Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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The American Airlines AAdvantage program is the largest frequent flyer program in the world and has 4 public elite status tiers: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Executive Platinum.
The most benefits come with the Executive Platinum level, which is regarded as one of the best airline elite levels worldwide.
In this post, we’ll do a deep dive into the top public tier Executive Platinum level, the benefits, and what this status is worth so you can make a sound decision on whether to pursue this tier.
Specifically, we’ll focus on upgrades and seating options, and a second post will look at benefits at the airport and alliance-wide perks.
We’ll look at what benefits are associated with Executive Platinum, their value, and how to maximize each benefit to receive the most value. We’ll discuss whether to pursue Executive Platinum status based on the worthiness and value of each perk, as well as how to earn the status.
To figure out what a benefit is worth, you must first look at the overall requirements for status.
In 2022, American moved to a system based on Loyalty Points to determine status. Any flying you do, as well as co-branded credit card spend, coupled with hotel stays, online shopping, and other activities related to American, will count toward these Loyalty Points. To earn Executive Platinum status, you will need to earn 200,000 Loyalty Points, which theoretically can be earned without a single bit of flying.
Let’s take a look at each of the status perks, starting with upgrades.
As an Executive Platinum, upgrades within the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean are complimentary.
This is a monumental benefit. Not only will you be amongst the highest to potentially receive an upgrade, but Executive Platinums have traditionally reported some of the highest upgrade percentages across any elite tier in any elite program across any airline, which is a real testament to the value of this status.
When requesting an upgrade for an eligible trip, here is how the upgrade displays according to the airport priority list (PALL):
Executive Platinums only fall directly behind ConciergeKey members, of which there are assumed to be just several thousand of, so upgrade chances are very decent.
Hot Tip: If you’re flying from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX), choose a late-night flight for the best upgrade odds.
As you can see, many of American’s premium-type routes are operated by aircraft with flat-bed seats. Upgrading to these seats doesn’t require any additional certificates or purchasing requirements, which adds to the value of this benefit.
When an upgrade clears into the premium cabin on an eligible route, it clears into “R” class, which is the complimentary upgrade fare bucket.
A fare bucket is the letter code that your ticket is assigned depending on factors including the cost of the ticket and associated rules regarding refundability and changes. Some fare codes, such as “R,” are assigned a specific purpose and aren’t available for purchase — in this case, “R” signals to the computer that the passenger has received a complimentary upgrade.
This “R” fare bucket is not protected, meaning that if there are irregular operations and you need to take a different flight, you are placed back on the upgrade list. The upgrade does not carry over from flight to flight and you aren’t guaranteed to remain in the premium cabin.
Some airlines will attempt to sell first class seats to non-elite status passengers before offering those seats for upgrading via the loyalty program. It really depends on the routes and time of day as to whether an Executive Platinum gets upgraded, but overall, the chances are much better than other airlines since American does not upsell premium cabin seats from under elite passengers attempting to upgrade.
In fact, if any elite is requesting an upgrade, American’s policy is to not offer a day of departure load factor-based upgrade (an upgrade assuming there will otherwise be empty seats that will go out on the flight) for purchase to any non-status passenger — the system is that good.
There will be hit-or-miss routes — such as New York (LGA) to Dallas (DFW), or Washington, D.C. (DCA) to Dallas (DFW) that may seem impossible to clear an upgrade, and rightly so. But if you think strategically — perhaps flying from New York (JFK) to Dallas (DFW) or Washington, D.C. (IAD) to Dallas (DFW), the upgrades can be plentiful.
Watch your aircraft, too — the premium New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) market is on a flatbed-equipped A321T (T stands for transcontinental). This is a very, very elite-heavy route, with many Executive Platinums outright purchasing first or business class. Since this plane is eligible for complimentary upgrades, many elites know this and try to book this aircraft on purpose in the hopes of receiving a flatbed seat across the country. It’s not uncommon for there to be 20+ Executive Platinums on these types of flights.
Executive Platinum members are eligible for complimentary upgrades on all Alaska Airlines flights. These upgrades can clear at 120 hours prior to the flight and will occur after any Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K members have been upgraded (MVP Gold 100K members clear at the same window as MVP Gold 75K, but are prioritized).
A perk for Executive Platinums is complimentary upgrades on award tickets on qualifying routes. Essentially, any route that ordinarily gets you a complimentary upgrade on a paid ticket also gets you an automatically requested upgrade on an award ticket.
That said, when you request an upgrade on an award ticket, you’re actually placed behind all other Executive Platinums that are on paid (cash) tickets.
In the case of Executive Platinums, there are normally 4 upgrade designations that can happen (in order of preference):
As you can see, all other upgrades within the Executive Platinum ranks will clear first before any passenger on an award ticket. On elite-heavy routes, especially those hub to hub, you’ll be placed behind cash-paying passengers within the Executive Platinum level but will have priority over other elites, regardless of how they are upgrading.
An economy class award ticket is any ticket ticketed in “T” class. This is the class you must be booked in to request an upgrade to a higher cabin. Like upgrades on paid tickets, it is only good for 1 class of service upgrade on qualifying routes.
Hot Tip: Per the AAdvantage terms and conditions, you can only upgrade an economy class award ticket when you use AAdvantage miles to book the ticket and no other airline miles.
For example, technically if you use British Airways Avios on an award ticket, you aren’t allowed to replace your British Airways Executive Club number with your AAdvantage number. However, several Oneworld airline websites will let you do this, and when the American system recognizes your number, you’ll be placed on the upgrade queue just like American-booked tickets.
No other elite tier receives these benefits of upgrading on award tickets, so if you redeem miles often, this could certainly be a valuable perk.
There won’t be many award tickets an Executive Platinum will be flying on during a year that will be eligible for upgrades since it needs to be a flight within the U.S. and select local international routes. For valuation purposes, it’s assumed as 1 segment a year upgraded at $50 of value.
American Airlines elites used to need to use 500-mile sticker upgrade certificates to upgrade a companion, but now that happens automatically. All 500-mile upgrade certificates were retired in July 2022.
When you book a reservation and have 2 people on the same record, you can either request to “split” or “no split” the reservation. If you chose to split the reservation and only 1 upgrade seat opens up, 1 person will receive the upgrade and the other person will remain on the list. If you chose “no split” and an upgrade becomes available, both people chose not to split up and the upgrade moves to the next solo traveler on the upgrade list.
Normally, you want to split the reservations so that at least 1 person can upgrade and the person who doesn’t clear can remain on the list. When traveling with a companion, the companion carries the Executive Platinum UPG2 designator throughout the process (the same weight as if they were an Executive Platinum themselves).
The companion’s name doesn’t need to be on the same reservation for you to be able to upgrade them — it can be listed separately in a completely different reservation made at a separate time. If this is the case, prior to travel you’ll want to “link” these 2 reservations together by calling American. You can’t merge them into 1, but any reservations agent can associate them together for upgrade purposes.
If your companion’s upgrade does not clear prior to the airport and that companion has elite status of their own (presumed to be lower than the EP) and it goes to the gate waitlist, have an agent remove the companion’s frequent flyer number from the reservation and input the Executive Platinum membership number of the primary traveler (as odd as this sounds).
This will prevent the companion traveler from being listed separately on the waitlist according to his/her status level and will ensure that they are brought up to the level of the Executive Platinum.
The chances of a companion upgrade clearing vary depending on the route — there have been many times that a Monday morning Miami (MIA) to Washington, D.C. (IAD) flight has cleared for companions when the next later flight is full, so it’s tough to place a value on this solely based upon the flights you anticipate the upgrades clearing on. In general, assuming upgrades clear prior to the waitlist going to airport control, there is a fairly decent chance both you and your companion will clear.
Now, depending on when you clear, you may be placed in the only remaining seats in the cabin, which may not be together, so you may need to play a game of musical chairs, if possible, to be able to sit together.
Executive Platinum members get complimentary upgrades cleared as early as 100 hours prior to departure, down from the 120 hours that a ConciergeKey member sees upgrades start to process.
Upgrades are released as “R” inventory is released — generally, the more seats for sale, the more “R” inventory that will be released for upgrades.
That said, even some flights that are nearly sold out will have elites upgraded in order to open up more space in the economy cabin for oversold passengers.
For the most part, Executive Platinum upgrades clear somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 hours, and then from there, the remainder clear somewhere around the 24-hour mark. In some rare cases, upgrades may clear in advance of 100 hours, though this technically shouldn’t happen and shouldn’t be expected.
Loyalty Point Rewards are perks that can be earned by reaching specified levels of Loyalty Points. While these aren’t specifically tied to status level, there are some Loyalty Point Rewards you can earn on the way to Executive Platinum (plus many you can earn beyond that).
Once a member earns 175,000 Loyalty Points, 1 of the following Loyalty Point Rewards can be chosen:
Once the Executive Platinum member passes over the Executive Platinum threshold (200,000 Loyalty Points), there are additional levels of Loyalty Point Rewards they can reach.
At 250,000 Loyalty Points, an Executive Platinum member can choose 2 rewards:
New to the program are Loyalty Choice Rewards that encourage loyalty beyond the 200,000-point threshold.
Choices vary by Loyalty Point level but can include:
If you choose to take the systemwide upgrades, these will expire 1 year from issue, so there is a hard expiration with little chance for extension beyond this date.
Perhaps one of the most coveted benefits of Executive Platinum status is systemwide upgrades that can be selected on the Loyalty Points Rewards list. These are like gold to any high-tier elite and can provide some of the most value in elite status.
The upgrades are valid for one-way flights, up to 3 segments: perhaps one of the greatest features of any systemwide upgrade and generating the most value. Upgrades are good for as many as 3 segments (an individual flight that may be part of a larger itinerary), in any single direction of travel. For example, Dallas (DFW) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) contains 2 segments.
In this case, you’re really only using the upgrade for 1 true international, long-haul segment — the sector where you normally get the most value. If you think about it, however, there are some true gems that you may be missing out on — what if you traveled London (LHR) to New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD), all on 1 systemwide upgrade? If you add several international segments, you can really get the most from these upgrade certificates.
The upgrades are also valid on any flight marketed and operated by American. When you use a systemwide upgrade, you can only use it on flights where it says “American” on the side of the plane. The ticket also must be purchased with the flight being marketed and operated by American — meaning that when you purchase, the flight must have an AA flight number.
Unlike United and other airlines that require fare restrictions, the upgrades are valid on any fare (including Basic Economy) to upgrade 1 class of service. If you apply a systemwide upgrade and don’t clear, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted money up-faring a ticket for no reason.
You can use a systemwide upgrade to:
Main Cabin and Premium Economy are treated the same for this purpose, so you can’t use an upgrade to travel from Main Cabin to Premium Economy, for example. Since these are treated as the same cabin, your next upgrade class would be business class, which on international long-haul flights means all flatbeds (where the real value lies).
You can gift a systemwide upgrade to any person, even if you’re not traveling with them, though when they’re traveling alone they’ll upgrade based upon their individual status, if any.
On the airport priority list, here’s how the upgrades are listed for using a systemwide upgrade:
For education, the same system is used for passengers upgrading with a miles and cash co-pay award:
Hot Tip: Systemwide upgrades and miles and cash co-pay cannot be used on award tickets.
You’ll find that towards the end and beginning of the year, in the December and January timeframe, many Executive Platinums realize they won’t be using all of their systemwide upgrades and want to give them away to others. So, if you’re not an Executive Platinum, you may find a nice person willing to give you their upgrade for free (the AAdvantage program explicitly prohibits selling or bartering for upgrades).
When looking for an upgrade, you’re looking for 1 of 2 upgrade fare buckets, which are visible using a service such as ExpertFlyer, or by calling American’s reservations team:
The “C” fare bucket can be hard to come by (since this would allow someone to confirm an upgrade at the time of booking), so many Executive Platinums report difficulty in applying and using their systemwide upgrades — but there are several things you can do to help improve your chances.
Use a service like ExpertFlyer that can search a wide variety of dates easily for “C” inventory and then alert you if or when that inventory opens up. If you set an alert and then get an email when that inventory opens, you can call American to manually process the upgrade and clear you into the premium cabin.
Watch your routes. It’s well-known that Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) is a far easier upgrade than Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG), for example. The same can be said for New York (JFK) to London (LHR) flights in the daytime, or the reverse departing in the late evening.
If you watch the route and the time of day, you can almost be sure that there will be upgrade inventory available.
If you’re upgrading from business class to first class, there’s almost always upgrade inventory available since you’re already seated in a premium cabin and American doesn’t tend to sell every first class seat on every 3-class flight. “A” inventory is pretty regularly available on eligible flights since it is both a revenue fare bucket (one that you can purchase as a discounted first class seat) and an award fare bucket (the ability to upgrade into first class using a systemwide upgrade, for example).
What most people don’t know is that when any passenger uses a systemwide upgrade (or miles and cash co-pay), they are protected in the premium cabin should something go wrong, so long as the ticket is reissued.
For example, let’s assume you’re flying Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG) and your systemwide upgrade has cleared on the route 10 days prior to departure and the ticket was reissued.
Should the flight get canceled on the day of departure due to a mechanical issue, you’re re-protected in business class (or first, if you upgraded from business to first) on American and select Oneworld partners with a joint venture agreement to get you to your final destination. This could mean routing from Dallas (DFW) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) on American’s flight, protected in business class.
If you’re flying New York (JFK) to London (LHR), for example, and your flight gets canceled or significantly delayed, you will be protected in business class on British Airways or Iberia, since both are Oneworld partners. For full clarification, you don’t need award availability or some type of upgrade availability to be protected on another flight — if the flight you need to change to due to irregular operations has at least 1 business class seat for sale, American will protect you in it.
As another example, let’s say your upgrade clears at the gate. If the flight is canceled and you need to move to another flight, you are not protected because your ticket at that point is not reissued (gate upgrades aren’t reissued). In a scenario like this, you would need to speak with an agent to have your ticket manually reissued before investigating options for further protection and rerouting.
For this benefit, we’ll assume $600 per one-way upgrade certificate, though the value of each upgrade may change depending on where it’s used. If it’s used for a domestic flight only, the value will be much less. If it’s used on a long-haul international flight, it can run to about $600 in value, which is the approximate rough cost differential between many economy class and business class fares.
Preferred seats are seats in American’s Main Cabin (economy class) that have a desirable location, but not necessarily any additional legroom. For example, this might be an aisle or window seat, or certain seats with special configurations, such as 2-seater honeymoon style seats on wide-body aircraft. Because these seats are more desirable than seats in the rear of the aircraft or middle seats, there is normally a charge for non-elite passengers to select these.
Executive Platinum members can select these seats free of charge for themselves and up to 8 companions on the same reservation.
Main Cabin Extra seats are extra legroom seats on American aircraft. These seats can include aisle, middle, or window locations, but each has several more inches of legroom than the seats in the rear of the aircraft, allowing for a more enjoyable flight experience. In addition to these seats being primarily located in the front part of the economy cabin, you’ll also find them in the desirable exit rows.
Hot Tip: Executive Platinum members get to select Main Cabin Extra seating for themselves and 8 companions free of charge at the time of booking — by far one of the most valuable perks of this status level.
These seats can be very expensive, even as much as $50+ for a short 1-hour hop. If you plan on taking a transcontinental flight, you may be paying over $100, and if you’re headed over the ocean, it could be in the $200+ range.
Executive Platinum members can always select these seats for free, so for the most part, even if you’re stuck in economy, you’re still able to enjoy your trip to an extent knowing you won’t always be relegated to a middle seat in the rear.
Upgrades and enhanced seating options are some of the most valuable perks on American, and included with Executive Platinum status are some of the best parts of these perks. To look at the full list of valuations, and other benefits for travel prior to the airport, including ticketing, please see Part II to this article.
Alone, the systemwide upgrades represent a majority of the value, and the complimentary upgrade percentage is among the best of the legacy carriers. Attaining Executive Platinum simply for these benefits can be well worth it and should definitely be considered when thinking about pursuing this highest-tier status.
To earn Executive Platinum status, you must earn 200,000 Loyalty Points from March to February each year.
Executive Platinum is the highest public elite status tier in the AAdvantage program. It is below ConciergeKey, an invite-only level, and above Platinum Pro.
The perks of American Airlines Executive Platinum status include:
Executive Platinum provides the most tiers out of any of the public status levels on American and comes with several really beneficial perks, including complimentary upgrades on all domestic routes and systemwide upgrades as part of a Loyalty Points Rewards program. If you tend to fly a lot during the year, you’ll certainly find the benefits of Executive Platinum to be worth it.
Executive Platinum members board in Group 1 with first class and uniformed military personnel.
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