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. @ Gary — My SO got the same garbage as you. I received 1,000 MM miles plus an offer to earn 10,000 more MM miles for 4 premium flights. I have been intentionally delaying hitting 3 MM until a time when I can hopefully use the 4 SWUs. Can I re-gift my 1,000 MM miles? Please?

  2. I’m Lifetime Gold, former DFW hub captive but now in a non-hub city, with only one or two AA trips a year since 2017. Over a million miles but just two 500s. So upgrades are probably the best thing I could get.

    What I got. 2 500 upgrades (the number is shown on the registration page, but once you register, until they show up, no was to see that again). And my offer was 4 more 500s when I fly 4 flights, but any published fare, even coach, will do.

    So in may case, they got it right. Whether it’s CRM genius, or just the proverbial blind squirrel finding an acorn, who know?

  3. You come off as extremely ungrateful. They did not have to do anything and the other carriers haven’t. I don’t always get a gift I need, but I don’t turn around and bitch at the person that gave it to me. This isn’t a good look for the site.

  4. I’m EXP and flew 101k EQM and spent $15k EQD (yes, even during COVID)…and I got the same as you, Gary. Worthless. Already sent my email over to Customer Service. AA continues to exceed in disappointing me.

  5. No status. Got 100 miles. I think my offer is for double qualifying miles in Jan-Feb – I didn’t really pay attention.

  6. Stupid and cheap as it goes, no gift would’ve been preferable to the noise. Received worthless 1,000 AA Million Miler miles. AA should’ve invested the time improving the experience of having to deal with them.

    I’ve avoided accumulating Million Miler Miles to avoid crossing the next threshold to push out the expiration date of the accompanying upgrades.

  7. GLD and received same as your wife, Gary.

    Cheapo promo.Even 1,000 or 2,000 would have cost them practically nothing–who can use 1000 miles for a flight, nowadays?

  8. I got 100 miles but I get in some weird loop when trying to register for the sweepstakes. Anyone know how to register for the bigger sweep?

  9. I saw 1 Admirals Club day pass + a way to get 2 additional club day passes + 500 miles after 6 flights.

    I get lounge access anyway, as most of my AA flights involve international flights giving me same-day lounge access on one basis or another and there’s BA elite status otherwise. And the 500 miles? Is that AA’s attempt at adding insult to injury? Either way, it’s a joke that won’t move me.

  10. 250 miles. ExP with >130k EQMs on 135 Segments in 2020.

    150 more miles than the guy above with no status. My flying really paid off this year!

  11. Lifetime Platinum – No AA flights in 2020. Awarded 250 miles!! If I book six flights after registration and fly all six of those flights between Jan 1 and Feb 28, 2021 I will receive double miles on those flights.

  12. No status:

    100 AA miles

    Earn double miles from January 1 – February 28, 2021 after you book and fly two trips in that time period.

  13. Not whining…just stating as an additional data point: EXP for 10+ years (even requalifying organically for 2021) and received 250 miles. My wife…never anything higher than Platinum Pro (once) and just barely made Gold even with this year’s much lower hurdle…received 250 miles. Go figure!

  14. I’m Executive Plat and got the unknown number of 500 mile upgrades, a car upgrade, and an offer for 4 500 mile upgrades plus 2,000 bonus miles for premium cabin flights in early q1.

    Of all the data points, I’m happiest with 500 mile upgrades! I have to pay for these with miles or $ every time I upgrade a companion. Unlike Gary, I don’t have a stash of them!

    However, I agree that the promo was poorly put together and executed. I would say though that 95% of flyers who don’t read travel blogs don’t know about the promo and even if AA sends out emails they will get some small percentage of clicks.

    I agree on the point of lack of generosity but again I’m happiest with 500 mile upgrades. I don’t care too much about small number of bonus miles, I have an AC club membership, etc.

  15. Lapsed ExecPlat, no status: 100 RDMs, book/fly at least two flights before the end of February, get double miles.

  16. My gift didn’t make any sense either – fly 2 paid flights and get a main cabin upgrade afterwards! LOL! So spend $400-$800 and earn $10? This is not even as good as just the miles I would earn anyway!

  17. My 12 year old son received two 500-mile upgrades and a complimentary single car class upgrade on Avis. Brilliant.

  18. Same w/the 500 mile upgrade offer as an EXP. But they aren’t totally worthless because they are needed when you want to upgrade your companion to first.

  19. This might be a good time to remind people that a gift, properly given, has no strings attached and is given with no motives for reciprocity.
    American’s scheme is a marketing promotion, requires something in return from the recipient, and anyone is justified in not being happy with the type of promotion they received.

  20. I’m verklempt from their generosity
    All that and @ return of the 737 max with 3 inch lavatories
    Can it get any better ?
    In other news American has promised to keep one way wards to @ or just under 500,000 miles one way in business class to international destinations so those 250 miles should come in handy

  21. I mentioned the other day I thought the whole idea was worthless. I haven’t checked to see what I got. I rarely fly them anymore, and recently canceled my Citi AA Exec card since even at $250 AF (with a $200 offer) it doesn’t benefit me w/o flying them.

    But yeah, it is free so you can wonder why they are doing it but complaining about what you got is pretty pointless.

  22. Gary – they buried the lead a bit on the Avis – it’s a one-class upgrade PLUS 35% off the base rate–not a game changer, but not nothing either for a longer rental.

  23. 2MM that hasn’t flown AA in years. I got the same offer as GUWonder. I have an Alaska Lounge membership, the one day pass is especially useful.

  24. Got 100 miles. This gift values out at less than the price of a cup of coffee in at Denny’s purchased with a 15% AARP discount using a CSR card earning 3 URs per dollar. However, that cup of coffee comes with the added risk of catching COVID-19, so that makes American’s gift more valuable.

  25. No status:

    1 Preferred seat coupon and a car class upgrade + double miles with Hertz (Restrictions apply.)

    Earn a Main Cabin Extra seat coupon from January 1 – February 28, 2021:

    Register by December 16, 2020, and before creating a flight reservation
    After you’re registered, book 2 qualifying, eligible flights for travel on or after January 1, 2021
    After completing your qualifying flights, you’ll earn a Main Cabin Extra seat coupon

    Meh. Better than a kick in the ass.

  26. With no current status I got the standard gift of 100 miles and double miles in January and February. Miles that I value at less than $2. The main value to me is that it does reset the expiration date on my 200,000-odd existing miles (I checked).

  27. So 250 miles and a bonus on flights until Feb 28? I’ve already booked 3 round trips, do those count?

    A one way confirmed upgrade would have made tons more sense.

  28. I manage six accounts for my immediate family. Five of them are regular, one of them is lifetime gold. All five got 100 bonus miles. Equal to about $1.50 – which wasn’t worth my time of even registering. The lifetime gold got two free 500 mile upgrades

  29. I got a lounge pass that expires on 2/28/01, which makes it unlikely that I’ll use it.

    Free is free but it seems pretty clear that these “gifts” are more of an attempt to get people to consider travel. At least some of them are. Too bad. I would have found a lounge pass with a longer expiration date to have been a really nice gift.

  30. Yep -worthless. I got 1000 million miles (have 2.8 million credited to my account so this really doesn’t do anything). I know DL gives lifetime Platinum at 3 million FF miles but haven’t seen AA offering lifetime Platinum Pro at 3 million. Since I’m lifetime Platinum and, to my knowledge, there are no lifetime tiers above that adding million mile credits do nothing.

    Oh yeah I got an offer that they would add 5000 more million mile credits if I registered and flew 6 flights by 2/28/21 (not counting any reservations already made before registering). Crazy!

    Not looking for much but the thought was appreciated. Just wish they could have maybe offered a lounge pass good for 6 months to lifetime and any current elites. That would at least have mattered. Not that I spend time in the Admirals Club anymore since CLT has a Centurion Lounge but the effort would have been nice.

  31. No status

    100 miles

    take 2 flights 1/1-2/28 and get double miles.

    Does a round trip count as 2 flights?

  32. Thanks for the socks Grandma…I particularly like that I only have to fly two flights after January 1st to earn double points all the way through, wait for it, the end of February! OMG, this is better than that Iberia deal of the year in 2018!!

    Your gift:
    100 AAdvantage® bonus miles

    To claim your gift, register by December 16, 2020. (Your gift will be deposited in your account within 24 hours.)

    After registering you’ll also automatically earn 1 entry into Our Greatest Gift Sweepstakes. (U.S. residents only.)

    Plus, your registration will also unlock a promotional bonus offer to kick-start 2021 by earning even more rewards.

    Earn double miles from January 1 – February 28, 2021:
    Register by December 16, 2020, and before creating a flight reservation
    After you’re registered, book 2 qualifying, eligible flights for travel on or after January 1, 2021
    Earn double award miles after completing those flights and any additional eligible flights through February 28, 2021

  33. Gary hit the nail on the head — this is a stupid promo. I don’t have much more goodwill to throw AA’s way anyway, and this promo left me feeling that I wasted the 15 seconds it took me to register and get my gift. 250 miles for a Lifetime Plat. To those that felt grateful, well, that’s just adorable, really.

  34. I got a 1 time admirals club pass, but then it says we are unable to process your request.

    2mm platinum

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