Basic Questions About AA Gold Membership

Feb 6th, 2006, 04:26 PM
  #1  
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Basic Questions About AA Gold Membership

So it looks like I'll lose my gold membership at the end of February. I got an e-mail asking me whether I want to spend the money to renew it through the end of February 2007. I'm thinking that it's not worth it, though I've been enjoying the expedited checkin and the exit rows.

Now, what are these "Upgrades" that I see in my account? Do they expire when my Gold membership expires? How do they work?

You can see that I'm clueless.

Thanks.
111op is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 04:29 PM
  #2  
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I'm reading AA's website: "Upgrade requests for AAdvantage Gold members, AAirpass members, and non-elite members traveling on full-fare economy class tickets will be processed 24 hours prior to departure."

Now, does this mean that once I get "demoted" I can't really cash in my upgrades? (I assume that most economy fare tickets are not full-fare tickets?)

Thanks.
111op is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 05:11 PM
  #3  
 
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Your 500-mi upgrades don't expire, but they can only be used to upgrade higher-fare economy tickets (Y and B) and for yourself only; elites can use them for upgrading any economy fare.

The AAdvantage program has many benefits, some of which are "undocumented." Go visit the AA board at www.flyertalk.com before deciding to skip renewal or "buy back."
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 05:24 PM
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Thanks, Gradyloo.

Another silly question -- if I buy a ticket on Orbitz (usually quite discounted), I assume this is usually not a B or a Y fare, right?

I've heard about Flyertalk, but I think that it's too advanced for me (though I've not checked it out). Is there a quick summary somewhere of the "undocumented" benefits? Or could someone give a quick rundown? I don't think that I fly that much (see below for quick summary).

To give you a sense for how clueless I am, I've no idea when I qualified for Gold membership. I just went to AA's website tonight and I see that I need to fly 20,000 miles to maintain Gold membership (or fly 24 segments -- something like that).

Last year I went to Europe five times, and I flew on AA to London and Paris. The other three times I flew on three different airlines.

Are there really substantial benefits to Gold membership in my case, do people think?

I must admit that upgrade possibilities are enticing -- but is it really easy to do upgrades? My schedule is not really flexible (I try to travel to do long weekend trips to Europe).

As for travel plans this year, I flew to Paris on AA in January (about 7000 miles). I'm thinking of going to Paris again in the spring (have not bought tickets yet) -- presumably will try to fly AA. I did just check Orbitz for Feb long weekend to see if there're still good fares on AA (none left, it seems), but if there's an E-saver published next week, I may try to take advantage of it. I think it's quite unlikely though even though there've been E-savers from JFK in the past two or three weeks. But then I'm looking at a long weekend.

If I do hit 20,000 miles again this year, will Gold status start right away? In that case, that means expiration takes place in Feb 2007? I'm not sure, though, if I'll hit 20,000 miles this year (I'll basically have to fly AA two more times to Europe -- I don't really travel within the USA these days).

A lot of quetions, and quite basic, so I apologize if they seem too stupid. As I said, I've no clue.
111op is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 05:37 PM
  #5  
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Sorry: I guess it's 25000 miles for Gold membership (or points) -- but I think miles for my purpose since I don't think that I usually buy very deeply discounted tickets (so 1 mile = 1 point for my purpose).

JFK to Paris looks like 7620 miles r/t.

Now it looks like I was given 25% bonus miles -- is this from the Gold membership?

So I guess three trips to Paris/London won't quite do it. Now I'm wondering how I managed to qualify in the first place. Maybe I flew a lot in 2004 (I can't really recall though).

Thanks again.

111op is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:28 PM
  #6  
 
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111op - I don't know AA's elite system very well, so what I'm telling you is generic stuff that's common across the industry.

As you know, many people have FF cards, and some have lots of miles in their accounts, collected over the years, many through credit cards or other non-flying offers. But the airlines need to sort out those who are actually loyal customers. That was the whole idea to start with when AA created AAdvantage 20+ years ago. So, the airlines developed the "elite" program. [They go by various names, like UA's Premiere, DL's Medallion, etc; but the generic name is "elite".]

Most airlines have three levels of elitism. To qualify for elite, you need to either fly a certain number of "elite qualifing miles (EQM)" or a certain number of "elite qualifying segments". AA calls their EQM as points; but same thing.

The time frame works like this. Your EQM starts at ZERO on Jan 1 of each year. Once you qualify for a level, your status is good until Feb 28/29, 2 years later. For example, if you start collecting EQM today, and get your 25K by March 1, or October 23, or December 31; you'll become an elite immediately after your miles is posted for the flight that qualifies you. Doesn't need to wait until 1/1/07 to start. No, it starts immediately. And last until Feb 29, 2008.

If you didn't get 25K by Dec 31, 2006, then you don't get anything, and your EQM will revert to ZERO 1/1/07.

Most airlines' first and second level elites are at 25K and 50K per calendar year. For top level, some set it at 75K, some 100K. Depends on airline. And the names differ as well. For AA, they're called Gold, Platinum and Executive Plat. Most call them Silver, Gold, Platinum. Doens't matter.

As to benefits, once you're qualified as elite, these are common for most airlines:

- bonus miles (not EQM, just regular miles)
- preferrred seat assignments (specially important for UA members, as they can get the E+ seats with more legroom)
- dedicated check-in lines at selective airports
- dedicated security lines at hub airports
- pre-boarding
- priority baggage handling (and some have higher weight allownance)
- dedicated phone lines to talk to agents

So, you see, there are significant benefits. That's why if one flies quite a bit, it makes sense to stick to one airline and become at least the entry level elite.

Three JFK-CDG trips will get you almost 23,000 EQM. One more medium-haul domestic r/t will get you over. It's worth checking your EQM near the end of the year and decide if you should make a trip to qualify.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:36 PM
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Gold requires 25,000 "qualifying" miles or "qualifying" points (or a bunch of segments - one takeoff and landing = one segment.) Three trips across the Atlantic from most US airports would put you pretty close to 25K, so five would certainly have done it.

The 500-mi upgrades are only good on domestic routes (including Canada and the Caribbean) so if Europe is your main destination they wouldn't do you much good.

As for the "undocumented" features, you're better off visiting flyertalk.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 07:42 PM
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Oh yeah, I forgot about upgrades. Each airline will have some sort of program or policy to get the elites upgraded on domestic flight (based on status and fare code).

Also, if the airline has to op-up on international flights (i.e. overbooked in coach, while open seats up front), most will base that on elite status and fare code. So, being an elite at least give you a chance (though flying a discount fare as a entry level elite is not going to help much). But at least it's theoretically possible.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 6th, 2006, 09:12 PM
  #9  
 
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I second the advice to read the AA forum on Flyertalk. If you start by reading the "stickies" at the top of the AA forum you'll have learned just about everything you might want to know about the AAdvantage program and to get started.

Yes, there are some Flyertalkers with a lot of advanced knowledge, but there are plenty of newbies too.

Just two warnings:

1 - take the time to read the stickies and do some searching before you post questions - the FT crowd can be tough on newbies asking questions which are answered in the stickies. So take some time to read, lurk and learn.

2 - FT and the associated miles, points and status can be extremely habit forming and is potentially highly addictive
cjbryant is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 02:00 AM
  #10  
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Thanks. I know that I'm probably way too "fresh" for Flyertalk. I don't want to be chewed out. Also I know I'll become addicted. That's why I've not bothered with the forum.

By the way, I flew AA twice across the Atlantic last year (that's why the Gold membership is expiring), but I went to Europe five times. But out of curiosity I sat down and thought about the trips I made in 2004. I must flown AA four times then (to Paris and London twice each). So I must have qualified that year. As I understand it, the membership year ends in Feb of next year, but you get the following year too.

Since my trips across the Atlantic are usually quite short, I don't check any bags now. But it's nice to get quick checkin and to get the exit rows.

The upgrades sound quite useful. It'd be nice to try to get an upgrade for my mom and me when we fly together, for example. She deserves better.

However it takes $399 to renew the membership through Feb 2007. I think that I'll probably try to requalify this year instead. I do expect to fly across the Atlantic at least once -- probably twice. Will try to fly AA, I guess, as I like them and they've good connections to Paris and London.

111op is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 02:10 AM
  #11  
 
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Regarding airline upgrades in general - so many people have accumulated so many miles that upgrades may not always be possible, even if allowed with your mileage level/elite status - unless you are at one of the higher elite levels.

In general, those with higher elite levels get first crack at upgrades - and can request them further out from flight. So by the time you get 24 hours from flight time with only first level up from basic FF level, there may be no first class seats available.

I personally would not pay for maintenance of Gold level. If you fly a lot, you will re-earn it for next year. If you don't fly a lot, why pay for something you will not use much.

In your case, FF program is working as the airline hopes - they are establishing some preference or loyalty to a specific airline. Although I think most leisure travelers look at price, schedule and then airline.

Now, let's confuse you more. If you are going to be traveling much, look into hotel "frequent sleeper" programs. Some allow you to double dip - accrue points on both their program and that of an airline. Expiration dates of points is usually sooner than with airline programs if you do not stay in a hotel of that chain after a certain amount of time - but points can similarly be used for free rooms or upgrades.
gail is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 03:19 AM
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Thanks gail. I think that I'd agree with you -- a low-season airfare from NYC to Europe is not much more than $399. Seems a better use of my money.

And my usual hotel in Paris is 60 euros -- which I'm quite happy with.

I did just look at Flyertalk quickly. What's the deal with "challenges" to qualify for elite status? 5000 points for Gold or 10000 points for Platinum in 3 months? Seems awfully easy to do with one flight to Europe for me? Can't I use this backdoor method after my status expires?

That's just one flight to Europe -- unless for the challenges they're much more careful about fare classes.

Thanks.
111op is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 03:22 AM
  #13  
 
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I have no idea - but I am fairly certain AAFrequentFlyer will chime in here with good info soon - s/he is probably off traveling somewhere.
gail is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 03:44 AM
  #14  
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Just taking a look at the previous comments -- so upgrades are only good for domestic flights? What a bummer.
111op is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 05:46 AM
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That's just one flight to Europe -- unless for the challenges they're much more careful about fare classes.

You bet. Read the stickeys.

Just taking a look at the previous comments -- so upgrades are only good for domestic flights?

For the 500-mi electronic upgrades (aka "stickers") - yes. For overseas flights, 25K miles + $250 each way, confirmable at booking. Worse than it used to be, but still better than most other airlines' programs. When/if you achieve "Executive Platinum" status (as several of us who post here have) you get 8 "VIP" or "systemwide" upgrades that you can use on any flight with no co-pay or mileage deduction. Great perk, but EXP requires a lot of "BIS" - butt-in-seat - hours on aeroplanes.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 06:12 AM
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I sat next to a guy last week....Said he is Platinum..I asked him if he is successful in getting upgraded.His reply: His TA GUARANTEES that he'll get upgraded....How can a TA be so ppositive that the upgrade will happen??GL, any ideas??Apparanetly, his TA makes that guarantee as part of his sales pitch to prospoective clients...
BeachBoi is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 06:24 AM
  #17  
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Out of curiosity, are the 8 VIP upgrades issued just once? And you use one for each flight, no matter how long?

I seriously doubt that I'll qualify for anything higher than Gold unless I somehow end up getting a job that requires lots of travel. Time to call recruiters.

Is there a quick answer about the challenge question? If I fly twice to Europe in 3 months, would that count? (I assume a flight will count for at least half the points.) This is not out of the question for me. I just have to plan a little better.

But I think that there's a higher than 50% chance that I'll fly 25000 miles with AA this year anyway, as I already have 7620 covered with my Jan. trip to Paris.
111op is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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Beats me. All non-mileage upgrades (even VIPs) are approved on a space-available basis, with graduated "windows" for confirmation depending on your status (EXPs approved first, Golds last.) I suspect either your seatmate or his TA are shining someone on.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 06:31 AM
  #19  
 
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Each VIP is good for (IIRC) 3 segments in any one-way trip, e.g. SEA-DFW-JFK-LHR. So a round trip requires 2.

8 per year that one qualifies for EXP. They're good till the end of February the following year.

The challenges work on qualifying points, not miles; points are alloted based on fare classification.

I really don't want to go into the challenges here; use FT instead.
Gardyloo is offline  
Feb 7th, 2006, 06:35 AM
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I wonder what would happen if he DIDN'T get upgraded! I did have a talk about this with my own TA who happens to be in Dallas.He said back in the early 90's, it was de riguer(sp??) for TA's in Dallas to hold fake F cls reservations and when the time came, they would cancel the fake one and give the F clas seat to their client as an upgrade.However, AA quickly caught on to that scheme and lowered the boom so to speak on any TA who did that.Then again, that was "back when" there was mostly Golds and a few Platinums.Just thought it was interesting.
BeachBoi is offline  

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