Big American AAdvantage Announcement Coming?

JonNYC posted the following on TravelingBetter.com yesterday:

“AAdvantage program announcement” scheduled for 11/5 delayed till next week

Now, JonNYC is “in the know” and almost always spot on. That’s literally all the information he provided (and possibly all the information he knows), so we can either patiently wait for a week or speculate to our hearts’ content.

I have no clue what’s going to happen, but let’s do a bit of speculating. Realistically there are a few options that I can think of (though if anyone has any others, please share them in the comments below):

  • American could be devaluing their AAdvantage award redemption chart
  • American could be adding a revenue requirement for status, as Delta and United have announced in the past year
  • American could be restructuring AAdvantage program benefits
  • American could be announcing a new hotel partnership, maybe with Hilton?

Let’s go through these one by one:

American could be devaluing their AAdvantage award redemption chart

Both Delta and United have announced award chart devaluations recently. Delta announced a mild award chart devaluation (at least by comparison) back in August, which kicks in next June, while United announced an award chart devaluation last week, which kicks in next February.

Compared to Delta and United, American’s new chart is a bargain and ripe for devaluation.

So there are two streams of thought I have as far as the potential timing of this goes. It could make sense for American to devalue their award chart now. If the devaluation is milder than United’s, it’ll pale in comparison and people won’t be angry. If it’s similar to United’s, at least they’re not the only one taking the heat.

Conversely, it could make sense for American not to inflate their award chart right now. There are a lot of disgruntled United flyers that American could be welcoming with open arms. And to be honest, when American does devalue their award chart I don’t think it will be as bad as United’s devaluation given that they don’t partner with a major program like Chase Ultimate Rewards (my guess is there aren’t nearly as many outstanding American miles as United miles, though I could be wrong).

So if I had to guess I’d say the announcement probably isn’t an award chart devaluation, since I think they’d be wise to first seem like the “good guy.” Furthermore, with the merger up in the air, it seems a lot smarter to just create a new award chart if/when the merger is official.

American could be adding a revenue requirement for status, as Delta and United have announced in the past year

In January Delta announced an elite status revenue requirement as of 2014, and United announced something similar in June. On one hand I’m tempted to believe this is the announcement, but at the same time announcing it with less than two months notice doesn’t seem reasonable. Delta did the right thing announcing it a year in advance. Still, it seems odd that American would be the only carrier not to introduce such a requirement, given that they already have the most generous elite program of any US airline, with or without a revenue requirement.

American could be restructuring AAdvantage program benefits

I suppose it’s also possible they could be adjusting elite program benefits. For example, they could be:

  • Adding a fourth elite tier, like Delta, United, and US Airways have
  • Adjusting the upgrade policy (maybe offering all elite members complimentary upgrades rather than using the current “sticker” system, or changing the current systemwide upgrade policy for Executive Platinum members)
  • Adjusting the elite mileage bonuses
  • Scrapping the Elite Qualifying Point/Elite Qualifying Miles program, which would ultimately make status easier to qualify for

This could ultimately amount to neutral changes for the average flyer, so may not be viewed as totally negative news. They could quietly start aligning their program to US Airways’ a bit without mirroring them exactly, simply by offering four elite tiers, adjusting their complimentary upgrade policy, etc.

American could be announcing a new hotel partnership, maybe with Hilton?

While the above all seem plausible, at the same time it seems silly for American to potentially make negative changes. The DOJ is most concerned about protecting consumers, and as they seem to be making some headway with the merger it seems silly to make an announcement that would disadvantage consumers. A little bit of goodwill towards consumers may even go a long with the DOJ.

So I suppose a pretty harmless change could be an announcement of a new hotel partner, probably Hilton. Back in February Delta and Starwood announced a partnership, while in July United and Marriott announced a partnership. Delta and Starwood have American Express in common, United and Marriott have Chase in common, and American and Hilton have Citi in common. So I’m sure some partnership will be formed at some point, the question is just when.

Anyway, all rampant speculation on my part. What do you guys potentially think the announcement will be?

Devaluation

Comments

  1. Wouldn’t the announcements be for positive events?
    and negative program changes quietly implemented.

    What about a new AAdvantage Airline parnter..drum roll please….USAirways

    Settle. Partner and then work through the details to close the marger.

  2. Would they dare do a devaluation effective immediately? I am wondering if I should do a couple bookings for xmas 2014 now and change dates later.

  3. Agreed re the positive change, and I think it’ll be a partnership with Hilton. Did anyone else get the HHonors Gold offer for AA elites a few weeks back? (I’ve never had HHonors status). Three stays for Gold, 5 stays for 25k AA miles, so quite the promotion. I imagine they were trying to drum up some loyalty in advance of some kind of reciprocal partnership.

  4. Don’t tell anyone but they’re giving me a million miles. Because i’m a nice guy. Shhh till next week.

  5. I can’t imagine American would do anything negative at the moment given the positive turn settlement talks about the merger seem to have taken.

  6. All these “crossover” partnerships with hotels are awkward. Unlike airlines, hotel pricing is anything but commoditized, so staying loyal to one chain can easily mean paying a REALLY large premium

    of course, if someone else is footing the bill, why not.

  7. I just don’t see them introducing any huge negative change so close to the DOJ antitrust lawsuit. In fact, I wonder whether the timing of the United announcement was specifically to try to influence the American merger.

  8. @ anon — If it is an award chart devaluation I’d be willing to bet they’ll provide advance notice, so I wouldn’t rush to book anything.

  9. While DEQM crossed my mind, I guess my question is why would they delay that announcement? It seems pretty straightforward to implement and seems they’d want to announce it quickly after United’s devaluation. Just doesn’t seem like an announcement they’d delay by a week.

  10. Matt

    I”t has to be some amazing promotion to lure all the disgruntled United elites, right?”

    and shortly after they get the refugees raise the award limits

  11. if we book in Advance of AA devalue and change dates in the future, will AA charge mileage difference between old and new award chart ?

  12. The original source for this info was a respected member of the AA EXP Facebook group. It was subsequently posted elsewhere without attribution.

  13. @ Dom — The “respected member” of the EXP community that posted it was the same person that posted it on Traveling Better. ­čśë

  14. I think it might be a revenue requirement for elite status or a new partner. I can’t imagine they’d devalue the award chart or make any negative changes to elite benefits with the fate of the merger still uncertain.

  15. Hypothetical announcement: AAdvantage miles can be redeemed on US as US joins oneworld as soon as possible regardless of the outcome of the merger.

  16. I called today to find out the requirement for a status match/challenge. I asked a number of questions about the challenge and the person at the advantage desk said that there will be changes to the program that would affect the challenge as well. The impression that I got was that I should call to enroll asap.

  17. With this rumored change, is it crazy to be booking some CX F awards for next year and OneWorld Explorer or two? I don’t want to be caught with my pants down like Black Friday.

  18. @ TopGunner — It can never *hurt* to book a good redemption, but if they do change their award chart I imagine they’d give some advance notice.

  19. @Lucky – As a lifelong corporate man, I know that most of the guys at the top are lemmings and if they believe they can overcome bad news by saying the other guy did it too or was worse, they will take that pathway. Even if they really weren’t contemplating a devaluation and it was some other “enhancement” to the program this is as good a time as ever after the MP+ shock&awe.

    Clearly from the AG’s comments, the merger going through is all about what DCA slots are to be divested; forget consumer protection issues that doesn’t appear to be a factor in the negotiations.

  20. It would be great if it were DEQM; I’d status match immediately. Alternatively (though unlikely), an announcement toward expanding their relationship with AS to ward off DL would be welcome, too.

  21. AA hasn’t done a hotel elite link-up yet, as have UA and DL so it could be about that. Or it could be about crediting US flights to AA and vice versa laying the ground for merging of the two programs when the DOJ case gets kicked out of court and the merger is finalized.

    Suppose it could also just be the general requalification criteria for 2015 elite status…which could include a new 75K tier and a spend requirement.

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