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American Airlines adds spending minimum for elite frequent-flier status

If you want elite status in American Airlines’ frequent-flier program, it’s going to cost you.

On Monday, the Fort Worth-based carrier announced it’s adding a minimum-spending requirement of at least $3,000 as it unveiled details of transitioning AAdvantage to a revenue-based mileage-accrual program.

The shift in awarding miles based on how much a customer spends for airfare instead of how many miles they travel follows similar changes at Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Both Delta and United also have instituted minimum-spending requirements in their frequent-flier programs.

“Through these program changes, the more you spend in travel, the more benefits we will offer,” said Bridget Blaise-Shamai, American’s managing director of customer insights and loyalty.

AAdvantage members will be able to begin earning miles based on ticket price starting Aug. 1. American announced last fall that the changes were coming to the program, which has more than 100 million members.

To obtain Gold status, AAdvantage members will have to earn 25,000 elite-qualifying miles and spend $3,000. Platinum status will require 50,000 miles and $6,000 in spending, and Executive Platinum status will require 100,000 miles and $12,000. The elite status levels bring various perks, including free checked bags and priority boarding privileges.

AAdvantage members reacting on social media said they were disappointed with the new program. One frequent flier from Texas tweeted he felt like his status as a Platinum member had been downgraded and is worthless now.

American is also creating a new status level called Platinum Pro that will require 75,000 miles and spending $9,000. Members can begin earning that status Jan. 1. Platinum Pro members will receive complimentary upgrades and two free checked bags.

The company also said upgrade priorities will change in 2017. Instead of basing upgrade lists on what time a passenger checks in, it will be based on the elite member’s qualifying miles total, sorted by status level. Executive Platinum members will also be able to use their complimentary upgrades on award tickets.

When American was merging US Airways’ Dividend Miles frequent-flier program into AAdvantage last year, Blaise-Shamai said, the company was focused on the integration and did not want to make any dramatic changes. But it had offered a promotion to customers who spent more on tickets to reward them with more miles for the past 18 months. After observing customer behavior, she said, American chose to change to a revenue-based mileage-accrual program.

“It’s really how can we more structurally change the program to compete for the yielding customer, and this was the way to do it,” Blaise-Shamai said.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk