With a merger announcement between American Airlines and US Airways imminent (tomorrow morning by all accounts), we’ll finally put some speculation to rest, but open the door on months of new supposition. [Edited 2/14/13: And it's official]
Of particular interest to me (and many of you, I’m sure) will be the changes to American’s AAdvantage frequent flier program. After all, earning miles and gaining status are at the core of my addiction to airlines. So here then are some guesses as to elite tiers, revenue requirements and upgrades in the eventual new program.
I, as many others do, believe American will adopt a four-tier mileage-based elite system being named Silver, Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum. This would mean a downgrade in name for 25,000-mile fliers, but it wouldn’t necessarily translate into reduced benefits from what they have today.
Adding in a 75,000-mile level as the new Platinum would likely shed some benefits away from current 50,000-mile fliers, also downgraded in name to Gold. I think they’d still be oneworld Sapphire, but their bonus award mile amount would probably drop from the current 100 percent.
And as for the new Platinum 75,000-mile level, I imagine American would provide marginally better benefits than Gold, such as better upgrade priority and bonus award miles. It’ll be interesting to see if they follow the US Airways model of 25/50/75/100-percent bonus award miles by status, similar to United.
Evolving to a four-tier elite program will also help even out the ranks when combining the two programs. And I’m certain American’s unadvertised Concierge Key program will remain.
If you subscribe to InsideFlyer, Randy’s opening remarks in the February issue point to an opportunity for the merged carrier to pull off adding a revenue requirement for elite status at the same time as officially operating as one airline.
And I tend to agree. It’ll certainly take time to reveal the eventual new AAdvantage program, but when it debuts (probably in 2014), I wouldn’t be surprised at a Delta-esque spend requirement for each elite level – particularly with Doug Parker at the helm.
And I think United will announce something similar beginning in the 2014 year, effective with 2015 status.
One of the great things about Executive Platinum status right now is the “protection” of being the only level with unlimited complimentary upgrades. Other levels currently have to use 500-mile e-stickers for the privilege to upgrade.
But just as US Airways offers unlimited domestic upgrades, American will likely evolve AAdvantage to do the same and become competitive with United and Delta. Not necessarily good news for the Executive Platinums out there, I know, but I truly believe it’ll happen.
As far as American’s generous e-VIP (Systemwide) upgrade policy allowing all purchased coach fares to upgrade into business internationally, I think that will change, too. It wouldn’t surprise me if a minimum fare class requirement were instituted with the new AAdvantage program.
It will certainly be interesting to watch everything unfold in the next several months to a year, beginning tomorrow.