Once upon a time, airlines only upgraded elite members if they paid an upgrade fee or used upgrade certificates.
That disappeared over time, with most airlines handing out complimentary domestic upgrades as a main perk of elite status.
United ditched their upgrade certificate requirements when they merged with Continental, but American has been slow to match.
They began giving complimentary upgrades to their top-tier elites, but held off on doing the same for their companions or for Gold and Platinum elites, except on flights under 500 miles. Some lower tier elites saw that as advantageous, as they were able to purchase 500 mile upgrades and have better upgrade odds than lower tier elites at other airlines, though most would prefer to have complimentary upgrades.
But American has been changing the game this year.
They are changing how status is earned by switching from elite qualifying miles and spending to loyalty points, which can be earned via credit card spending. You can earn top-tier status on American by putting $200,000 of spending on their credit cards from 1/1/22 to 2/28/23, though you won’t get international systemwide upgrades unless you also fly 30 American marketed flight segments (including award segments, so start booking awards with lots of connections as the new mileage run 😀 ).
And starting on 3/2, all American elites will receive upgrades on all paid tickets within North America, Central America, and Hawaii, including on basic economy tickets! Gold and Platinum members will no longer have to use 500 mile upgrade certificates to upgrade themselves, though those will still be needed to upgrade a companion for now.
Award flights won’t be eligible for upgrades unless you have Executive Platinum status.
Later this year, American will also allow 1 companion to get upgraded as well. At that time, American will convert all 500 mile upgrade certificates into 250 loyalty points for the 2022 program.
Unfortunately, that means you won’t be able to upgrade more than 1 companion.
This will create more incentive to earn American status and spend on American credit cards. You can earn Gold status with 30,000 loyalty points, Platinum status with 75,000 loyalty points, Platinum Pro status with 125,000 loyalty points, and Executive Platinum status with 200,000 loyalty points.
Loyalty points, retroactively counted from 1/1, will begin showing up in American accounts in the coming days.
Of course, this all means you have to fly on American. I have had top-tier American status for several years now thanks to Hyatt, and it has been anything but smooth sailing.
You’ll earn 1 loyalty point per dollar spent on most Citi, Barclays, and other AA credit cards. That includes cards like:
- The CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum World Mastercard is offering 65,000 AA miles for opening the card and spending $4,000 in 4 months.
- The Citi AAdvantage Platinum World Elite Consumer Mastercard is offering 50,000 AA miles for opening the card and spending $2,500 in 3 months.
- The Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Consumer Mastercard is offering 50,000 AA miles for opening the card and spending $5,000 in 3 months.
- The Citi AAdvantage MileUp Consumer Mastercard is offering 10,000 AA miles and a $50 statement credit for opening the card and spending $500 in 3 months.
Cards like Aviator Silver and Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Consumer Mastercard will offer Loyalty Points as threshold bonuses instead of EQMs/EQDs.
Note that signup bonuses and category bonuses don’t earn loyalty points. That means that while you earn 2 redeemable miles per dollar on groceries on the Citi AAdvantage MileUp Consumer Mastercard, you will earn one loyalty point per dollar.
Will you spend your way to AA elite status?