AAdvantage is the frequent flyer program of American Airlines. Launched May 1, 1981, it was the second such loyalty program in the world (after the first at Texas International Airlines in 1979), and remains the largest with more than 67 million members as of October 2011.
Miles accumulated in the program allow members to redeem tickets, upgrade service class, or obtain free or discounted car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, or other products and services through partners. The most active members, based on the amount and price of travel booked, are designated AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum, and AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite members, with privileges such as separate check-in, priority upgrade and standby processing, or free upgrades. They also receive similar privileges from AA's partner airlines, particularly those in Oneworld. AAdvantage co-branded credit cards are also available and offer other benefits. These cards are issued by CitiCards, subsidiary of Citigroup in the United States and by MBNA in the United Kingdom.
Increased competition following the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act prompted airline marketing professionals to develop ways to reward repeat customers and build brand loyalty. The first idea at American, a special "loyalty fare", was modified and expanded to offer free first class tickets and upgrades to first class for companions, or discounted coach tickets. Membership was seeded by searching AA's SABRE computer reservations system for recurring phone numbers. The 130,000 most frequent flyers, plus an additional 60,000 members of AA's Admirals Club were pre-enrolled and sent letters with their new account numbers. The name was selected by AA's advertising agency, and is consistent with other American Airlines programs featuring "AA" in the name and logo. The logo was designed by Massimo Vignelli.
Less than a week later, rival United Airlines launched its MileagePlus program; other airlines followed in the ensuing months and years. The rapid appearance of competition changed the nature of the program, and as airlines began to compete on the features of their frequent flyer programs, AAdvantage liberalized its rules, established partnerships with hotel and rental car agencies, and offered promotions such as extra free beverages. In 1982 AAdvantage also became the first program to cooperate with an international carrier; members could accrue and redeem miles on British Airways flights to Europe.
In 2005 American Airlines joined other major U.S. carriers in introducing an online shopping portal allowing shoppers to earn AAdvantage miles when shopping online.
There are four membership tiers in AAdvantage: standard, Gold, Platinum, and Executive Platinum.
Gold status requires 25,000 flown elite qualifying miles, 25,000 elite qualifying points, or 30 flown segments. Gold status confers PriorityAAcess pre-boarding and expedited security, as well as the ability to earn and redeem 500-mile upgrades. Gold status also confers a 25% mileage bonus to all flown segments, as well as a 500-mile minimum on each segment.
Platinum status requires 50,000 flown elite qualifying miles, 50,000 elite qualifying points, or 60 flown segments. Platinum status confers all of the benefits of Gold status, as well as access to Admirals Club lounges and Business Class lounges while travelling on an itinerary not wholly within North America. It also confers a 100% mileage bonus to all flown segments, a greater standing on upgrade lists, and a special phone line.
Executive Platinum status requires 100,000 flown elite qualifying miles, 100,000 elite qualifying points, or 100 flown segments. Executive Platinum status confers all of the benefits of Platinum status, as well as eight eVIP upgrades upon annual qualification, good for a one-way upgrade for the next class of service (up to three segments). In addition, Executive Platinum members receive unlimited 500-mile upgrades, access to the Flagship Lounges and First Class lounges while traveling on an itinerary not wholly within North America, and a special phone line.
Individuals who accumulate 1,000,000 miles earned on American receive lifetime Gold status. Individuals who accumulate 2,000,000 miles earned on American receive lifetime Platinum status.
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