Elite Status: American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum Benefits

Elite Status: American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum Benefits

For the past few years I’ve begun each year with a simple goal. That goal is to earn the highest level of elite status currently offered by the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program. This year I finally achieved that goal. While I did quite a bit of flying naturally, it was my insane year-end Qatar Airways mileage run that helped me complete the requirements to earn Executive Platinum status.

Since completing my mileage run and flying over 61,000 miles in two weeks those that know me have asked me the same question over and over again. “Are you insane?” “So, what does that get you?” Today, I hope to answer that question and explain why I value American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum status. Hint: It’s much more than the Executive Platinum Brag Tags.

How To Earn AAdvantage Executive Platinum Elite Status

Earning AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status is fairly straightforward, but definitely not easy. AAdvantage members must earn a certain number of Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) and Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) in a given calendar year to qualify. For Executive Platinum the requirements are $12,000 EQD and 100,000 EQM or 120 EQS. I doesn’t matter if you qualify on miles or segments, but either way you must earn at least $12,000 EQD.

In years past, before American introduced the EQD requirement, all you needed to do each year was fly 100,000 miles. It didn’t matter if you flew those miles in First Class or in deep discount economy class. You just needed to be on a plane and in the air for 100,000 miles each year.

The EQD requirement has completely changed the game of qualifying. I’m personally a big fan of this change because it encourages me to buy inexpensive long distance business class fares. I try to earn EQD at a rate of 2:1. So my goal is to earn 2 EQD per $1 I spend. In the end, my goal is to earn Executive Platinum status by spending less than $6,000 of my own money each year.

This is roughly the same as earning miles at the old benchmark of $0.05 CPM (cent per mile) from the old non-EQD system. Back then if you only purchased flights with a $0.05 CPM yield you’d earn Executive Platinum status for less than $5,000 annually (100,000 * $0.05). However, I digress.

American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum Elite Status Benefits

The real reason you’re here is to learn about what you get from spending countless hours inside a metal tube flying through the sky. The good news is that you actually get quite a lot, but the bad news is that you don’t get as many benefits as you once did. Either way, I personally think Executive Platinum status is worth going for as the benefits are still worthwhile.

1. Systemwide Upgrades

Once you reach American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum status you’ll unlock a new benefit called Systemwide Upgrades. It’s similar to when you unlock 500-mile upgrades as an AAdvantage Gold elite. Systemwide Upgrades allow you to upgrade to the next highest cabin of service on any one-way itinerary for up to three segments. Most importantly, you can use Systemwide Upgrades on international trips.

When you qualify for Executive Platinum stats you’ll receive 4 (virtual) Systemwide Upgrade certificates. You’ll notice a new window appear within your AAdvantage account summary page which tracks your newly unlocked Systemwide Upgrades.

American Airlines AAdvantage Systemwide Upgrades
American Airlines AAdvantage Systemwide Upgrades

Additionally, you’ll find a new “Systemwide Upgrade Summary” tab within your AAdvantage summary page within the American Airlines mobile app.

Systemwide Upgrades allow you to upgrade yourself or anyone else from economy class to business class on international itineraries for up to three segments. Additionally you can use Systemwide Upgrades to upgrade from Business Class to First Class.

I won’t get into all of the details of how to use Systemwide Upgrades in this post, but as you can imagine they can be extremely valuable. I’d argue these upgrades are worth at least $500 each which nets you at least $2,000 of value from this benefit alone annually. Lastly, you can earn 4 additional Systemwide Upgrades if you continue to fly and earn 200,000 EQM in a single year.

2. Unlimited Complimentary Auto-Requested Domestic Upgrades

Executive Platinum elite members also receive unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades when flying on American Airlines operated flights. These upgrades are automatically requested at the time of booking so you’ll automatically be added to the upgrade list when you check-in to your flight. Additionally, if your upgrade clears you won’t have to use 500-mile sticker upgrades. However, sadly I’ve read you don’t earn 500-mile upgrades as an EP elite so your balance should remain unchanged until you fail to qualify again.

Also, as an Executive Platinum elite you’ll find yourself near the top of each upgrade list. Admittedly upgrade space is getting harder to come by these days. As airlines drop the price of domestic first class there are less available seats than ever. However, as an Executive Platinum flying to most markets you should be able to score an upgrade to domestic first class. Again, I won’t go into all of the nuances of this benefit, but it’s a valuable benefit to have. This video from Casey Neistat a few years back does a great job of summing up this benefit.

As my travel patterns change I find myself valuing this benefit less and less. I used to mostly travel for work on nearly a weekly basis. Now however I find myself flying less often, but on longer international itineraries. I still love this benefit, especially when you book a widebody aircraft (787/767/777) on a domestic route! I also hope to use this benefit on American’s A321T aircraft in the near future.

3. A 120% Bonus On All Award Miles Earned From Flying

AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites earn a 120% on each AAdvantage award mile earned from flying. Essentially, if you fly 100,000 miles again the following year you’ll earn 220,000 AAdvantage award miles. This benefit was especially pronounced during my Qatar Airways mileage run I took to earn Executive Platinum status.

AAdvantage Award Mile Earnings
AAdvantage Award Mile Earnings

During my first Doha to Ho Chi Minh segment I was an AAdvantage Platinum elite and only earned a 60% award mile bonus. During the second trip (same miles flow) I received a 120% bonus. As I’ve mentioned before, I value AAdvantage miles at $0.015/each. So for the first trip I earned just $89.58 worth of miles. However, for the second trip, as an EP, I earned $123.17. If you extrapolate that to 100,000 miles you’ll receive $3,300 worth of miles back each year as an Executive Platinum elite! Considering my goal is to only spend $6,000 of my own money to reach EP, that’s over a 50% rebate earned in miles each year. Note: these rates assume you earn AAdvantage award miles based on distance flown.

If you purchase flights with AA flight numbers directly from American you’ll earn AAdvantage award miles based on your ticket price. In that case, Executive Platinum elites earn 11 AAdvantage miles per EQD earned. Using that example, you’d earn 132,000 AAdvantage miles from the required $12,000 EQD spend annually. Again, this assumes you’re buying discount economy tickets. You’ll accrue EQD and award miles at a more favorable rate if you purchase Business or First Class tickets.

4. OneWorld Emerald Elite Status

American Airlines is a member airline of the OneWorld alliance. As you earn elite status with American you also earn elite status with OneWorld. OneWorld Emerald currently represents the highest level of alliance elite status. With that, you receive various benefits when traveling internationally with OneWorld partner airlines. Typically these benefits include access to priority seats, an enhanced priority airport experience, possibly free checked bags, but most importantly (to me) you’ll receive lounge access.

As a OneWorld Emerald elite you’ll receive access to OneWorld First and Business class lounges when traveling internationally. The best part of all is that it doesn’t matter which cabin class you’re flying in. So if you’re flying Cathay Pacific economy from Hong Kong to Chicago you can access Cathay Pacific’s incredible “The Wing” First Class lounge. You’ll also have access to Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounge’s domestically when traveling internationally. This is one of my favorite benefits as I love checking out various airline lounges when traveling.

5. Complimentary Access To Main Cabin Extra Seats

All AAdvantage Platinum and above elites can select Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking for no additional cost. While this benefit will save you about $30-$60 when traveling domestically, you could save a ton of money when flying internationally. It’s not unheard of to see MCE seats going for an extra $130 on an international flight. The best part is that this benefit extends to anyone you’re traveling with. If you’re traveling as a family of four this benefit could easily save you $800 per international round trip.

6. Waived Checked Bag Fees

Executive Platinum elites are allowed to check up to three bags when flying with American for free. This benefit also extends to anyone included in your reservation (excluding group reservations). The best part of this benefit is that it includes international travel. You’ll no longer have to worry about paying ridiculous checked bag fees when traveling overseas. However, your bags will remain subject to baggage weight restrictions and you will be charged for overweight baggage.

7. Complimentary Same-Day Confirmed Flight Changes

This is one of the benefits I first overlooked when considering qualifying for Executive Platinum status. However, it’s a benefit that I can’t wait to use. Essentially, Executive Platinum elites can easily change from one flight to another. The benefit is similar to the same-day standby benefit offered from AAdvantage Gold status. Instead of waiting at the gate of the next departing flight for your standby request to clear you’ll be given an assigned seat on the flight of your choosing (when available).

I personally see a lot of value from this benefit since airfare prices change significantly throughout the day. Likewise, flights on larger or nicer aircraft tend to be more expensive. So with this benefit you can book the cheapest flight of the day and then change to a flight that is more attractive (schedule or aircraft), but would have been more expensive. Typically you’d incur a $75 change fee for a confirmed same-day flight change.

8. Complimentary Same-Day Standby

Similar to the above benefit, EP elites can standby on earlier flights. This is a redundant benefit however since you can instead receive a confirmed seat on any same-day flight.

9. Enhanced Priority Airport Experience

AAdvantage Executive Platinum members receive access to an enhanced airport experience. This includes access to First Class check in counters, priority check-in lanes, and priority boarding. American Airlines recently adjusted their boarding process and with the new system Executive Platinum members board with boarding group 2 which is only behind first class, active duty military, and Concierge Key members.

Additionally, Executive Platinum elites have access to Flagship Check-In at select airports when traveling internationally.

10. Complimentary Snack and Premium Beverage In The Main Cabin

In the unlikely ever more likely event that you find yourself traveling in the Main Cabin (economy) domestically, Executive Platinum elites can request a complimentary snack and premium beverage. All you have to do is flash your Executive Platinum membership card (if requested) and you don’t have to pay.

11. Waived Award Processing Fees

If you call American to book an award flight you will typically be charged an award processing fee. This is especially frustrating as some many OneWorld partner flights aren’t bookable online. However, as an AAdvantage elite American waives this small fee.

12. Access To The Executive Platinum Priority Phone Line

Often referred to as the Executive Platinum desk, as an EP you’ll find a 1-800 number that usually connects you to a human immediately. This benefit can be especially useful during bad weather delays. Personally however, I’ve found that during bad weather your best bet is to pay for a $50 Admirals Club day pass. Usually you’ll get on a flight faster if you visit an Admirals Club AAngel (agent). They always seem to find a way to piece together an itinerary that gets to to where you need to be faster than any phone agent I’ve ever dealt with.

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. Now you know exactly what benefits you get when you earn Executive Platinum status. Obviously some benefits are much better than others. Personally the benefits I value the most are the Systemwide Upgrades, the free same-day confirmed flight changes, and OneWorld Emerald status.

The Complimentary Domestic First Class upgrades are nice, but I really don’t mind sitting in economy on a domestic flight. I’m not that tall (or big) so I’m usually very content in a main cabin extra seat. Plus the things I like most about domestic first class (free food and booze) are complimentary for EP elites sitting in the main cabin.

Either way, I’m extremely excited to have finally earned Executive Platinum status. I look forward to hopefully burning a few SWUs early this year. SWUs aren’t a guaranteed upgrade, but this year I’ll focus on learning the tricks to help your chances of an SWU clearing. Also, I’m looking forward to January 1, 2018 when my EQD and EQM resets and I have to start the whole process over again!