What are the Frequent Flyer Program alternatives to American Advantage for Aussies?

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Dear All

Has anyone had any luck getting around the drastic and infuriating changes to American Airlines qualification rules for Aussie members wanting to earning elite Advantage status?   They are so punitive for Aussie flyers that I’m seriously thinking about switching my allegiance to a new frequent flyer programme.

The first infuriating change is that “You must fly at least four segments on American Airlines (AA) or American Eagle (AE) to qualify for Executive Platinum, Platinum or Gold status within the qualifying year”?   I only discovered this after putting my AA FF number on return business class Finnair flights to England in October.  My account now shows 39,829 AA points earned, which should have earned me Gold status at 25,000 points, yet my status level is a big fat blank.   Why?  Because I haven’t flown 4 segments on AA or AE metal, which is very easy to do if you live in the States.  Much harder and MUCH more expensive to achieve if you live Down Under.

The second infuriating change is that they’ve scrapped the Platinum Challenge.  I’d very carefully researched and paid for return business class flights to both the UK (Finnair) and South America (Qantas) this year which cumulatively would have earned me AA Platinum status.   I actually paid $400 more to fly Qantas, rather than LAN for SYD-SCL-SYD as the AA customer service office in Sydney had assured me, prior to booking and paying for my flights that they would definitely qualify me for Platinum status whereas the LAN flights wouldn’t.  But when I rang 6 days later to enrol in the Platinum Challenge, I was advised that it had been been “cancelled indefinitely”.  To say I am furious would be an understatement!

To add salt to the wound, AA recently sent my husband an email offering to extend his Gold Status for a further year if we paid USD699.  How can it be possible to buy gold status for USD 699 *without flying on AA or AE metal*, but not possible to earn Gold (or Platinum) status after spending $20,000 on fares?

If you’ve had any luck in getting AA to grant you Gold or Platinum status without flying 4 segments on AA or AE metal, and without paying USD699 per person, please let me know how you did it!

If it’s not possible, I will definitely be switching my allegiance to another FF program as I feel as though I’ve been thoroughly shafted.  Any recommendations on good FF alternatives to AA for Aussies who fly business internationally, but who don’t visit the US much?

Thanks everyone

 

 

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Dear Michael

Thank you so much for answering my question so comprehensively and helpfully.  You have completely revolutionised my attitude towards collecting FF miles and I am incredibly grateful to you for all your suggestions (which I shall follow up).  No more allegiance to one FF programme for me!!

Thank you again for taking so much trouble to set me straight

Kindest regards

redmia

 

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Beyond Michael’s excellent response, the only other thing I’d emphasise is to get planning on redeeming your AA miles for trips you could take any time up to around January 2017 (the end of the booking window for flights booked just before the changes kick in in mid March). At least that way you can maximise the value of the balance you do have now.

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Dear Michael

Many thanks for your response.

For the past 10 years, I’ve given my allegiance to American Airlines (and hence Oneworld) as AA required about 1/2 the number of points as QF for J class international redemptions on the same metal.  However, since AA’s recent massive devaluation of points, I am now prepared to switch my allegiance to any FF program or alliance that gives me a more generous earn & burn rate.

My husband and I fly internationally (for leisure, not business) at least once every year in paid J class (mostly to the UK and/or South America).  We have been stockpiling AA miles for retirement (between us we have about 1.3 million miles) and I now realise the utter folly of that decision as we would have been much better off redeeming them for reward flights and foregoing status!  I’m wondering which FF program we should credit our LAN J class SYD-SCL-SYD fares to in December/January if we don’t credit them to AA?  Status is secondary to miles earned, but Oneworld status is useful for our various Y class flights within in South America due to the extra baggage allowance that it entitles us to.   Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Thanks

redmia

 

  • Ok. Much clearer now. So my understanding is you and your husband fly in J regularly for leisure and have accumulated 1.3M AA miles, but mostly from OW partners, not really on AA metals, correct? And you were saving up the miles hoping to do a dream trip of a life time after retirement, but now forced to bring it forward because of the devaluation. So you are looking to store up future miles to another program.

    I know you must feel betrayed by AA that after all these years of loyalty and they simply devalue your hard earned miles. Unfortunately that’s the problem with any miles. They will devalue over time. It’s one of the worst form of investment. Regardless which program you decide to deposit your miles now, it will definitely devalue at some stage.

    So the number one rule amongst us mileage game players is never stockpile miles. Earn them and burn them at the same rate so you will get the best out of it. I have 4 trips coming up next year all in J or F, (twice to USA actually) all on miles so cost me less than $4000 in total. And I rarely have more than 100k miles in a single account.

    Second rule is, we never put all eggs in one basket. Just like any investment, you need to diversify. So most of us have miles over several programs. That doesn’t mean we have a couple of thousand here and there and never enough for any redemption. Rather we have enough miles for one or two redemptions on each program over different alliances, as each program has it’s own strength and shortcomings, so depend on needs we redeem the best option, and it also increase the chances of finding availability. (for instance, you want to burn up your 1.3million miles before Mar 16, but other AA members would be thinking the same thing. So you will be competing the already limited seat with them. What are you going to do if you can’t find any seats that you want? If no seats the 1.3m miles means nothing. Whereas if you had deposited half of that to, say United, then you can look into Star Alliance and see if you can find seats to the destination you want)

    Thirdly, most of our stock piled miles/points are in flexible currency. These are generally credit card points that do not expire, and can be transferred to multiple programs. So we only transfer what we need to redeem. (And this is where we get most of our miles from, very few of us earn from flying).

    In a nutshell, we do not have loyalty to any particular airlines and therefore never feel betrayed!(and also no status….)

    Anyway, with those general principles in mind, it might help you to decide how you are gonna credit your points to from now. If I were you, these are the things I might do:
    1. Start using those 1.3 million points. They are gonna worth half as much by Mar next year. The best one to use AA miles is Etihad first class, especially if you can score the A380 apartment. That’s really an experience not many people will have. Remember, you don’t have to travel by Mar. In fact, you can probably cancel your paid ticket and use the miles to redeem for the same trip (if you can find availability).
    2. Do you have a credit card that coverts points to frequent flyer miles? If not, you should look into getting one. This will help you decide on which FFP to deposit your miles to as you can top up miles with your credit card rather than really flying. Eg. Some programs may have very attractive redemption chart (eg. Asiana or Japan airlines) but it’s quite hard to earn miles on them other than flying, so they may not be the best program.

    So really there is no simple answer as to which FFP is best as a replacement of AA because everything has it’s strength and weakness. Even after AA devaluation, there is still value in AA such as redemption to Asia is still good and between Japan and US. At least they are still cheaper than Qantas. But if your case, I probably won’t deposit anymore into AA as you have more than enough miles than you can redeem.

    If I really have to pick one based on the ease of earn and burn, I would pick Kris Flyer from Singapore Airlines and Asia Miles from Cathay pacific. The reason being both are relatively cheaper than Qantas and Virgin, and their miles can be easily earned from credit cards, although each one still has it’s own shortcomings. (And there is always the possibility they will devalue) But if you get a credit card that earns points that’s transferable to either programs, then you can top up whatever number of miles you need to get the redemption.

    As to your second question, do you already have status with AA now? If you do, what you can do is try status matching. At the moment 2 airlines are doing it; Alitalia and Avianca Brazil, they are in Skyteam and star alliance respectively. For your trip to South America, Avianca Brazil is probably more suitable. But there is no harm in getting both matched. Etihad may also match it if you ask. Currently there is no OW member that offer status match but I’m sure in the next year or so there will be another one. By then you can use one of the above to match again even if your AA status has expired.

    If you don’t have it and all you really need is the 4 segments, and you really like to have status, it’s probably worth while use some of your AA miles to fly to US (if you can find a seat) and just make 4 quick short runs like LAX to LAS or SFO. This is what we call status run. It’s silly but if status is important to you. then it’s worth doing it. To me, on the other hand, I find status useless as I always fly in F or J using miles so I always get lounge access and extra baggage. (Which for your South American trip, you can consider to burn off some of your AA points that way by redeeming J within South America)

    Anyway, sorry for the long reply and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you. I wish there would be a simple answer that there is really a replacement for AA. But there isn’t.

    Maybe someone else may have a different view.

    Hope that helps.

  • Addition:

    Just to clarify so you don’t confuse. When I mentioned Kris Flyer I don’t mean credit your trip to SCL to KF. It doesn’t work because Singapore air is star alliance, not OW. What I meant to say was, in the future when you do your leisure trip with your husband, you can consider fly Singapore air or other star alliance partners and deposit miles in KF. But for your QF flight to SCL you certainly can deposit into Asia miles.

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Welcome to PH community

To answer your question, first we need to know is there a particular airline (hence alliance) that your company is affiliated with? Can you fly whatever airline you want? To me it sounds like you are affiliated with Oneworld airlines?

Secondly, when you credit your miles, what are you after? Status or miles for flight redemptions? It sounds to me that you are after status, am I correct?

Based on the information you have given, I would say it’s probably best to credit your flights to our very own Qantas. I know for non frequent travelers it’s hard to achieve gold. But in your case, your flight to SCL in Qantas business class would’ve earned you 320 status credit. So 2 roundtrips would have earned you 640 which is very close to gold. Then as you said you travel a lot for business, the extra 60 credits can be easily earned with a round trip to New Zealand.

But if you don’t have to stick to one airline, then Virgin’s velocity is easier to attain status. They allow family pooling and you only need 500 status credits to attain gold. So for your trip to South America, just one roundtrip with you and your husband would be enough to earn gold status. Of course there are also minimal eligible flights needed (it’s 4), being an Australian airline, it’s not hard to do it as you said for Americans to fly AA.

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