American Airlines has brought back elite status challenges. They’re based on earning Loyalty Points, which means most of your AAdvantage activity including co-brand credit card spend and AAdvantage shopping portal spend, not just flying.
With these challenges you get temporary status, and an expedited path to keep the status. Some members can sign up for free, all the way up to Executive Platinum (check the promotions tab of your account), while others are asked to pay. The cost in cash is a better deal than the cost in miles.
- Gold: $200 or 20,000 miles
- Platinum: $450 or 50,000 miles
- Platinum Pro: $700 or 80,000 miles
- Executive Platinum: $975 or 120,000 miles
Here’s the thing. It’s much, much easier to earn status when you already have status with American. If you were flying to earn status and not engaging in any other activity, it would take $18,182 for an existing Executive Platinum member to re-earn Executive Platinum. In contrast, someone starting with no status and earning Executive Platinum on flying alone would need to spend $27,012 on tickets.
That’s because a base member earns just 5 miles per dollar until they become a Gold, and elite flying bonuses grow with each higher tier. Those bonuses count towards status. Starting fresh from zero is really hard.
But you don’t have to start fresh. Someone without status could do the same amount of flying and spend $8830 less on tickets (if they were qualifying for status on flying alone) by signing up for a status challenge, which might be available free but also seems worth it to me for $975 not least of which because you’d also be receiving Executive Platinum benefits like upgrades, and better assistance during irregular operations, while seeking to reach that status. It’s still expensive, but potentially less expensive for some, especially if you’d have had to take incremental trips to get over the top towards your status without the challenge.