American Airlines Previews Four Major Changes To AAdvantage For 2024
American Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja was the last guest of the season for the American Airlines internal podcast for employees. At the end of his interview, asked what’s coming in 2024, he noted that he was being interviewed solo and “there’s nobody here to tell me what I can’t say, so I’ll reveal a bit more.”
The AAdvantage frequent flyer program reports up to Raja, and he goes on to outline several changes that are coming that haven’t been announced yet by the airline. The American Airlines new program year doesn’t start until March 1, so he likely got a bit ahead of his communications team.
In 2024 we actually get to really go and frankly have fun for our customers, make really cool products for them and it looks like this…
Making AAdvantage the most valuable and attractive rewards program period. We’re going to make it easy for customers to earn, where you earn more if you shop on the app or you come through the website. You earn more if are on the credit card than if you’re not.
We’re going to make redemption cheaper and higher volume.. than ever before, not just on us but on our partners.
And we’re gong to make status as we call it ‘unique and unmatched’ where by having status you actually get stuff. And finally what we’re really excited for is to continue to go and expand on the value we create through our credit cards for our customers, because through those things customers who value travel but may not be traveling as much as they did before the pandemic can continue to earn rewards, can continue to experience the best of American and its partners, so there’ll be a lot more of that.
Raja doesn’t get into the specifics of these changes, but it appears as though there are (4) broad changes that we can expect.
- Variable mileage earn. It sounds as though mileage-earning from flights will vary based on point of sale (“earn more if you shop on the app or you come through the website”) as well as based on whether or not you hold a co-brand credit card (“you earn more if are on the credit card than if you’re not”) apart from status quo where the credit card you use influences rewards earned from that card.
- Changes to rewards from status. Over the last couple of years, many rewards have been decoupled from status levels. Instead they’re rewarded at various thresholds between status levels. Confirmed upgrades don’t come once you earn Platinum Pro status anymore, you can choose them at 175,000 Loyalty points. They don’t come at 200,000 point Executive Platinum status anymore, you can choose them at 250,000 Loyalty points.
American has been encouraging members to go beyond status for more rewards, but also providing rewards between status levels, starting off with modest benefits after just 15,000 points.
It’s not clear how this will change from 2024, but Raja suggests they are “going to…” update status “where by having status you actually get stuff.”
- Redemption price changes for partner awards. American eliminated their ‘saver’ and ‘anytime’ award charts this year for flights on their own aircraft. Basically that means all of their awards for travel solely on American are now dynamically prices, what used to be called web specials. They did publish an award chart showing ‘starting at’ pricing but actual prices don’t seem to be reflected by that chart at all.
At the time they did not make any changes to how partner awards (and awards that include both American Airlines and partner airlines) work at all. That requires changes to contracts with their airline partners. Maybe there’s been progress making those changes? Because Raja says “We’re going to make redemption cheaper and higher volume.. than ever before, not just on us but on our partners.” This sounds like he’s saying partner redemption will follow the model they’ve laid out for American Airlines award travel pricing?
- Changes to credit card value proposition. We got changes to the premium Citibank credit card that comes with American Airlines Admirals Club membership this past summer, with a higher annual fee and new costs for additional cardmembers as well as new benefits. The changes aren’t worth the higher cost, but the card was already such high value for American Airlines regulars that I still view it as worthwhile even after the changes. (I’ve kept mine.)
American Airlines DCA Admirals Club, E Concourse
What we haven’t seen is changes to other American Airlines cards, from the mass consumer cards promoted on board (Barclays) and through other channels (Citi) to the small business card (which is now tied into their new small business program).
Raja seems to suggest we’ll see this: “we’re really excited for is to continue to go and expand on the value we create through our credit cards for our customers…there’ll be a lot more of that.”
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see American use AAdvantage to nudge customers more to book direct. When airlines first launched their websites they had online booking bonuses. Some had bonuses for app booking when those were new. But American has been trying to get customers away from using travel agents, and not just by reducing or eliminating commissions. So reducing mileage-earn for tickets not booked direct could be coming, along with higher earn for customers with their credit card (United and Delta do essentially the same thing on the flip side, offering lower redemption pricing on their own flights to credit card customers).
However the piece here that I do not want to see is changes to partner award travel. That’s what currently drives the most value in the AAdvantage program. They haven’t raised partner award prices since fall 2016. And they were still competitive even back then, while others have devalued.
Being able to book Qatar Airways QSuites for 75,000 miles to Africa via Doha is amazing value, that surely cannot last? And I felt like my recent flight in Etihad’s First Class Apartment from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow for just 62,500 AAdvantage miles complete with first class lounge access on the ground and onboard shower in the air was incredible value.
Etihad First Apartment
Etihad First Apartment
Although hopefully the still-really good Alaska Airlines partner chart which has real sweet spots serves as a constraint on new higher AAdvantage partner redemption pricing, especially since Alaska status will become viable for American Airlines customers eliminating the minimum number of flights you need to travel on Alaska going forward to keep it, and since Alaska elites are effectively treated the same as American elites when flying American and vice versa.
I’ve reached out to American Airlines to clarify Raja’s remarks.