American’s Holiday Gift Promotion Makes No Sense, And Is Stunning In Its Lack Of Generosity

Yesterday I wrote about American’s holiday gift promotion and new targeted promotions for flying. Offers are now live in member accounts. What gift did you receive, and what offer was targeted to encourage you to fly?

Here’s what I got – I’m left shaking my head.

  • My gift: 500-mile upgrades a complimentary single car class upgrade from Avis.

  • My promotion: Earn (4) 500-mile upgrades and 2000 miles for making a booking after registration and then flying four premium cabin flights between January 1 and February 28, 2021.

These offers make absolutely no sense.

  1. I receive unlimited complimentary upgrades. As an Executive Platinum my domestic upgrades do not require 500 mile certificates. American has deep data on my transactions with them, yet in giving a Christmas gift appears not to know me at all.

  2. While sponsoring an upgrade for a companion would require 500 mile upgrades, I still have 500 mile upgrade certificates sitting in my account from when I was a ‘mere’ Platinum member of AAdvantage – prior to 2011.

  3. The promotion doesn’t even say how many 500 mile upgrades I’ve been gifted, and they don’t post to your account right away (when you register you’re told they’ll deposit within 24 hours). What kind of gift do you open and still not learn what it is?

  4. They’re offering me 2000 miles to add to my seven figure balance, and more 500 mile upgrade certificates I do not need, and to earn this I have to fly four premium cabin flights in the first two months of 2021.

Somehow the promotion terms, echoed by an American Airlines spokesman, say “Your gift is based off your membership, travel with American Airlines and other account and transaction-related activity.”

The free gift doesn’t make sense for an Executive Platinum and the flight promotion makes little sense for someone that hasn’t flown American Airlines since March, and is stunning in its lack of generosity – a potential 500 bonus miles per paid premium cabin flight. I think American AAdvantage either needs a new CRM, or different folks doing their list pulls.

My wife’s account received a 100 mile gift (extends her account expiration out beyond when American will start expiring miles again), and double miles starting with the third flight taken in January and February. My daughter received the same.

Frequent flyer programs are the most successful marketing innovation in history. They’ve turned marketing from a business cost center into a profit engine. The three largest U.S. airlines have mortgaged theirs for between $6.5 billion and $9.5 billion each.

Yet somehow U.S. programs seem to be playing small ball at a time they need their marketing engine the most, primarily worried that someone, somewhere might benefit too much rather than generating excitement for travel and really encouraging people to fly.

Perhaps the Straussian read is that they’re not actually comfortable marketing travel in today’s broader conditions, after all.

Maybe your offers were better, or made more sense?

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. Former Plat, no status currently, no email from them, no new activity in my account from this. Yeah, seems like they had the interns crunch the list.

  2. So at 1:05pm Central Time, I get an email from AA saying that I have a gift in my account, and to log on to receive it. I have been trying to do so for the last 20 minutes, both at and on the app. No go. Seems their system is overloaded with suckers like me (a longtime ExPlat member) trying to find out what’s in their “Christmas stocking”… lol.

  3. Santa sent out too many gifts at once! Please check your stocking online at or your wallet in the app at a later time. You have until December 16th. On behalf of Santa, I do appoligize!!

  4. I got one free visit to Admiral’s Club, and I get 2 more free visits if I fly twice between Jan 1 and Feb 28.

  5. Seems clear to me the “gift” is just a Trojan horse to introduce the Q1 “promotion” and make sure they lay eyeballs on it

  6. I haven’t received any email (I’m EXP) and AA website has been down the past couple hours for me…

  7. I got 250 award miles and double award miles on up to 4 flights in Jan/Feb 2021. I’m an EXP with over $20K EQD the past couple of years (2018 & 2019).

    My Gold wife got the same thing.

    What a joke. Glad you’re hammering them about this, Gary. This was an embarrassing flop of a promotion.

  8. *Update to my previous comment:

    @Econometrics, I got the same thing, and am in the same boat as you status-wise and spend-wise…was finally able to log in, and received a measly 250 miles added to my almost 700,000 mile balance. Wow, 2020 just keeps on giving, doesn’t it? I know times are tough all over, but jeez Dougie, couldn’t impress me less.

  9. At least we tried! Time to blame it on the new guy., but maybe his Vaccination Special for later in 2021 will be better! Those IT guys are in trouble for not being ready.

  10. I got 100 miles as a nobody with 0 miles in my account who last flew AA 10 years ago. (Sadly I lost 12,500 miles a couple years ago because I stupidly missed the 18 month inactivity deadline).

  11. It seems like the vast majority of the “gifts” have a value of somewhere between $1 (e.g., 100 miles) and effectively $0 (500-mile upgrades for Executive Platinums.) Not a bad price for AA to pay to gather info about who actually reads their emails and how quickly, as measured by when the log in to collect the gift after receiving the email. Of course, the heavy volume crashing their site ruined that possibility; the whole promotion was poorly planned and executed from start to finish. AA claims the “gifts” are based on travel and transaction activity, yet I got the same 100 miles that CP@YOW got with 0 miles and 0 flights over the past decade, even though I was ExP until earlier this year with probably 50 flights to 3 continents, mostly in premium cabins, in the preceding 2 years. The logic escapes me.

  12. American Airlines awarded me 100 bonus miles Yes 100 bonus miles. Real generous offer LOL

    What a joke especially after having been a loyal customer for over 37 years

    Maybe I’ll stick with Delta Airlines henceforth

  13. Spot on Gary. They offered me 250 miles a PPRO. I’ve heard of a lot of ExPlats getting 500 mile upgrades- wondering if they’re finally realizing the big joke 500 mile ups are for companions for the top 2 tiers. I’ve been able to upgrade companions on tons of flights during the pandemic so my 500 mile upgrade balance from years ago is drying up. Charging top tier elites for stickers that literally no other carrier requires is an embarrassment considering these are the most loyal pax

  14. They would have been better off not doing the promo. It just looks like a half ass effort. A thank you for your future business would have been better than the 100 miles they gave out.

  15. I’m a CK with 7 Million Miles…170 EQM Miles this year, even during the pandemic. I got 2,000 bonus miles (oh, and a chance to earn Gold after 6 flights next year). They should have just not bothered.

  16. Gary,

    Don’t feel like the “Lone Stranger”!! My gifts were one free rental car upgrade and 100 air miles! I’ve been loyal American and Alaska Air freq. flyer for more than thirty years now, 9 currently have about 200,000 American miles in my account, still unused. However, I’m admittedly not a “frequent enuff” flyer to have ever gained any edit status. I have spent money on business class product, mainly for international flights, but not on domestic, as it’s just not worth it unless one is flying more than 6 hrs. I guess my gifts were better than poke in the eye with a sharp stick!?!


  17. I received 1,000 Million Miler miles as my gift. My promotion is…
    “Earn 10,000 additional Million Miler miles from January 1 – February 28, 2021:
    – Register by December 16, 2020, and before creating a flight reservation
    – After you’re registered, book 4 qualifying eligible flights in Premium Economy, Business, or First for travel on or after January 1, 2021
    – After completing your qualifying flights, 10,000 Million Miler miles will be added to your account, getting you closer to lifetime elite status.”

    This is actually a useful gift to me and a useful promotion. I’m only 200k away from 2 Million Miles which will earn me lifetime Platinum. I earned my first Million Miles in 2011 from US Airways and that converted in when Dividend Miles was combined with AAdvantage. Pre-COVID travel schedule had me on pace to hit the 2 Mil in three years. With this gift and promotion, plus the 1 Million Miler mile per US dollar promo from the Avator Silver card, I haven’t lost a whole year’s worth of pace to 2 Mil. Thanks to the 1yr extension, I’ll keep my EP going into 2021. Re-earning EP in 2021 will be a challenge.

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