American Airlines Just Revamped Its Loyalty Program—Here's What to Know

American Airlines

Courtesy of American Airlines

Following in the footsteps of United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, American Airlines is the latest U.S. carrier to announce major changes to its loyalty program, AAdvantage. And while it will allow frequent fliers to unlock a whole slew of new benefits—even before and after achieving Gold and Executive Platinum, the lowest and highest status tiers, respectively—American is introducing new measures that could devalue its points.

As part of the new program, slated to go into effect in March 2023, the Fort Worth-based airline is debuting Loyalty Point Rewards, which will replace Loyalty Choice Awards and enable passengers to better "customize their travel experience," American says. Members must now earn 40,000 Loyalty Points to reach Gold status, up from 30,000, although the number of points required to access higher tiers—75,000 Loyalty Points for Platinum status, 125,000 to get to Platinum Pro, and 200,000 to reach Executive Platinum—will remain the same.

Although hitting Gold is more unattainable than ever—especially for more casual fliers—American says that AAdvantage members will be able to earn rewards before even gaining status. For instance, just 15,000 points are needed to attain the first Loyalty Point Reward: Group 5 boarding for the duration of the membership year and the option to choose between one-time Group 4 boarding (with priority check-in and security) and five coupons for picking preferred seating. Those with Executive Platinum status will also be able to unlock perks, including trip credits, Admirals Club One Day Passes, and rebates for trips booked using miles.

"We're creating a more meaningful travel rewards program for our AAdvantage members," said Vasu Raja, American's Chief Commercial Officer, in a press release. "Only our members will have access to everything American has to offer. Achieving status will unlock an even wider world of unique experiences with the airline and our partners. With these and other innovations to come, we are continuing to deliver on our commitment that travel is better when you're an AAdvantage member." 

Unfortunately, American announced that it will be "introducing fully dynamic mileage awards" with a "new, simplified award chart." Managing director of AAdvantage, Heather Samp, confirmed to The Points Guy that American would be doing away with MileSAAver and AAnytime awards, instead doubling down on its Web Specials.

Launched in 2018, Web Specials are awards that can be redeemed on a set number of flights and dates and whose mileage cost is dependent on factors including demand and seasonality. Although at one point, they cost fewer miles than flights at its saver and anytime award levels, that is now not always the case.

For AAdvantage members, American's shift toward Web Special awards could mean that their points may not be as valuable as they once were. It's unknown just precisely what the revamped award chart will look like, but one thing is clear: it's not going anywhere.

"Since we introduced Web Specials a couple years ago, our members have gravitated toward those fares," a spokeswoman for the airline told CNBC. "We'll continue to keep the award chart because our members value the guidance of a chart to help make award opportunities easier to understand."

Changes to the rewards program will also affect long-haul fliers in other ways. For one, American says there will no longer be a 75,000-mile cap on single tickets. Frequent fliers on American and partner flights will also accrue two miles per every dollar spent on basic economy fares (eligible for travel starting on March 1, 2023, with fares booked as early as Jan. 1, 2023). In addition to booking flights, members can accrue points using a co-branded Mastercard and by purchasing items and services (think hotels, cruises, and rental cars) from some of Americans' 1,000-plus partners.

American's updated rewards program will allow travelers to redeem points beyond the flight experience. Members can apply their miles to American's vacation packages. At the same time, those with co-branded Mastercards can redeem points for events and activities such as private dinners, food festivals, theater, and sporting events.

The news comes just one week after JetBlue announced that it would update its loyalty program, which will also treat non-elite members to major perks like free drinks, early boarding, and waived pet fees.

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  1. American Airlines. "American Airlines to Offer AAdvantage Members More Rewards, More Often, Before and Beyond Reaching Status." December 15, 2022.