American Airlines has just revealed its AAdvantage elite status road map for 2021. It’s generous. Other airlines will follow. Even so, my prediction is that I will be left behind..and I know I’m not the only one facing the same dilemma.
American Airlines Improves AAdvantage Elite Status Program For 2021
AA will make it easier to earn status in 2021 (for 2022) and add perks, while only subtracting one:
- Reducing elite qualification thresholds for 2021 (see chart below)
- Counting 2020 Q4 activity toward elite qualification for 2021
- Waiving the EQD requirement (up to Platinum Pro) for spending $30,000 on eligible AAdvantage credit cards
- Reducing EQM thresholds for Executive Platinum rewards
- Adding the flexibility to choose your reward for Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members
- Expanding elite benefits to Basic Economy fares, while eliminating EQD and EQM earnings on such flights (starting on January 1, 2021)
Here’s the new chart:
Executive Platinum members will still need to spend $12,000 in order to qualify and that cannot be waived with credit spending.
A new “rewards menu” will still allow Executive Platinum members to choose four systemwide upgrades, as before, but also allow other choices, like AAdmirals Club passes, for those who may not be able to use the upgrades.
Basic Economy fares are now upgradable immediately, which is a great thing, but starting next year these fares will no longer help you earn elite status.
Why I’ll (Likely) Be Left Behind
With most borders closed to Americans, Europe encountering a second wave, and Australia announcing international travel will likely not resume until late 2021, I am already preparing to fly even less in 2021 than I have this year (which is on course to be a 15-year low).
In the case of American Airlines, especially with its cheaper fares these days, I see no path toward Executive Platinum status in 2022. And with major lounges closed, onboard service reduced, and the economic future uncertain, the value of elite status has also dropped.
Then again, I cannot imagine I am alone in this feeling of malaise. My clients (the few that are traveling right now) are all leisure. Business travel is dead. And in the U.S., new corporate travel polices will discourage travel even once an effective vaccination is in place. Why travel when Zoom works as an adequate, albeit imperfect, substitute to in-person meetings? Heck, people are afraid to shake hands these days…we are all doing the Japanese bow instead.
I simply don’t see a return to travel in 2021 based upon current trends. As we see in Thailand, the overabundance of caution being exercised will greatly prolong any return to “normal” travel.
I’m thankful that both American and United have extended my elite status through 2021. Considering how long these weeks have been recently, 2021 is still a long way off. But I’m really not expecting to hold onto top-tier status beyond next year. I expect elite status to become much more exclusive in 2021.
How about you? Will you still find a way to qualify for top-tier status next year?
image: American Airlines