Minimum of $3,000 Now Required To Earn Entry Level Status

It’s finally 2017.  Out with the old in with the new!  Unfortunately, in 2017, the new American AAdvantage program arrived and it means big changes for how you earn elite status.  These changes have been known since last summer.  American sent these changes in the form of a devastating email sent to AAdvantage members.  Now, after one final year of not needing to meet a spending limit, the changes are here and it’s not pretty.

The New AAdvantage Dashboard (Image: American Airlines)

The New AAdvantage Dashboard (Image: American Airlines)


Introducing Elite Qualifying Dollars

This year, AAdvantage frequent flyers will now be required to meet a minimum amount spent on airfare.  Money spent on airfare that’s eligible toward the spending threshold is known as Elite Qualifying Dollars, or EQDs.  Guess what?  They suck.  Delta Air Lines has been utilizing this system for years but essentially, it takes the fun out of finding a great fare in business or first class.  In 2017, that $199 flight between Dallas and San Francisco in First Class you booked will essentially do nothing to get you closer to the elite threshold.  In order to obtain or retain elite status at the entry level (Gold) you must earn 3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars.  Basically, you not only need to earn a certain amount of AAdvantage miles (Elite Qualifying Miles) or fly a certain amount of segments (Elite Qualifying Segments) but you will also be required to spend $3,000 on airfare with American.  That’s a hard punch in the gut when you begin to realize just how disastrous American’s AAdvantage program is.

New Requirements to Obtain or Retain AAdvantage Status (Image: American Airlines)

New Requirements to Obtain or Retain AAdvantage Status (Image: American Airlines)

Additionally, EQDs can be earned on select Oneworld partner flights and on codeshare flights with Alaska Airlines.  For many travelers, that 3,000 EQD threshold won’t be an issue.  It’s not until you get up to the minimum spending for Executive Platinum and PlatinumPro does the amount impede on travel.


Introducing PlatinumPro

 

American AAdvantage PlatinumPro Card (Image: American Airlines)

American AAdvantage PlatinumPro Card (Image: American Airlines)

Yep, you read that right, another elite tier on American.  Not only do you have to clear Gold and Platinum to get American’s only worthwhile status, Executive Platinum, but you will now have to clear PlatinumPro.  First off, who came up with the name for this status?  Honestly, this is the sloppiest effort of devaluing elite status.  Platinum Preferred and Platinum+ both sound ten times less awful than PlatinumPro.  Second, and more importantly, PlatinumPro is just a roadblock in the way of Executive Platinum.  Both AAdvantage Platinum and PlatinumPro elites are Oneworld Sapphire and receive nearly the same benefits.  The only advantage to PlatinumPro is a 60-hour upgrade window over the 48-hour upgrade window for Platinum members.  Also noteworthy are the minimum EQDs, EQMs, and EQSs, required to obtain PlatinumPro.  You must spend 9,000 dollars and earn 75,000 miles or fly 90 segments.

 


An Overview of Elite Benefits with the New American AAdvantage Program

Mainly due to the addition of PlatinumPro, elite benefits are set to change in 2017.  From upgrade windows to lounge access, PlatinumPro has introduced a variety of changes this year.

Gold

From what I can tell from the information provided by American Airlines on the changes in 2017, Gold status is the only elite status that went untouched.  However, in this case, that’s not a good thing.  The only change is that not only will Gold elites have the lowest priority on the upgrade list but Gold elites will then compete for space on the upgrade list.  Elites, within their respected tier, will be placed on the upgrade list according to how much money they’ve spent with American in a calendar year.  This isn’t a Gold-only change, though, all elite tiers will be structured the same way.

Platinum

Platinum elites will lose the original 72-hour upgrade window and will only be able to get a confirmed upgrade within the new 48-hour window.  I’ve never been Platinum at American but something tells me that this change might have made some Platinum elites switch to Delta or United.  There is some good news for Platinum elites.  If you hold Platinum status, you will now have access to Flagship Lounges (now known as International First Class Lounges) when traveling internationally regardless of the cabin you’re booked in.  That’s a neat perk but useless if you don’t travel out of the US much.  Other than losing 24 hours with your upgrade window and gaining access to the International First Class Lounges, that’s about it for Platinum elites for the new American AAdvantage program.  Overall, not the best news as Platinum elites will also have to earn an additional status before gaining Executive Platinum status.

PlatinumPro

Since this is a brand new elite status, there aren’t any changes.  However, it appears as if it really is just Platinum status with a better-confirmed upgrade window.  Nothing “Pro” about this BS status.  Overall PlatinumPro really hurts Platinum status on American.

Executive Platinum

This is another status with very little in the way of changes in the new American AAdvantage program.  The good news for Executive Platinum elites is that it’s all good news (from what I can tell).  Executive Platinum elites will now be able to upgrade on main cabin award tickets.  Upgrades are handled similarly to revenue tickets.  Request an upgrade and you’ll go on the upgrade list.  You can upgrade from Main Cabin to the next cabin of higher service.  So that means if you book a coach award ticket and Premium Economy is the next cabin of higher service, you’d be upgraded to Premium Economy.  Overall, not much is changing for Executive Platinum elites.


Knocking EQDs Out with a Credit Card

The American AAdvantage Aviator Red Card (Image: American Airlines)

The American AAdvantage Aviator Red Card (Image: American Airlines)

So here’s some good news.  If you become an American Airlines cardholder, select cards allow you to earn elite qualifying dollars by spending a certain amount.  Per American Airlines;

“AAdvantage® AviatorTM Red, AviatorTM Blue and AviatorTM Business MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 on qualifying net purchases during the calendar year.

AAdvantage® AviatorTM Silver MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $6,000 EQDs by spending $50,000 on qualifying net purchases each calendar year. They’ll earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 on qualifying purchases and another $3,000 EQDs after $50,000 on qualifying purchases.”

That might take the stress off of some fearing the new EQD requirements.  However, it’s just another way to get you to invest in American’s declining AAdvantage program.


Overall

Unfortunately, 2017 began with me opening my AAdvantage dashboard to discover the new EQD requirement.  It was a sudden wake-up call.  2017 is here and so are the new American AAdvantage changes.  These changes, from devaluing status to requiring a minimum amount to earn elite status, have really added to the decline of the AAdvantage program.  Not to mention, the introduction of Premium Economy could add to the stress of AAdvantage elites depending on how it plays into upgrades and award redemptions.  For now, Happy New Year and happy flying!