What Is American Airlines Elite Status Worth? January 2017 | Real World Machine

What Is American Airlines Elite Status Worth? January 2017

American Airlines’s AAdvantage program changed drastically in 2016 and 2017 and added a new elite status level, Platinum Pro, between the top-level Executive Platinum status and the mid-level Platinum status. American also started awarding AAdvantage miles based on airfare spending (versus air miles traveled) in 2016. AAdvantage miles are the currency (points) you use to book award flights.

Real World Machine values AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents each, after factoring in American’s extensive network, the availability of first and business class award options, and the general availability of redemption flight options.



Elite Status Value

American AAdvantage Elite Status Value
Gold $1,226
Platinum $2,455
Platinum Pro $3,837
Executive Platinum $8,750

The AAdvantage program now offers four published elite tiers: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum. You quality for elite status based on achieving the requisite number of (a) “elite qualifying dollars” (EQDs), which is spending on air fare (generally exclusive of taxes and fees) with American Airlines, AND (b) “elite qualifying miles” (EQMs) OR “elite qualifying segments” (EQSs).

EQMs are basically “butt-in-seat” miles, except that you can get bonus EQMs for higher classes of service (specifically, one extra EQM for discount business or discount first class); EQSs are not affected by class of service. Elites are also guaranteed a minimum of 500 base EQMs for flight segments that are less than 500 miles. For big spenders, the higher-end co-branded credits cards can also give you 5,000 EQMs for $20,000 in annual spending or 10,000 EQMs for $40,000 in annual spending on the credit card.

Related: How much are my American AAdvantage miles worth?

It is also important to note that upgrade priority is based first on your elite status level and then, within your elite status, based on your EQDs during the past 12 months (this latter requirement will become effective sometime in 2017). The 2016 policy based upgrade priority first on elite status and then, within your elite status, on how early you requested an upgrade (i.e., booked your flight).

If you are flying with a Oneworld or other partner airlines (and did not book through AA) but are crediting the flights to AAdvantage, American will apply a conversion chart based on the distance traveled and class of service (since American usually will not know how much you spent on the ticket) for EQDs, EQMs, and AAdvantage miles.

Non-elite members currently earn five AAdvantage miles per dollar spent on eligible airfare (generally excluding taxes and fees). Essentially, non-elite members earn 5x EQDs in AAdvantage miles.

Lifetime Elite Status

American AAdvantage Elite Status Criteria
Gold 1,000,000 miles
Platinum 2,000,000 miles

You can also earn lifetime AAdvantage status at one million miles and at two million miles. You also get four system-wide upgrades at two million miles and for every million miles thereafter. It is important to note that lifetime status is based on actual butt-in-seat miles flown. A few years back, credit card miles and other bonus miles also counted, but they no longer count for lifetime status (any existing lifetime miles accumulated through this method still count towards lifetime status).

Assumptions

Valuations are provided for each elite status level below and assume that (1) you already have the respective elite status for point bonus purposes and (2) that you hit the minimum threshold needed to achieve the status, and (3) that you never purchase anything other than discount economy airfare and that you never purchase the new stripped-down “Basic Economy” fare. If necessary, values are rounded up to the nearest dollar. Valuations do not include the regular non-elite-bonus points you earn for AAdvantage spending, since you would get these points regardless of your elite status.

As always, elite status valuation can often be more of an art than a science…and certain benefits may be more or less valuable to you than they are to the average passenger.


Gold = $1,226

This valuation is based on having Gold status, spending $3,000 on airfare (before most taxes and fees), and obtaining 25,000 EQMs in discount economy airfare during the year. You need to earn (a) $3,000 EQDs, plus (b) 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs annually to qualify.

AAdvantage +2 Mile Bonus = $90
This works out to a 40% mileage bonus versus non-elite members. Valuing AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 6,000 miles, worth $90, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $35
While not a huge perk, you do get priority call handling for all of your (re)booking needs when you call into customer service, but you’re probably going to utilize the website a lot more than the phone.

Priority Access (pre-flight and boarding) = $150
You get some value out of dedicated priority check-in lanes (reserved for elite members and first class passengers), especially if you are checking bags. You also get priority security lane access at larger airports, but honestly, you probably already have TSA Precheck.

As a Gold member (and assuming you are not upgraded), you get to board after the premium classes of travel, active military, Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum members. You do get to board before non-elite members who hold any of the co-branded credit cards (who are supposed to board immediately after Gold). While there are a lot of elite members, especially at big American hubs, there should still be plenty of space for your carry-on by the time you board, if you are boarding when Gold members are called.

Overall, there is some modest benefit to be gained from the priority check-in lanes and a bigger benefit from priority boarding if you regularly bring a larger carry-on with you. I value this benefit at $150.

Complimentary Checked Bag (1) = $100
You get one free complimentary checked bag as a Gold member. While this can really add up to a lot of value if you frequently check a bag, the co-branded Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard would give you the exact same benefit (and other benefits) for a $95 annual fee. I have bumped up the value to $100 for the slightly enhanced benefit that you don’t have to take out a credit card to get this Gold benefit.

Complimentary Preferred and Discounted Main Cabin Extra Seats = $210
You get complimentary access to Preferred seats, which are situated in “advantageous” positions throughout the plane (but without additional legroom and often excluding exit row seats), when booking. Preferred seats generally cost non-elite members somewhere between $10 and $60 per flight segment (from an absolute minimum of $4 up to a maximum of $139) on top of the regular discount economy airfare.

You also get a 50% discount on the surcharge for Main Cabin Extra seats, which are situated towards the front of the plane (and often exit rows) and generally have additional legroom. You also get complimentary access to unclaimed Main Cabin Extra seats 24 hours prior to departure. I usually don’t have an issue claiming an unassigned Main Cabin Extra Seat 20+ hours prior to departure. Main Cabin Extra seats generally cost non-elite members somewhere between $20 and $120 per flight segment (up to a maximum of $280) on top of the regular discount economy airfare.

Both the Preferred and Main Cabin Extra benefit apply for up to eight travel companions on the same flight reservation. Overall, I’m valuing the complimentary Preferred seats at $60 and the discounted/complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats at $150.

Complimentary Upgrades on Flights Segments of 500 Miles or Less = $150
You can be upgraded an unlimited number of times on flights of 500 miles or less. These complimentary upgrades will clear on a space-available basis up to 24 hours before your flight. These are short flights, where the biggest benefits are bigger seats and better snacks (such as they are). If you get upgraded before you check your baggage, you should also get priority baggage handling for your checked bags for the rest of your one-way flight (even if you are not upgraded on other segments).

Since you will also be towards the bottom of the upgrade list as a Gold member, thus limiting your chances of being upgraded, I value this benefit at $150.

500-Mile Upgrades (8) = $320
You earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs that you travel; balances roll over from year to year. With 25,000 EQMs in a year, you’ll receive a total of eight 500-mile upgrades. You can apply 500-mile upgrades towards requesting upgrades on flights longer than 500 miles; the number of upgrades required is the (flight distance / 500) rounded up to the nearest integer. For example, a 1,299 mile flight would cost you three upgrades. If you are not upgraded on a specific flight (even though you requested an upgrade), the upgrades remain in your account are not subtracted from your upgrade balance. You can also request upgrades for a companion traveling with you.

You can request an upgrade on flights within the U.S. and flights to/from Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America. Requesting an upgrade does not guarantee that you will be upgraded. As a Gold member, the chance that you will be upgraded is probably less than 20%, especially if you are flying out of a hub.

Since you can buy these upgrades at $40 a piece, and presumably will be able to make use of them at some point during your flying days, I will generously value these at the same rate as the paid rate.

Complimentary Same-Day Standby = $38
You get unlimited complimentary same-day standby on domestic flights and flights to/from Canada and select Caribbean destinations. Non-elite members are charged a $75 stand-by fee. You will still have to pay for a same-day flight change if you want a confirmed seat. I assume that you will use this benefit once every two years, and thus value this benefit at $38.

Waived 21-Day Award Booking = $38
Non-elite members get charged a $75 fee if they are booking an award flight 21 days or less in advance of departure. This fee is waived for all elite members. I assume that you will use this benefit once every two years, and thus value this benefit at $38.

Discounted Admirals Club Membership = $5
Gold members receive a $25 discount on an individual Admirals Club lounge membership and a $75 discount on a household Admirals Club lounge membership. It’s difficult to fix an appropriate value for this award, since it’s worth exactly $0, $25, or $75 to you. Also, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with an individual membership for a $450 annual fee…which is lower than the $525 Gold member new rate and the $475 Gold member renewal rate. Consequently, I’m going to value this benefit at a nominal $5, although again, the value to you is fixed at $0, $25, or $75.

Oneworld and Alaska Airlines Benefits = $90
Your Gold member status gets you Oneworld Ruby status, the lowest elite tier in Oneworld alliance. As a Oneworld Ruby member, you get priority check-in, priority standby/waitlist, and access to preferred or pre-reserved seating for Oneworld partner flights. I value this relatively meager benefit at $25.

On Alaska Airlines flights, you will get priority check-in and boarding and two complimentary checked bags. While you probably won’t be flying much on Alaska Airlines as an American elite, it’s still nice to have, and I accordingly value it at $65.

Return to table.




Platinum = $2,455

This valuation is based on having Platinum status, spending $6,000 on airfare (before most taxes and fees), and obtaining 50,000 EQMs in discount economy airfare during the year. You need to earn (a) $6,000 EQDs, plus (b) 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs annually to qualify.

AAdvantage +3 Mile Bonus = $270
This works out to a 60% mileage bonus versus non-elite members. Valuing AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 18,000 miles, worth $270, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $45
This is the same as the Gold benefit. Since you’re flying a lot more than a Gold member, the perk becomes marginally more beneficial.

Priority Access (pre-flight and boarding) = $160
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you get to board a little earlier (right before Gold members).

Complimentary Checked Bags (2) = $250
You get two free complimentary checked bags as a Platinum member. The value of this benefits is near-zero if you never check bags and potentially in the range of four figures if you often check two bags. I’m going to fix this benefit’s value at 2.5x the Gold benefit.

Priority Baggage Handling = $20
Your checked bags get an orange “priority” tag stuck on them. Theoretically, this means that your bag will be among the first to arrive at the baggage claim carousel. In practice, plenty of American airports don’t bother to prioritize the priority bags.

Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra Seats = $295
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that Main Cabin Extra seats are complimentary at the time of booking, instead of just a 50% discount.

Complimentary Upgrades on Flights Segments of 500 Miles or Less = $375
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that these upgrades can clear up to 48 hours prior to departure and you will have priority over Gold members. Since you’re also flying more, I’m valuing this benefit at 2.5x the Gold benefit.

500-Mile Upgrades (16) = $690
This is the same as the Gold members benefit except that you are flying more and will have priority over Gold members for upgrades. With 50,000 EQMs in a year, you’ll receive a total of eight 500-mile upgrades. I’m valuing these at $40 a piece again and adding $50 for the fact that you will have higher priority for the upgrades.

Complimentary Same-Day Standby = $75
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying more.

Waived 21-Day Award Booking = $75
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying more.

Discounted Admirals Club Membership = $10
Platinum members receive a $50 discount on an individual Admirals Club lounge membership and a $150 discount on a household Admirals Club lounge membership. It’s difficult to fix an appropriate value for this award, since it’s worth exactly $0, $50, or $150 to you. Also, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with an individual membership for a $450 annual fee…which is lower than the $500 Platinum member new rate and the same as the $450 Platinum member renewal rate. Consequently, I’m going to value this benefit at a relatively nominal $5, although again, the value to you is fixed at $0, $50, or $150.

Oneworld and Alaska Airlines Benefits = $190
Your Platinum member status gets you Oneworld Sapphire status, the mid-level elite tier in Oneworld alliance. As a Oneworld Sapphire member, you get the same benefits as Ruby (Gold) members plus priority boarding, an extra baggage allowance (either one additional bag or an additional 15 kilograms), priority baggage handling, and access to more than 650 business class and frequent flyer airport lounges when traveling internationally with a Oneworld partner. Lounge access restrictions apply to Admirals Club locations in North American and Qantas Domestic Business Lounges and certain Qatar lounges are excluded. Overall, I value this Oneworld benefit at $100.

On Alaska Airlines flights, you will get the same benefits as Gold members plus expedited security at select airports and access to preferred seating. I value this benefit at $90.

Return to table.


Platinum Pro = $3,837

This valuation is based on having Platinum Pro status, spending $9,000 on airfare (before most taxes and fees), and obtaining 75,000 EQMs in discount economy airfare during the year. To earn this new elite status, you need to earn (a) $9,000 EQDs, plus (b) 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQSs annually to qualify.

AAdvantage +4 Mile Bonus = $540
This works out to a 80% mileage bonus versus non-elite members. Valuing AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 36,000 miles, worth $540, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $55
This is the same as the Gold benefit. Since you’re flying a lot more than a Gold or Platinum member, the perk becomes marginally more beneficial.

Priority Access (pre-flight and boarding) = $175
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you get to board earlier (right before Platinum members).

Complimentary Checked Bags (2) = $300
This is the same as the Platinum benefit except that you are flying more.

Priority Baggage Handling = $25
This is the same as the Platinum benefit except that you are flying more.

Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra Seats = $325
This is the same as the Platinum benefit, except that you are flying more.

Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades on North American Flights = $1,750
Unlike Gold and Platinum members that have to use 500-mile upgrades on 501+ mile flights, Platinum Pro members get unlimited auto-requested upgrades that can clear up to 72 hours prior to departure. They also get priority over Gold and Platinum members.

Upgrades are available for flights within the U.S. and flights to/from Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America. This is one of the best benefits in a frequent flyer program.

Complimentary Same-Day Standby = $113
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying a lot more.

Complimentary Same-Day Flight Change = $226
This allows you to confirm a seat on another same-day flight at no charge. Non-elites, Gold, and Platinum members are charged $75 for this privilege. Since this is quite a bit more useful than standby status, I’m valuing it at double the value of the standby benefit.

Waived 21-Day Award Booking Fee = $113
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying a lot more.

Discounted Admirals Club Membership = $15
Platinum Pro members receive a $175 discount on an individual Admirals Club lounge membership and a $200 discount on a household Admirals Club lounge membership. It’s difficult to fix an appropriate value for this award but you should keep in mind that the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with an individual membership for a $450 annual fee…which is lower than the $475 Platinum Pro member new rate and slightly higher than the $425 Platinum Pro member renewal rate. Consequently, I’m going to value this benefit at a relatively nominal $15.

Oneworld and Alaska Airlines Benefits = $200
This is the same as the Platinum benefit except that you are flying more.

Return to table.


Executive Platinum = $8,750

This valuation is based on having Executive Platinum status, spending $12,000 on airfare (before most taxes and fees), and obtaining 100,000 EQMs in discount economy airfare during the year. To earn this new elite status, you need to earn (a) $12,000 EQDs, plus (b) 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs annually to qualify.

AAdvantage +6 Mile Bonus = $1,080
This works out to a 120% mileage bonus versus non-elite members. Valuing AAdvantage miles at 1.5 cents a piece, you will earn a bonus of 72,000 miles, worth $1,080, during your travels.

Priority Phone Number = $65
This is the same as the Gold benefit. Since you’re flying a lot more than other elite members, the perk becomes marginally more beneficial.

Priority Access (pre-flight and boarding) = $200
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you get to board earlier (before all other elites).

Complimentary Checked Bags (3) = $400
You get three free complimentary checked bags as an Executive Platinum member. The value of this benefits is near-zero if you never check bags and potentially in the range of four figures if you often check two (or more) bags. It’s probably rare that you’re flying with more than two checked bags (which you get for free with Platinum status), but you are still flying more.

Priority Baggage Handling = $30
This is the same as the Platinum benefit except that you are flying more.

Complimentary Preferred and Main Cabin Extra Seats = $350
This is the same as the Platinum benefit, except that you are flying more. Given that you have top priority for upgrades, you probably aren’t spending that much time in the main cabin anyways versus other elite levels.

Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades on North American Flights = $2,100
This is the same as the Platinum Pro benefit, except that upgrades clear up to 100 hours prior to departure, you are flying more, and you will have the highest priority for upgrades.

Systemwide Upgrades (4) = $4,000
Systemwide upgrades (SWUs) are the Holy Grail of the AAdvantage elite program. You get four one-way systemwide upgrades when you (re-)qualify for Executive Platinum. You can earn up to four additional SWUs per year at a rate of 2 additional SWUs per each 50,000 EQMs earned above and beyond 100,000 EQMs in a year.

One SWU is valid for up to three segments (one-way) and expires after the remainder of the current year (year earned) + one additional award year. You must complete your air travel (with an SWU) no later than the expiration date. You can also gift (but not sell/trade) SWUs as you see fit.

An SWU will upgrade you one class of service on any paid AA airfare on an AA airplane (including international flights) subject to availability at the time of booking. If unavailable, you can add yourself to a waitlist (the waitlist is currently prioritized first by elite status, relevant if say a non-elite was gifted an SWU, and then by who booked the earliest within the elite tier). If you book a flight with the new Premium Economy service that launches in February 2017, be aware that your paid economy ticket will only get you upgraded to Premium Economy and not business class. American has confirmed that you can still upgrade from regular economy (but not “Basic Economy”) to business class direclty using SWUs, even on flights with a Premium Economy section.

Still, SWUs are valuable stuff. This is true even if you would never be willing to pay the full sticker price for discount international business or first class, which often cost thousands of dollars more than an economy seat on the same flight. I am assuming you can use your SWU to get yourself upgraded from economy to business class on a long-haul international flight and thus value one SWU at $1,000.

Complimentary Drink and Snack = $60
For those times when you are not upgraded from economy, you get one complimentary standard alcoholic beverage and one snack, including any food item on their in-flight menu (for flights with food menu items and alcoholic beverages). Given that you should be getting upgraded a lot at Executive Platinum status, and that one free drink and snack per flight generally aren’t worth more than $15 or so, I’m valuing this benefit at $60.

Expanded Award Seat Availability = $150
Executive Platinum members, and up to one travel companion, have an expanded inventory of MileSAAver flight award redemptions available on AA flights. MileSAAver awards cost less points than the regular award redemptions. It’s still not an unlimited seat inventory, though, which would have made this benefit extremely valuable. You must call the Executive Platinum help desk to utilize this benefit.

Guaranteed Availability on Sold-Out Flights = $50
You, and up to one companion, can purchase full-fare economy tickets on a sold-out flight provided you book at least 24 hours in advance of departure. Like hotel programs that guarantee availability for top elites at rack rate, this is a very expensive benefit to utilize (and probably unneeded most of the time), and thus I’m valuing it at a conservative $50.

Complimentary Same-Day Standby = $150
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying a lot more.

Complimentary Same-Day Flight Change = $300
This is the same as the Platinum Pro benefit except that you are flying more.

Waived Ticketing Service Fee = $45
Executive Platinum members are exempt from the $25 to $45 ticketing service fee for booking a ticket through a medium other than American’s website (or third-parties). While it’s a hefty fee, I can’t imagine there being too many instances where an Executive Platinum member would need to utilize this benefit.

Waived 21-Day Award Booking Fee = $150
This is the same as the Gold benefit except that you are flying a lot more.

Waived Award Change and Reinstatement Fee = $150
Although any non-elite or elite member can change routing and dates on award flights without a fee, there is a $150 to make other changes to award flights or the cancel the award flight and receive a refund of the miles back into your account. Executive Platinum members have this fee waived. I assume you’ll use this once per year for a value of $150.

Discounted Admirals Club Membership = $20
Executive Platinum members receive a $100 discount on an individual Admirals Club lounge membership and a $250 discount on a household Admirals Club lounge membership. It’s difficult to fix an appropriate value for this award but you should keep in mind that the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard comes with an individual membership for a $450 annual fee…which is the same as the $450 Executive Platinum member new rate and higher than the $400 Executive Platinum member renewal rate. Consequently, I’m going to value this benefit at a relatively nominal $20.

Oneworld and Alaska Airlines Benefits = $250
Your Executive Platinum member status gets you Oneworld Emerald status, the top elite tier in Oneworld alliance. As a Oneworld Emerald member, you get the same benefits as Sapphire (Platinum and Platinum Pro) members plus one additional free checked bag on Oneworld partner flights and expedited security screening at select airports.

On Alaska Airlines flights, you will get the same benefits as Platinum members. Taking into account the increased likelihood you’ll take an Alaska flight (given Executive Platinum members time logged on airplanes), I value this benefit at $100.

Return to table.



Summary
What Is American Airlines Elite Status Worth? January 2017
Article
What Is American Airlines Elite Status Worth? January 2017
Description
Learn more about American AAdvantage elite status with a breakdown and description of elite status benefits and their values.
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Real World Machine LLC
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