Last week American Airlines launched elite rewards as part of the 30th anniversary of the AAdvantage frequent flyer program. It’s based on your elite status at the close of the year along with how many Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs) you’ve racked up to that point. Each tier has its own selection of rewards available once you pass the stated EQP requirement, which is summarized below.
Since I began flying American this year and will be Platinum at year-end, I was curious to see what type of spend would be necessary to qualify for the rewards. EQP accrual on American is determined by the amount of miles flown and the category of fare purchased. Deeply discounted economy fares, those I usually fly, only rack up 0.50 points per qualifying mile (those in G, Q, N, O and S buckets). I knew the spend would need to be a bit more significant and probably out of my budget as I’m still maintaining my top-tier status with United Airlines, but was hoping it might be achievable. I was eying the 25,000 bonus miles or gift of AAdvantage Gold status I could give to a friend.
So, I sampled a few fares and put together the following research into just how much it would cost to hit each threshold and confirmed it is way beyond my means. The good news, though, for business travelers paying higher fare classes is that this program will certainly add value to carrying elite status with American this year. Particularly if you’re Executive Platinum where you would get to pick two quite meaningful rewards in my opinion. The one-year Admirals Club membership is a fantastic bonus.
I sampled fares in three markets originating from Los Angeles: New York JFK, Chicago O’Hare and Tokyo. Each fare was the lowest currently available at the respective EQP level and didn’t include taxes, but I did add the hefty fuel surcharge into the Tokyo market fare ($670). In any case, you can see it would take about $5,000 to qualify for the rewards at the Gold level, $10,000 for Platinum and $15,000 for Executive Platinum. Yes this was a very small sampling only from LAX, but I think it paints the picture of just how much spend would be required.
The revenue metric is indeed becoming much more prominent when rewarding the elite ranks of flyers. I think the days of full Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) for those low bucket fares are numbered, and airlines will focus on revenue as a determinant of elite status more heavily in the future. United’s rumored changes to Mileage Plus are in my opinion all but certain for the 2013 elite year, and while sad for me as a mileage runner, I’m fully supportive of the business rationality behind it.