As I've opined here and elsewhere, American's AAdvantage program is no longer the undisputed leader among travel loyalty programs.
With the most members, yes, AAdvantage is the biggest program. With the most partners, yes, it's the most robust. And with the earliest launch date, yes, it's the oldest.
But when it comes to innovating, United is the new American.
Just this week, the difference between American and United was highlighted by competing program developments.
As reported here, United announced on Tuesday that henceforth its Economy Plus premium seats will be reserved mostly for elite members of the Mileage Plus program.
American also made a significant announcement this week. Effective immediately, AAdvantage members can earn miles for opening and funding new Fidelity non-retirement brokerage accounts. Mileage is awarded as follows: 5,000 miles for a deposit of $2,500 to $9,999, 15,000 miles for $10,000 to $49,999, and 25,000 miles for deposits of $50,000 or more.
A significant number of miles in a solid program for investing with one of the world's largest, most respected financial companies. Nice!
In fact, both are positive developments for members of the two carriers' respective programs.
But viewed in terms of the day-to-day impact on their program members, United's move is of an entirely different order of magnitude than American's.
Where American has simply added another opportunity to its already extensive partner roster, United has committed some of its most valuable inventory, premium coach seats, to its most loyal customers.
American's move allows its members to earn more miles; United's rewards its members with a meaningful travel benefit.
And by the way, yes, Mileage Plus members can also earn miles for investing with Fidelity.