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Elite status on American Airlines provides decent value for travelers who already fly more than 30 segments per year with American and their partner carriers. The program's qualifications and basic benefits are identical to the other major carriers, but their benefits lag behind. Travelers who don't currently meet the 30-segment mark on American will likely be better-served by another frequent flyer program.
Benefits of American Airlines Elite Status
American's AAdvantage elite status program is comparative with rival airlines, offering standard perks like free checked bags, priority boarding and bonus rewards-earning potential. Like its peers, American provides discounted lounge access to elite status members and complimentary same-day flight change and standby for elite members.
|No status||Gold||Platinum||Platinum Pro||Executive Platinum|
|Free checked bags||0||1||2||2||3|
|Same-day flight change fee||$75||$75||$0||$0||$0|
|Lounge access when traveling internationally||—||—||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Unlimited auto-requested upgrades||—||Flights under 500 miles||Flights under 500 miles||All flights||All flights|
|Upgrade confirmation time||—||Day of departure||48 hours before flight||72 hours before flight||100 hours|
|Free Main Cabin Extra seats*||—||At check-in||At booking||At booking||At booking|
In terms of customer service and in-flight experience, the benefits of elite status are fairly similar across the three major U.S. carriers: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Where the carriers differ in their consumer value is on flight accessibility and rewards. Some airlines will have more flight options available from your home airport and more international partners in destinations where you're likely to travel.
If you don't currently have elite status on any airline and are looking to join a program, you should find out which airline has the best flight options for you. If you frequently travel abroad or are hoping to earn rewards for free international flights, then it's also important to consider whether a U.S. airline has favorable international partners. American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, which has roughly 1,000 destinations in 150 countries.
All AA elite status members have the benefit of unlimited, auto-requested upgrades on flights that are under 500 miles. For flights longer than 500 miles, only elite status members in the top two tiers, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum, are eligible for auto-requested upgrades. Status members in the two lower tiers can earn 500 mile upgrades by accumulating Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). For every 12,500 EQMs, which are calculated based on miles flown, four 500-mile upgrades are rewarded.
Executive Platinum members also receive the benefit of four systemwide upgrades. These are guaranteed upgrades that can be used to upgrade an economy ticket to business class ticket, or a business class ticket to a first class ticket. Systemwide upgrades can be transferred to friends and family, and the only exclusion is that they can't be used with a basic economy ticket.
Free Checked Bags
All AAdvantage elite status members receive the free checked bag benefit. Gold members get one free checked bag, Platinum and Platinum Pro members get two free checked bags, and Executive Platinum members get up to three checked bags. For those without elite status, in comparison, the first checked bag on American Airlines domestic flights costs $25, the second bag costs $35 and the third bag costs $150.
Platinum members and above have complimentary access to oneworld lounges. The oneworld alliance has over 600 lounges across the globe, so this perk is useful for frequent international travelers. Additionally, all elite status members get discounted memberships to American's lounge network, the Admiral Clubs. The membership discount is relatively small, however, and ranges from about 5% to 20%. The airport lounges also differ in quality depending upon the airport.
|Status level||Annual Admirals Club membership cost|
Elite members of American's AAdvantage program earn bonus miles on purchases made with American. Miles can be redeemed for award travel, upgrades, membership to the Admirals Club lounges and vacation expenses like cars and hotels. Regular AAdvantage members earn five points for every dollar spent with American and on flights with partner airlines, and elite members earn more based on their status level.
|Status Level||Points per dollar|
Awards flights can be redeemed on American for as few as 7,500 miles (MileSAAver tickets within the contiguous U.S., fewer than 500 miles). During off-peak season, trips to Hawaii from the contiguous 48 states can be redeemed for 20,000 miles, and trips to Europe can be redeemed for 22,500 miles. Depending on the type of awards tickets you redeem, one-way flights vary from 7,500 miles to 90,000 miles.
American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, which includes international partners like British Airways, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways. Awards points can be transferred to American's partner airlines and redeemed for international flights on these carriers. One common airline transfer is American to JAL for business class tickets from the U.S. to Japan.
How to Get American Airlines Elite Status
To get elite status on American, you must meet a spending requirement in addition to either a distance-flown or flights-flown requirement. Distance-flown is tracked with a metric called Elite Qualifying Miles, which are calculated based on the miles flown and ticket type of a certain itinerary. On any given flight, first and business class tickets earn more EQM than economy class tickets. Elite Qualifying Segments, or EQS, track the number of flights flown with American and their eligible partners.
|Class||American Fare Category||Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) per mile flown||Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS)|
|Full Fare First/Business||F, J||3.00||1.00|
|Discount First/Business||A, D, I, R||2.00||1.00|
|Premium Economy||W, P||1.50||1.00|
|Economy||H, K, M, L, V, G, S, N, Q, O||1.00|
As the above chart shows, it's easier to qualify for elite status when you're buying expensive business-class tickets and taking long-haul flights. The lowest spending minimum to qualify for American elite status is $3,000, which can be reached with a handful of round-trip flights in business class. For the leisure traveler who spends $200 to $300 on economy class tickets, it will take 10 to 15 round-trip flights to qualify for elite status.
|Elite Status Level||Miles Flown Requirement||Flights Flown Requirements||Dollars Spent Requirement|
|AAdvantage Platinum Pro||75,000||90||$9,000|
|AAdvantage Executive Platinum||100,000||120||$12,000|
If you currently hold elite status with another airline, you can participate in a status match to get status on American. Status match programs allow you to temporarily receive the same status level on American that you have with another airline. If you spend and fly enough during the few months of the challenge, American will let you keep your status. Those who are interested in a status match should directly contact American's customer service.
If you don't currently have status, you can participate in a status challenge. For a fee of a few hundred dollars, these challenges allow you to qualify for status by meeting the requirements of a given status level over a prorated period. For example, if you're looking to qualify for Gold, you'll pay a fee of $200 and be required to spend a certain amount and fly a certain number of segments to receive status at the end of the trial period.
Is American Airlines Elite Status Worth It?
If you want elite status and don't currently travel with American—and you don't anticipate routinely flying a certain route for leisure or business—then you should research the airline that is most convenient to your home airport and travel patterns. If you're looking to earn points for award travel, then your best option is to open a travel credit card.
However, American Airlines elite status program is a good option for travelers who already fly American due to geography or preference. The eligibility and benefits are similar to the other major U.S. carriers, and the route options and international flight partners are extensive. If you fly enough to qualify for a top tier level of the program, the benefits will be worth it for you.
If you travel fewer than 15 times per year, it's not worth it to try for Gold status. Travelers with this volume of flights will be better-served bargain hunting for the most affordable fares across all available airlines and paying for the trip with a rewards credit card. For those who already meet the 30 segment and $3,000 annual minimums, however, Gold status can be a decent perk that occasionally provides some added comfort to the travel experience.
The entry level of the AAdvantage program has few benefits beyond a free checked bag and a small bonus rewards-earning rate. Though free upgrades are available at the Gold tier, it's unlikely that an upgrade request will be granted due to higher status levels getting upgrade priority. In addition, free Main Cabin extra seats are a available to Gold members, but only at check-in rather than at the time of booking.
Elite status at the Platinum level and above is worth it for travelers who fly more than 60 segments per year with American or spend over $6,000 with American. At this tier, members have access to the oneworld alliance's business class airport lounges, which is a helpful feature for international travelers. Members at this level also get two free checked bags and free same-day flight changes. One downside is that the upgrade benefit at this tier is mixed—upgrades are confirmed as early as two days in advance, but Platinum members are still low on the priority list.
AAdvantage Platinum Pro
Platinum Pro status is worth it for the heavy traveler, but benefits at this level are similar to those of Platinum level with a few added bonuses. Platinum Pro members get an 80% mileage bonus (nine points/dollar) rather than a 60% mileage bonus (eight points/dollar), and upgrade confirmation up to 72 hours in advance of departure time rather than 48 hours in advance of departure time. However, upgrades are likelier at this status level, as Platinum Pro members are second in line behind Executive Platinum members.
AAdvantage Executive Platinum
If you fly and spend enough with American to qualify for Executive Platinum, you'll get a variety of benefits that incentivize you to remain loyal to the airline. Executive Platinum members get three free checked bags, 11 miles per dollar on American Airlines expenses and four systemwide upgrades. In addition, Executive Platinum members are first in line for upgrades, which are confirmed up to 100 hours (four days) in advance.
Elite Status vs. American Airlines Credit Cards
For those who are interested in earning points to get free flights, co-branded credit cards and rewards credit cards are a good option. If you care more about earning points than flying on American, your best option is a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Premier℠ Card. These cards earn rewards points that you can apply toward travel expenses like plane tickets and hotel rooms.
If you're looking to get the in-flight travel benefits on American, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® provides value similar to elite status. The card has a $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99, comes with one free checked bag and provides bonus spending rewards on American purchases.
|Annual Fee||AA Spending Rewards||General Spending Rewards||Free Checked Bag||Admirals Club Access|
|AAdvantage MileUp Card||$0||7||2 miles per dollar on gas and restaurants||—||$550|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®||$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99||7||2 miles per dollar at gas stations and restaurants||1 free bag||$550|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®||$450||7||1 mile per dollar||1 free bag||Membership included|
|AAdvantage Gold||—||7||—||1 free bag||$525|
|AAdvantage Platinum||—||8||—||2 free bags||$500|
|AAdvantage Platinum Pro||—||9||—||2 free bags||$475|
|AAdvantage Executive Platinum||—||11||—||3 free bags||$450|
Despite its high fee, the AAdvantage Executive card is good for travelers who use American's lounge network on a regular basis, as Admirals Club access is more expensive than the card's annual fee. If you travel with American enough to value lounge access, but you don't qualify for elite status, then this card is a good option for you. Otherwise, if you're price-sensitive or you fly fewer than 15 round-trip flights per year—roughly the minimum number of trips to qualify for elite status—you'll be best-served by opening a rewards card and buying affordable tickets, regardless of airline.