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AAdvantage Million Miler Status With American? Not So Fast!

AAdvantage Million Miler Status With American? Not So Fast!

In a widely anticipated move, American will change the terms governing qualification for the AAdvantage Million Miler program.

Currently, any and all AAdvantage miles, earned from any and all sources, count toward the program’s million-mile thresholds.

Beginning on December 1, 2011, only "base miles earned by flying on American Airlines, American Eagle, or the AmericanConnection carrier, or any eligible AAdvantage program participating airline," plus miles earned for charges to the Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard credit card, will count toward Million Miler status.

And from January 1, 2013, the credit card miles will no longer count, leaving just flight miles on American and AAdvantage partner airlines as qualifiers for Million Miler status.

Million Miler benefits are as follows:

  • At one million qualifying miles, AAdvantage members will receive lifetime AAdvantage Gold status and 35,000 AAdvantage bonus miles.
  • At two million miles, they will receive lifetime AAdvantage Platinum status and four one-way system-wide upgrades.
  • For each additional million miles, they receive four additional one-way system-wide upgrades.

Reversion to the Mean

In fairness to American, the new policy is in line with the standard used by most other airlines for awarding million-miler status, although some carriers (Continental, Delta) also include limited numbers of elite-qualifying miles from credit card use and class-of-service bonuses, and United limits qualifying miles to its own flights. In fact, it seems that American reviewed the competitive landscape and simply triangulated a middling position—neither the most nor the least generous.

But the change will leave many AAdvantage members feeling short-changed, myself included.

A Mid-Game Rule Change

I’ve been slowly working toward my first million AAdvantage miles for a couple of decades. I’ve charged tens of thousands of dollars on my AAdvantage MasterCard (which is embossed with "Member since ’98"). I’ve flown American when there were more convenient (and cheaper) flights available on other airlines. I actively participated in the dining-for-miles program. I booked hotel stays and car rentals with AAdvantage partners. Many of the miles earned for those and other transactions were earned specifically to boost my account balance to the million-mile mark.

In other words, I’ve configured my travel and purchase behavior to align with American’s rule for earning a specific award, expecting that rule to remain in place until I’d reached the goal.

With a scant three months’ notice, American will change that rule, in the process obviating significant effort and expenditure on my part and effectively devaluing the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve already earned.

For Some, a Silver Lining

No doubt there are others in my situation, who feel similarly disenfranchised.

But there’s at least one other school of thought as well.

As expressed in an email received today, Neil reacted positively to the change: "It will diminish the ability to gain elite status for non-flyers. I think this may result in greater benefits for elite flyers."


Timing Is Everything

The change itself may have been inevitable. But the timing was not.

Given the number of miles and AAdvantage members negatively affected by this move, American at the very least should have given more advance notice.

Significantly more.

Reader Reality Check

How close to AAdvantage Million Miler status are you?

What are your plans to reach the goal, if you’re close enough to do so?

How will this policy change affect your relationship with American?

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