A few days ago American Airlines announced the switch to a revenue based loyalty program in 2017. American Airlines’ new revenue based system is almost exactly the same as other domestic airline loyalty programs. The new revenue based program from American Airlines will require a combination of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) to qualify for certain levels of status. Although the change sounds simple enough there are several disappointing changes coming to a Revenue Base AAdvantage program in 2017.
A Disappointing Change
Overall, the past two years have been quite bad for AA loyalists. When I first set out to earn status with an airline, I chose American Airlines because it had the most lucrative frequent flyer program. Miles flown were all that mattered and in the eyes of American. A mile, was a mile, was a mile. What I mean by that is a mile flown equaled an EQM earned. If you flew 100,000 miles in a calendar year, you would earn their top-tier Executive Platinum status no matter how much you spent to earn it.
Prior to 2017, American awarded redeemable miles at a 1:1 ratio. Additionally bonus miles were given to elites at a rate of 100% for Platinum and Executive Platinum members. This meant AAdvantage elites earned up to 2 redeemable miles per mile flown prior to the recent AAdvantage program “enhancements.” Under the new program changes redeemable miles are harder to earn. Award miles are earned based on fare code purchased and price paid.
Why AAdvantage Is Going Revenue Based
I understand why an airline would switch to a revenue based system, its pretty obvious. Someone could do Mileage Runs at a rate of $0.05/Mile and earn Executive Platinum for just $6,000. In the process, assuming they were already an Executive Platinum member from the year before, they would earn 200,000 Redeemable miles (excluding any extra bonuses). With the miles earned, they could easily redeem the miles for a flight that would end up costing the airlines $1,000s. Essentially, someone who only spent $6,000/year with the airline would be treated exactly as someone who spend 2 or 3 times that. American and every other carrier has figured out that this is not the MOST profitable way of doing business and finally put an end to it.
Going forward AAdvantage members must spend $12,000/year PLUS fly the required 100,000 miles to earn Executive Platinum status AND upgrade priority is given based on the amount of money you’ve spent with the airline. Domestic upgrade lists are now based on who is spending more money with the airline! Again, I understand why American has made this decision, but it calls into question the reason I first decided to fly with American. I am sad to see American follow the crowd, but understand it is making the decision to please its shareholders, I just wonder if many AA loyalists will begin choose other airlines since all the loyalty programs are basically equal.