How Has the American Airlines Loyalty Program Evolved?

American Airlines’ loyalty program

American Airlines launched its first loyalty reward program ‘AAdvantage’ on May 1, 1981. American Airlines has tactically made several changes in its rewards program structure to stay at the top of customers’ minds.

AAdvantage has more than 115 million participants, making it one of the most extensive airline loyalty programs. American Airlines reward program has used a brilliant combination of ideas, creativity, and execution to make it customer-centric. According to Accenture, more than 90% of the companies have some loyalty programs, and in the US, there are more than 3.3 billion loyalty memberships.

How AAdvantage evolved over the years?

During its inception, AAdvantage was a linear loyalty program. It followed a basic structure of discounted flights and reward points. But now, American Airlines is a tier-based reward program. There are many ways to earn rewards and spend them.

Let’s understand how the program has evolved over the years.

Initially, the loyalty program was called the ‘frequent flyer program.’ The plan was quite simple with rewards like – special fares for loyal customers and a discount on the tickets.

To make the loyalty program stand out, American Airlines AAdvantage program was revised with multiple benefits and a tier qualification structure. Bringing a tier-based loyalty program was the first differentiating factor for American Airlines among competitors.

American Airlines connected its loyalty program with partners having complementary services like air tickets and rental cars.

The next revamp was focused on the use of data to deliver personalization.  American Airlines revamped its loyalty program in March 2022. The new loyalty program was accessible and straightforward.

“The past few years have taught us that loyalty is not one-size-fits-all—it comes in different forms,” Alison Taylor, American Airline’s Chief Customer Officer.

With the revamped loyalty program, members don’t need to track miles, flight segments, and dollars to earn status.

Here are the new updates of the AAdvantage loyalty program

  • Users can track their progress with a single metric — loyalty points.
  • Users can earn AAdvantage status by shopping or flying with partners.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro qualified members can unlock loyalty choice rewards.

Apart from these, American Airlines has introduced new methods of giving cash back and discounts to customers.

What makes the American airline loyalty program so popular?

Being one of the leaders in deploying loyalty programs, American Airlines is always the first to introduce new features to its program. The collaborative approach to including partners in the loyalty program worked very well. The members were growing loyalty points without directly using the services of American Airlines. Along with a collaborative approach, the loyalty program has special rewards that attract millions of customers.

Here are some of the popular perks and benefits of the program: 

  • Mileage Bonus

    In the previous loyalty program, only elite members could enjoy a mileage bonus. But with AAdvantage’s revamped version, members of gold, platinum, and platinum executive tiers can earn the mileage bonus when flying with American Airlines.

    Another way of earning these points is to fly with partner airlines or dine, shop, and travel with the partners. For instance, if you have taken a one-way New York flight that costs $300, as a platinum pro member, you get 2,700 points. (9 miles per dollar)

  • Elite Status Perks

    AAdvantage’s revamped version has also upgraded its elite status. Customers can qualify for elite status based on the yearly activities during the calendar year.

Here’s how the Elite tier system works

  • Gold – 30,000 loyalty points
  • Platinum- 75,000 loyalty points
  • Platinum pro- 125,000 loyalty points
  • Executive Platinum- 200,000 loyalty points

How to Earn Elite Status

Starting from March 2022, members can earn elite status by:

  • Traveling on American Airlines or with OneWorld Airline partners.
  • Making purchases on an AAdvantage credit card
  • Shopping with their partners, reaching miles, and more.

Loyalty Choice Milestone Benefits

spending to earn AAdvantage benefits

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Being at a higher-level means, users earn better rewards for the same activities. So, once users are upgraded to a higher level, they spend more to stay higher and get premium rewards.

With Loyalty Choice Milestone benefits, members can get bonus miles, lounge benefits, special fare allowance, and dollar cashback with each mile.

The requirement to reach different milestones are:

  • Level 1—125,000 LP
  • Level 2—200,000 LP
  • Level 3—350,000 LP
  • Level 4—550,000 LP
  • Level 5—750,000 LP

Members must complete 30 flight segments to unlock the Loyalty choice reward benefits.

AAdvantage partnership with other airlines

American Airlines is a member of OneWorld Alliance. Hence, it promotes earning reward points when customers fly with one of the partner airlines. AAdvantage members can meet the qualification while flying with OneWorld alliance members, including British Airways, American Airlines, Japan Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, and Iberia.

Credit card spending to earn AAdvantage benefits.

American Airlines has also launched co-branded credit cards for its members.

  • American Airlines AAdvantage® MileUp℠ Mastercard®
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage® Platinum Select Mastercard®*

Here are some lucrative rewards for the above cards.

  • Members can earn 50,000 bonus miles with the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive Mastercard®. Different cards have different rewards.
  • Members get the first checked bag free on domestic itineraries.
  • Members earn a $125 American Airlines Discount after spending $20000 or more with the qualifying credit card.

For any loyalty program to succeed it’s important to keep evolving with the changing customer expectation. American Airlines has ensured the loyalty program has exciting incentives and good reasons for customers to return to them!