No More American Airlines Elite Membership Cards, But You Can Still Call For Employee Recognition Certs

American Airlines no longer sends membership kits to frequent flyers when they earn AAdvantage elite status. This is one of the many little cost cuts the airline has instituted, despite the program remaining profitable throughout the pandemic and being poised to become security for a $4.5 billion loan.

This means that elites are no longer sent a membership card, luggage tags, or employee recognition certificates. Instead the airline tells newly minted elite members that AAdvantage is “a fully digital experience.” Here’s the new message in lieu of an elite kit:

As recently as the beginning of the year, as an Executive Platinum member, I received a renewal kit with membership card and luggage tags. The membership card isn’t usually necessary, but can be helpful accessing some partner lounges internationally.

Inside the kit was also (6) employee recognition certificates with an expiration date that coincided with the expiration of status. (They used to provide more certificates and those certificates didn’t expire.)

Each coupon is a raffle entry. They used to be called “Round of Applause” certificates, often referred to by frequent flyers as “AAplause” certificates. Each month American would draw winners of prizes of AAdvantage frequent flyer miles (and before that the You’re SomeOne Special or “SOS” program gave positive space travel). They’ve moved to the US Airways system and now do quarterly drawings for cash. It’s a nice way to say thank you to employees who provide ‘above and beyond’ service.

It seems that the employee recognition program hasn’t ended. Oddly, they haven’t told members this, but a spokesperson offered,

We know our customers enjoy presenting appreciation certificates to team members as a way to recognize excellent service. Whie the membeshp kits are digital, customers can continue to reach out to us and we’ll gladly send them physical ceritficates in the mail.

American confirms that all elite members can request certificates.

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. Honestly I am kind of sad that a lot of these loyalty programs wont even send a card anymore. You spend time, money and become monotonous when you stick to one brand that they should reward you if you stick with them, even if that means a simple piece of plastic. If you want to save the environment then that is great and have a way for those to opt out…. With everything becoming slectronic it is becoming so transactional that you dont really value it as much.

  2. 98% of members would not realize you can call to request these certificates. Also when you call, I wonder how easy the process is. Do phone CSR’s readily know and have access to the functions to send these certificates out?

  3. I’m looking forward to all digital food, beverage, pillows, blankets and amenity kits. That will in turn relieve the burden from the under burdened FA’s, who could be replaced with digital flight assistants.

    Wait, how about a digital CEO, which could take the form of an auto-dialer begging for government bailouts.

  4. According to my daughter, who is an AA flight attendant, the employee recognition program has been cancelled.

  5. About time on the cards and luggage tags. My phone has all I need for airlines. Although a digital (Wallet) card like AS has would be nice (unless they do have it and I just haven’t figured it out).

    I can see that the certs might be an issue as people don’t think to get them, as noted above.


  6. @Gary Have Are all the oneworld airline lounges equipped to handle digital cards? I thought that was the main reason AA had to gone to digital cards previously.

  7. @Gary Let’s try it again!
    Are all the oneworld airline lounges equipped to handle digital cards? I thought that was the main reason AA had not gone to digital cards previously.

  8. @controller1

    I have not carried any OW card (AA, BA) in several years and have accessed a bunch of lounges with nary a hitch. They can always work just from the number, IME.


  9. I like having the card. For the costs of flying and memberships etc. it’s a small thing that the airlines can do for loyalty.

  10. Good luck on getting the certicates. My original request was in February. It took multiple phone cals and emails to AA and I just received 1 .5 weeks ago. I became EP in August having been PLT for last 5 years. With all the hoops, it’s like AA management doesn’t want any employees recognized. Kinda sad.

  11. This is years overdue (BTW, I’m a long time EP and lifetime Platinum w 3 million miles now that I’ve retired). All the airline, hotel and car rental apps have membership info and, usually, a digital version of your card so there is NO REASON to have a physical card anymore. Also, if you sign in to the app or website when you make reservations your status is already on the record so no card is needed.

    Hopefully other travel companies follow suit and do away with this. A very easy way to save a little money plus help the environment. I’m all for everything being digital.

    On lounge access I’ve traveled the world the last few years and haven’t had to show a physical card in any of them. Either the app on my phone (with airline status or Priority Pass app) or my American Express Platinum card was enough to get me in any of them.

  12. Good luck applying for Hong Kong’s Immigration fast track service. They require a card showing elite status on an airline. Even gold would count. I doubt if Hong Kong is going to change their procedures to accept digital cards just because AA is so cheap.

  13. @bill – employee operational performance bonuses have been cancelled, but AA confirmed this week that ‘above and beyond’ drawings haven’t been cancelled

  14. The employee recognition program is alive and well. Last quarter it was decided not to do the cash drawing in a time the company is losing millions of dollars a day and tens of thousands of jobs are on the line. I’m sure they will bring it back as soon as realistically possible. In the meantime employees still receive recognition which is CCd to their managers and points which acrrue and can be exchanged for goods and gift cards. Honestly, sometimes the recognition on a difficult day means everything. Whether or not you have physical certificates, elite members – or any customer – can send an email or fill out the form for Customer Relations to recognize an employee. We love to hear from you!

  15. I always get asked for a physical card in random places… Not to mention privacy/hygiene issues with handing over your phone to whomever needs a card. This is a silly cut.

  16. I think it is appropriate that they concluded the operational performance bonuses in recognition of the FA elimination of operational performance. And if they want to save even more money, close those customer service desks, nobody there has a clue what customer service is and it makes it more frustrating when you need help and AA tries to make you believe there is someone to help you.

  17. Scott Kirby back at AA with his “service enhAAncements”? It costs them what? A buck to printout and mail a physical card?

    IME, outside of BA or AA lounges, most of the OW lounges want the physical card to swipe, especially in Asia.

  18. So many people whining about a piece of plastic that ends up in the bin the following year. It reeks of entitlement. The world is moving (albeit glacially) towards a plastic free future. Keep up at the back.

  19. Interesting. I was disqualified (during the application process) from TAP’s status match offer earlier this year because I couldn’t produce a copy of my physical AAdvantage card demonstrating my elite status. I tried sending them all manner of screen shots, which they refused to accept. Perhaps I missed a trick/hack to get the AA app to generate a digital “card”? While I agree that it seems antiquated and obsolete, I wonder if the physical card is still in fact needed in certain circumstances.

  20. I just received a physical status card in the mail (Dec 2021) along with the above and beyond certificates. Seems some portion of the elite status pack is still being sent out- the luggage tags were the only bit no longer included.

  21. I just received a luggage tag and 6 of the recognition certificates today. I’m Platinum Pro. I guess they are still sending some things…

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