American's 2017 elite program is about to launch, and to make it competitive with other carriers, the airline is massaging the program with a few more published benefits. That includes a few details about the airline's secretive Concierge Key benefits.
American Airlines is about to officially transition to its revenue-based loyalty program, and as January 1st approaches, the airline is released more details on how it works.
While many of AAdvantage’s upcoming changes mirror its competitors, today the airline additionally announced that in later 2017 highest tier members at the Executive Platinum (EXP) and secret VIP Concierge Key (CK) level will soon be able to use special certificates or “stickers” earned every 10,000 miles to upgrade award tickets.
American also released details on elite benefits that come with its co-branded credit card. Starting in 2017, AAdvantage members that hold the Aviator Red, Blue or Business MasterCard can earn up to $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) by spending $25,000 over the course of the year, allowing members to earn low-level Gold status without ever even setting foot on an airplane.
American is taking time to reiterate program requirements and status levels for next year. With the new program starting on January 1, members of AAdvantage will be required to earn EQDs in addition to Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) to earn status, effectively limiting elite perks to the highest spenders. As announced earlier this year, American is also introducing a mid-level elite tier at 75,000 EQMs and $9,000 EQDs called Platinum Pro, which perfectly lines up with competing levels at United and Delta.
The airline also seems to be slightly more willing to admit that the Concierge Key level actually exists. Until now, details on how to qualify for and the exact benefits of the ultra VIP level of CK have been kept secret. In late 2017, though, American plans to officially start acknowledging CK members during boarding and upgrading them before Executive Platinum members 120 hours before flight — distinct from the 100 hours that both members currently enjoy. Full details about CK program requirements, however, remain murky.
Globally, today’s refinements appear to position American well to compete with the 2017 programs from Delta and United. Each program will soon have requirements for earning elite status in terms of mileage and spend with a co-branded credit card and murky secret VIP status to boot. While today’s published changes certainly could have been more differentiated to set AAdvantage apart, few customers will soon be able to complain that it’s not competitive.
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Photo credit: American Airlines is rolling out a series of changes to AAdvantage. A July 17, 2015 photo shows the tails of four American Airlines passenger planes parked at Miami International Airport. Alan Diaz / Associated Press