Secrets Revealed by the President of American AAdvantage in Tonight’s Live Chat

Maya Leibman came off confident and at ease and really genuine in her answers during her online chat with members this evening.

While American has taken some heat for viewing social media as a distribution channel rather than an interactive one, her answers were anything but canned or produced. And she’s really quite funny, though I got to see that first hand at the Frequent Traveler Awards last week when she offered to Robert Wuhl to look into a “miles for sex” redemption option.

Here were key takeaways from the conversation:

  • There are more than 66 million members in the AAdvantage progam
  • “Last year, AAdvantage members redeemed more than 165 billion miles to claim almost 7.2 million awards.”
  • Any changes to the million miler program will be done with advance notice to members
  • Already earned million miler status is safe: “If we did make any changes to Million Miler the miles you’ve earned so far will still count.”
  • They’re working to improve upgrades on British Airways and Iberia, they recognize the requirement to have booked an award through American in order to use American miles to upgrade is cumbersome.
  • Not inclined to go to unlimited complimentary upgrades for all elites, prefer to limit that benefit to Executive Platinums
  • On fuel surcharges for awards booked on British Airways, “This is BA policy.” But no explanation of why there were no fuel surcharges on British Airways awards prior to the rollout of the American/BA/Iberia joint business venture (prior to which you could book any award on British Airways except between the US and UK, but with no fuel surcharges added to the price of the award).
  • Charity is clearly important to Ms. Leibman, especially American’s support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
  • No immediate plans to offer international upgrades online or display upgrade waitlist status
  • On booking partner awards online, “my hope to have this available by the end of the year.”

The chat transcript will be up at Milepoint shortly.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. I am proud to be a member of this program
    I dare United to be this upfront and personable to their members.I find her refreshing……
    Maya Rocks!
    now about some more saver award availability 🙂
    I love this program.My biggest beef is how bad the food can be on flights in First Class that we pay for one way or the other.Not Mayas department however it affects their revenue whenever I fly elsewhere
    I still give AA the lions share of my business typically

  2. thanks as always for the summary with the highlights
    You always put things in a focused perspective!
    Well done!

  3. I read through the entire transcript. It was great. Maya seems very personable and upfront. AA is still my preferred airline. Great first chat; I’m looking forward to other upcoming events in the chat series!

  4. @don American’s domestic saver award availability is sure better than anyone else’s… international premium cabin availability is a different story, sort of, though it’s not clear that any North American carrier offers better availability. Fortunately they have some partners that offer pretty good availability, and it’s not like you’d WANT to actually FLY American wen you can fly one of their partners anyway (except to avoid fuel surcharges on BA).

  5. I agree with you Gary that American remains amongst the fairest or the fairest of every program out there.Personal experience,that of others and the data support that.I applaud them.It is one of the reasons I am working towards reaching my 5 million mark in the next few years.
    A light weight here compared to the 16 million mile member I heard about during the chat.Having said all that AA has appeared to held back seats a bit more recently in some limited searches(coach domestic saver) In a way I was originally kind a sorta of teasing with my original statement……but satisfactory or better award availability with AA is what gutted my previous busines with United where I previously alwys achieved 1k or Premier Exec for many years before coming aboard to AA.It wasn’t a Delta SkyPeso situation however it was frustrating.Especially Down Under

    It will be unlikely I will return to Star for revenue travel anytime soon.Its a rainy day banking program to keep options open
    Although we all hate fuel surcharges I am ok with the BA surcharge because typically their International premium product is clearly better than AA.I would really like to see AA improve both its Domestic and International product besides get the new planes they are supposed to add to the flee.

    Maya only enforced and enhanced what I thought of American Airlines.I hope her voice is heard throughtout Americans various consumer marketing and PR channels she is and remains a great spokesperson for the company

  6. What you can’t do gary is close the account.

    I’ve tried to permanently close my AA account – can’t be done.

    Which leads me to believe, that some of the 66 people may be deceased, deadbeats.

  7. Many thanks for the heads up on this. After getting 200,000 AA miles recently from the Citi bonus I was up to 900,000 AA miles. Reading this created some urgency so I converted some Starpoints to push me over the hump – the miles just posted and I’m over 1,000,000 woohoo! That’s gold Gary, gold!

    fyi, we exchanged comments re Starwood Cash & Points stays counting toward the Stay 3/Get 1 Free resort promotion. I had 6 separate C&P stays in early May and I just spoke to another Starwood rep. She confirmed that they’re all showing up in their system as valid stays and that they WILL count towards the promotion. Using up some cheap C&P nights at a Sheraton can have you chilling on the beach at a St. Regis, not a bad deal.

  8. AA is not showing ANY C/F saver awards across the Atlantic, while BA is always open. AA Y is in contrast always open. I think the unstated policy of the new TATL venture is to maximize revenue through fees to the JV, by pointing all premium awards in the BA direction. GUWonder was right in this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *