I did it. I went back and forth on the decision for a long time. Like someone who just couldn’t let go, I continued with the relationship even though I knew, deep down, it was over.
But there’s always a tipping point when you must face reality — and that point was when I realized I’m just not going to fly all that much this year.
So I did it: I finally split up with American Airlines.
After years of being loyal to them and the Oneworld alliance, paying extra for flights to ensure I kept my status, and championing them on the web, it’s time to face the truth: they’ve ruined their once-stellar loyalty program and given me (and basically everyone else) no incentive to fly them over any other (crappy domestic) airline.
A few years ago, both Delta and United devalued their award charts — awarding fewer miles per flight (unless you bought high-priced tickets), requiring more miles when redeeming them for a flight (The Points Guy just recently showed a screenshot of Delta requiring 255,000 miles to go from NYC to LAX! Crazy!), reducing benefits, and requiring customers to spend a certain amount of money to maintain their elite status. Their message was clear: “We only value you if you spend lots of money with us.”
Yet (in part because of their merger with US Airways) American held out — often increasing benefits. American AAdvantage was a shining jewel in the airline industry, lauded by journalists, insiders, and consumers alike.
I went out of my way to fly American because I felt my loyalty was valued. I was upgraded often, their employees were friendly, customer service issues were often solved swiftly, it was easy to find award seats, and they were often generous in their benefits.
What’s wrong with American AAdvantage?
- They now require elite-qualifying dollars (EQDs), but unlike United and Delta, they offer no waiver if you spend a lot on American’s branded credit cards.
- They have upped the cost of award tickets – a lot.
- They severely reduced saver rewards availability. It’s basically impossible to find saver rewards these days.
- Confirmed upgrades for anyone but the top elites is basically impossible. I can’t remember the last time I got an upgrade.
- They have slashed miles earnings on their partner’s flights.
- They now prioritize upgrades based on status and spending (take that, million-mile status folks!).
- How they calculate EQDs is opaque and not straightforward. One dollar spent is not one EQD earned, even if you purchase full fare business and first class tickets.