With the merger and integration between American and US Airways underway, I know a lot of people are trying to figure out the best way to maximize status with the new airline. Both American and US Airways offer “shortcuts” to achieving status in their respective frequent flyer programs, so I thought it might make sense to compare the various options.
US AIRWAYS DIVIDEND MILES PREFERRED STATUS OPTIONS
Historically US Airways has been one of the few programs to outright sell you top tier status. It used to be that you could buy their Chairman’s Preferred status for $3,999, while if you credited even a single mile to their program you can buy it for $2,999. The more miles you’ve credited to US Airways, the lower the cost of buying up is.
- You’ll only be able to buy up to a tier that you are within 25,000 miles or 30 flight segments of reaching
- The fees for buying up to status have increased, nearly doubling in some cases
Here’s the new Buy Up To Preferred chart:
So not only have the prices gone up, but it’s no longer possible to go from no status to top tier status without stepping foot on a plane.
In addition to the Buy Up To Preferred program, US Airways also offers a Trial Preferred Status Challenge. Through this program US Airways gives you the status upfront, with the following charges:
- Dividend Miles Silver Preferred status costs $200
- Dividend Miles Gold Preferred status costs $400
- Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred status costs $600
Your US Airways status beyond the 90 day trial period is determined by how much flying you do in that 90 day period:
- If you fly 7,500 miles or 10 segments you get Dividend Miles Silver Preferred
- If you fly 15,000 miles or 20 segments you get Dividend Miles Gold Preferred
- If you fly 22,500 miles or 30 segments you get Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred
- If you fly 30,000 miles or 40 segments you get Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred
So you could pay $200 for a Silver Preferred Status Challenge, fly 30,000 miles within 90 days, and end up with Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred status. This is likely a better strategy than paying for a higher level of status from the outset.
AMERICAN AADVANTAGE STATUS CHALLENGES
In general an American AAdvantage status challenge isn’t quite as lucrative as either the Buy Up to Preferred or Trial Preferred offerings from US Airways, though may still make sense in certain situations.
Which status can be achieved through an American status challenge?
You can achieve American AAdvantage Gold or Platinum status through a status challenge.
There’s no published status challenge for Executive Platinum, though if you have equivalent status with Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus, AAdvantage customer service will sometimes offer them on a case-by-case basis.
Who is eligible for an American status challenge?
If you currently have status with American you can’t use it as a way to requalify for status, though you can use it as a way to bump up from Gold to Platinum status.
How many miles have to be flown to achieve an American status challenge?
Completion of the challenge is based on Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs) and not Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). You need to earn a set number of EQPs within 90 days of starting the challenge to earn the status (you can start your challenge on the 1st or 16th of any month):
- AAdvantage Gold challenge: 5,000 EQPs
- AAdvantage Platinum challenge: 10,000 EQPs
As you can see, while you earn one Elite Qualifying Mile per flown revenue mile, you earn anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 Elite Qualifying Points per revenue mile flown.
This means that to complete a Platinum Challenge, for example, you could need to fly anywhere from 6,667 miles (in paid first class, business class, or full fare economy) to 20,000 miles (in the cheapest discount economy fare classes).
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that only miles flown on certain airlines count towards an AAdvantage status challenge:
American Airlines Iberia Qantas British Airways Japan Airlines US Airways
How do I enroll and what are the fees for an American status challenge?
You can enroll for an AAdvantage status challenge by calling AAdvantage customer service at (800) 882-8880.
The fees for enrolling are as follows:
- AAdvantage Gold challenge: $120
- AAdvantage Platinum challenge: $240
It’s worth noting that you don’t get the status upfront, unlike with US Airways. You only receive the status you’re “challenging” for upon completion of the challenge.
However, it’s worth noting that you can pay to upgrade from a Gold Challenge to a Platinum Challenge, and you can also downgrade from a Platinum Challenge to a Gold Challenge, though you won’t be refunded the difference in fees.
How long is status earned through a challenge valid for?
If you begin your status challenge before June 16 and end up completing it, status is valid through February of the following year.
If you begin your status challenge on or after June 16 and end up completing it, status is valid for the remainder of the year, the entire following year, and until February the year after.
So generally you’re best off completing a challenge in the second half of the year in order to maximize status.
Does doing a challenge provide a shortcut to Executive Platinum status?
Say you do a Platinum Challenge and earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points. This doesn’t mean your mileage balance will be updated to 50,000 EQPs since you earn Platinum status.
While your status earning is accelerated, the actual Elite Qualifying Miles and Points balances aren’t.
This means you’d still have to earn the full 100,000 Elite Qualifying Miles or Elite Qualifying Points in order to earn Executive Platinum status.
What are the major differences between AAdvantage Platinum over AAdvantage Gold status?
So is it worth going for a Platinum Challenge over a Gold Challenge? Here are a few of the major differences:
- AAdvantage Platinum gets a 100% mileage bonus, while AAdvantage Gold gets 25% mileage bonus
- AAdvantage Platinum gets lounge access when traveling internationally, while AAdvantage Gold doesn’t
- AAdvantage Platinum members receive complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating at the time of booking, while AAdvantage Gold can access Main Cabin Extra seating 24 hours prior to departure
- AAdvantage Platinums have higher priority (for standby, upgrades, etc.) than AAdvantage Golds
Check out the AAdvantage program page for full details on the difference between status levels.
Status challenges can be a great way to get to status fast if you’re just starting out.
Now that the AAdvantage and Dividend Miles programs are merging, you have three options for getting a “shortcut” to elite status. Hopefully this post helps you decide which works best for you!