More than a week after Delta triggered a rush by major U.S. airlines to extend elite flyers' status, American announced Monday it will do the same while also making it easier to earn status this year, too.
American's move means that any traveler with status – from Gold to Executive Platinum – now won't see that current level of status lapse until Jan. 31, 2022. That's the same timeline adopted last week by both Delta and United. American says that prolonged extension will show up in accounts “in a few weeks.”
“We are grateful to our AAdvantage members and want to show them that loyalty is a two-way street,” said Bridget Blaise-Shamai, American's vice president of customer loyalty and insights and the president of AAdvantage. “When people are ready to fly again, we will be there to help them reconnect with loved ones, friends and colleagues.”
Meanwhile, it's about to get much easier to earn status for 2021 … or level up on what you've already got. The airline is also cutting the requirements to earn status based on 2020 flights. It requires a combination of either flight miles (Elite Qualifying Miles, or EQMs) or flight segments (Elite Qualifying Segments, or EQSs) with some required spending (Elite Qualifying Dollars, or EQDs). Here's what that'll look like.
Those lower thresholds only apply for 2020 flying – American hasn't said what it will do for 2021 and beyond.
Finally, American is extending some new perks for some of the airline's elite flyers. Status holders will get a $400 credit toward an American Airlines Vacations package – though it's unclear if there's a minimum amount you'll need to spend to use that credit.
American is also extending all Admirals Club lounge memberships by six months. And top-tier Executive Platinum will have an easier path to earning additional System-Wide Upgrades and other perks.
Changes When Booking with AAdvantage Miles
In a previously announced move, American AAdvantage miles set to expire between now and June 2020 will automatically be extended until July 1, 2020.
Speaking of AAdvantage miles, American is waiving change and redeposit fees when canceling award tickets booked by May 31 for travel through Sept. 30. That's a positive change, but it falls far short of Delta's free cancellation on any flight booked with SkyMiles by May 31 – no questions asked. Previously, only top elites with American could cancel an award flight to get their miles back for free.
For award tickets booked June 1 and on, American is lowering change and redeposit fees based upon your status and how far in advance you cancel, including free redeposits when you cancel 60-plus days in advance.
And while that's largely a good thing, there's a big downside for one of the best parts about using AAdvantage miles: Unlimited free date changes on an award ticket so long as your origin, destination, and class of service don't change will disappear, an American Airlines spokesperson confirmed.
There's good and bad news here. On one hand, American is making sure its top flyers don't have to worry about requalifying for status – and it just got much easier to earn (or level up) your status.
But there's a potentially sinister blow buried here. While American spins it as a positive, the “reduced” change and cancellation fees for AAdvantage awards booked in June and beyond could destroy one of our favorite parts of using American miles.