Why You Should Start Your Quest For American AAdvantage Status With A Challenge

American Airlines has brought back elite status challenges. They’re based on earning Loyalty Points, which means most of your AAdvantage activity including co-brand credit card spend and AAdvantage shopping portal spend, not just flying.

With these challenges you get temporary status, and an expedited path to keep the status. Some members can sign up for free, all the way up to Executive Platinum (check the promotions tab of your account), while others are asked to pay. The cost in cash is a better deal than the cost in miles.

  • Gold: $200 or 20,000 miles
  • Platinum: $450 or 50,000 miles
  • Platinum Pro: $700 or 80,000 miles
  • Executive Platinum: $975 or 120,000 miles

Here’s the thing. It’s much, much easier to earn status when you already have status with American. If you were flying to earn status and not engaging in any other activity, it would take $18,182 for an existing Executive Platinum member to re-earn Executive Platinum. In contrast, someone starting with no status and earning Executive Platinum on flying alone would need to spend $27,012 on tickets.

That’s because a base member earns just 5 miles per dollar until they become a Gold, and elite flying bonuses grow with each higher tier. Those bonuses count towards status. Starting fresh from zero is really hard.

But you don’t have to start fresh. Someone without status could do the same amount of flying and spend $8830 less on tickets (if they were qualifying for status on flying alone) by signing up for a status challenge, which might be available free but also seems worth it to me for $975 not least of which because you’d also be receiving Executive Platinum benefits like upgrades, and better assistance during irregular operations, while seeking to reach that status. It’s still expensive, but potentially less expensive for some, especially if you’d have had to take incremental trips to get over the top towards your status without the challenge.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Last year I requalified as AA Platinum (although we pretty much buy First now) by some offer on dollars flown or something where I got a qualifying ticket at a bit over $2,000. But it got First DCA-Miami Flagship first to LAX.

    Couple nights at H Hotel, so day planespotting Used HHONORS free night

    Then return
    No glassware then, so I brought my own EY nut ramekin and on outbound at MIA borrowed a Flagship Club champagne flute (Roderer on offer, nice)

    But not interested this year. Maybe it’s my health issues, maybe it’s the election stress,
    OR maybe because I have an around the world trip post treatment and election ticketed w 3 legs in SQ Suites. In mid November 🙂
    And other winter travel set. Plus having voyaged the Upper Mississippi River on the new Viking Mississippi.
    Another trip on American is not appealing

  2. Remembering fondly how cheap it was about 2010 to get to EXP from scratch. Triple EQM offers ex-ORD/DFW/LAX/SFO on $79-99 tickets bought with AA Costco gift cards procured at 10% off.

    Could be done in a few January days for around $1300 out of pocket, less of course the value of the redeemable miles accrued.

    Entire chunks of planes were filled with people doing this, and we met by the dozens in Admirals Clubs at those four airports.

    One of my flights ORD-LAX was late, and we walked off the plane, saw an AA rep with an arrow sign pointing to the next gate saying “ORD,” and walked right on the return flight. Spent 30 seconds in the airport.

  3. Why bother? All in my personal opinion:

    American, like other carriers, has devalued their program so much that status hardly matters. Securing a global upgrade in advance? Nope. Securing saver award tickets? Nope. No waiting on hold with call center? Nope. Special recognition/attention on the ground and in the air? Not so much. Guaranteed tarmac car transfers? Nope. One World benefits, like interlining baggage on separate tickets, even on full fare tickets? Lol, Nope.

    Having been either a CK or EP for many years (depending on the year), I can say that the value of AA status has never been lower. Maybe if you are flying economy you get the benefit of bags and a preferred seat. But if you are meeting the spending requirements of the ‘new and improved’ advantage program, you are probably never buying coach seats anyway (I’m not, particularly given all the cheap premium fares available).

    Ultimately, AA’s most profitable flying customers will show the carrier the level of loyalty it deserves: none. When there are no compelling reasons to be loyal I will: pick the most direct route, the most comfortable aircraft, and the best schedule. Bank the ticket cost using a (non-airline) credit card with transferable mileage currency…..and feel sorry for the average consumer who doesn’t know that their ‘big’ credit card signing bonus, in my opinion, will be so hard to use and worth so little.

  4. @Liam is right on target. I abandoned AA after decade+ as EXP. My experience as 1K generally better. But being based in Dallas it is getting harder to stay on UA due to changes in my travel pattern and UA scheduling cutbacks. It is getting harder to see any benefit of being loyal. I buy F class anyway, so upgraded are worthless to me. Perhaps time to just be a “free agent”.

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