A very interesting AAdvantage survey. Status based on spend?

American Airlines Survey


A couple of weeks ago I received an email from American asking me to take a survey:

As one of our valued customers, we appreciate your opinions and loyalty to American Airlines. We would like to invite you to participate in a 25 minute customer survey about your travel behavior, preferences and participation in airline loyalty programs.

I’ve received surveys before and they’re usually about a recent flight experience, but this one was different in that it asked me to rate my satisfaction with current AAdvantage program benefits and to offer my views on some hypothetical perks.

The survey went on to ask the same question over and over:

Please think about what you would like to experience or continue to experience with your frequent flyer program in the future. This feature might exist at either the American Airlines AAdvantage program or at another frequent flyer program, or it might not yet exist at any of today’s programs. Considering only the following five features, which is your Most preferred and which is your Least preferred feature?

Each time listing five of these answers in a seemingly random rotation:

Access to “cheap” award tickets.(e.g., able to access low mileage award flights)
Airport lounge access
Complimentary domestic upgrades.(based on upgrade seat availability)
Complimentary same-day standby travel
Dedicated support line.(exclusive phone numbers for elite members)
Difficult-to-attain elite levels.(only for most frequent travelers)
Earn miles/points through partners.(credit card, car rental, etc.)
Earn status through partner airline activity
Easy-to-reach first elite tier.(5 trips to silver/gold)
Elite-status options through partner programs.(e.g. earn status through credit card spend)
Free mileage transfers / sharing.(including “household accounts”)
Free premium economy seating.(more leg room, front of cabin)
Frequent promotions.(e.g. bonus miles, reduced mileage awards)
Gift status.(give status to a friend / family member)
Higher earn rates for elite members.(more redeemable miles for elite members)
International upgrade options.(e.g. Systemwide upgrade, Global Premier upgrade based on upgrade seat availability)
No blackout dates on award tickets.(award tickets always available if seats are being sold)
Partner redemption options.(redeem for gift cards, car rentals, etc.)
Priority check-in, security, and boarding for elites
Priority upgrades for elite members
Redemption options on partner airlines.(earn free flights inside partnership alliance)
Soft landing for elite status.(only move down by one status level per year)
Spend-based earning of redeemable miles.(earn points/miles based on airline dollars spent)
Spend-based elite status.(earn status based on airline dollars spent)
Upgrade options on award travel
Waived baggage fees.(first two bags free)
Waived booking fees on award travel
Waived change fees on award travel

Perhaps the most interesting question came near the end:

To what extent do you agree that frequent flyer programs should assign elite status based on each of the following?

Choose one: Points. Segments. Mileage.

or Spend….

It felt like the one question that they wanted to ask but didn’t was, “How would you feel if we increased your elite benefits but based your status on how much you spend?”

Is AAdvantage moving to a spend based elite status program? ┬áProbably at some point….but with the merger I think it delays the inevitable for a bit.


  1. I think American is testing the waters to see if they can get away with a similar program Delta is implementing next year – that you need to spend as well as travel to get status – here is an article about it…


    to me the most disturbing thing is that spend is based on Pre-Taxes price – so if you depend on Transatlantic Trips to get to your level – it makes it much harder to achieve.

  2. I can see them restructuring the program by devaluing the currency and simultaneouly increasing the bonuses for full fare and C fares. I can’t see them introducing a tier points system as with B A.

  3. I actually commented about this a couple of days ago on this same blog. Both airlines and passengers must know the difference between a frequent flyer and an elite flyer. Don’t get me wrong — I believe both should have benefits, but those benefits should be different from one another.

    Of course, many frequent travelers will fall into the elite flyer pool, but not all. Conversely, not all elite flyers are necessarily frequent travelers, but those rarely cause anybody a problem.

    Therefore, it must be defined that a frequent traveler is the one that may get x number of segments per year but does not give the airline enough cash in order for the airline to give back to that passenger through elite benefits. These types of flyers need to have certain benefits (debatable as to which benefits those are) but definitely NOT elite benefits.

    On the other hand, an elite traveler needs to be defined as one that gives the airline x number of dollars per year with x amount of minimum segments flown, and/or a flyer that frequently travels specific routes that are revenue drivers for the airline (in which case the airline can justify giving this flyer something back through elite benefits).

    The tiers and conditions for each would be based on simple math.

    Of course you would get a lot of whiners by doing this but in reality everybody wins as passengers know where they stand and what they can expect because they treat program members in accordance to their true travel patterns in a way that makes sense. In the end we all have smaller lines at check ins/security points/boarding, less whiners, less money wasted by the airline, simplified loyalty programs, and less posts on flyertalk! LOL.

  4. I would get rid of partner EQM’s (credit card spend, mortgages, shopping sprees,etc) and focus the tier status based on BIS miles. That would help remedy top tier dilution. And it may not be necessary to go to a revenue based tier system. However, “money talks” in any language.

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