Pros: Opportunities for earning miles. Frequent updates on membership status.
Cons: Mileage can expire (but be re-activated). Possibly difficult to redeem for desired flight.
American Airline's AAdvantage Frequent Flyer Program boasts that it is the ''largest and most exciting travel award program in the world". I'm not sure how those qualities are measured, but American Airlines does offer a tremendous flight schedule, which allows for accumulation of travel miles and ultimately free flights.
I activated my membership for free over the internet and was rewarded with about 500 miles just for joining. I later received a membership card in the mail with my account number and some basic information on the program.
Since then I have been receiving e-mails about twice/month promoting AAdvantage and tell my activity, mileage to date, and any special flight savings.
Earning Mileage Points
On American Airlines' AAdvantage Program, points are rewarded for actual miles flown. If you fly Business Class there is a 50% bonus in points earned, and First Class tickets earn a 100% bonus.
Additional mileage points can also be earned during special promotions, using an AAdvantage Mastercard, and by using services that have a partnership with the frequent flyer program. Currently AAdvantage offers a 20,000 mileage bonus for flights to Cancun, Mexico and up to 25,000 free miles for obtaining (and using) the AAdvantage credit card! Dollars spent on the credit card are credited as miles earned.
Six car rental agencies (Budget, Dollar, National, Hertz, Thrifty, and Avis) currently reward AAdvantage members with 250 to 1,000 miles for using their services. Several hotels, like Hilton and Marriott, reward AAdvantage members varying mileage points for staying in their accommodations, and a few services, such as 1-800-FLOWERS, Vodaphone and T-Mobile Cellular also provide mileage rewards.
Like most frequent flyer programs, AAdvantage will recognize mileage flown on a select number of other airlines. These are often called "Mileage Partners", and are currently listed as: Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, and Iberia. Note that there are restrictions to the mileage partner programs.
AAdvantage currently allows members to buy miles for $27.50 per 1,000 miles. I suspect this is most useful if you are just short of a redemption level. Another program for getting miles relates to the fact that mileage points will expire if your account is inactive for 36 months. However, you can re-activate expired miles through the internet account for a small fee.
When 25,000 in mileage points have accumulated you can redeem them for a flight on the ''MilesAAver Program''. These tickets are Coach Class, only within the Continental U.S. or Canada, and are restricted to certain flights (which I now know means inconvenient times). 50,000 in mileage allows for AAnytime frequent flyer ticket, which provides greater travel time options.
Free flights to the Caribbean, South America, Europe, or Asia require anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 miles on the MilesAAver Program, and 60,000 to 120,000 miles for the AAnytime program.
When I redeemed for a free ticket last year it involved my sister-in-law transferring a qualifying mileage voucher to me. It was done through the internet, and was not too difficult to do. However, I had very unfavorable flight times (5:45AM departure time), and the plane was packed to the gills. However, I did get the destination and flight days I had wanted.
AAdvantage recommends redeeming points well in advance of your travel plans in order to have the best chances of getting the flight times you want. It's a well known secret that airlines only allow a select number of frequent flyers on any given flight.
An AAdvantage member can use miles to upgrade to a higher class of service, or buy upgrades. This program is limited to very frequent travelers who have the Gold, Platinum, or Executive Platinum membership levels.
Mileage points can also be transfered to other AAdvantage members (for a small fee), donated to charities, or used to buy products and services. All the details on these programs can be found on the internet website.
I should also reiterate that AAdvantage miles will begin to expire if the account is inactive for 36 months. This is a bit of a rip-off, because something earned should be yours to keep (like a college degree). However, you can re-activate the miles on-line for a small fee.
The AAdvantage Frequent Flyer Program has some good qualities. Foremost is the large flight network offered by American Airlines and its partners. Your chances of accumulating miles are also enhanced by the credit card program and other businesses and services like car rental agencies. I also think the website is very well designed.
The drawback to AAdvantage is that obtaining a free seat on any given flight many be difficult (you have to be very flexible with times are dates). Also, the miles can expire (but then reclaimed), so you have to be an active member to benefit from the program. Overall I'll rate AAdvantage as "average" and recommend the program for travelers who expect to use American Airlines at least once a year.
© trailhound. 2006.