The 2015 American Airlines AAdvantage program has been announced and unlike American’s largest competitors, 2015 will bring minor changes and an overall approved flying experience for American Airlines and US Airways customers without the transition to a revenue based system. The change also brings changes to the US Airways Dividend program as the two program merger and the 2015 frequent flyer program looks more like the current AAdvantage program and less like the US Airways Dividend frequent flyer program. Until the two programs are merged in the 2nd quarter of 2015, very little will change for US Airways Dividend Members and the programs will both remain intact.
2015 Qualification Requirements
The combined AAdvantage program will retain the three tier status system that American current offers: Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum (EXP). Status for each tier can be earned by either flying a minimum number of miles, segments, or via Elite Qualifying Points (EQP). EQPs are earned based on fare class and ticket cost and is the revenue aspect of the AAvantage program. Although unlike Delta and United, American will have not require a certain spending threshold to be met to qualify and will allow members to qualify by meeting 1 of the 3 requirements for each elite level. The only change to the current level is that Executive Platinum’s now must fly 120 segment’s, up from the current 100 segment requirement of the 2014 AAdvantage program, thus matching the same requirement as the current US Airways Dividend program.
Until the two programs are merged during the second quarter of 2015,US Airways will retain the four tiers and upgrades on US Airways will remain the same for current Dividend members, however those who qualified for US Airways Platinum (75k/year) in 2014 will be reduced to AA Platinum (50K) mid-tier when the programs merge. Therefore it is highly suggested that those members find a way to fly an additional 25,000 miles before the end of the 2014 program year to secure US Chairmen status.
2015 Upgrade Strategy
Until the two programs are combined upgrades will remain as is on both airlines. Yet once the loyalty programs are combined upgrading will differ based on what airline is operating the flight, American VS US Airways.
American Airlines Upgrades: On flights operated by American all elite members will receive complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500-miles, similarly to how all elites are upgraded eligible on US Airways now. For flights longer than 500 miles, 500 mile e-certificates will have to be used to request upgrades for Gold and Platinum Elites and will be complimentary for Executive Platinum members. Gold and Platinum Elites will continue to earn four 500-mile e-certs for every 10,000 EQM flown.
US Airways Upgrades: On flights operated and marketed by US Airways will retain US Airways current upgrade policies of offer complimentary upgrades to ALL elite flyers regardless of the length of flight. In addition, the upgrade window will remain match that of American Airlines Upgrade window, reducing top tier upgrades form 7 days to just 4 days before departure. Complimentary upgrades will not be offered on US Airways operated flights to/from Hawaii.
Since 500-mile upgrade certificates are new for US Airways flyers, US Airway Elites will receive complimentary e-certificates based on 2014 flying activity for the 2015 program year. Expect to earn e-certs at the same rate as current American Airline elite flyers. Meaning if you flew 50,000 EQM in 2014 your account should be credited 20 e-certs (four e-certs for every 10,000 EQM).
Codeshare flights: Codeshare flights (flights marketed by American/operated by US Airways or flights marketed by US Airways/operated by American) will still be restricted to same day upgrades at check-in only.
System Wide Upgrades (SWU): American Airlines is sticking with the best in industry standard of 8 one-way three segment maximum SWU per EXP. US Airways Chairmen members will be credited these certificates once the two programs combine in the second quarter of 2015. In the meantime, Chairmen will retain their two US Airways upgrade certificates to be used on US Airways flights before the combine program launches, meaning US Chairmen will actually earn a total of 10 SWU during the 2015 program year! Once the two Frequent flyer programs merge, SWU can be used on either US or AA flights. Prior to the combination of the program, SWU can only be used on either AA or US operated and marketed flights based on what program the SWU is earned in. In addition, SWU can be given to anybody by a EXP flyer and does not require the Elite Flyer to be flying with the person they sponsor with their EXP certificate.
AA’s SWU policy is by far the BEST in industry for those flying 100,000 miles a year. While Delta and United race to the bottom, AA remains strong with 8 SWU for top elite flyers. Delta only offer SWU as a “choice benefit” maxing out at 4 SWU for Diamond members(120K/yr) and United offers 1K Elite 6 SWU and 2 additional for each 50K miles frown over 100,000 miles.
Same Day Flight Changes
Starting January 1st EXP and Chairmen flyers will be able to do confirmed same day flight changes free of charge on American operated flights as long as the origin and destinations do not change, the departure day is during the same Calendar day (no explanation for red eyes yet) and there are seats available. Currently a Same Day Confirmed ticket cost $75 regardless of Elite status. Gold and Platinum flyers will still be able to do Same Day Standby free of charge.
Starting January 1st, there will be an increased class of service bonus for Business Class tickets from 25% to 50%. These bonus will be earned in addition to the current Elite redeemable bonus miles currently earned.
Gold: 50% Platinum: 100% Executive Platinum: 100%
Overall I am very impressed with American Airlines for not following Delta and United leads in destroying their frequent flyer program by moving to an all revenue based program which most low cost carrier have adopted. I believe this will not only keep American competitive during the US/AA merger but will keep frequent flyers and the airlines top elite flyers satisfied with AA. This move may also convince people who are dissatisfy with Delta or United to switch to AA.
Not only am I impressed with the 2015 AAdvantage program, I am personally surprised to see AA not introduce a fourth tier (75K level), but figure why try to fix what isn’t broken. Although US Airways Platinum will have their status reduced to mid-tier if they do not meet the Chairmen requirements, I believe they will be satisfy with the additional bonus miles they will earn as an AAdvantage Platinum (100% vs 75%) and find their upgrades percentage to still be fairly high when requesting upgrades.
I am very glad to see that AA did not further devalue their award chart and has announced these program changes at least two months before the go into effect. Yet I warn people to be cautious, as these changes may be good for now, but may not last post 2015 when the two airlines are operating as one. A revenue system and more devaluation may be in the works, but for now we can celebrate only minor changes and overall a great look 2015 AAdvantage program.
All changes annouced for the 2015 Frequent Flyer program can be found on both US Airways and American Airlines home page or here.