2014 saw substantive (and mostly negative) changes to the frequent flyer programs of two of American’s main competitors: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. These changes took two primary forms:
- Frequent flyers were required to meet (increasing) demands for minimum annual spending with their airline
- Mileage earning was reduced for most flyers by tying it to the amount spent on tickets instead of the distance flown
While American Airlines also made some changes, these draconian items thankfully were not among them. As an American spokeswoman told me, the airline is focused on its merger integration with US Airways as opposed to the “innovation” going on at Delta and United.
Hence we have the 2015 AAdvantage program, which remains industry leading, especially when compared to Delta and United’s offerings. The bullet points:
- The American Airlines and US Airways programs will combine in the second quarter of 2015
- The AA AAdvantage program will be the surviving program going forward for the combined airline
- Elite qualifying miles can be earned on either airline for the soon-to-arrive combined program
- Upgrades will be a little complicated in the short-term, but specifics can be found here
Make no mistake: Delta and United are in an apparent race to the bottom when it comes to travel loyalty. While rewarding their biggest spenders is a noble goal, both airlines have made the mistake of discounting leisure and semi-frequent business travelers, which will come back to hurt them in the long-term. At least for its 2015 program, American is not following its competitors down the rabbit hole of loyalty program devaluation. And if enough of us tell American we’re flying them for that reason, we may have a good old fashioned competition on our hands for years to come. In an age of airline consolidation we can only hope for as much.