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Middle Age Miles

Planning & Strategy in the Face of an AA Lockdown

american airlines aadvantage aa lockdown planning strategy termination terminated locked
Things are certainly topsy-turvy in our AA planning in light of my lockdown!
[featured image courtesy USA Today]

Introduction

Even when things are going smoothly, travel planning and making the best use of credit card & points-and-miles benefits can be a challenging task. Compound that with uncertainty, and the entire process can become overwhelming.

As most Middle Age Miles readers now know as a result of our article last week, my account is currently locked by AA:

My account status is unchanged in the week since that article – I’m still locked down, but my account has not been terminated. (Philly’s account is still fine, thankfully.) We have a number of travel planning issues coming up, and we’re trying to figure out how to best handle them in light of my lockdown. We thought it would be helpful to post another article to highlight some of the issues we’re facing from the lockdown and give Middle Age Miles readers insight into our thought processes and current strategies.

How Are Things Working During My Lockdown?

Right now, while I’m locked down, I cannot redeem any of my AA miles for any purpose. I can’t use them to book flights, I can’t use them for upgrades, I can’t book any hotels or rental cars on useaamiles.com, and I’m pretty sure I can’t transfer them to another AA member. I believe that I would be able to donate miles to charity; however, there’s no tax deduction for doing so.

In many other respects, however, my account is business-as-usual:

  • I can book paid-fare flights
  • I can still earn AA miles from, I believe, all channels including:
    • Paid-fare flights
    • AAdvantage shopping portal
    • Customer service bonuses
    • AA co-branded credit card spend
    • Hyatt stays, through the AA-Hyatt partnership
  • I’m still earning Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) on my paid-fare flights
  • I still have Executive Platinum status, and benefits of that status are working, as far as I can tell:
    • I can still reserve Main Cabin Extra seats for free
    • I still receive the Executive Platinum checked baggage allowance
    • I still get a place on the upgrade list, which presumably would clear if I was high enough on the list
    • I still receive the Executive Platinum elite bonus on redeemable AA miles when flying on a paid fare
    • I still receive free in-flight snacks and drinks when flying in coach

I haven’t tested yet whether I can use free same-day confirmed flight changes, but I suspect that this would also work fine.

I also haven’t tested whether I can use Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs). I’m not sure whether this would work or not.

As for previously-booked award flights that have already ticketed – I suspect that I can cancel them (and get the miles re-deposited into my AA account), but I don’t believe I would be able to change them while my account is locked.

What Happens Next?

We really don’t know. My AAdvantage account could be terminated, or it could be reinstated (perhaps with a mileage “penalty” deducted).

We’ve had no communication, either publicly or privately, from AA, so we have no idea when we’ll have a decision. As it stands now, I am in indefinite limbo.

This is the uncertainty that makes planning quite difficult. Not only do we not know what will happen, we don’t know when. Some people will say that we’re delusional to think that the next step is anything other than an outright termination of my AA account, it’s just a matter of how long AA takes to get to it; we discuss this topic in more detail below.

What Types of Problems Is the Lockdown Causing?

The lockdown is causing planning problems in many areas, some short-term and some long-term, including:

  • Previously-booked-and-ticketed award flights – These are at risk. The tickets will be cancelled if my account is terminated.
  • Same-day confirmed flight changes – We can’t plan for these, not knowing whether I’ll continue to have Executive Platinum status or not.
  • Booking award flights – We already can’t book these, which eliminates one of the key benefits of the Executive Platinum status I worked hard to achieve; that is, the ability to book award flights as placeholders to preserve flexibility for future travel plans.
  • Elite status qualification planning
  • Where to credit flights for mileage-earning and elite qualification
  • Credit card spend – especially planning for big-spend thresholds that I might want to hit, such as earning EQMs and EQDs with the Barclays AA Aviator Silver card
  • Credit card keep-or-cancel decisions
  • Booking future paid fares – Will I have status to cover seat selection and checked baggage fees?
  • Reciprocal Oneworld benefits – Will I have lounge access on international trips?
  • Other mileage-earning questions, such as using shopping portals and dining programs

Let’s consider some questions related to these areas of uncertainty. But first, it’s necessary to ponder a threshold question:

Is There a Reasonable Chance that My AA Account Will Be Reinstated?

Of course, we don’t know the answer to this question, and we don’t even know enough to assign a percentage chance to termination vs reinstatement.

To date, there’s not a single data point to my knowledge of a locked AA account being reinstated (in the current wave of terminations/lockdowns). There’s literally nothing in the data to date to give any hope. Obviously, there’s a significant chance of termination here. Some readers/commenters have told me that I’m naive/misguided/deluding myself to think that there’s any chance of reinstatement, in light of the current data. It’s hard to fault them for that view.

On the other hand, to me it defies common sense that AA would terminate people who otherwise are good customers, based on some relatively modest credit card activity that didn’t directly violate any AAdvantage program terms. At some level, a lot of what AA is doing here seems like an effort to weed out “bad” customers (that said, there certainly seem to be exceptions, and a read through the comments of our previous article will show you some). It also seems that if AA was going to terminate everyone whose account was locked, they easily could have just terminated all the accounts at the outset.

We discussed the possibility of reinstatement at length in our previous article, so I won’t re-hash it here. If there are any accounts that will be reinstated, my account should stand a pretty good chance of being one of them, with about $10,000 in paid fares per year for the past several years, a lot more paid flights than award flights, and substantial spend on AA co-branded credit cards. All things considered, we believe that there is a non-zero, reasonable possibility that my account will be reinstated.

Thus, we’re going to formulate strategy and make planning decisions under the assumption that there is a strong chance my account will be terminated, but some reasonable chance that my account will be reinstated.

Obviously, if you don’t believe you have a reasonable chance of reinstatement (for instance, if you received a high number of credit card sign-up bonuses and/or award flights on AA substantially exceed paid flights), then your strategy decisions would be different. In that case, you’d basically want to cut all ties with AA as soon as possible.

Other Factors That Bear on Our Decision-Making

A couple of other factors that bear on our decision-making relate to my high level of investment in the AA ecosystem:

  • We are AA hub-captive, by virtue of living in the DFW area. Other carriers, including Southwest, don’t fit our travel profile well at all.
  • I have earned Executive Platinum status for 2020, which provides a lot of valuable benefits. We reviewed the value of Executive Platinum status to us in this article from early last year:
  • I have hundreds of thousands of AA miles in my account (only a small proportion of which were earned from credit card sign-up bonuses, for what that’s worth).
  • I have about 1.85 million lifetime miles on AA, which puts me only 150,000 miles away from the lifetime Platinum status that comes at the 2 million mile mark.

As you can see, a shift away from AA (either voluntarily or forced) would be difficult and costly.

Turning now to some more specific questions:

Where Will I Credit My Flights?

This is a huge question, and a full analysis of all alternative Oneworld programs is beyond the scope of this article. I’ve looked a bit at the possibilities, most notably Finnair Plus and British Airways Executive Club.

Finnair Plus

The Finnair Plus program is interesting, because it’s possible to achieve status that qualifies for Oneworld Emerald (Finnair Plus Platinum) or Oneworld Sapphire (Finnair Plus Gold) without any flights on Finnair. Unfortunately, Finnair Plus Gold level of status looks to be out of reach for me. It requires 150,000 Finnair Plus points within a year, and it looks like most flights we take would earn about 0.8 Finnair Plus points per mile flown (with bonus earning for paid flights in a premium cabin). Thus, I’d be looking at the rough equivalent of 187,500 AA EQMs in order to reach this status. That’s about double the amount I had in 2019. More reachable might be the 76-flight requirement, but there would still be a substantial gap as I had 48 AAdvantage-qualifying flights during 2019. Finnair Plus Gold, which equates to Oneworld Sapphire, would probably be achievable, as it requires 80,000 points or 46 flights. On the redeemable miles side of Finnair Plus, it looks like it’s hard to find value when trying to redeem Finnair Plus miles.

British Airways Executive Club

In the British Airways Executive Club, to reach BA Silver (Oneworld Sapphire) or BA Gold (Oneworld Emerald), you have to fly with BA four times during your anniversary year, in addition to earning the necessary number of tier points. That creates a bit of a challenge for US-based flyers. It would probably be possible for me to get the 4 BA flights, but it might require at least a bit of modified behavior. Otherwise, to qualify on Tier Points, I’d need 600 for Silver or 1,500 for Gold (during my anniversary year; mine runs from Jan 8 through the next Jan 7 each year). A quick review of my flying for the past couple of years reveals that I could reach the 600-point Silver threshold fairly easily, but I’d be nowhere close to the 1,500-point Gold mark. On the redeemable-miles side, we’ve found BA Avios to be a very useful currency, especially for short-haul flights on AA and other Oneworld carriers.

Other Potential Options

We haven’t yet fully researched other potential Oneworld loyalty program options, which would include: Cathay Pacific; Iberia; JAL; Malaysia; Qantas; Qatar; Royal Jordanian; S7; and SriLankan (and as of 4/1/2020, Royal Air Maroc). So at this point, I’m not sure which program I’d pick, although Finnair and BA both seem to be contenders.

What to do now?

Right now, under my operating assumption that there’s a reasonable, non-zero chance of reinstatement, I’m going to continue to credit my flights to AA. I am still getting Executive Platinum benefits. Worst case scenario, at least I’m collecting 1 Hyatt point per dollar of spend on AA. If I do get reinstated, I will need every EQM and EQD that I can possibly accumulate towards re-qualification. And if my account is ultimately terminated, my hope is that I will have enough time left in the year to reach at least a Oneworld Sapphire-equivalent status on another Oneworld carrier. That should be possible if I get a decision on my AA account within the next couple of months.

For anyone whose account has been terminated (and who actually flies AA or other Oneworld carriers on paid fares), the “which program” decision is upon you. Pick a program and run with it, now. At least there’s plenty of time left in 2020 to qualify for elite status with another carrier. And if you have any additional insight into which Oneworld loyalty program works best, please share with us in the Comments!

What Do We Do About Currently-Booked Award Flights?

Currently-booked award flights are at risk. They’ll be cancelled if the AAdvantage account is terminated (including partner award tickets).

As for award flights that were booked and ticketed before an AA account was locked, it seems like most if not all people have been able to actually take these flights, as long as their AA account is not terminated before the flight. But there’s no way to know when a termination may be coming; many people have been terminated shortly before their flight was set to depart, and some have been terminated mid-trip, leaving them effectively stranded until they can make other last-minute arrangements to get home.

If you’re locked and have an award ticket, there are a few options:

  • One, just cancel your trip
    • If you don’t have to go, and you want to reduce your time commitment and stress, this may be your best option.
  • Two, wait it out and hope for the best; that is, that your account will remain locked-but-not-terminated for the duration of your trip and you will be able to travel
    • If you take this route, understand that you absolutely must have a back-up plan to return from your trip; there are plenty of accounts of people’s accounts being terminated mid-trip.
  • Three, go ahead and cancel your award flights and re-book
    • This will cost you money and/or some points from another program, of course. But it is a major stress-reducer, and you won’t have to waste any more time worrying about whether your tickets will stay in place or not.
    • This is almost certainly the best option if there’s a trip that you know you absolutely must take.

Our Personal Situation with a Previously-Booked Award Ticket

We’re fortunate that we only have one set of award tickets booked on my account, and the flight is not soon. I used my AA miles to book Philly and me from Europe back to DFW on a late-summer trip. The award tickets booked using my miles are one-way only.

We also have award flights booked to get from DFW to Europe, but they weren’t booked with my miles.

Our short-term plan is to just wait and see what happens with my account. If my account is terminated, we’ll either (a) cancel our outbound award tickets and re-book a round-trip DFW-Europe-DFW paid fare; (b) keep our outbound award tickets and book a one-way return using another mileage currency; or (c) keep our outbound award tickets and book a round-trip flight originating in Europe, where the first leg is our “return” Europe-to-DFW flight in late summer and the second leg is the DFW-to-Europe flight for a later trip.

Our ultimate choice will depend on the options available at the time. If I remain locked, we’ll probably let it run until 21-28 days before our outbound flight and then assess options and decide what to do. In the meantime, we’ll be watching for sales that might help us out.

What Are We Doing About Booking Paid Fares?

As we mentioned earlier, we’re hub-captive to AA and heavily invested in the AAdvantage program. For right now, we’re operating business-as-usual in terms of booking paid flights. For the most part, that means booking AA unless something else is more convenient or substantially cheaper.

On the practical side, one impact that the lockdown is having is on a same-day-change strategy that we occasionally use. As Executive Platinums, one of the nice benefits is the ability to make same-day confirmed flight changes for free. Sometimes we take advantage of this to book a cheaper paid fare on a flight that’s less convenient for us, with the general plan of same-day-changing onto our preferred flight. We’ve had mostly good luck with this in the past. The problem is, with me at serious risk of not having Executive Platinum status at some point in the relatively near future, it’s hard to bank on this strategy going forward. On the flip side, the good news is that if Philly and I are traveling together (and if her account remains unlocked), same-day confirmed flight change is available for free for companions on the same reservation as the Executive Platinum member (this also applies to Platinum Pro members).

Another impact is that I’ll have to pay checked baggage fees if my Executive Platinum status is stripped. Again, though, fortunately the impact is less if I’m traveling with Philly. Companions on the same reservation as an Executive Platinum member (or other AA elite member) receive the same baggage allowance as the elite member. And, if we are traveling together but on separate reservations (for instance, when she’s on a work trip and I tag along), she has a 3-checked-bag allowance, which will cover both of our bags.

One final point on baggage fees – if I have to pay them, it’ll be an easy way to use the airline fee credits from several of our Amex cards. Right now, we’re doing some gymnastics to try to make some productive use of those credits.

Finally, there are seat selection fees. Again, I’m fortunate that many of my trips are on the same reservation as Philly, and if we’re on the same reservation I would still get free Main Cabin Extra seating as her companion. For trips where I’m on a separate reservation, if I’m terminated I can use Amex airline fee credits (or Ritz Carlton Visa travel credits) to offset costs up to a certain point.

What Do We Do With AA Co-Branded Credit Cards?

For the most part and for most people with locked accounts, this answer is straightforward – stop using your AA co-branded credit card; and at renewal, cancel or product-change your card.

There’s no reason to spend on AA co-branded cards when the miles are at risk.

We’ve already implemented this strategy with my Barclays AA Aviator business card, as we wrote about last week:

One lingering question that we have about AA co-branded credit cards is whether certain card benefits such as free checked baggage would continue to apply post-termination. We believe that the checked baggage benefit is tied to the cardholder’s AAdvantage number, so we do not believe that benefit would be honored.

I have two other AA co-branded cards at the moment – a Citi AA Platinum card, and a Barclays AA Aviator Silver card.

Citi AA Platinum card

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard

My plan for the Citi AA Platinum card is to product-change it after it hits its card anniversary in March and the annual fee posts. There are some solid Citi product-change options, including the Premier, Double Cash and Rewards+. Which one makes more sense for you depends on your current Citi card portfolio. For reasons we’ll explore in detail in a later article, I’m likely to product-change to a Premier card.

Barclays AA Aviator Silver card

Barclays AA Aviator Silver Mastercard

My situation with the Barclays AA Aviator Silver card (Aviator Silver) is much more interesting. For one thing, I spent enough money on the card in 2019 to earn a 2-person AA companion certificate. To get it, I’ll have to pay the 2020 annual fee. We don’t believe the companion certificate requires the certificate holder to have an AAdvantage account, so we believe we can still use it. And we have a good use for the certificate in mind. The value of the companion certificate alone should justify the annual fee.

In addition, the Aviator Silver card has 2 benefits that remain helpful. One, it has up to $50 of statement credit for AA in-flight WiFi purchases. We can certainly easily use this benefit. And two, it has a credit of up to $25 per day for in-flight food & beverage purchases. I almost never use those credits now, because I get a free snack and a free drink on each domestic flight in economy, as an Executive Platinum member. But if my AA account is terminated, I can use the credit instead and still have plenty to eat and drink.

All in all, oddly, my Barclays AA Aviator Silver card would still be a keeper this year, even if my AAdvantage account is terminated. Beyond this year, it would be less clear, since I wouldn’t be spending nearly enough on the card to earn the companion certificate again.

Wrap-Up

As you can see, my AAdvantage account lockdown is causing plenty of practical problems. Hopefully I’m just in the penalty box and will be reinstated at some point, but there’s a substantial risk that my account will be terminated and I will be forever banned from AAdvantage (some would say that this result is a near-certainty).

In any event, this situation is unique and has caused us to think through a myriad of planning and strategy issues. We hope that you’re not locked down, but if you are, we hope that this article is of some help in working through the issues. And if you’re not locked, we hope you stay that way and find this strategy article interesting (or at least entertaining) in the meantime!


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51 thoughts on “Planning & Strategy in the Face of an AA Lockdown

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      For sure, JB SanDiego. That’s a hard limbo to be in.

      I’m happy to be patient if that increases my chance for reinstatement 🙂 ~Craig

  1. SHUTDOWNBYAA

    Craig,

    I’m fully terminated.

    If your account is locked, consider it gone. No one has been reinstated, and the minimal (2-3 data points) communication that AA has given to people shows no signs of them reversing course. They are fully committed to this course of action.

    Your account is a perfect example of them shooting themselves in the foot with this. 4ish sign up bonuses is negligible, compared to the $10k+/yr in revenue you are giving them. But obviously corporate security doesn’t care about that, and there is no interdepartment communication within a large organization like AA

    I’d be very interested in who else is in your similar situation. Personally, I was a “bad customer,” over 20 credit cards over the course of 30ish months. I don’t blame them for taking the action, but the lack of communication and notice is unacceptable. I had flights cancelled with under 2 weeks notice.

    This has been going on since 11/29, when the first case was reported on Flyertalk. Shutdowns are still rolling in. They are on a warpath. I’m sure it helps their bottom line to get rid of the mileage liability on their balance sheet.

    1. KL

      I hope you have submitted complaints to DOT, CFPB, BBB, and your state’s attorney general, and are planning on taking AA to small claims court if (when) your complaints to those agencies go nowhere.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Shutdown – Many thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m not sure about how many cases have a profile similar to mine. It seems like most of the DPs I’ve read have a profile more like yours. Agreed that the lack of communication and notice is ridiculous. ~Craig

  2. Nun

    Gosh I think if any case deserves clemency it would be yours. It makes no sense that AA wouldn’t see value in keeping certain customers.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks, Nun. I appreciate your support. I hope that you’re right – and I suppose we’ll see … ~Craig

    1. Ted

      On reddit. Big spike in shutdowns reported in the last 48 hours, too – I’d say if anything, the shutdowns are actually increasing. This has been going on since later November, almost 2 months now. It isn’t anywhere near “over.” I think this is going to go on for a long time.

  3. KL

    I would highly encourage everyone who is shutdown by AA to 1. submit complaints to DOT (against AA) and CFPB (against Citi); 2. submit complaints the BBB and to their state’s Attorney General and to Texas’s Attorney General (where AA is headquartered), and 3. sue AA (and maybe Citi, if the AA case fails) in small claims court if (when) #1 and #2 go nowhere.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Thanks, KL. Good bullet-point list of actions that can be taken in response to AA shutdowns. I appreciate you taking the time to list and post these. ~Craig

    2. Victor

      some form of draft documents to help simplify the process for everyone to customize would probably increase the number of people willing to invest the effort to do all of these. I am locked, not shutdown, but will try and get as many of these done as possible with time available. Small claims will be first for me as I expect the others will be exercises in futility unless they reach critical mass for some entity and I have no expectation as to what that would take.

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  5. Ben

    There are already data points of exec plats and other elites being terminated who had similar spend as you, as well as those who influence travel contracts in their business terminated.

    Don’t be deluded. It’s a matter of time for you

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Ben – Thanks for the input. Can’t argue with the data points to date, although I don’t believe I’ve seen many (if any) shutdowns on a profile that looks like mine. Perhaps I’ve just missed them – there’s a ton of data out there to read and I’m sure I haven’t seen every DP. ~Craig

  6. Larry Mo

    “there is a strong chance my account will be terminated, but some reasonable chance that my account will be reinstated.”

    Sorry, there is simply no basis to believe that. You can of course believe what you choose to, but that’s simply wishful thinking.

    Every indication is that once locked, you will be terminated. Everyone. Including you. There is, as you admit, not a single report of anyone being unlocked. Why do you believe that you will be the one and only exception? What you call “common sense”? Sadly, that is not reality.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Larry Mo – Thanks for the input. Can’t argue with the data points to date, for sure. I see some other signs that I think give some hope – but certainly, reasonable minds could disagree. We’re all doing the best we can to draw conclusions without really knowing what is going on inside AA. ~Craig

  7. IkeEsq

    Another good article about some of the issues. My own perspective at this point is that I don’t trust AA to honor any reservation if they are willing to cancel a reservation hours before the flight, in the middle of a trip, or because they disagree with how you obtained the currency used to make the reservation even when obtained from one of their partners that they promote. Their recent earnings call and other news suggest that AA is struggling badly and I would honestly be surprised if there is not at the very least a change in management soon.

    Personally, I am never flying on AA again. Given the choice between a direct AA $140 flight that takes an hour and a one-stop $240 flight that takes 4, I’ll take the non-AA flight. At least I can be sure that my reservation will be honored.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Ike – Thanks for the comment and compliment. Agreed on your points about AA and rationale for never flying AA again. ~Craig

  8. Bob Roberts

    Craig I’m sorry to say I think you’re done as others have posted. The problem is not that you’ve done anything wrong it’s that AA has decided to confiscate all our miles with some vague reasoning and they’ve been told to do it with zero thought to the long term ramifications and to fairness.
    Given your situation I’d be suing for sure (small claims court or maybe a real one depending on how much they take from you). If you violated a rule they’d be fine to confiscate your ill gotten miles (e.g. clawback) but shutting you down is crazy and punitive for something they allowed to occur (or their partner did).
    I’m lucky to live in a United hub so I never have to use AA ever again but if you’re in their hub this sucks and is absurd. And the way they’re not communicating anything is beyond unprofessional.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Bob – Thanks for jumping in here. Really appreciate your thoughts. If I’m ultimately shut down, then yes, the old litigator in me says to rain fire on AA to the very best of my ability. You are definitely lucky to be in a place where you never have to fly AA if you don’t want to! Have a great weekend, my friend. ~Craig

  9. Jamie

    I find it interesting that AA introduced Economy Web Specials around the same time the lock-downs started. The amount of miles required to “purchase” a Web Special seat is significantly less than miles required for a MilesAAver seat. Anyone locked or terminated will be unable to take advantage of these opportunities, unfortunately.

    Perhaps AA is trying to entice (unlocked) Aadvantage members to use up their miles so as to get them off AA’s books? Also, it appears to me that there are fewer seats available at their MilesAAver level.

    That makes it more difficult to book the AA seat using partner miles (like BA), since there must be a MilesAAver seat available on AA’s website to use BA miles. Basically, it appears that AA is making it more difficult for people to use partner airline frequent flyer programs to fly AA.

    The timing of this all seems to weird to me.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Jamie – Many thanks for the good and thoughtful comment. It’s definitely getting tougher to use partner miles. GSTP had a good article on this within the past couple of days – not really focused on AA, but on the industry in general. It’s undoubtedly a trend that shows no signs of abating. ~Craig

      1. Jamie

        Just to connect the dots. I’m suggesting that AA may have had a change of strategy lately whereby they are doing whatever they can to get Aadvantage miles off the books.

        They created these new Web Special award seats where one can fly for fewer miles than usual. In return, the ticket is use-it-or-lose-it. With other award reservations, the passenger has the option to pay a fee to redeposit the miles. With the Web Special award tickets? Nope. There is no way to cancel the reservation and redeposit the miles. In other words, the miles are no longer a liability once a Web Special award is ticketed since there’s no way to redeposit the miles.

        It’s interesting that this new award “bucket” was introduced around the same time that AA is terminating thousands of accounts and taking all those millions of miles off their books.

        1. NomoreAA

          Did you notice that there are many itineraries that Saaver is not available yet the Web Specials are?

          Why would a 12.5K Saaver oneway domestic not available when there were 6 to 7K Web Specials for the same routes?

          What gives?

          1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

            Hi NomoreAA – Agreed, seems like a strange situation on its face. Three things here in response to your question, which may make the situation more understandable: One, as Jamie says, subject to a narrow exception, Web Specials are non-refundable and can be wiped off the books quickly. That may play a part. Two, since they can’t be cancelled or changed, AA isn’t incurring additional servicing costs on this type of award reservation after it’s initially made. That savings compared to a Saver award may be meaningful to AA. And three is the issue of partner availability. Web Special awards, regardless of price, aren’t made available to AA’s partners for booking (for instance, you can’t book them using BA Avios); whereas, Saver awards can be booked using partner miles. By using the Web Special “bucket,” AA can make award seats available to its own AAdvantage members without making them available to outsiders. Hope this helps. ~Craig

        2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

          Yes, got it – AA is taking actions on multiple fronts to wipe mileage liabilities off the books.

          FYI, there is one modest exception on the Web Special tickets – Exec Platinums can cancel Web Special tickets and re-deposit the miles.

          Thanks, Jamie – really appreciate the comments and hope you continue to read and enjoy Middle Age Miles! ~Craig

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  11. debit

    “o me it defies common sense that AA would terminate people who otherwise are good customers, based on some relatively modest credit card activity that didn’t directly”

    When i do it. It’s modest. When someone else does its a big deal. Selectively enforced laws and rules have been used by a group of people to suppress others precisely this way.

  12. UAistheway

    I know three people from a private group that got the notices yesterday and today. I love optimism but I think as others have commented, you are locked, you are out, literally.

    Good luck in any case.

  13. WhoKnows

    Does anyone know if an account is terminated, do you lose EP benefits? Seems obvious they are terminated but would like to know for sure.
    I’m EP and could be affected by this based on two mailers. But not yet.

    1. Josh

      Correct. Your entire AAdvantage account is terminated, known as a “shut down.” You lose your elite benefits because your AAdvantage account ceases to exists. You won’t be able to log in or add your number onto a reservation.

      1. WhoKnows

        Thank you got the response!
        Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have it coming. In fact about all my accounts should be shutdown if based on profitability and gaming.

    2. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi WhoKnows – Thanks for the question. Glad your account is ok for now. Fingers crossed that it stays that way! I agree with Josh’s earlier response about the impact of a shutdown on your AAdvantage account and loss of EP status. Note that when a person is “merely” locked and not shut down yet, EP benefits continue to apply. Again, hope you don’t find yourself in either situation! ~Craig

  14. Rich

    No offense but saying you did “x” legitimately while admitting you did “y” that could be questionable doesn’t matter. Or in simpler terms you can’t get off a traffic violation by claiming most of the time you don’t speed.

    Sorry but I’m not sympathetic to people who game the system since they are costing businesses money and taking away award seats from others.

    If you are an attorney you should have been away you were walking on thin ice.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Rich – Thanks for the comment, but agree to disagree here. AAdvantage T&Cs allow AA to take adverse action in cases of “Fraud, misrepresentation, abuse or violation of applicable rules.” I certainly didn’t commit fraud, I certainly didn’t misrepresent anything, and I didn’t violate any program rules. The only thing left here that AA could possibly stand on is the vague term “abuse.” I think it’s pretty damn hard for AA to win an argument that my applying and being approved for 4 cards from its partner Citi where I fully complied with Citi’s terms and didn’t misrepresent anything in any application constitutes “abuse” in any form or fashion. ~Craig

  15. Josh

    Craig, I appreciate you being so open and honest about your thought process in regards to the shutdown. While other bloggers have run to the other corner on this and pretended they never encouraged anyone to get on this train, you have had integrity and been upfront about your experience. It is greatly appreciated and is such a breath of fresh air. It seems that you are being linked to by several blogs and you deserve the clicks.

    As far as the situation goes, going by the facts, so far your chance of an unlock is 0%. You would be the only report of someone getting unlocked. I hope I am wrong and AA reverses course, but outside of legal or regulatory action, I can’t see AA unlocking anyone.

    I haven’t seen this argued anywhere, but look at it from AA’s perspective. If they unlock people, then what are we all going to do? Cash out our points. We can’t trust that AA won’t cancel our award flights if we book them. The trust is gone. So we cash them all out for minimal value, AA takes the hit and we’ll all still be mad. Or, AA terminates everyone, gets a nice valuation bump, rids itself of liability and clears its books of people it doesn’t want as part of its frequent flyer program.

    For anyone who is an Executive Platinum, AA must work for their flying needs. At this point, is anyone flying AA because they think the experience is better than Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue or Alaska? Unlikely. It is probably people who are hub captive or the route network/schedule works better. Those people won’t stop flying AA, so why not confiscate their miles and see if they will really leave? I doubt many will.

    For me, I am putting my money where my mouth is and avoiding AA so far. I booked away from them for two flights and I went somewhere else instead of patronize AA. For anyone who has their account terminated and continues to patronize AA, it’s the equivalent of keeping the door unlocked when your house was burgled and letting them know when you won’t be home.

    Rant over. Best of luck in everyone’s future endeavors.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hey Josh – Thanks for your helpful answer to WhoKnows earlier and this thoughtful comment. Doesn’t come across as a rant at all to me.

      You’re right, the situation seems grim. I really appreciate your support, and even more so your kind words about how I’ve conducted myself. ~Craig

  16. quasimodo

    Had a different experience. My account was locked last year. I was like – Doh! Never used a mailer though did use a DOC no 24 month link once before – 2-3 years ago? And standard open/close of AA cards from Citi/Barclays – per their rules. Called in, CorpSec said my acct was hacked and email changed.

    Few miles in account. Then they gave me a new FF #. I’ve yet to book a ticket, though I just got an emailer for a new Citi AA card (24 months is over, but I guess it’s 4 years now) and approved for that.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi quasimodo – Hope the back is feeling ok. Thanks for the DP and sorry about your AA account getting hacked. Seems like you’re back in pretty good shape with AA now. ~Craig

  17. Jim

    Got terminated today, account is gone. Still hard to believe after 25 years. The only thing that helps is I flew on Delta a few months ago and the service and experience was so much better that I started collecting Delta miles. Got about 500k, so in the end I’ll be fine without their rude employees and poor service.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Jim – I’m very sorry to hear this news. It sounds like you’ve been quite the long-time customer of AA. 500k miles is nothing to sneeze at. That said, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the DL experience better and hopefully that part of your journey will turn out for the best. Best of luck going forward! ~Craig

  18. Willie

    It appears your posts are meant to attract someone’s attention at AA and to spare your account from getting shut down.
    I hope it works, because you are a blogger / lawyer / elite member / nice guy / random reason, but that would mean AA has to take a closer look at their witch hunt.

    Will you post a follow up when you are shut down?

    I’m not locked, but perhaps they’ll come after me for paying estimated taxes with their card?
    I don’t like the idea that one of my employees could be denied boarding because their ticket was canceled.
    Keeping up with this and the fear is not worth it to me. I won’t be renewing my business card, and will be closing my Aadvantage account as soon as I’ve depleted all my miles.

    Good luck to you.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Willie – Thanks for the comment and good wishes.

      The purpose of our articles on AA shutdowns/lockdowns, including my own, are in furtherance of our mission, to help people live their dreams through travel and points. The AA shutdowns/lockdowns are definitely a hot topic in the travel and points-and-miles arenas, and it’s our goal to provide thoughtful analysis and discussion with respect to that situation. Yes, I believe that AA’s actions with respect to my AAdvantage account are wrong, and I also believe the same about AA’s actions with respect to many others who are similarly situated. In addition, I believe that an AA shutdown of my account or of anyone’s similarly situated would be a violations of AA’s own AAdvantage terms, in addition to being wrong on other legal grounds. If my articles help make that case, I’m quite happy about it. On the flip side, it appears that some people directly violated program terms by buying/selling miles and creating false accounts – so yes, we would absolutely like for AA to take a look to distinguish between people’s individual situations.

      Our intention is to continue to write about this situation, to the extent we believe it’s interesting and on-topic to our readers. If my personal situation turns into a legal dispute, then there are other factors that have to be considered on what can or should be published, as I’m sure you understand.

      I hope your account stays unlocked. You wouldn’t think that paying estimated taxes with a card would cause a problem, but I can’t argue with you about AA having lost a significant amount of trust. Thanks again for a thoughtful comment. ~Craig

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