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?