American Airlines used to have a soft landing policy whereby those customers who failed to maintain their elite status by the end of the year wouldn’t necessarily lose that status. For example, someone who had Platinum status and was only a couple thousand miles away might retain that Platinum status anyway rather than drop to Gold — what he or she actually qualified for. Even a person who didn’t fly at all would only drop one tier.
Last year I took advantage of an Executive Platinum status match, but I flew only about 5,000 miles on American Airlines. I’m still a Platinum elite this year (normally requiring 50,000 elite-qualifying miles).
American Airlines is doing away with soft landings, switching to a model in which its customers must pay for the privilege of maintaining their status. And because they are merging with US Airways, which also allows the option to buy status, I thought it worth discussing the merits of each program.
American Airlines Boost and Renew
Those passengers who fail to complete the full requirements for elite status by the end of 2013 will have the option to pay to retain it, effectively buying whatever elite-qualifying miles they require for a single fixed price. This purchase can be made beginning January 2014 through May 31.
Gold status (normally 25K EQM)
- Individuals within 5,000 miles or 5 segments can “boost” to Gold for $399.
- Individuals who are already Gold but are further away can renew for $649.
Platinum status (normally 50K EQM)
- Individuals within 10,000 miles or 10 segments can “boost” to Platinum for $899.
- If only 5,000 miles or 5 segments away, you can boost for a reduced price of $699.
- Individuals who are already Platinum but are further away than either threshold can renew for $1,199.
Executive Platinum status (normally 100K EQM)
- Individuals within 10,000 miles or 10 segments can “boost” to Platinum for $1,799.
- If only 5,000 miles or 5 segments away, you can boost for a reduced price of $1,199.
- There is no option to renew Executive Platinum status if further away than either threshold.
American Airlines Renewal Summary
My opinion is that most of these options are far too expensive to be worth your time. However, they do make sense if you are an individual who normally has elite status and for whatever reason are facing a short-term decline in travel (switching jobs, a new baby, illness, etc.)
Many benefits of Gold status can be obtained with a co-branded credit card, and those that don’t come with such cards can be purchased a la cart when needed. Platinum and Executive Platinum status are a little different. Both come with a 100% bonus on flown miles, which I consider very valuable. Still, the benefits of Platinum status are not that much greater than as a Gold member. I have flown a few times as a Platinum member on American Airlines and didn’t notice much difference other than a preferred seat or expedited check-in.
The most likely value opportunity is in requalifying for Executive Platinum status because this comes with complimentary domestic upgrades and eight unrestricted systemwide upgrades (though the combined carrier might change these benefits…). The drop from Executive Platinum to nothing would be catastrophic for many and difficult to substitute with credit card benefits. I think it’s fair to value the systemwide upgrades at $200 each, making even the $1,799 “boost” option look like a reasonable deal.
I’ll discuss other ways to buy status on American Airlines and US Airways tomorrow, refreshing an older post written by Amol. In the meantime, you can compare the current benefits of elite status between tiers and across other airlines with my Airline Status Comparison Tables.