Elite Status Challenges with American Airlines

Airlines – particularly legacy US carriers — value their elite passengers.  These passengers are widely viewed by the airlines to be some of their most profitable passengers, and as such, those passengers are extended numerous perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags, and first class upgrades.  For quite some time, most airlines offer published and un-published opportunities for elite passengers of its competitors called status matches or status challenges. The basic premise of a status match is that an elite member of Airline A would request and be granted equal status with Airline B once their elite credentials were verified.  A status challenge is where an elite member of Airline A is granted equal status with Airline B provided that the member flies X amount of miles/points/segments in Y amount of time (months).Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.06.54 PM

What is an American Airlines Status Challenge?

American Airlines currently offers varying levels of status challenge opportunities for elite passengers of rival carriers –  primarily United and Delta, though YMMV with other carriers.  There are currently three levels of status challenges:

  • United Silver / Delta Silver –> American Gold:  $100-$120 fee + 5,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months
  • United Gold or Platinum / Delta Gold or Platinum –> American Platinum:  $200-240 fee + 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months
  • United 1K / Delta Diamond –> American Executive Platinum:  no fee + 25,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months

If one completes the challenge in the stated time, that member will receive that level of status through the end of February, 2016*.

*Note:  traditionally, if one completes the challenge after June 30th, they will have status for the rest of that calendar year AND the next calendar year.  If the challenge is completed before June 30th, that member would have the status for the remainder of that calendar year only.  As such, it is advantageous to do this challenge after June 30th, but before the end of the year to get you over a year of Executive Platinum membership.

These challenges are somewhat difficult because they require Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) instead of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM).

What’s an EQP, and how is this different than EQM?

This offer is not easy to achieve — it’s actually a challenge — and I fly a lot.  The key challenge here is that the qualification criteria is measured by Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) and not Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM).  While one would earn ONE EQM for every mile flown, this is NOT the case with EQP on deep discount economy fares — generally the fares that most people would book their economy travel.  These discount fares only earn .5 EQP, meaning that in order to hit 25,000 EQP for the Executive Platinum Challenge, one would need to fly 50,000 miles worth of deep discount economy flights in 3-months.  And that’s a tad-bit aggressive for me.

American EQP Chart

American Airlines EQP Chart

Luckily with EQPs, discount economy and full-fare economy tickets earn 1.0 EQP for every mile flown, and even better — premium tickets (premium economy, business, and first class) earn 1.5 EQP for every mile flown, so one could fly considerably less distance and hit the challenge (in this case, 16,667 miles in a premium cabin would hit 25,000 EQP).  Essentially, this challenge is designed to ensure that the recipient is actually spending money with American.

Why am I Doing the Status Challenge?

As a United 1K member, I haven’t shied away from criticizing the airline for its move to a revenue-based frequent flyer program, and the addition of a spend requirement for achieving preferred status.  With this move, United requires customers to fly 100,000 miles or 100 segments AND spend at least $10,000 on United flights. Sure, this is probably a financially responsible move by United to rid themselves of low-value elites like me, but it really killed the value of flying United for me, as there’s just no way I would hit the $10,000 annual spend required in order to re-qualify for Premier 1K (I spent about 1/3 of that last year to fly 100,000 miles). This move essentially matches Delta’s addition of a financial aspect to its medallion qualification scheme.  The only major legacy airline that has not (yet) invoked a spend requirement is American Airlines.  American still has the old-fashioned qualifying metric of but-in-seat, elite qualifying miles — and I like that.

In addition to the qualification metrics, American is rejuvenating its fleet with a fantastic new business class on its international planes, and that really interests me for use with the systemwide upgrades that I will receive.  Couple that with the fact that the recent American / US Airways merger has turned my home airport — Washington’s Reagan National Airport into a de-facto domestic hub for the airline, and we have a compelling argument for me to ponder the switch to American. Over the past year or so, I’ve read about the status challenge that I mentioned above, and figured it may be worth looking into.  Since I clearly will not re-qualify with United this year, this potential status challenge seemed like a great opportunity to leverage my top-tier United status to obtain American top-tier status much more easily than I would otherwise be able to.

What will Executive Platinum Status on American get me?

The benefits of Executive Platinum status are enough to make American (and US Airways) my primary carrier(s) of choice.  This is especially convenient considering the combined airline now has a hub at Washington-DCA, which is uber-convenient for me (I can see the terminal from my window as I write this).   Though United has similar benefits, I will be losing that status next February… if I was able to maintain that status, then I probably would not be leaving them. The benefits of Executive Platinum that are particularly valuable to me are:

  • 8 System wide upgrades that can be used to upgrade any economy fare to business class, anywhere in the world
  • Complimentary domestic upgrades to first class
  • Complimentary selection of Main Cabin Extra Seating (extra legroom)
  • 100% mileage elite mileage bonus (I essentially would earn 2 miles for every mile flown, which is great!)
  • Waived AAdvantage award change and reinstatement charges (I can speculatively book award tickets)

Below is a full list of the elite benefits for all levels with American (from AA.com): Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 8.40.05 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-04 at 8.40.29 PM

How to Request a Status Challenge

So, I called American at 1-800-882-8880 and requested a status match from United 1K to American Executive Platinum.  The rep informed me that there was a possibility for a status challenge, and that they would e-mail me with details on how to proceed.  I then received an e-mail from American requesting that I send a copy of my United 1K card and a copy of my 2013 year-end statement in order to determine eligibility for a status challenge. The next business day, I received correspondence from American offering the status challenge, along with the following details:

  • During the 3 month period, the challenge is to earn 25,000 Elite Qualifying POINTS.
  • One would be granted a trial of Executive Platinum for 3 months — status granted immediately if challenge accepted
  • Start date is the day one requests and confirms the challenge (they called me to confirm that my challenge would start immediately)
  • If one completes the challenge, they will be extended Executive Platinum status through the end of February, 2016.
  • If one completes the challenge, the 8 Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) will be deposited into their account at that time — one will not receive the 8 SWUs during the challenge / trial period.
  • For purposes of the challenge, the airlines that qualify are American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberian, Finnair, JAL, and Qantas, and their code-shares. All other Oneworld carriers do not count for this challenge.
  • This appears is be a one-time offer.

Three days later, I accepted the challenge via e-mail.  American called me the following day to confirm the start day for the challenge as that day.

And that was it — it couldn’t have been easier!

I view this status challenge as a great opportunity — it certainly is enough to drive my business from United to American!

16 Thoughts on “Elite Status Challenges with American Airlines

  1. Cool! I haven’t bothered much with status myself but I enjoy reading about it. Do you already have plans for how you’re going to complete the challenge?

  2. YedaAnna on September 5, 2014 at 11:14 pm said:

    I am a United Silver (like AA Gold). I have heard that for $200-$250 AA will let me take an AA Platinum challenge. Any details on that?

    • Yes. It is my understanding that you would, indeed be able to upgrade to a Platinum Challenge. Just call and ask for the challenge as I detailed in the post.

      It seems the Executive Platinum challenge is the only unpublished challenge that one must have equal top tier status to be offered.

      • YedaAnna on September 5, 2014 at 11:51 pm said:

        Thanks – I will be flying coach for some upcoming international travel through my workplace (DFW-BCN-DFW and then from DFW-BOM-DFW). Do you think i will get enough EQPs to claim the status and challenge?
        Sorry to ask you this but I do not understand enough about EQPs yet.

        I am doing the above as I plan to take my family on personal vacation later in the year (DFW-LHR-BOM-LHR-DFW) and want to take advantage of my platinum status then (with the family). Thoughts?

        • That should be enough, but it depends on your fare class and routing. Even assuming you’re booked in deep discount economy (.5 EQP per mile flown) you’d have enough. This would also depend on the airline you’re flying. AA doesn’t fly to BOM, so these flights would only count if you’re flying one of the airlines I mentioned in my post (including British Airways).

          The best way to figure out your distance traveled is to input your exact routing into http://www.gcmap.com and then divide by two if you’re flying a deep discount economy fare class that would only earn .5 EQP.

          • I’ve got a trip to Asia upcoming that was booked as an award using American miles in business class on Cathay Pacific (an American partner). I’m currently a Delta Gold Medallion. This trip would theoretically qualify for Executive Platinum in a challenge. 1) Would they allow this ‘upgrade’ challenge? 2) Is there any way to get these miles credited for the challenge? I know you’re not supposed to get miles credited on award flights, but would there be a work around for this because it’s a flight on a different airline? (such as seeing if Cathay will post the miles to my Cathay FF account to use for the challenge)

          • This is unlikely to work for a couple of reasons:
            1. Award flights have a fare code that indicate they’re award flights — regardless of the airline you’re flying
            2. The terms of the Challenge explicitly state that only flights on American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberia, JAL and Qantas count as EQP to the challenge.

            Regardless, the fact that it’s an award ticket will disqualify it for the challenge, as this is for revenue tickets only. The only case in which you may luck out and get miles would be if there was a cancellation due to maintenance and the gate agent accidentally booked you into a full-revenue fare code — and the odds of that happening are slim-to-none. Even still, flights on Cathay don’t count for this Challenge anyways.

  3. I’ve never done any status matches/challenges but good for you to do this one! I guess the best way is to find discounted premium fares. Looking forward to read your post describing how you plan to achieve this goal.
    As far as speculatively booking flights, I’ve done that before w/out being an exec plat (just need to be confident that you’ll be right!) 😉 hehe

  4. I don’t know. I just don’t know. Not sure if you’ll have time, but a drive down the Seward Highway towards Girdwood / Alyeska is beautiful. Grab a bite at Jack Spratt in Girdwood!

  5. Do you know how long it takes to deposit the SWUs after one finishes the 25,000 miles?

    • No, but I’ll respond to this comment as soon as my SWUs post to let you know! I’m working to get a US Airways flight from last month to credit properly, and then I’ll “officially” achieve the challenge.

    • FYI, I got my flights credited properly on Friday. The SWUs appeared in my account on Monday. So it happened pretty quickly.

  6. Daniel perrone on December 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm said:

    I tried calling the 800 advantage number and they said that there is no executive platinum challenge that they know of and there was no one to refer me to. I used to fly American and have over 1.5 million miles on them. I am currently a diamond medallion on delta and just qualified again for next year. So I fly over 140,000 miles per year. I explained all of this to the rep on the phone but no luck. Seems as though they would want me back. Do you have any other contact info for the group that handles this?

    • They may not be offering this status challenge anymore, but it won’t hurt to ask. I had to call the 800 number a few times before somebody knew what to do.

      Try emailing “aadvantage.customer.svc@aa.com” to ask if there are any Executive Platinum Challenge or Match opportunities. Make sure to explain your current status and flying patterns in the e-mail.

      Hopefully that will work!

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