Participate in the AAdvantage Business program when it’s easy and you’re traveling solo, but the new offering for small and mid-sized businesses is mostly too low value and too much of a hassle for most to find worthwhile. They’ve designed something to offer less value, fewer benefits, and that customers have to jump through too many hoops for – simply too clever by half.
American’s small business Business ExtrAA program ends December 15th. You’ll no longer be able to credit trips to the program after that date. And any redemptions other than converting Business ExtrAA points to miles must be completed by the 15th as well.
Under the new program you can only add an AAdvantage Business number at the time of booking, and only when booking direct with American Airlines. Booking through a travel agency at work? You can’t earn through the program. My take on AAdvantage Business in a nutshell?
- Travelers earn 1 extra Loyalty Point per dollar spent on airfare. That’s a benefit to them.
- Earning 1 AAdvantage mile per dollar spent for the business is better than a hole in the head – not nearly worth what the old program delivered, and too much hassle to earn more.
- And it’s only worthwhile for solo travelers, who have to give up some elite benefits for their companion if traveling with someone else in order to earn points in the program.
The program is a big devaluation compared to what you earned through Business ExtrAA. In fact, base earn in the new program is about a 75% devaluation. Comparable awards require around four times the ticket spend compared to Business ExtrAA. And special awards like AAdvantage status no longer even exist.
At first blush this looked like a way to get small businesses to take the Citi Business AAdvantage card – since the new program is promoted as earning 1 point per dollar spent on travel by employees in the program, but 3 points for businesses with that card.
However payment with the CitiBusiness card is required for a ticket to earn two more points in the AAdvantage Business account that flight is credited to.
It’s not just whether the business has the card. The card must be used as payment for tickets. And in practice that means all of the business’s travelers need to have the card to book trips themselves, so it’s probably their primary business card. I’m not sure that’s worth it, compared to other cards a business could use.
Moreover, crediting a trip to AAdvantage Business requires telling American that the trip is ‘for business’. You have to select that you are on a business trip to earn in the program. But selecting that only allows you to travel with one passenger on the reservation.
American tells me “this has been implemented as an additional guardrail for the company to ensure the travelers are only booking business trips under their account.”
- Being on the same reservation is the best and easiest way to share your elite benefits with a travel companion, and to increase the likelihood that you’re rebooked together during irregular operations.
- And people don’t just travel on the same reservation for leisure. I’ve done plenty of work trips with a colleague where I make the travel booking and we travel together.
Sure, a majority of business trips are booked solo, but that doesn’t mean business trips cannot be booked together. However you give up the ability to have multiple people on a reservation if you want to credit the booking to AAdvantage Business.
I guess I’ll transition to the program, use it myself when traveling solo (for the extra loyalty point) and make it available for others to choose to do the same. There will be some AAdvantage-earning for the company that happens as a result. But we’re not going to put CitiBusiness cards in everyone’s hands – we use corporate cards at work, not small business cards, and this program isn’t going to change that.
American doesn’t believe they need to incentivize business transactions anymore. They’ve fired most of their sales staff and sales support, ended their sales incentive program Business ExtrAA, and believe that people will fly them based on schedule and price so why offer more discounts and rebates? That’s a fair bet. But this new program clearly flows from that model – rather than one of rewarding customers.