segments (qualifying paid segments on American and its partners, or award segments on American).
Going forward there will no longer be a 30 flight segment minimum to earn Loyalty Points Rewards. That means more members will earn them more easily.
More Benefit Choice Levels – Both Before And After Earning Status
American has changed Loyalty Points Rewards to offer benefits starting earlier (just 15,000 Loyalty Points) as well as between status levels (a 60,000 and 100,000 point level) and they now continue to earn past 750,000 Loyalty Points – with benefits worth up to 500,000 miles,10 systemwide upgrades, or gifting Executive Platinum status for reaching 5 million Loyalty Points. There are people with heavy credit card spend – usually with their own businesses – who do that!
They’ve also further separated out choice benefits from earning Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum status, because instead of offering Loyalty Point Rewards at the 125,000 and 200,000 levels those will instead require 175,000 and 250,000 Loyalty Points (the 350,000 point choice benefit will require 400,000 points in 2023 as well).
Here’s the list of Loyalty Point Rewards levels and the benefits on offer with each:
|Loyalty Points (Total)||Reward|
|15,000||Members unlock Group 5 boarding for the membership year and may choose one of the following:
|60,000||Members unlock Avis Preferred Plus status and receive a 20% Loyalty Point bonus on spend with the following partners: AA Vacations; AA Hotels; eShopping; Dining; SimplyMiles
|100,000||Members unlock Avis Presidents Club status and receive a 30% Loyalty Point bonus on spend with the following partners: AA Vacations; AA Hotels; eShopping; Dining; SimplyMiles
|175,000||Members may choose one of the following:
|250,000||Members may choose two of the following:
|400,000||Members may choose two of the following:
|550,000||Members may choose two of the following:
|750,000||Members may choose two of the following:
|1,000,000||Members may choose one of the following:
|3,000,000||Members may choose one of the following:
|5,000,000||Members may choose one of the following:
Back in October I suggested there seemed to be an Avis status tie-in in the works. There are going to be a whole lot more Avis Presidents Club members next year.
I also got clarification on the 20% Loyalty Point bonus. It lasts for six months. Here’s hoping there are more lucrative SimplyMiles promotions. I hope a 20% bonus period overlaps with a nice holiday promotion, but it seems like Mastercard may be gun shy about doing one of those again.
There’s a high value tradeoff to get access to Flagship Dining inside of Flagship lounges (currently at Miami and Dallas Fort-Worth), but I like that they’re doing something with those productive and hopefully that could help support re-opening Los Angeles.
There are a lot of valuable benefits here, though there are going to be Platinum Pro members that no longer earn systemwide upgrades and there are going to be Executive Platinum members who only have the opportunity to select two. On the one hand, those are rarely confirmable at booking. On the other hand this will mean less competition for confirmed international upgrades if American’s revenue management ever chooses to make them available.
Lower Earning Rates For Basic Economy Fares
Basic economy is such a strange beast. The airline makes its core product worse in order to earn higher profits. There are two ways they do this,
- They hope the customer spends more to avoid basic economy restrictions, rather than jumping to another airline like Southwest with no such restrictions
- They hope these fares are seen as being ‘for leisure travelers’ and so corporate customers don’t ask their employees to buy them. That returns price discrimination power to the airlines, who have (mostly) no longer been able to use 14 day advance purchase and Saturday night stay requirements to separate out business from leisure travelers. This way they can offer the cheap fares to price-sensitive leisure customers and only expensive tickets to less price-sensitive businesses.
During the pandemic there really wasn’t much corporate business to speak of, and American eliminated nearly all basic economy restrictions. They’d gotten rid of the ‘no carry on rule’ that United still has already, and allowed customers to spend money to buy seat assignments in advance.
In 2020 they restored upgrades and elite seat assignments to basic economy and then with the launch of loyalty points basic economy fares became fully earning.
Now they’re regressing on these fares – they’ll still be entitled to elite benefits but will only offer base earning of 2 miles per dollar instead of 5 miles per dollar on other fares. (These miles are still eligible for elite bonuses.). This applies to tickets issued starting January 1, 2023 for travel beginning March 1, 2023.
For an elite frequent flyer the only disadvantage of a basic economy fare has been no changes. All benefits and earning applied. That made them perhaps too appealing relative to the cost of buying up to the next higher fare? So they seem to be experimenting with trying to add some additional (mileage- and status-earning) appeal to the buy up, at least when someone else is paying.
No Changes To Card For Earning Loyalty Points
Generally American Airlines credit cards earn 1 Loyalty Point per dollar spent, in addition to earning redeeming miles. When the card earns two redeemable miles, it’s still only earning 1 Loyalty Point. (Some non-U.S. credit cards earn 1.5 and 2 Loyalty Points per dollar.)
However the Citi Executive card and Barclays Aviator Silver earned bonus Loyalty Points for hitting spending thresholds. This was described as being ‘for 2022’.
- Citi Executive awarded 10,000 Loyalty Points after $40,000 spend
- Barclays Aviator Silver awarded 5,000 Loyalty Points after each of $20,000, $40,000 and $50,000 in spend
Citi has been surveying an additional 10,000 Loyalty Points after $90,000 in spend as well.
I asked Heather Samp whether there would be any change to bonus loyalty points-earning on the card next year. She told me “there wouldn’t be,” and a spokesperson confirmed, “They’re embedded card benefits and will continue next year.”
The Shift To Loyalty Points Was A Brilliant Move For American
Whether you liked the change to most frequent flyer activity counting towards status or not often depends on how you interact with the program. In general people who flew American, earned status that way, and didn’t spend on their credit card or earn miles in other ways didn’t like the change. Meanwhile those who engage with American AAdvantage across a number of its partners loved it.
The pure elite flyer lost status (both figuratively, and in the program itself) while the mileage-obsessed gained in status. That matched what was good for the airline, because selling miles is a much higher margin business than selling transportation. (Selling miles has a 52% margin for American.) While no one would use the AAdvantage credit card without the underlying airline, selling miles earns a lot of money while selling tickets frequently doesn’t.
At the start American knew they’d be increasing their elite ranks with this shift. So seeing them tweak the number of loyalty points to earn status isn’t surprising. I wondered at the end of October if they might do so. I’m surprised the tweaks are so modest. If I had to guess they’re seeing more elites at lower tiers than before, so it makes sense to adjust up Gold. And they’re seeing people hit plateaus and stop, so it makes sense to give customers additional levels that are more attainable – like Hyatt giving incremental benefits every 10 nights, not just when they hit status.