American Airlines was the only airline out of the “Big 3 plus US Airways” that didn’t have an elite level at 75,000 elite-qualifying miles. It was pretty obvious that would be high on the priority list when the merger of American Airlines and US Airways closed. As things settled down last year, they did just that. Thus was born Platinum Pro status.
I was disappointed to learn that folks who earned 75,000 elite-qualifying miles in 2016 would not receive Platinum Pro status in 2017. It appears American may have had a plan….
My father was one of several people I’ve talked to who’s been offered the new Platinum Pro status in 2017, for a price:
He’s not the only one. Bryce Griffler on Twitter told me that he received an offer for $1,749 to purchase Platinum Pro.
— Bryce Griffler (@bgriffler) January 10, 2017
Different Offers For Different Travelers
My father was Executive Platinum in 2016. He earned 71,000 EQMs, falling short of both EXP and Platinum Pro. He was shooting for 75K EQMs on American until I told him that he wouldn’t earn Platinum Pro in 2017. With no motivation to continue pushing to 75K, he booked the flights that were most convenient to him.
His Platinum Pro offer is $650 less than Bryce’s, which makes sense given he had higher status than Bryce in 2016. Bryce confirmed he was a Platinum member with 60K EQMs. I would guess my father’s offer is one on the lowest prices to buy Platinum Pro.
ETA: While writing this post, I noticed that Ben at One Mile at a Time posted on the same subject. The reader he cites was Executive Platinum in 2016 and received a buy-up offer of $899. I’m guessing he had more EQMs than my father last year. However, I know American was testing dynamic offers for status recently, so this could just be an A/B test.
Is It Worth It?
That’s a very subjective question. For my father, he thinks he’ll have at least 10 round-trips on American Airlines this year in the domestic US. If he cleared half of those with complimentary upgrades, that would be about $200 an itinerary. For long flights to California, that’s totally worth it. To Charlotte and back? Less so. On whole, I think my father can get $1,099 in value out of earning extra miles and getting a few upgrades. But, I don’t think he’ll earn $2,000 or more in value. I’m pretty sure he’ll buy it, and that’s probably the right decision.
The Final Two Pennies
I think American Airlines is making a misstep here. They’re essentially betting that these customers that fall between Platinum and Executive Platinum value status more than American Airlines values them. These customers aren’t folks who fly American Airlines once a year. In my father’s case, he had at least a dozen paid flights on American Airlines in 2016. While he’s price-sensitive, he’s not a bargain shopper.
Offering these folks Platinum Pro for free only costs the airline money if they book a ticket. In those situations, they’d earn more miles than if they were just Platinum members (essentially 20% more miles). You could also argue that a complimentary upgrade “costs” American Airlines something. For starters, I don’t think Platinum Pro members are going to be earning a whole lot of free upgrades in 2017. Second, that’s a small price to pay for an incremental paid ticket. And, it’s not 100% clear it’s a price if the seat was being given to a Platinum or Gold member who was using complimentary 500-mile upgrade awards.
The right move here was to give Executive Platinum members a soft landing to Platinum Pro if they earned enough EQMs to qualify for it in 2016. I’m guessing American prioritized pushing Executive Platinum members to re-qualify for EXP last year over trying to give them an easier path to Platinum Pro in 2017.
Short-term cash versus long-term loyalty is very much the MO currently at American.
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