American Airlines is killing off AAdvantage 500-mile upgrade credits. Effective from Wednesday, March 2, 2022, all elites will have access to unlimited upgrades. The move comes as the company finalizes the relaunch of its newly simplified AAdvantage program, with Loyalty Points as the earnings metric for elite status going forward.
We recognize the path to earning status is different for each individual, which is why we’re giving members more ways to earn Loyalty Points.– Alison Taylor, American’s Chief Customer Officer
Under the previous program rules all AAdvantage Gold and Platinum tier members had to request upgrades for domestic flights, redeeming credits in 500 mile travel chunks for the potential to fly up front. Those credits were earned as part of a member’s elite tier benefits or could be purchased.
With the new rules all elites will immediately gain access to those same upgrades without redeeming any credits. If flying with a companion the E500s can still be redeemed for that passenger, at least for now.
By the end of the year American aims to offer complimentary upgrades to a companion traveling with the elite member as well. At that time any remaining E500s in an account will convert to 250 Loyalty points towards qualification status for next year.
The move brings American more in line with how United Airlines and Delta Air Lines process their upgrade lists. And while some lower tier elites have endorsed the legacy process as making it more likely they could clear on particular flights because not everyone would try to redeem credits, there is minimal evidence to suggest it really skews the clearance rates one way or another.
My personal experience has only ever seen a Gold upgrade clear once or twice over several years, including travel during the very low demand periods of the pandemic.
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