American Airlines Devalues AAdvantage Gold Status A Little Bit More

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There was a time when all American Airlines status levels offered genuine benefits to flyers but, as the airline has slowly devalued the AAdvantage program over recent years, the actual value that some status levels offer has become questionable. Now the airline may have put the final nail in the coffin of its lowest status tier.

American Airlines can’t seem to put through an improvement to its service without taking away something elsewhere and this is exactly what’s happened with the latest changes made to the “Main Cabin Extra” offering.

“Main Cabin Extra” (MCE) is a mini-cabin of sorts that American Airlines offers at the front of its Economy Class cabins where the seats give customers a little more legroom than regular Economy Class seats (exit rows are often included too).

American Airlines Main Cabin Extra

Starting yesterday American Airlines introduced a couple of added benefits for those sitting in the MCE section:

  • Complimentary alcoholic drinks (beer, wine & spirits)
  • Group 5 boarding with dedicated overhead bin space above the MCE seats

Regular flyers have to pay extra if they want to book these seats (the cost varies with the distance of the flight) while travelers with American Airlines Platinum status or higher can reserve these seats for free at the time of booking.

Historically, Gold members were given a 50% discount if they wanted to reserve MCE at the time of booking or they could wait until 24 hours before departure at which point they could reserve the seats for free if any remained unoccupied.

The 50% off the cost of MCE has also historically applied to up to 8 other passengers traveling on the same reservation as an AAdvantage Gold member:

Not any more.

From 5 September 2018 AAdvantage Gold members will no longer receive 50% off the purchase of MCE at the time of booking but will still be able to reserve the seats for free within 24 hours of the flight departure time. [HT: View From The Wing]

This may not seem like all that big of an issue but there’s actually quite a bit at play here.

Firstly, American Airlines is removing a published status benefit part-way through a year and that’s very underhand.

  • Flyers may have worked their way to AAdvantage Gold status last year specifically because they wanted to enjoy this published benefit through January 2019,
  • Flyers may have worked their way to AAdvantage Gold status this year (or still be working towards it) in the hope of having this benefit for the rest of 2018 and all of 2019

Put simply, there are almost certainly travelers out there who deliberately chose to fly American Airlines in order to enjoy a benefit that he airline is now taking away. That’s money that travelers spent with American Airlines that, with hindsight, could have been spent with another airline (and possibly on cheaper fares).

Secondly, American Airlines has been actively selling AAdvantage Gold Status since late last year and, presumably, anyone who bought that status believed that they would be getting all the published benefits of that status throughout the elite year…..but that’s not what’s happening.

This isn’t too dissimilar to a cable company selling you a package that included a channel that you specifically wanted to have and then removing that channel from your package part way through your subscription year.

Thirdly, is there really any point in having AAdvantage Gold Status any more?

  • Upgrades are hard enough to get if you hold top-tier elite status so they’re probably almost non-existent if you’re at the bottom of the ladder.
  • AAdvantage Gold status holders get a 40% mileage bonus on flights but with AAdvantage miles now being a revenue-based program that 40% is almost insignificant. Add to that the fact that AAdvantage miles have never been worth less than they are today and this doesn’t seem like a benefit at all.
  • AAdvantage Gold status holders get to check a bag for free, get to use Business Class check-in and get priority boarding…but you have to spend up to $3,000 with American Airlines to earn this status and a credit card costing under $100 will offer the same benefits.

Someone really needs to tell me what value AAdvantage Gold status actually offers most travelers.

Bottom Line

This may seem like just another small devaluation from American Airlines but it’s the way that the airline has gone about it that leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

Taking away yet another benefit of status is bad enough but taking it away part way through a year is contemptible.

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines