When an airline announces changes to its loyalty program, it's rarely good news – just ask loyal Delta flyers. Yet American is turning that cynical logic on its head to kick off 2024.
On Tuesday, American unveiled its plans for its AAdvantage program in 2024, but what stands out most is what the airline isn't doing. Not only is American leaving the requirements to earn status unchanged for another year, but the airline has confirmed there'll be no changes to its dedicated award chart for Oneworld partner airlines. That means great deals like flying Japan Airlines business class to Tokyo for 60,000 AAdvantage miles or Qatar Qsuites all the way to South Africa for just 75,000 miles are still on the table, among a bevy of other sweet spots.
At the same time, the airline is rolling out some other, genuinely positive changes for the next year of flying. American basic economy fares – which currently cannot be changed or canceled, period – will soon get some flexibility. Upgrades using AAdvantage miles are coming for some (though not all) of AA's partner carriers. And there are a handful of new perks on the way – even if you're just an everyday, free AAdvantage member without a sniff of status.
Here's what's changing (and what's not) for American and its flyers in the months ahead.
No Changes for AAdvantage Status, Redeeming Miles
American Airlines saw what happened with Delta last fall… and did the opposite. In this case, no change is a good thing.
American isn't raising the requirements to earn AAdvantage status this year. Earning status with American resets in March each year. Unlock AA status in 2024? You'll have those benefits all the way through March of 2026.
Earning AA status is all about earning Loyalty Points. Here's a look at what it takes:
- AAdvantage Gold: 40,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum: 75,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Platinum Pro: 125,000 Loyalty Points
- AAdvantage Executive Platinum: 200,000 Loyalty Points
Plus, American arguably makes it easier to rack up points toward status than any other carrier. On top of booking and flying with American or its partner airlines, you can earn Loyalty Points by shopping through American's portal, using the airline's dining program, and even earn 1 point for every buck you spend on select credit cards like the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclays or the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®.
Clearly, American learned a lesson from the backlash Delta faced last fall, when it unveiled its plans to raise spending requirements by as much as 100% among a slew of other painful changes … before backtracking. United also isn't touching elite status levels in 2024.
But what's more surprising is that AAdvantage miles are being spared for yet another year. That's a huge – and unexpected – win.
Sure, the airline has already fully embraced dynamic award pricing, so redemptions will continue to go up and down with cash prices when you're booking an American Airlines flight with miles. But it's also got a dedicated award chart – a cheat sheet that lays out how many miles you need – for booking Oneworld partner airlines like Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, and others using AAdvantage miles. In fact, it's the last of the major U.S. carriers that still publishes an award chart at all.
And that's where the real value is. While other airlines have repeatedly raised partner award rates or nuked any value booking partner airlines altogether, American hasn't changed those award rates for close to a decade. An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed no changes are on tap this year, either.
This award chart alone is the reason why American miles can be so valuable – even if you never fly American itself. It contains gems like 22,500-mile redemptions to fly to Europe each way in economy; the best way to book Qatar Qsuites whether you fly to the Middle East, Maldives, or South Africa; flying Japan Airlines First Class to Tokyo for 80,000 miles; and plenty of other sweet spots all around the globe.
Like other points and miles aficionados, we've been dreading the day American does away with these amazing partner award redemptions. Really, it's only a matter of time – compared to the competition, these deals are simply too good to last.
But it's not happening yet. Whew.
Earn Miles on Paid Upgrades & Use Them on Partner Airlines
Soon, there'll be an entirely new way to redeem AAdvantage miles on partner airlines: Upgrades.
American teased the prospect of using miles to upgrade with “select airline partners” in its announcement on Tuesday, though it's short on specifics of how it'll actually work – or when it will go live. American also hasn't said which airline partners will be eligible nor laid out how much it will cost. Major partner carriers like British Airways, Iberia, and Qantas are a likely starting place.
xPlus, there'll be a new way to earn more of those miles to put toward award tickets or upgrades.
American also says AAdvantage members will be able to earn AAdvantage miles (plus Loyalty Points toward status) when paying to upgrade on an American flight. The timing of that change is also unclear.
AA Basic Economy Gets Better
Airlines have spent years making their cheapest basic economy fares as painful as possible, hoping restrictions will convince travelers to pay up for a standard economy fare. American Airlines basic economy is among the worst for one sole reason: There's no way to change nor cancel these tickets, period.
Other airlines like Delta and JetBlue allow you to cancel these cheap fares for a credit, minus a fee. Now, American is finally taking a page out of their books.
Starting sometime “later in January 2024,” American will allow travelers to cancel basic economy fares for a credit. But there are some important caveats, including:
- It's only available for domestic flights
- You'll forfeit a $99 fee. So if you cancel a $299 basic economy flight, you'll get just a $200 credit
- Only flights booked directly through American qualify – not through an online travel agency or another third-party site like the Chase Travel Portal
- You must cancel before the trip begins
Everyday AAdvantage Members Get Exclusive Perks
No status? No problem. You'll get some new (or familiar) benefits with these changes, too. But it's not all good news.
In many cases, these AAdvantage member perks are benefits that were previously extended to all travelers – now, signing up for an AA loyalty account will be key. And while American spun it as an added perk, the airline is actually making its trip credits much worse for many travelers.
- For trip credits issued March 11, 2024 and onward, only AAdvantage members will have the full 12-month period to use those credits. Don't have an AA account? That credit will expire in just six months.
- You'll need an AAdvantage account to fly standby on an earlier flight – previously available to all customers. This changes on March 1, 2024.
- You'll also need an AAdvantage account to buy a $79 day pass to Admirals Club lounges – another option that was previously extended to all flyers.
- The same goes for buying a $150 day pass to the airline's top Flagship Lounges
- Anyone can use the 24-hour rule to cancel a flight for a full refund, but only AAdvantage members will have the option to hold a flight at its current price for 24 hours.
American Airlines says only that many of these changes are coming “later in 2024.”
New Perks for Status & Loyalty Rewards, Too
As travelers climb the rungs of status with American, the airline offers more and more perks. The top-tier status holders will get a brand new option to dine in style.
Sometime soon, Platinum Pro flyers and higher will be able to redeem AAdvantage miles to eat at Flagship First Dining. These are the exclusive, restaurant-style dining spaces inside Flagship Lounges in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), and Los Angeles (LAX), if that facility ever opens. They're typically only available to flyers with a long-haul first class ticket.
One hitch: American hasn't yet said how many AAdvantage miles that fancy sit-down meal will cost you.
But American doesn't just dole out benefits to travelers who have reached one of its four tiers of status: They also offer Loyalty Point Rewards before flyers make it to Gold status, and in between each tier. And some new Loyalty Reward options are coming on March 1, 2024 that will give travelers a bigger boost toward status, including:
- 15,000 Loyalty Points: Get an extra 1,000 Loyalty Points
- 175,000 Loyalty Points: Get 5,000 additional Loyalty Points
- 250,000 Loyalty Points: Get 15,000 Loyalty Points for each reward (you can pick two)
Change is rarely a good thing in the airline world. But we love a pleasant surprise from American Airlines.
American Airlines delivered frequent flyers some good news largely because of what they aren't doing: The requirements to earn status will remain unchanged, as will an incredibly lucrative partner award chart. There are a few negative changes here and there, but otherwise, it's largely good news.
How long will it last? American hinted that it “will continue to enhance the program” throughout 2024 and into 2025, so more changes could be on the way. But for now, this is a big and rare win.