News Anchor Goes on Epic Rant About AAdvantage Changes, Cuts Up Credit Card Live On Air

Peter Finch won an Oscar for his role in Network as a declining news anchor about to be fired, but who causes ratings to spike when announces on the air that he will commit suicide in an upcoming broadcast. He stays on, and offers one diatribe more famous than the rest:

Dallas news anchor Ron Corning offered his own on-air diatribe of sorts against the upcoming AAdvantage program changes. He even cuts up his co-brand credit card live on television. But he seems confused about what the changes actually are. (HT: David W.)

The clip was posted to his Facebook page, and I pointed out that he’s got the premise backward.

American AAdvantage isn’t making status harder to get. For status, 1 mile still will equal 1 mile and it takes the same number of miles as before to earn elite status.

High fares will help earn status quicker, but American was the first airline to do that with the introduction of “points” as an alternative qualifying method that they are getting rid of. The major changes to the program are not in how status is earned.

A year from now redeemable miles will be earned based on spend. But that makes credit card earning (which are bigger than earning from flying) relatively more important. And in March the cost of many awards go up — mostly premium cabin awards, though changes to business class redemptions are relatively modest. The really big changes are to international first class awards. I love a good rant but the rant should be based on facts and educate viewers.

Corning and I had a dialogue on his page, he shared his response:

Hi Gary. Actually here’s the bottom line. Status means nothing anymore on AA since they merged with US Airways because too many people have status. Customer service has and continues to be reprehensible. Baggage fees and change fees amount to gouging. The ability to redeem miles is nearly impossible with more blackout dates and increased mileage requirements for flights. And after reading your post I doubt anyone could disagree the changes to their plan are confusing. So getting rid of my card is the ceremonial end of my relationship with American. Many others who have emailed, messaged, and commented feel the same way.

I’ve also transferred my status to Virgin as part of their courtesy program. I will fly them to NYC/LA/SF. Better planes, better service, more onboard entertainment options. I also have the SW credit card and have already earned enough segments for a free ticket. Easy peasy. AND I can fly out of Love Field.

As for my 200k AA FF points I’ve redeemed them for hotel and rental car for a December trip.

It’s all good!

Southwest no longer awards credits from flight segments, but based on spend the way that American will in a year.

I agree that AAdvantage changes are not good for consumers. Virgin America’s frequent flyer program is hardly more generous, though.

He mentions baggage fees, but the credit card he cut up meant he wouldn’t have to pay those. And AAdvantage doesn’t have ‘blackout dates’ for awards, they have dates where awards are more expensive than others.

There are more elites than before in AAdvantage as a result of the US Airways merger but also proportionately more flights. There are more elites overall because planes are full and that’s true across all airlines.

Virgin America is giving away status to anyone who transfers 80,000 Amex points into the Elevate program. And they easily comped this anchor’s status. That’s pretty inflationary to the status rolls there. Upgrade benefits are pretty weak at Virgin America though.

Bottom line on AAdvantage changes are that in a year the way redeemable miles are earned will change, becoming less consumer-friendly (but less than half of redeemable miles come from flying) and premium cabin awards – especially international first class – get far more expensive.

That’s not good. AAdvantage has been super-generous, not really cutting back while the other airlines did because they were focused on the merger. Now they’re going to be less good than before, more like the other majors. And that’s sad.

But that’s a different narrative than in the broadcast rant… So I don’t think viewers were done a service, they didn’t leave the news broadcast better informed. But I’m hardly the first person to think that!

I’ll give Mr. Corning the last word, from his Facebook page:

Gary, you should go to work for AA’s PR team. And I’m well aware of how the system works. I’ve been in Dallas for 5 years, the hometown market. And I’ve had platinum status. They are not consumer friendly. Cutting up the card was a statement marking the end of my relationship with them. Why would I use a card to get points to fly an airline that is increasingly less customer friendly as you outline point by point by point. YOU are making MY case, ironically enough. Have a nice day.

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. Pretty ironic that the phrase “epic rant” is used here. Considering the other times I’ve heard it has been about rants directed at blogs like this one.

  2. He used his 200k AAdvantage points for a hotel stay and car rental? I sure hope it was an expensive hotel and a fancy car.

  3. To your comment that you broke the story about AA’s move to revenue based earning on Nov. 6, JonNYC beat you to it.

  4. So, the question for you. Is it still worth to have AA credit cards, they do earn miles, but with new rules coming I think they might be worthless.

  5. Gary, how dare you let facts interrupt this man’s rage?!

    It sounds like this was more the straw that broke the camel’s back for this guy. His complaints seem to be more about difficult-to-measure customer service quality more so than than hard line earning, redemption, and upgrade rates. At least he went to Virgin instead of to Delta or United, which would truly have been out of the frying pan and into the fryer. I’m in a cliche mood right now apparently.

  6. He’s right about the PR job at AA. You’ve been consistently vicious towards UA and DL with a very light tough for AA even though the program has been similarly gutted over the past few years.

    I was an AA fan for many years but the givebacks have been pretty brutal – MRTC eliminated (and then finally returned a few years ago), CitiAA miles no longer count for lifetime status, saver AAward inventory which used to be the best of the majors are now much harder to find, and of course the recent gutting of the mileage program. For top level elites AA is now in many ways inferior because it offers fewer confirmed upgrades.

    Is it just too difficult to swallow the pride and admit that Mileage Plus now offers the best FF program and best *A network?

  7. Kudos to Mr. Corning. I couldn’t agree with him more. He’s fed up with no reward for loyalty, lousy service and awards that are often impossible to obtain. Quite frankly Gary I think you defend AA way too much. You seem a bit too much in their pocket. At some point all of these airlines are going to be begging their most frequent travelers to come back. Events in Paris teach us all how circumstances can change in an instant. Alienating your best and most loyal customers in any business is just plain foolish.

  8. I stopped using my UA card.

    I stopped using my AA card.

    I stopped using my Starwood Amex card.

    I’ll continue to use my Chase bank card(s) so I can transfer to Hyatt and Southwest. SW has pretty low award redemptions if you book far enough in advance.

  9. > “AAdvantage doesn’t have “blackout dates” for awards, they have dates where awards are more expensive than others.”

    Come on. Stop saying that without qualifying that “more expensive” can mean.

    AA has defacto blackout dates by raising the price on certain dates to what might as well be infinity. For example I’ve redeemed for saver business awards to Carnival before, but to do it today may cost 380,000 to Brazil at the “more expensive” price. Combined with the near elimination of savers, a couple would then pay 780,000 for that ticket (first class is close to 1M.) Who knows what the price will be next year since it’s indicated by an asterisk.

  10. – I think the American changes are awful. It’s hard to be outraged when they’re doing what United and Delta have already done.

    – The rant is completely wrong. Other than being “Anti-AA” which folks may have sympathy with, they are wrong on the facts. To me the facts will matter more than mood affiliation.

    – The AA credit cards have the same value proposition as before: they are good for signup bonuses and for ongoing benefits flying American when you don’t have status (priority boarding, checked bags) but they are not good for spending and they don’t even earn the most AA miles per dollar spent (the Starwood Amex does, for as long as that’s around).

  11. @Jonathan JonNYC broke the news on the rest of it I believe, I think I was first on the revenue-based earn piece. I’d go pull up his site to see if he might have posted on it before I did but at the moment is down.

  12. Mr Corning is absolutely correct about you working for AA public relations! You were so hard on Delta when they made their changes and now you have a totally different perspective when AA does it. I for one commend Mr Corning. We need more people saying enough is enough! You have a little too close relationship with Suzanne (You remember her, she was so surprised everyone was upset about no notice changes!). Your connection to AA blinds your perspective.

  13. Wait, you don’t work for AA PR team, Gary? You should get paid for what you write, I think.

    You say AA is doing what United and Delta have done, and so you’re not outraged about it. But when DL did it, we got tons of posts of outrage. When United did it, all we heard was how United is too dumb, so they just manage by doing the outrageous things Delta does. Now AA does it, and it’s “yeah, this isn’t great, but of course it was expected, not that bad, could be worse.”

    I really don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m no fan of United, though I end up flying them the most given my routes. I go with the cheapest one for any given trip and that’s it. With the current arrangement, free agency makes the most sense.

  14. @Gary, speak up and don’t just be messenger of the #Disaadvantage program Program.

    They eliminated the stop over benefit, they have the worst sever availability and now they increase awards up to 60%.

    #Disaadvantage SCAM!

  15. Gonna have to withhold my opinion until I hear what Hilter has to say about the AAdvantage changes on YouTube. I’m sure someone is going to find that long lost video.

  16. I will agree with Ron on one point – ever since the boys from the desert arrived the quality has taken a nose dive. I can not believe they are raising the cost of an upgrade ($35 to $40) for a majorly downgraded quality of product.

    I’ve been an Aadvantage member since 1984 (almost since it’s inception) and have 2M miles – LP Status. And I plan to move to Delta with their new option to buy Y+ upfront. I get the legroom I need, a little priority treatment and don’t have to worry about gaining status to get it…prices are set at an affordable rate.. Meanwhile AA can’t even decide if they are going to expand MCE to the entire US fleet.

  17. Most of the changes aren’t nearly as bad as they could of been. I think AA should have waited another 6 months but whatever.
    I would like to see a blog post that high lights the lack of AA metal or non-BA first cabin availability for awards to places like Europe.

  18. I agree with Tom.
    Until the big 3 find ways to differentiate their cloned programs, I’ll forgo loyalty and just by the best priced business/first ticket with my CSP card.
    Seeing that the award’s game table is ever-increasing -ly tilted to their side and upgrades for silvers are practically non-existent in or out of hubs, at least I’ll board early, check a bag for free and sit in comfort while the
    plane’s departure is delayed.

  19. I hope you get some ‘mileage’ out of your post. You crack me up. On the end on my FB page you conceded AA’s plan wasn’t good for consumers. SW with more destinations from an airport more conveniently located with better pricing and a great customer service oriented business model combined with AA’s new, confusing ‘no status status system’ simply means my dollars will be spent on the SW card, not the AA card. And I’m not alone. Good Lord! How much do you get paid for every AA post?

  20. Hey Gary, interesting post. I know what you mean – it’s hard to be outraged when AA is the last of three to make these changes. Gets to the point where you have to say, “Yeah, we know you’re going to screw us; yeah, here it is, as expected. Whatever.”

    It’s the world we live in. I know the root causes, pretty sure you have a good idea of them too. But nobody wants to hear that. And it won’t be changing anytime soon. We can expect the airline industry, along with every other industry that no longer has a natural incentive to constantly improve, to continue to get worse.

    I find many of your posts a fun read. Enjoy the holidays.

  21. Mr. Leff,
    I’m a huge fan of your blog. Thank you for providing.
    I respectfully disagree that the recent AAdvantage changes are not drastic. I’ve found the changes to be both drastic and stealthy. My family has used our AA miles for many years primarily for travel to Peru (my wife’s native country). Their Mileage Saver coach award at 30K to 35K RT has been an exceptional value. Although that level of redemption still officially exists, they have virtually disappeared. That coupled with the increase cost for Anytime coach awards, formally one standard cost of 70K RT, now ranging from 70k (seldom) to 170K RT. In short, my AA mile value to Peru/Ecuador have lost about half their value in the past six months. Its very similar to the game USAir played with its four tier of coach awards and finding seats the lowest lever, practically impossible.

  22. @Ned Shannon – the changes are absolutely a big deal. But they are not at all a big deal for the reasons the news anchor says they are. 😉

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