My journey with elite airline status has grown rapidly during my time as a travel journalist at TPG.
When I first joined TPG in June 2021, achieving even elite entry-level airline status seemed like an impossible hurdle for someone like me; I didn’t have a co-branded airline credit card and was traveling inconsistently, especially compared to my colleagues, some of whom travel weekly.
Therefore, I knew that I wouldn’t get status by spending by credit card or traveling alone. Instead, I should earn strategic status and look for additional, more creative ways to contribute. I started thinking of my status approach as various revenue streams that offer multiple ways to earn frequent flyer points – points are American Airlines’ status currency and are based on distance, spend and fare class flown.
For me, that boiled down to doing regular domestic flights, with a few long-haul flights sprinkled in; I also prioritized my stay at Hyatt properties when traveling and shopping online intermittently through the AA Shopping Portal whenever possible.
Here’s how I achieved mid-level American Airlines AAdvantage status and how you can apply the tactics below to your own American Airlines status goals.
Earn points on flights
I went from no airline status to an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold member in about eight months.
Since becoming an AAdvantage member on July 15, 2021, I have flown on 17 American Airlines flights and have earned frequent flyer points on all but two, which I have used to book award miles. As a friendly reminder, only paid flights count towards status. Of those 17 flights, 11 were domestic flights (mostly short-haul regional flights on the East Coast and Midwest, minus one one-way flight from Washington, DC, to Phoenix).
These combined domestic flights added 12,746 loyalty points to my account.
In December 2021, I attended a TPG retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona where I won 30,000 loyalty points in a raffle. When those points appeared in my account on March 1, 2022, I instantly had entry-level Gold status through February 28, 2023. With that 30,000 point AAdvantage adjustment, I was just under 45 000 loyalty points in total, thanks to the 15,000 loyalty points I had earned in the previous seven months of AAdvantage membership.
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Needless to say, this is unusual and would not have happened outside of my job at TPG. Still, it turned me into an American loyalist and I started to favor flights on American partner airlines and Oneworld when possible. It also meant that I now earned a 40% bonus in miles as a Gold member, equal to 7 miles per dollar spent on flights, or 2 miles more than a non-status flier.
It also started my quest to reach Platinum for 2023.
Beyond the aforementioned domestic flights, I’ve taken two round-trip international flights to Paris and Singapore this year. However, only my trip to Singapore contributed to my frequent flyer points earnings (even though it was not a US flight).
When I traveled to Paris this spring, I flew the French Bee from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Paris-Orly Airport (ORY); I used award miles to fly from ORY to O’Hare International Airport (ORD), so I didn’t get any points for either trip.
As I looked towards the end of the year, I knew my best bet to achieve Platinum for 2023 was to book a long-haul flight in a premium cabin; you earn bonus miles that qualify for your frequent flyer point balance when you fly in premium economy, business class or first class.
To do this, I took a rather indirect flight route from ORD to Singapore Changi Airport (SIN). The itinerary was a return flight on Finnair in October on four segments: ORD-Helsinki Airport (HEL), HEL-SIN, SIN-HEL and HEL-ORD. In total, I flew over 20,000 miles in five days to earn 28,554 US frequent flyer points through Oneworld member Finnair.
Read more: Why I booked a Finnair flight to help me achieve American Airlines elite status
Together, these two premium long-haul flights had nearly 39,000 loyalty points which alone would be enough to cross the 30,000 loyalty point threshold for American Gold status.
Even so, I was still 6,371 points short of reaching Platinum in November 2022. I had planned to reach it via three trips:
- ORD to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in December 2022: base fare of USD 422.20 for a total of 2,955 frequent flyer points and award miles.
- ORD to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in January 2023: base fare of $229.77 for a total of 1,608 frequent flyer points and award miles.
- ORD to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in January 2023: base fare of $255.81 for a total of 1,790 frequent flyer points and award miles.
Use American’s Buying Portal
Although I was focused on earning loyalty points primarily through flights, I earned platinum sooner than expected, thanks to my online Black Friday shopping through the AAdvantage shopping portal.
This is perhaps the easiest way to earn loyalty points, since you’re shopping for purchases you were already going to make. American’s eShopping Portal rewards users with base miles that count as loyalty points for purchases made at participating retailers.
As of December 2022, miles earned from online purchases with AAdvantage eShopping count toward loyalty points at a 1:1 ratio. The number of miles you earn depends on the retailer and the price. For example, I’ve earned nearly 4,000 loyalty points from purchases made at Hunter Boots, Alo Yoga, Lululemon, and Gap, based on their earning offers and transaction totals.
Those frequent flyer points, along with my return flight last week from ORD to LGA, were enough to get me to Platinum this month ahead of schedule.
Related: Comparison of Finnair’s premium economy flight experience on the A330 vs A350
Become loyal to 1 airline and alliance
As you have read, I have become an American Airlines loyalist by default. Even before becoming a status holder, I naturally chose to fly American over other carriers based on route availability from my home airports, DCA and Dulles International Airport (IAD).
Although I’m mostly flying from Chicago these days, American has a big enough presence at ORD that the longer trip to O’Hare in the northwest suburbs compared to the city’s Midway International Airport (MDW) worth it.
Once you’ve chosen an airline, be sure to take advantage of the alliance benefits; US status opens the door to the 13 Oneworld member airlines that connect passengers to more than 900 destinations in more than 170 countries. Popular Oneworld airlines include Alaska Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways.
By traveling on these other carriers as an AAdvantage Sapphire member, I receive reciprocal benefits on partner flights, including priority check-in and boarding, as well as lounge access when traveling internationally. I can also access American’s flagship lounges when departing or connecting on a qualifying international flight same day in any class, including ORD.
Take advantage of the Hyatt-American partnership
Starting last year, AAdvantage members can earn World of Hyatt points for qualifying US flights, and all Elite World of Hyatt members can earn World of Hyatt points on qualifying US flights. More specifically, this partnership allows:
These points are bonus earnings, in addition to World of Hyatt points you would have already earned on stays and US miles you would have already earned on flights. This partnership has helped me accelerate my journey to becoming a World of Hyatt Discoverist, the first level of Hyatt status.
As a Discoverist, I earn 5 World of Hyatt points per dollar spent on qualifying stays at Hyatt.
At the end of the line
Although I didn’t expect to get AAdvantage Platinum for several months, I was pleasantly surprised to earn it sooner than expected.
Now on to my next goal: get Platinum Pro by March 2024.
Read more: I flew premium economy for the first time: my coaching mindset tells me it’s not worth the extra money