Two months ago American Airlines announced reduced elite status qualification requirements for 2021 and shared that Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members would receive a ‘choice’ benefit when they reached those status levels. For Executive Platinums the new choice would replace systemwide upgrades – though those upgrades would continue to be an option they could choose.
American now has details of these new choice benefits that will be earned when a member reaches the Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elite tiers. And they’re sharing a new improved benefit for Platinum Pro as well.
Platinum Pro Choices
Platinum Pro status – which normally takes 75,000 miles (or 90 segments) and $9000 spent, but which in 2021 will require 60,000 miles (or 70 segments) and $7000 (waived with $30,000 spent on an AAdvantage co-brand card) will come with a choice benefit upon qualification.
Members who qualify in 2021 will have until December 30, 2022 to make their selection from:
- One systemwide upgrade
- 20,000 bonus miles (25k if you’re a co-brand cardholder)
- One-time 15% off award discount
- Carbon emissions offset
- $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
- 6 Admirals Club passes
- $200 American travel voucher
Some things to consider in deciding:
- The 15% off award could be more valuable than bonus miles. You can get a 15% rebate (after you travel) on an award redemption from your own account for up to two people flying rounddtrip on American or its partner airlines. You do not have to be one of the travelers to apply this discount, which is valid for one year from date of selection.
A two person roundtrip redemption of 167,000 miles total would net you 25,050 miles back. Two roundtrip first class awards at 110,000 miles each would normally cost 440,000 miles, and getting 15% back would mean receiving 66,000 miles – which I value more than a systemwide upgrade.
- Be skeptical of carbon offsets without doing research first. Payment processor Stripe is going to fund direct carbon removal from the atmosphere. This has the potential to be huge if it spurs technological innovation and brings down the cost. Most carbon offsets seem… more questionable, whether the projects actually get done, whether they reduce carbon on net (often the projects themselves have a carbon footprint) and whether the same offset gets sold only once.
The CEO of Lufthansa says that when given the choice almost no passengers buy carbon offsets so maybe it’s not even as much of virtue signal as you might think.
- Take the most valuable option and give to charity. Surely 20,000 or 25,000 bonus miles are worth more than $200. Take $300+ in value and make a donation to the charity you support (and take the tax deduction if you itemize) rather than making a smaller gift to a charity of American’s choosing – and if they’re supporting that charity, will each marginal selection from a member directly change the amount American ultimately gives?
If you’re going to use it on a long haul international flight, the systemwide upgrade is probably most valuable. If you’re not going to use it in that way, I like the miles option which I value more than the travel credit. However if you travel with someone or in long haul premium cabins you may do best with the 15% redemption rebate. The good news is you can wait to see how your travel year develops and then redeem.
Executive Platinum Choices
Executive Platinums get to make two choices from this list:
- 2 systemwide upgrades
- 25,000 bonus miles (30k if you’re a cobrand cardmember)
- Carbon emissions offset
- $200 donation to one of 10 partner charities
- Gift gold status
- $200 American Airlines travel voucher
- Admirals Club membership (this counts as 2 choices)
- 10,000 elite qualifying miles (can only select this once)
- Choice of Bang & Olufsen products
The base case for comparison is (4) systemwide upgrades, which is still an option, just choose two systemwides twice. There are things to know about some of these choices.
- Elite qualifying miles hit your account the year you choose them. So if you’ve made it to Executive Platinum and want a head start towards the next year’s status, wait until the next calendar year to choose. (I’d bet there will be several folks who make a mistake here and wind up begging AAdvantage Customer Service for an exception.)
- Admirals Club expires at end of your elite membership year. So you actually get more than one calendar year of benefit from this, at least the first time you select it. An Admirals Club membership counts as both of your choices.
- Gold status lasts through your elite status expiration date. If you select it in November 2021, the gift will last through January 2023. But if you select it in December 2022 – it will still last through January 2023.
As with Platinum Pro’s choices, the most valuable option is the systemwide confirmed upgrade if you will use it. I tend not to use mine at full value. My domestic travel is generally paid business travel, and most of my international travel is award travel in a premium cabin on points (and often on a partner airline). So I wind up giving away international upgrades to friends when I can.
I get my Admirals Club membership from the Citi co-brand credit card. When/if I requalify for Executive Platinum status in 2021, I might consider 10,000 elite qualifying miles to make earning status in 2022 that much easier as one of my choices – but I’ll probably select a 15% redemption rebate (or two), however I’ll wait to decide. At the last minute if I haven’t used my awards I’ll go for the bonus miles.
A Change To How Systemwide Upgrades Work
When you make a choice for a systemwide upgrade, those will be valid for one calendar year. So you’ll want to time your selection strategically. You can pick your choice benefit once you qualify for elite status – but if you qualify in June 2021, and immediately select systemwide upgrades, those upgrades will expire in June 2022.
You may want to wait until you’re ready to use systemwides to select them. And you may want to only choose them two at a time, and hold back your second selection even if you are sure systemwides are what you want.
Since someone qualifying in 2021 will have until December 30, 2022 to select their choice benefit, it’s possible to earn systemwide upgrades in 2021 that will not expire until December 30, 2023.
And, with a change American made officially a year ago, you only need to confirm travel by the expiration date of your systemwide upgrade. It’s a use by date, not a travel by date. Some agents get this wrong, if you’re told your systemwides have to apply to travel by their expiration date that is wrong – hang up, call back.
You can theoretically earn systemwides in 2021 that expire December 30, 2023 and that you can apply to travel as late as November 25, 2024 which would be the end of the American Airlines schedule on the date of expiration.
American Airlines Super Diamond Business Class Center Seats
Platinum Pro Becomes oneworld Emerald
Currently Platinum Pro members, like Platinums, get sapphire status in the oneworld alliance. That’s good for some airport priority services, and business class lounge access if traveling abroad in economy.
At some point in “early 2021” Platinum Pro members will become oneworld emeralds. The specific date hasn’t been announced yet, likely a function of making technology changes and testing those.
The primary benefit of emerald status over sapphire is access to first class lounges of oneworld partners – primarily Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. Since very few international first class lounges are open, and most American AAdvantage Platinum Pro members cannot currently travel to the places where those lounges are, the timing isn’t significant.
However being able to use the Qantas first class lounge in Sydney is a great benefit (try the salt and pepper squid) and grabbing a cabana in the first class section of Cathay Pacific’s The Wing lounge in Hong Kong is arguably the best way to shower in an airport.
Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney
Of course there’s also access to first class check-in (versus business class for sapphire), too.
Improvements Across The Board
The addition of a choice benefit, and oenworld emerald status, helps make Platinum Pro a more valuable elite level, and more distinct from Platinum besides being higher on the upgrade list.
Executive Platinums come out ahead here in two ways. First they can now earn 5 systemwide upgrades instead of 4 (still not the 8 they once earned upon qualifying – but there’s also the opportunity to earn more for going beyond the required flying to reach the status). Second they have options instead of systemwide upgrades if they find they aren’t the type of elite who uses theirs – because they don’t fly internationally on American, or they’re always in business class to begin with.
There’s more benefits and more choices here and they really aren’t taking away from members in doing this, so the change falls squarely into the category of improvements to the program. Along with the announcement about the elimination of redeposit fees, the pending addition of Alaska Airlines into oneworld in March and the approval of their JetBlue partnership by DOT there’s a lot to be excited about at American for the first time in awhile.