What the New American AAdvantage Program Might Look Like

With a merger announcement between American Airlines and US Airways imminent (tomorrow morning by all accounts), we’ll finally put some speculation to rest, but open the door on months of new supposition. [Edited 2/14/13: And it’s official]

Of particular interest to me (and many of you, I’m sure) will be the changes to American’s AAdvantage frequent flier program. After all, earning miles and gaining status are at the core of my addiction to airlines. So here then are some guesses as to elite tiers, revenue requirements and upgrades in the eventual new program.

Elite Tiers

I, as many others do, believe American will adopt a four-tier mileage-based elite system being named Silver, Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum. This would mean a downgrade in name for 25,000-mile fliers, but it wouldn’t necessarily translate into reduced benefits from what they have today.

Adding in a 75,000-mile level as the new Platinum would likely shed some benefits away from current 50,000-mile fliers, also downgraded in name to Gold. I think they’d still be oneworld Sapphire, but their bonus award mile amount would probably drop from the current 100 percent.

And as for the new Platinum 75,000-mile level, I imagine American would provide marginally better benefits than Gold, such as better upgrade priority and bonus award miles. It’ll be interesting to see if they follow the US Airways model of 25/50/75/100-percent bonus award miles by status, similar to United.

Evolving to a four-tier elite program will also help even out the ranks when combining the two programs. And I’m certain American’s unadvertised Concierge Key program will remain.

Revenue Requirement

If you subscribe to InsideFlyer, Randy’s opening remarks in the February issue point to an opportunity for the merged carrier to pull off adding a revenue requirement for elite status at the same time as officially operating as one airline.

And I tend to agree. It’ll certainly take time to reveal the eventual new AAdvantage program, but when it debuts (probably in 2014), I wouldn’t be surprised at a Delta-esque spend requirement for each elite level – particularly with Doug Parker at the helm.

And I think United will announce something similar beginning in the 2014 year, effective with 2015 status.

Upgrades

One of the great things about Executive Platinum status right now is the “protection” of being the only level with unlimited complimentary upgrades. Other levels currently have to use 500-mile e-stickers for the privilege to upgrade.

But just as US Airways offers unlimited domestic upgrades, American will likely evolve AAdvantage to do the same and become competitive with United and Delta. Not necessarily good news for the Executive Platinums out there, I know, but I truly believe it’ll happen.

As far as American’s generous e-VIP (Systemwide) upgrade policy allowing all purchased coach fares to upgrade into business internationally, I think that will change, too. It wouldn’t surprise me if a minimum fare class requirement were instituted with the new AAdvantage program.

It will certainly be interesting to watch everything unfold in the next several months to a year, beginning tomorrow.

Related posts:

Why an American-US Airways Merger Worries Me

Delta’s New Medallion Qualifying Dollars Revenue Requirement

Comments

  1. Wait, why wouldn’t this be good news for Executive Platinums? EXPs get accommodated first.

    If anything, I think this would be bad news for lower level tiers, who have fewer chances to upgrade as a result.

    • @Miles: EXPs currently enjoy a pretty stellar upgrade rate since they’re the only ones with unlimited upgrades. If some EXPs don’t book until the last minute, or want to change flights, the cabin could already be filled with lower-tier elites.

  2. It’s far from certain that the new program will have four tiers and it’s even farther from certain that an added tier would be 75K, and not 125K.

  3. @Darren – Fair enough, but even as a lower-level elite on AA, I had a better upgrade rate than I did as a lower-level elite on other legacies. Most everyone I’ve talked to attributes this to the sticker system, but I’m open to alternative explanations.

    @Tim – They want to try and keep everyone happy (or atleast pretend they will), and eliminating the 75k level would likely cause much gnashing of teeth amongst US Elites. It’s an easy bone to throw.

  4. The merger of the two programs will be much less about bone throwing and much more about rationalization.

    I will be a once in a generation opportunity for the combined entity to redefine the program to better drive value, loyalty, recognition and reward.

  5. I agree with Tim. Given that AA is the oldest FF program around (1981, the defunct TxIntlAir first established a program in 1979) this is a chance to bring on something new. It could be an interesting moment. The fear though is will it be for the bad. We’ll see. I’ve been a member of AAdvantage for 26 years, and hope I won’t be let down tomorrow.

  6. off the subject but just came ase-houston-jax yesterday on united what an armpit of a terminal(B) sad almost as bad as wash dulles united area… a crowded mess gate B76A all of the outlets for plug ins were broken and even the charging station was not charging our phones etc…and do not look at the stains on the rugs and very old seating… then went to look for food… i wish the health inspectors would look at the fast food areas in all airports i watched while a guywho ordered Pasta and meatballs the pasta was so dry it had to be mashed and broken up by the server and then they threw the old sauce over it …where is anyone with a food thermometer disgusting

  7. @Tim – Sure, but they’ll want to at least give the impression initially that the merger will be all warm and cozy. They’ll pull out the rug later.

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