American Launches Elite-Oriented Promotions

For the second time this year, American is offering AAdvantage members double elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) for flights on American, American Eagle, and AmericanConnection. The offer is in effect between September 2 and December 15, and registration is required.

Note that, while the miles do count toward elite status, they cannot be redeemed for awards. That was also the case with American's double-EQM offer earlier this year.

In addition, and in contrast to the earlier promotion, American is offering so-called Elite Rewards. These are supplementary bonuses for elite members who exceed the qualification threshold for a particular tier but fall short of reaching the next level, as follows:

  • Gold members who earn 40,000 to 49,999 EQMs during 2009 can select one of the following: two 500-mile upgrades; one set of luggage tags; one Admirals Club day pass; or 7,500 AAdvantage bonus miles.
  • Platinum members earning between 75,000 and 99,999 EQMs can choose one of the following: four 500-mile upgrades; two Admirals Club day passes; 15,000 AAdvantage bonus miles; or the opportunity to reward a friend with AAdvantage Gold status for one year.
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  • And Executive Platinum members who earn 125,000 EQMs will have a choice of two of the following: two one-way Systemwide Upgrades; a one-year Admirals Club membership; 25,000 AAdvantage bonus miles; or the opportunity to reward a friend with AAdvantage Gold status for one year.

These elite bonuses are an attempt to address the problem of elite members who qualify for a particular elite tier but have no hope of earning enough miles to reach the next elite level. For such in-betweeners, there's no incentive to continue racking up EQMs in that program, and many savvy travelers shift allegiance to another carrier, setting their sights on achieving elite status there.

Delta recently tackled that problem with its new policy of allowing SkyMiles members to rollover elite miles from one year to the next, the way some cell phone companies allow unused minutes to be pushed into the next month's allocation. Such a permanent program change is probably a better approach than American's limited-time bonus offer.

Still, American's Elite Rewards—especially in combination with the double EQMs—will result in more consumers getting more for their money, so questions of slightly more or less value are largely moot.

When American launched a double-EQM promotion in March, it was quickly matched by United and Continental, with Delta weighing in somewhat later with a significantly less generous elite offer of its own.

With business travel still in the doldrums, other airlines can't afford to stand by and watch while American poaches their best customers with these elite promotions. So there's no question that they will feel pressure to respond. What remains to be seen is when, and how generous their counter-offers will be.

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