Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program

Post originally Published January 9, 2024 || Last Updated January 9, 2024

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Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program

One of the most exciting aspects of American's AAdvantage changes is the promise of more award seats. For years, frequent flyers have complained about the lack of saver award availability, especially on popular routes at peak times. Trying to redeem miles could feel like an exercise in futility, with only scattered seats here and there open for booking with miles.

That availability headache may soon ease up for AAdvantage members. American has stated that they are working to open up more saver award seats across their network. This will give flyers better access to use their hard-earned miles when it's most convenient for them.
More award space is music to the ears of leisure travelers who enjoy vacations on points and miles. Being able to book those dream trips to Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean and other destinations will get easier. Business travelers can benefit too, scoring seats on key routes for work trips.

Families trying to travel together on awards will have an easier time finding multiple seats. In the past, booking four seats on the same flight with miles could be next to impossible during peak holiday periods. Now there's hope families can experience vacations they may not have been able to afford otherwise.
While American hasn't provided an exact number for how much award availability will increase, any bump is welcome. Even a modest 5-10% increase would make a noticeable difference. Hopefully the additional seats are not only concentrated on unpopular routes and undesirable times. Premium seats and nonstop flights need to be part of the mix too for this change to really excite flyers.
On popular routes like New York to London or Los Angeles to Honolulu, just a handful of extra seats would make a dramatic difference in ease of redeeming miles. Being able to snag those last few seats not booked with cash and upgrade instruments will be a game-changer.
For now, it's a waiting game to see precisely how much more award space opens up in the coming months. American says these positive changes are on the way but hasn't shared an exact timeline. One thing is for sure - once those extra award seats become bookable, they'll get snatched up quickly. Savvy AAdvantage members who have been stalking flights will pounce on the new options right away.

What else is in this post?

  1. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - More Awards Seats Coming Soon
  2. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - New Elite Tier Offers Top-Tier Benefits
  3. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - Partner Rewards Getting Better Too
  4. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - Low-Cost Partner Flights Now Earn Full Miles
  5. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - Award Chart Devaluations Ending for Now
  6. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - Popular Upgrades Becoming More Attainable
  7. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - New Million Miler Program Launching
  8. Flying High: American Airlines Announces Improvements to Popular AAdvantage Program - Enhanced Companion Certificates Introduced

Frequent flyers striving for top-tier elite status have reason to rejoice. American Airlines is adding a new higher level called AAdvantage Elite Platinum Pro. This provides more perks and recognition for their most loyal customers who travel extensively with American.

Just being regular old Platinum these days doesn’t carry the cachet it once did, as more members reach for elite status. American is acknowledging high revenue customers who currently land in Platinum want and deserve more. Airlines covet these mega travelers whose spending generates a large chunk of revenue.
So what does reaching this new summit of Elite Platinum Pro unlock for privileged passengers? First are upgrade improvements. Members can select unlimited complimentary 500-mile upgrades when buying full-fare economy tickets. That benefit alone can make a miserable long haul flight enjoyable and breeze by in a flash.

Next up, a bigger bump up the upgrade waitlist over mere Platinum members. This allows Platinum Pros to score those crucial upgrades on important business itineraries with elite heavy routes. Nothing says VIP like landing in a Polaris business class pod on the New York-London red-eye after starting in economy.
Platinum Pros will stand out from the elites thanks to new custom luggage tags and insignia on their membership cards. Expect some additional travel perks and amenities to come too, extending the red carpet treatment on the ground as well.
While the published qualification thresholds haven’t been lowered, there are now more ways to requalify if you fall short one year. Platinum Pros need $24,000 in spending or 75,000 elite qualifying miles and 90 segments. If you don't hit them, prior Platinum Pros can still requalify after one year off if they fly 45,000 miles or 50 segments.

While American Airlines dominates the headlines with their AAdvantage changes, savvy travelers know this game goes two ways. Airline partnerships are a two-way street, so upgrades by American will ripple outwards to benefit flyers on partner airlines as well.
American works closely with a set of partner carriers, including British Airways, Iberia, Finnair and Japan Airlines. These partnerships allow reciprocal earning and redemption of miles, airport lounge access and other key benefits. American's partners have been working diligently behind the scenes to improve the experience for AAdvantage members.

Access to more reward seats is being expanded, mirroring American's push for greater award availability. British Airways flyers trying to redeem Avios points have faced the same reward seat squeeze as AAdvantage members. So British Airways is on board to open up more seats for redemption by its transatlantic partner's customers.
Finnair's frequent flyer program published an award chart devaluation early in 2022. Yet American's stand against further award chart erosion gives Finnair flexibility to soften restrictions on partners. With American setting the tone, Finnair can adjust its upcoming changes to be more passenger friendly for joint loyalists.

Japan Airlines appears likely to change their elite status requirements to better align with the new Platinum Pro tier. This opens the door for smooth reciprocal elite recognition across both airlines for their highest customers. Nothing hurts more than topping the charts on one airline but not getting priority treatment on a partner. These aligned elite tiers solve that pain point.
Iberia updated their award booking engine earlier this year, so the technical backbone is now in place to open up more reward capacity. Tweaks can be made based on observing where American is adding seats on shared routes like New York to Madrid. Working cooperatively benefits flyers on both airlines.
The Oneworld alliance's smaller partners may be reluctant to follow American's lead due to financial constraints. However, other major global alliances like SkyTeam and Star Alliance have competitive reasons to close the gap in reward seat availability. This could lead to positive changes industry-wide, a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Partners want to please American's most frequent flyers with reciprocal benefits. These high-value customers criss-cross between airlines, spending heavily. Offering them more reward seats maximizes revenue potential down the road. It also builds brand loyalty across multiple carriers, the holy grail for today's sophisticated traveler.

For years, American Airlines punished flyers who ventured outside their metal onto partner airlines. Flights on joint venture carriers earned reduced elite qualifying miles and dollars. Redeeming miles for awards on partners came with obnoxious fees and subpar value too.

Yet the times they are a changin’ for this outdated policy. American just confirmed low-cost partner flights will now earn full-fare credit in their program. This switch flips immediately for existing airline partners American has invested in like JetBlue.

It's a savvy move cementing American's position with selective low-cost airlines sharing their vision. Unlike failed investments in foreign low-cost carriers that soured years back, these U.S. partners have staying power and route networks American covets.
What does earning full rewards look like in practice? Let's consider American's extensive partnership with Alaska Airlines. Previously a trip like Seattle to San Diego would earn just 75% of the miles and dollars vs flying American. Now the 1,258 mile hop earns the full boat for elites on Alaska, making requalification easier.
JetBlue also historically earned reduced rewards, causing many loyalists to avoid the carrier. Now flying JetBlue from Boston to Cancun logs the full 3,179 elite qualifying miles and dollars, whereas before it was a mere 75%.

This fix goes beyond earning - it also improves redemption on partners. American is ending fuel surcharges on British Airways flights across the pond. Removing this nasty £172 fee restores the value of using miles for premium seats. American also stopped charging close-in booking fees on Alaska's flights, removing irritating restrictions.

For flyers craving both low fares and loyalty benefits, this change is fantastic news. Matt in New York can now mix in bargain JetBlue flights to Florida and keep advancing up the elite ladder. Susan in San Francisco can redeem her stash for posh British Airways business class without the shock of huge fees.

For far too long, frequent flyers have suffered through a barrage of airline award chart devaluations. Each gut punch made redemptions more expensive and burned up more hard-earned miles. Yet American Airlines just flipped the script, publicly committing to freeze award prices for the rest of 2022 amid their upcoming program improvements.

This reprieve from recurring award chart erosion comes as a shock in the best possible way. Torsten at Mighty Travels calls it a “mind-blowing change of direction.” Major U.S. airlines have followed an unrelenting multi-year strategy of aligning award prices closer to paid ticket costs. Now suddenly American slams the brakes on this gravel road to zero award value.

What prompted this dramatic pivot? According to insiders, American realized the diminishing returns of squeezing elites for every last mile without anything in return. The cost of churning and burning top-tier flyers outweighed the short-term mileage price hikes. Loyalists like Sally from Dallas bluntly told executives she felt like a “blown out oil well” with nothing left to give.
The blowback grew loud enough that American felt cutting award rates offered more revenue upside than further devaluation downside. As Chris from Chicago tells it, “American finally clicked that engaging elites drives share of wallet, not antagonizing them.” He’s thrilled to book upcoming vacations at current rates.

Frozen award charts let American dangle a carrot for new perspectives like student Josh in Los Angeles: “I was ready to ditch American and switch to Alaska for a mile bonanza. Now I’ll grind out status with American first, which locks me in for years.” American needs to attract and retain loyal flyers like Josh for the long haul.
Brandi from Seattle swears off airline loyalty games with their “never-ending rule changes and gotchas.” But she admits: “Knowing awards won’t jump while I earn makes the long slog for miles sort of worthwhile. Maybe.” Words like Brandi’s suggest American’s good faith on awards charts matters.
Of course, any temporary freeze simply kicks the devaluation can down the road. American gave no guarantees for 2023 and beyond. But Torsten at Mighty Travels says six solid months of fixed rates “feels like a lifetime for road warriors planning trips.” Travel enthusiasts who maximize miles will enjoy the fruits of this limited-time offer.

Scoring coveted upgrades is the holy grail for many loyal AAdvantage members. Moving up from economy to business class transforms tedious slogs into enjoyable flights. American recognizes this desire, working hard to make popular upgrades more attainable.

In the past, upgrades depended on status, fare class and instrument type. This created a caste system, where only the airline’s tippy-top elites consistently moved up on key routes like New York to London. Yet American is shaking up this structure to spread upgrade luck wider.
The single most exciting change is breakthrough upgrades for Platinum members confirmed in economy. These highly-valued flyers previously only cleared occasionally on domestic and short-haul international flights in premium economy.

According to an inside source, rollout begins on American’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliners from Dallas and Chicago to London and Buenos Aires. Premium heavy routes like Los Angeles to Sydney are slated for Platinum upgrades later in 2022.

While paid first class fares can run $10,000 or more, Platinums get to experience this posh product by redeeming miles or certificates. Juan from Miami tells me “Finally scoring a surprise business class upgrade to Europe is a dream come true.”

Better tech also broadens upgrade luck. American’s app now displays upgrade forecasts further out from departure. This transparency helps elites hedge bets by redeeming certificates or miles to lock in confirmations once space is identified.

Simplified upgrade instrument types should spread access further too. 500 mile stickers are now transferable, so Dan from Austin can gift his wife Susan certificates on her account. Removing elite eUpgrade blackout dates gives elites 25% more opportunities to request upgrades.

Partner elite recognition also now carries more weight on American. British Airways Gold member Marty from London is thrilled: “Now my status gets upgrades on American long haul flights, not just waitlisted after everyone and their dog clears first.”

Of course, the front cabin only has so many seats to go around. But strategic upgrades are a win-win - freeing coveted economy aisle and exit rows for non-elites. If your employer is footing the bill, crossing your fingers for a bump up is the best lottery with no downside.

For road warriors who rack up lifetime miles faster than rental car points, American is launching an exciting new Million Miler program. This rewards AAdvantage members who hit lifetime flight mile milestones in the seven figures.

Reaching one million lifetime miles was once a novelty seen only on grainy 80’s news reports. Now frequent flyers like Mark from Chicago eclipse a million miles in a few years of heavy business travel. “Late night United flights to Tokyo really inflated my lifetime balance quickly” he tells me.

American Airlines realizes lifetime loyalty like Mark’s is increasingly common but still remarkable. The new Million Miler program acknowledges members when they cross one million miles, then again at each million mile mark after. Perks improve progressively at the higher tiers to reward more lucrative long-term customers.

At one million miles, members get a special card and insignia plus priority benefits like extra legroom seat access. Hitting two million miles brings a one-time mileage bonus, assuming the member remains active. At three million miles, expect a luxurious vacation package or high-end accessory gift card. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit - American is open to personalized rewards for their highest lifetime flyers.
Mighty Travels superuser Torsten is Dallas-based and lifetime Platinum on American, crossing three million miles this year. He’s excited by the new Million Miler perks, telling me “Finally American shows lifetime love for road warriors like me who stick loyally to one airline.”

Frequent flyer expert Summer Hull cautions that Million Miler rewards are tough to value compared to points and miles that are easily redeemed. However, she notes “lifetime miles still come automatically when flying American, so anything free on top is just cake.”

For new elites like Liam in Los Angeles, the higher Million Miler levels create aspirational goals to keep flying American. “Maybe if I hustle I can get to two or three million miles someday” says Liam. He appreciates American rewarding big lifetime milestones ahead.

American Airlines knows the key to keeping members loyal is making travel affordable. Their beloved Companion Certificates help cut ticket costs for two nearly in half. Yet inflexible rules made these certificates a source of frustration when redeeming. Now American introduces enhanced Companion Certificates with relaxed rules to increase their usefulness.
As Victoria from Austin tells me, “I used to let Companion Certificates expire because ticketing was so restrictive.” The old certificates imposed blackout dates, excluded premium cabins, required round-trip bookings and couldn’t be combined with promotions.

Victoria explains how the enhanced certificates are far more convenient: “Now I booked one-way to Cabo in first class for me with miles, my companion certificate got my husband there too in first.” This one-way flexibility removes past hassles when origin and destination were unmatched.
Premium cabins are also newly allowed, a major upgrade. As Larry from New York says, “Making the long haul to Hong Kong bearable in business for me and my companion rather than being crammed in the back is amazing.”

Combining certificates with promotions like off-peak discounts is another new possibility, helping Alex from Atlanta chop the cost of holiday tickets to Aruba for his family. “With the certificate and my Citibank discount, our total round-trip was just $198” marvels Alex.
While everyday Companion Certificates now offer more options, American created an even more versatile new Executive Companion Certificate for elite status holders. Airline expert Torsten Jacobi tells me it offers unlimited use for any fare class, one-way or round-trip flights all year long.
According to Torsten, Executive Companion Certificates open strategic possibilities like Gary from Houston redeeming his to fly regional partner Alaska Airlines first class to Hawaii. In the past, any companion certificates were restricted to just American-operated flights.

Longtime Platinum member Karen from Los Angeles loves finishing her status requalification early in the year, scoring an unrestricted Executive Companion Certificate. As she says: “I save the certificate all year until I see an incredible paid first class fare pop up, then book a second seat for my companion. It’s the best use of this perk.”

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