American Airlines Program Changes
American Airlines announced a number of changes to its AAdvantage loyalty program for 2024, most of which are positive, quite surprisingly. It looks like the airline's goal here is to entice more travelers to join the AAdvantage program since so many of the changes are enhancements that only apply to AAdvantage members. Let's dive into these American Airlines program changes kicking in for 2024.
Basic Economy Cancellation
Basic economy bookings on American will become a little more flexible. Starting this month, travelers will be able to cancel basic economy fares booked directly through American and receive a partial trip credit for a fee. It looks like the fee will be $99.
Currently, basic economy tickets offer no flexibility. So if you cancel a basic economy fare on American, you don't receive any trip credit at all. This change is certainly an improvement since even some flexibility is better than no flexibility.
American is imposing some (reasonable) limits to basic economy cancellation, though:
- Your trip is domestic
- Travel hasn't started yet
- You booked directly through American (aa.com, the app or American Airlines Reservations)
This certainly creates a strong incentive to book basic economy fares directly through American, as if folks didn't have enough reasons to book directly anyway.
Starting March 1, only AAdvantage members will be allowed to stand by for a different flight. Again, these American Airlines program changes seem focused on enticing travelers to join the AAdvantage program, which is free to join anyway.
To be eligible for same-day standby, your new flight must:
- Depart on the same day, from and to the same airports, as your original flight
- Have the same number of stops, in the same airports, as your original flight
- Be operated by American Airlines or American Eagle carriers
American Airlines Program Changes: Other Benefits
American announced a few other benefits as well, most of which are positive for AAdvantage members. According to American, the following will all kick in “later in 2024.”
Extended Trip Credit
AAdvantage members will have 6 more months to use Trip Credits than non-members when canceling travel online. Currently, Trip Credits last for 12 months for both AAdvantage members and non-members. The additional flexibility here is very much welcomed.
Limiting Admirals Club One-Day Passes
Only AAdvantage members will be able to purchase one-day passes to access Admirals Clubs and Flagship Lounges. I don't expect volume at these lounges to change much with this new policy, since joining the AAdvantage program is free and easy to do. But at the same time, it's not like American has been experiencing the overcrowding issues for which Centurion Lounges have become notorious.
24-Hour Trip Holds
Going forward, only AAdvantage members will be able to put flights on hold free of charge for up to 24 hours. This has always been a nice policy of American, and independent from the free 24-hour cancellation as mandated by federal regulations. As with some of the other changes, limiting this to AAdvantage members shouldn't have that big of an impact either way.
That said, flight holds used to be for 5 days. So I'll have to put this one American program change on the L column. The ability to hold a flight for 5 days was great. Lowering the duration to just 24 hours is definitely a disappointment here.
Redeem Miles for Flagship First Dining
American also announced that members will be able to redeem AAdvantage miles for Flagship First Dining passes. This ability will be available only to those with Platinum Pro status or higher.
This is a fun development that I'm excited to try depending on how much one pass will cost. Flagship First Dining are basically restaurants tucked away inside American's larger Admirals Club in some of its hubs like Miami (MIA) and Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW).
American Airlines Program Changes: Loyalty Point Rewards
Another terrific development for AAdvantage members (especially status chasers) is the introduction of more Loyalty Point Rewards. Under the AAdvantage program, members can earn Loyalty Point Rewards on the way to earning elite status. When members earn a certain amount of Loyalty Points, they unlock Loyalty Point Rewards. This works similar to World of Hyatt's milestone rewards and it's a great way to reward members along the way to earning status.
Starting with the new qualification year that begins on March 1, 2024, AAdvantage members will have the following additional Loyalty Point Rewards options:
- 15,000 level: Choose 1,000 Loyalty Points
- 175,000 level: Choose 5,000 Loyalty Points
- 250,000 level: Choose 15,000 Loyalty Points per reward choice (2 available)
I especially like the new option at the 15,000 level, since the current options are not very helpful. Currently, members can choose from either 5 Preferred Seat coupons or priority privileges and Group 4 boarding for one trip. The option to earn some additional Loyalty Points for help on the way to status is quite useful here.
Even at the 175,000 level, the additional 5,000 loyalty points might be what bring someone over the edge to 200,000 Loyalty Points to earn top tier Executive Platinum. In fact, since you have until the end of March of the following year to make your choice, you can take stock with how your qualifying year is shaping up and then decide to take those extra 1,000 points from the 15,000 level and 5,000 points from the 175,000 to qualify for Executive Platinum if needed.
At the end of the day, more options are always good.
New Upgrade Benefits
American also announced some positive changes relating to upgrades on American and partner flights.
“Coming soon” members will be able to earn miles when paying cash for upgrades on American. I always found it odd that AAdvantage members earn miles for flying but not for purchasing an upgrade to a premium cabin on that same flight. This seems like a logical and overdue change.
American also announced that members will be able to redeem AAdvantage miles for upgrades with select partners. We will have to see how this plays out, including which airlines and what the cost of upgrades will be. But until then, booking the seat you want from the start remains a winning strategy.
Lastly, AAdvantage members will be able to request systemwide upgrades online instead of having to call American. This is a fantastic change. Who doesn't prefer to do something online quickly instead of having to pick up the phone?
American Airlines Program Changes: ToP Thoughts
What a refreshing way to start the year by seeing a US airline announce positive changes to its loyalty program. I'm always a fan of greater flexibility and more options, which is pretty much what American has announced here.
Which of these changes do you like the most? Come share your thoughts in the ToP Facebook Group.