American Extends Status And Lowers Elite Qualifying Thresholds

American Airlines announced some major updates to its AAdvantage program for 2020 today. Like other major airlines around the world, American has extended members’ current elite status through January 31, 2022. In addition, for those looking to attain status in 2020, the airline announced lower thresholds for all status tiers.

American Airlines further reduces schedule due to coronavirus
American Airlines will extend elite status by one year. Photo: Getty Images

Lower thresholds for qualification

Just for 2020, American Airlines announced changes to qualification thresholds for all status levels. Passengers have to earn fewer Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs), fewer Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and fewer Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) to attain status. Below are the new threshold requirements for 2020:

 GoldPlatinumPlatinum ProExecutive Platinum

Compared to the traditional requirements that will resume in 2021:

 GoldPlatinumPlatinum ProExecutive Platinum

American also rewards customers who hit additional thresholds in the AAdvantage program. Executive Platinum members who traditionally hit 150,000 EQMs are rewarded with a choice of two systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles, or the gift of AAdvantage Gold status to someone else. Upon hitting 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs, passengers can choose another option at each point for two systemwide upgrades, 40,000 bonus miles, or else gift Platinum status.

Now, American is reducing those thresholds. To hit the first choice, customers only need 90,000 EQMs. For the second and third, that has been reduced to 120,000 and 150,000 EQMs respectively.

American Eagle retirement
Lower qualification thresholds are in response to the current state of aviation. Photo: Getty Images

Extension of status

American joins the ranks of Delta, United, and Qantas among other airlines that have extended elite status for a period of 12 months. This move across airlines was designed to alleviate concerns for elite passengers about maintaining status in a time of significantly reduced travel.

American Airlines, Shanghai, Beijing
American Airlines is joining other airlines in extending status. Photo: Getty Images

In an interview with Bridget Blaise-Shamai, the Vice President of Customer Loyalty & Insights and President of the AAdvantage Program, she indicated that American had received feedback from customers through various kinds of research methods. And, from the part of the airline, this move was also designed to give appreciation to members for reaching status qualifications in 2019 and keeping American competitive in the market.

Admirals Club memberships

A number of Admirals Clubs around the world are currently shut due to low demand and health concerns. Some, in fact, have turned in to mask-making factories for American’s frontline employees. As a result, customers have not been able to use their Admirals Club memberships or passes fully. So, American Airlines is extending these memberships and passes for six months beyond the date of expiration.

American Airlines Admirals Club
Some of American’s Admirals Club are closed. Photo: American Airlines

A vacation credit for elite members

To encourage travel through December of 2021, American is offering elite members a credit on vacation packages sold through American. Gold members will receive a $300 credit, Platinum and Platinum Pro members will receive a $350 credit, and Executive Platinum members will receive a $400 credit.

American Airlines reduces international capacity with 10% due to coronavirus
Vacation credit is determined by elite status. Photo: Getty Images

To book, passengers should call American Airlines Vacations to select a package that meets the minimum spend of $2,500 with roundtrip flights and hotels. This offer will go live after July 1, 2020.

What about my systemwide upgrades?

The top tier of American’s customers do not have to worry about systemwide upgrades. Those set to expire on January 31st, 2021, will be extended.

Giving customers flexibility and options

Every person had different agendas for travel in 2020. Some people may have saved up for a trip to the Olympics, others may be holding out to fly on some of the newest planes or products, and, some may have accumulated vacation days to be able to take a nice, long getaway to a beach or a ski lodge. The one thing all of these people have in common is the uncertainty of their travel plans this year.

American Airlines 787-8 Dreamliner
There are some excellent mileage redemption opportunities. Photo: Getty

Fares are lower than they have been in a long time. As a result, customers may notice some fantastic deals on mileage redemptions through AAdvantage. This gives more passengers the opportunity to use their miles for some itineraries that may have previously been out of reach.

Will other airlines follow suit?

There are few industries around the world that are as competitive as airlines. Now, more than ever, airlines need to maintain a competitive edge. It is highly likely that other airlines will follow American and reduce elite thresholds for 2020.

Getty American Airlines oneworld
American is a major presence in the oneworld alliance. Photo: Getty Images

By reducing these requirements, when travel does rebound, American is incentivizing passengers to choose them with the opportunity to earn elite status without flying as much. This may also put pressure on current and future oneworld partners to also give their customers a little more leeway with earning status or extending status.

However, as of now, American has not had major discussion with other alliance members about standardizing this process. Nevertheless, as one of the leaders in the oneworld alliance, other airlines would do well to take a look at what American is doing.

Alaska and American
This may lead American’s partners to make their own changes. Photo: Getty Images

When will travel rebound?

American is also giving a little hint as to when its team thinks travel will rebound. Elite requirements have not quite been reduced by half, but it is fairly close. So, status that was attainable in a year, is now attainable in about six to seven months meaning American is hoping for the rebound to start in May or June.

What do you think of American’s latest moves? Let us know in the comments