Well, it’s official, we’ll see a new AAdvantage program in the second quarter of 2015. From my perspective, there’s a lot more to like than dislike. In fact, I can’t think of anything I dislike at this point, but I’m writing that from the perspective of a legacy AA member, with preconceived notions of what I like. For the record, I think there are things to like for legacy Dividend Miles members too. Let’s look at the highlights.

  • Beginning in January 2015, members who have accounts with both programs will be offered the opportunity to match their accounts. This is not a status match in the historical sense of the word, but an opportunity to let AAdvantage know that you have an account with US Airways.
  • The new AAdvantage will maintain three status tiers, Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum. For legacy Dividend Miles members, their four tier system will transition to three with Silver transitioning to Gold, Platinum and Gold transitioning to Platinum, and Chairman’s Preferred transitioning to Executive Platinum.
  • Effective January 1, 2015, the requirement to qualify for Executive Platinum by segments will rise to 120 from 100 for the 2016 membership year. Other qualification requirements remain unchanged for the AAdvantage program.
  • Once the programs combine in the second quarter of 2015, all elite members will receive complimentary, auto-requested upgrades on eligible American-marketed and operated flights less than or equal to 500 miles. (emphasis mine)

Those are the highlights, so let’s look at things in greater detail.

Elite Status

Elite status tiers will mirror that of the current AAdvantage program, with the segment requirement for Executive Platinum status rising to 120. This is a win against unnecessary complication in elite tiers that have crept into the industry for unknown reasons in my opinion. Here are the elite status tiers and requirements for the new program.

aadvantage elite, aadvantage, new aadvantage program, aadvantage elite status 2015

Elite Upgrades

Executive Platinum members will continue to qualify for 8 VIP upgrades per year, and complimentary upgrades on all domestic flights as is current practice for American. When the programs combine in 2015, American AAdvantage will introduce unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades for Golds and Platinums on flights of 5oo miles or less. For flights greater than 500 miles, Gold and Platinum members will need to use earned or purchased 500-mile upgrades for flights over 500 miles. Between now and when the programs combine in Q2 2015, things will work much as they do today. When the programs combine, the upgrade process will evolve. Here’s how things will work on American Airlines operated and marketed flights.

aadvantage elite, aadvantage, new aadvantage program, aadvantage elite status 2015Until American and US Airways move to a common reservation system later in 2015, upgrades for elite members on US Airways marketed and operated flight will work like this.

aadvantage elite, aadvantage, new aadvantage program, aadvantage elite status 2015

Once American and US Airways are on a single reservation system, all elite upgrades will follow the policy for travel on American Airlines noted above.

Nits and Noids

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum members will continue to receive a complimentary adult beverage and snack when seated in coach.
  • Starting Jan. 1, 2015, before the programs are combined, bonus miles for AAdvantage members on Business Class tickets on American and US Airways will increase from 25 to 50 percent to align with what Dividend Miles members receive today. Executive Platinum and Chairman’s Preferred members will also enjoy complimentary same-day flight changes on American Airlines.
  • When the programs combine, former Gold and Platinum members of Dividend Miles will roll into 100 percent tier bonus earning that mirrors the current deal for AAdvantage Platinum members. That’s a win.
  • Per my conversation with AAdvantage officials, the 500 mile threshold for upgrades will equal 500 miles. In other words, the exemption for flights just over 500 miles that resulted in only one upgrade being deducted from original AAdvantage member accounts goes away with the combined program. A 515 mile flight will require 2 upgrades from a member account for Gold and Platinums. A 500 mile (or less) flight will be eligible for a complimentary upgrade.

MJ’s Take

The new AAdvantage program is a win for AA flyers, and frankly a lot of US flyers. You know where I stand on “complimentary” upgrades on domestic flights, and I think AAdvantage somehow managed to find the near perfect compromise. I don’t have the statistics, but I’d bet that a large number of US elite flyers average 500 miles or less per segment. There’s no minimum revenue requirement per se, but Elite Qualifying Points remain as a way of rewarding higher spenders. Overall, at first glance, I like the new combined program and think that it is a positive development in the frequent flyer space for many travelers. More details on AA.com.

Coming up – a look at how I did with my “predictions” for the new AAdvantage.

-MJ, October 28, 2014

aadvantage elite, aadvantage, new aadvantage program, aadvantage elite status 2015