About a week ago American Airlines CEO chuckled at the ‘somewhat different’ clientele the airline is attracting compared to normal times. The airline’s historic focus on business travelers doesn’t work when there aren’t many business travelers, and extremely low fare passengers have never been their core demographic.
After the airline’s third quarter earnings call, executives took questions from employees. Asked about the passenger mix, Senior Vice President Vasu Raja explained that:
- “It used to be that 25% of the people that sat on our airplanes were AAdvantage elites… Today that number is about 15%.”
- Now they’re carrying a “bigger mix of people that have never flown with us before.”
Last year frequent flyers made up a smaller portion of American’s revenue than they did four years earlier. And now elite travel is down substantially more than travel overall, because businesses aren’t sending employees on the road nearly as much as they used to.
So how many people would make top status under ‘normal’ requirements this year? Raja says “there’s about 1000 customers out there who would qualify for Executive Platinum under our old rules. 40% to 50% of those were not our customer last year, they were [elites with another carrier].”
If you want to know why American is making elite status easier to earn in 2021 this helps explain it. Only 1000 people would be top elites requiring 100,000 qualifying miles and $15,000 spend otherwise. People are flying less and fares are cheaper. Five years ago there were between 50,000 and 60,000 American AAdvantage Executive Platinums.