Currently, there are four levels of elite status offered through the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program. AAdvantage members can earn status by flying a certain number of miles or segments and spending a certain amount of money with the airline in a calendar year. American’s lowest elite level, AAdvantage Gold, is by far the easiest to meet. That being said, the recent introduction of American’s basic economy fares AAdvantage Gold status is more valuable than ever.
Earning AAdvantage Gold Status
Earning status with the American Airlines AAdvantage program is fairly straight forward. First, if you haven already done so, you must register for to the AAdvantage frequent flyer program. You can register for the AAdvantage program here. Shortly after registering you should receive a Frequent Flyer (AAdvantage) Number. In the future, when traveling on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, or OneWorld partner airlines be sure to enter your AAdvantage number when prompted to receive credit for each flight. As you begin earning miles, each trip you take will bring you close to earning elite status with American Airlines.
In order to qualify for AAdvantage Gold status, an AAdvantage member must earn at least $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) and fly either 25,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or 30 Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS). Your progress to attaining elite status is tracked either by the American website or by using the American app.
At face value the process is fairly simple, but earning elite status became more complicated in early 2017. Previously earning status was only based on the number of miles flown when purchasing American Airlines flights. The introduction of Elite Qualifying Dollars made earning elite status slightly more complicated. To better understand the EQD and EQM calculation, please refer to American’s fare chart. Elite status can also be earned when purchasing airfare with OneWorld parter airlines. A list of partner airlines and earning rates are found here.
AAdvantage Gold Status Benefits
Now that we understand how to earn Gold status, it is time to dig into the benefits offered. Some benefits offered may not seem too important at face value, but when flying over 25,000 miles a year or 30 individual segments, you will find them worthwhile.
1. Same Day Standby
As an AAdvantage Gold Elite, you can standby earlier flights at no additional charge. For regular travlers, this benefits costs $75 each time. By far this is my favorite benefit of being an AAdvantage Gold member. Same Day standby allows you to book a later, cheaper flight, and get on the more desirable flight at no extra charge. Also, I find when I standby I am often placed in an exit row or main cabin extra seat since they are typically open. Keep in mind if you book a basic economy fare, you forfeit this benefit.
2. Waived Checked Bag Fee
AAdvantage Gold elites are allowed one free checked bag on every American Airlines or American Eagle flight. This benefit extends to all travelers included in your reservation as well. Checked bag fees have become over the top recently and the ability to check a bag, especially for international travel, for free could end up saving you hundreds in a calendar year. Keep in mind, overweight bag fees will still apply.
3. Complimentary Preferred Seats / Main Cabin Extra
American Airlines has a pretty shady habit of only showing certain seats available at the time of booking. As an AAdvantage Gold elite you will have access to “preferred seats” (aisle/window) when booking. Additionally, you will receive a 50% discount on Main Cabin Extra or Exit Row seats at the time of booking.
Further, at 24-hours prior to departure, you will be able to select Main Cabin Extra seats at no additional cost. At face value this benefit may not seem too exciting, but at 24 hours out, several higher AAdvantage elite members are often upgraded to a higher class of service. This opens up Main Cabin Extra seating making it very probably to find a better seat. Main Cabin Extra seats are also unbelievably expensive for international travel. This benefit could save you hundreds on your next international trip.
4. Priority AAcess
As an AAdvantage elite, when traveling on American Airlines your boarding pass will read “Priority.” This gives you the ability to access Priority security lines at airports and priority boarding lanes at the gate. Personally after registering for TSA PreCheck I don’t find much value in the priority screening lanes, but access to priority boarding allows me to always fit my carry on in the overhead bins. Priority boarding will remain available even when purchasing a basic economy fare. This means you could still by a BE fare and store your bag in the overhead bin.
5. Mileage Bonus / 500-Minimum
AAdvantage Gold members receive a redeemable mileage bonus for each flight and a minimum of 500 EQM per flight. Gold elites receive 7 redeemable miles per US dollar spent per flight (excluding taxes & govt. fees). This is a 40% bonus over the traditional 5 miles earned for regular AAdvantage members. In addition, AAdvantage Gold elites earn a minimum of 500 EQM per flight flown. The 500 mile minimum makes re-qualifying for elite status simpler for regional business travelers.
Although many find upgrades as a significant reason to obtain airline elite status, as an AAdvantage Gold Elite your chances of getting upgraded are fairly low. However, once you reach Gold status you begin accruing miles toward 500-mile upgrades. 500-Mile Upgrades (Stickers) are the mechanism which allow Gold elite members to be upgraded. For flights greater than 500 miles, Gold elites may request an upgrade and if the upgrade clears the stickers are deducted from their account. It is worth noting on flight under 500 miles, Gold members receive unlimited complimentary upgrades. Generally, your chances of getting upgraded on <500 mile flights as a Gold elite are minimal. That being said, traveling during off-peak times will increase your chances.
7. OneWorld Ruby Status
American Airlines is a member of the OneWorld alliance of airlines. When you earn AAdvantage Gold status you also earn OneWorld Ruby status which comes with some simple benefits on OneWorld partner airlines. Primary benefits include priority check-in, access to priority security lanes, and standby when traveling on OneWorld partner airlines. In years past, I found I was able to pre-select seats on British Airways flights (typically a fee applies) because of my OneWorld Ruby status.
8. Discounted Admirals Club Membership
AAdvantage Gold Elites receive $25 off the New Member ($550) or Renew ($500) fees associated with Admirals Club membership. That being said, if you are interested in Admirals Club membership, be sure to look into the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card as membership is just $450.
9. Access to the AAdvanatge Gold Customer Service Desk
When you receive your Gold Elite frequent flyer card in the mail, a 1-800 number is listed on the back which will help you connect to a customer service AAgent quickly. Generally this benefit is not much better than calling American directly, but it can be helpful during weather delays, etc.
How To Retain AAdvantage Gold Status
American Airlines Elite status expires at the end of February following the year earned. So, if you earn Gold status in 2017, your status will remain active until Feb 1, 2018. To retain status you must complete the same requirements outlined above or pay for a status boost or renew. Generally, I find that the cost of renewing status or boosting status outweighs the benefits, but to each their own. As your status comes up for expiration, American sends several emails reminding you of your status expiration. I was just notified that my final day to pay for a status renew is July of 2017 for status earned in the 2015 calendar year.
Although American’s AAdvantage Gold status is the lowest level of their elite program there are several benefits which make the status worthwhile. If you generally fly over 25,000 miles a year on various airlines, it may be worth sticking to a single airline to earn a low level status. Having status can save you money throughout the year and be especially valuable during operational or weather delays. That being said, if you are a casual flyer (< 25,000 Miles/Year), your best option is to open a co-branded airline credit card. Co-branded credit card offer many of the same benefits of entry level elite status.
A complete listing of American Airlines AAdvantage Elite Benefits can be found here. Additionally, please feel free to comment below with your experience as an AAdvantage Gold elite. Please also comment with any further questions you may have.