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More coal went into the fire powering the battle for elite airline customers last week after American Airlines launched a campaign giving elite status away to targeted customers.

This follows a similar set of efforts from United Airlines over the last month first targeting lapsed elites and then proactively reaching out and giving away status.

American’s effort appears to be targeted at members of its AAdvantage loyalty program that almost reached a particular level of status in the 2015 travel year but didn’t quite make the cutoff. Potential customers were directly targeted over email and offered complimentary elite status ranging from Gold to Executive Platinum. Through the summer, that status can be locked in through next year by flying a requisite number of “challenge miles”

  • To earn Gold status: 7,000 miles (typically earned after flying 25,000 miles)
  • To earn Platinum status: 12,500 (typically earned after flying 50,000 miles)
  • Executive Platinum status: 35,000 (typically earned after flying 100,000 miles)

The promotion offers a significant shortcut for some select members to reach elite status, in short, and may indicate American’s interest in building up members within its loyalty program — or preventing attrition.

Part of that hand-wringing may be due to recent consumer unrest over the course of the American-US Airways merger. This year, American was ranked number ten in the airline Airline Quality Report — below all of the legacy and several regional carriers. That lackluster performance is largely attributed to a higher volume of customer complaints as the airlines merged operations, in the process, potentially driving some of American’s elite base away to other carriers.

The specter of United Airlines looming and poaching elite customers away from AAdvantage may also be motivating American. In a letter to frequent flyers last week, United CEO Oscar Munoz promised better performance and stronger incentives to frequent flyers, a challenge that many American customers would like to see echoed within AAdvantage.

With pressure from both consumers and competitors, American may now be relenting and offering more incentives for loyal customers to stick around. A landing page detailing the promotion including a signup link is available over at

Photo Credit: A promotional image for American Airlines' AAdvantage program. American Airlines