Why I Love American Airlines and the AAdvantage Program

It is no secret that when it comes to US domestic flights American Airlines has my heart. They have some of the best airport hubs (ahem–DFW) and, although there are some skeptics, they have recently joined forces with US Airways–providing even more flight routes. Now, unsatisfied customers will always exist within the airline industry. That is just a given. However, I experience excellent customer service time and time again. Even before I became an elite Gold member!
My AAdvantage Gold packet that I recently found in my mailbox.

The AAdvantage Gold packet that I recently found in my mailbox

First let me tell you a quick story of what happened to me last weekend while I was traveling to a three-day music festival in Las Vegas. Then I will explain the three different elite status levels, how to obtain them, and subsequently their benefits.   So there I am, sitting at the gate, awaiting to board an American Airlines flight headed to Las Vegas. My two friends and I planned this trip 6 months in advance and were feverishly chatting to one another via Facebook about our excitement. Then one friend notified us that her flight had been CANCELLED and rebooked on a new flight that would land well over 24 hours after her anticipated arrival. She already spent over 40 minutes on hold waiting to see if there were any earlier flights and she was beginning to panic. I decided to try my luck at resolving the issue. My flight was scheduled to board in the next 15 minutes, so I had to act quickly. So my friend sent me her record locator number and I dialed the AAdvantage Gold Service Desk. This is how it went:

Agent: Hi, Ms. Keltner. Thank you for calling the AAdvantage Gold Service Desk. How may I help you today? Me: Hi, there. I am currently traveling on an itinerary to Las Vegas, NV this evening and about to board my flight. However, the friend who I am supposed to meet there for our vacation just had her flight cancelled. Her record locator is #XXX1234. Can you please help find her a flight that departs first thing tomorrow morning? I need her to land in Las Vegas as soon as possible. Agent: I can certainly check on this for you. Please hold.

< Brief hold >

Agent: Ms. Keltner, I was able to change Ms. Knapp’s departing flights to the first flight tomorrow at noon. She will be in seat 2A and then 2B for her connecting flight. I apologize for the inconvenience any of this has caused you. Is there anything else I can help you with today? Me: 2A and 2B? Are these really small planes or something? Agent: Her first flight is on a smaller aircraft, but for her flight from DFW to LAS she will be in First Class.

This all happened in under 8 minutes. Needless to say, that agent saved the weekend and no one in our party was going to miss any of the music festival! Not only that, it was resolved quickly and efficiently and she was even upgraded to First Class without me requesting it. Mind you, I did not even pay for her flight. It was a completely separate itinerary, but they still honored my request as a Gold member. Pretty sweet! Once again, proving that it never hurts to ask!   Now for the information regarding the American Airlines AAdvantage elite status levels. There are three different levels that members of the AAdvantage frequent flier program can qualify for: Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum. You have one full year from January 1st to December 31st to qualify for an elite status that lasts you the entire following year. Then the membership period lasts from March until February of the following year. Therefore, the earlier you qualify, the longer you have those benefits without having to re-qualify because you begin receiving elite benefits immediately after qualifying. For example, if you qualified for AAdvantage Gold in May 2014, then you would reap the benefits of that elite status until February 2016. The easiest way to initially describe this is through visuals. I pulled these from my own AAdvantage account to show as examples.

AA Gold Qualification Requirements

AA Gold Qualification Requirements

There are three different categories that measure your progress. You only have to meet one of these criteria in order to qualify, unlike other airlines like Delta or United. As you can see, I qualified for Gold status this year through the segments option. A segment is flying from point A to point B. So if you are flying from LGA to ORD to SFO, then that would count as two segments. Some of the benefits of being a Gold member include: priority check-in, priority security screening, priority boarding, service desk access, complimentary upgrades on full-fare economy tickets, companion upgrades, complimentary checked baggage, 25% mileage bonus on all flights, oneworld Ruby status, and more.
AA Platinum Qualification Requirements

AA Platinum Qualification Requirements

Here is what is necessary for me to achieve the next elite level: Platinum. The easier way for me to accomplish this would be through miles rather than segments. Earlier this year I flew on many short, regional flights and racked up a high amount of segments. However, a big international trip or a few transcontinental flights would easily put me closer to achieving Platinum status than qualifying via segments again. Platinum benefits include everything Gold members experience plus more. This means 100% mileage bonus on all flights, more complimentary checked luggage, higher priority for complimentary upgrades, oneworld Sapphire status, oneworld partner lounge access, etc.
AA Executive Platinum Qualification Requirements

AA Executive Platinum Qualification Requirements

Finally, AA Executive Platinum is the highest ranking of the AAdvantage elite tiers. Executive Platinum members receive all the benefits of Gold and Platinum plus even more. This means that they are now oneworld Emerald status, receive unlimited complimentary upgrades–systemwide, three complimentary checked bags per person, waived ticketing service charge, waived AAdvantage award change and reinstatement charges, etc. Oh and if you just so happen to get stuck in the Main Cabin do not fret! You will receive complimentary food and beverages (alcohol included) in order to cope.   It is pretty intuitive to understand what the “Miles” and “Segments” categories represent, but you may be wondering what these “Points” are. Points are a way of rewarding travelers who purchase higher classes of services. They are determined by a combination of miles actually flown as well as the class of service (i.e. First Class, Business Class, Full-Fare Economy, Discount Economy, Deep Discount Economy). This means that if you fly 5,000 miles in First Class you are going to get more points than the person who flew 5,000 miles on a severely discounted flight they found on Expedia. Here is a handy chart to help illustrate:
AA  Qualifying Points Chart

Courtesy of AA.com: AA Qualifying Points Chart

I hope this brief overview of American Airlines is helpful to you! Please let me know if you have any questions about the AAdvantage program below in the comment section. I am positive this this is a first of many posts about American Airlines. So keep an out for more!
  • James George

    This was really cool! Thanks for sharing.

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