Is the AA status match from Hyatt worth a ride on the status-match-go-round?

Greg manufactures Delta Diamond status every year and loves it. I do like elite status in general — I’ve written quite a bit lately about matching around and around to keep elite status in a number of programs. But personally, I’ve never valued airline elite status much at all. Internationally, I’m usually flying business class on an award ticket (which means I get benefits like lounge access, priority check-in, a good seat, etc). Domestically, I fly Southwest more than anything else due to 4 continuous years of Companion Pass status between my wife and I. Thus, airline elite status hasn’t held much appeal to me. But what if the bar were lower? Now that Hyatt and American Airlines have a partnership, I have an opportunity to go for entry-level American Airlines Gold / oneworld Ruby status through January 2021 with a pretty easy offer. Should I go for it? I’m still not convinced.

Hyatt Explorist offer for AA Gold status

Stephen reported last week on the fact that thanks to the reciprocal benefits between Hyatt and American Airlines, some (many?) Hyatt elite members now have the opportunity for a fast-track to American Airlines status.

I am a Hyatt Explorist member, which I have courtesy of a match from M Life Gold (which I have courtesy of a match from Hyatt Explorist — you get the picture on that). Since I understood these AA status matches to be targeted, I was pleasantly surprised to be targeted despite relatively light Hyatt activity ever since the change that eliminated a stay-based method of qualifying for status. Upon announcement of the combined program, I received an email mentioning that I would be eligible for an elite status challenge once I linked accounts (note that you’ll need to link your World of Hyatt and AAdvantage accounts and then wait a day or two for your offer to show up under the “promotions” tab in your American Airlines AAdvantage account).

My offer was for American Airlines Gold status. Here are the details:

Get free Gold status
  • Register by Sep 30, 2019
  • Take your World of Hyatt Explorist status to the next level and enjoy free AAdvantage® Gold status for 3 months after you register.
  • Keep your AAdvantage® Gold status through January 31, 2021 by earning the required Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) and either the required Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) between the date you register and the date 3 months after you register:
    • $1,000 EQDs and either 7,000 EQMs or 8 EQSs
  • Rules: Qualifying EQDs, EQMs and EQSs to extend status are earned when you fly on eligible tickets for flights operated by American Airlines or marketed by American, American Eagle®, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines.

Compare that offer with the usual requirements for earning American Airlines Gold status:

  • 30,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs
  • $3,000 EQDs

I’ll probably never hit a year with $3,000 in paid travel on American Airlines, so the traditional path to status is a no-go for me. On the other hand, a thousand dollars in flights is fairly doable. I’d probably have to overpay for a flight or two and/or buy a flight when I would ordinarily redeem for an award ticket, but with three or four round trips, I’d probably hit $1K. Being based in a small market, three or four round trips also means I would easily hit 8 segments as it takes me a minimum of 2 segments to get just about anywhere.

American Airlines Planes

In the coming months, we have FM to Go events scheduled in Minneapolis and the Bay Area. While I had assumed I would fly award tickets to those destinations, I could fly on paid tickets. Based on a quick look at fares on the days I’d need to fly, I could pick up about $650 EQDs and 7 EQSs with those two events alone (neither trip would be a simple round trip for me due to other surrounding travel plans). Of course, my wife intends to travel with me on those trips — so that’s really a cost of about $1300 for me, assuming I can’t get her award tickets on the same flights. That excites me a little less (and less yet when I consider how poor my AA track record is over the past 2 years in terms of delays / cancellations / misconnects).

Still, my natural flying needs would put me within $350 and 1 segment of Gold status for about a year and a half. People who are otherwise considered to be rational humans have been known to do crazier things than a single $350 flight in the name of chasing airline elite status — hang around in frequent flyer circles and you’ll hear some doozies about end-of-year mileage runs.

So it’s gotta be worth spending an extra $350 on something in order to secure AA Gold status, right?

Let’s take a look at the key benefits of AA Gold status to double check:

Benefits of AAdvantage® Gold status include:

  • Complimentary upgrades on flights 500 miles or less within North America (confirmed as early as 24 hours before departure)
  • Priority check-in, security and boarding
  • 7 award miles/U.S. dollar (40% bonus)
  • Complimentary access to Preferred seats
  • 1 free checked bag
  • oneworld® Ruby℠ status on partner airlines

A quick look at each benefit:

Complimentary upgrades: Who doesn’t like a free upgrade now and then? This one provides free upgrades on flights 500 miles or less within North America. In fairness, most of the AA flights I’ve taken that are less than 500 miles long don’t have much to offer in terms of upgrades. Maybe I’d be able to take advantage of this a couple of times per year on some routes, though I’m honestly not even sure what an upgrade would look like on my preferred routes. An exit row? I really don’t feel like I can value these at all even though they might be nice now and then.

Priority check-in, security, and boarding: This is actually one elite status benefit that I value. While it’s easy to get priority boarding via a credit card, priority check-in and security can save a lot of time. In the past 15 years, I’ve only missed two flights (not counting missed connections), but in those two instances I arrived at the airport 2 hours and 3 hours ahead of time and still didn’t make it through the check-in line fast enough to make my flight. I’d be happy with priority check-in just for the decrease in stress on travel day. If I could pay for priority check-in and security for a year, I’d probably be willing to fork over a hundred bucks ($100).

7 award miles / US dollar: I already said that I don’t spend that much on paid flights. Even if I assume I’ll spend the full $3,000 per year on flights that is ordinarily required for Gold status, we’re taking about an extra 6,000 AA miles over the miles earned by a member with no status. That’s not nothing, but neither is it much. Based on our Reasonable Redemption Values, these miles are worth about $85. However, I don’t think I’ll actually earn that many — so I’d more realistically value this benefit around $20.

Complimentary access to preferred seats: This is probably my second-favorite benefit of status behind priority check-in. I believe that these “preferred” seats are usually seats near the front of the cabin. Flying to/from a small airport, we’re often faced with tight connections. While my wife ordinarily prefers to sit near the back of the cabin, our full-out sprint through the Denver airport the other day – her with a sleeping baby flopping on her shoulder and me with a stroller in one hand and a rolling bag-topped-with-a-bag in the other and a backpack strapped to my back — might have convinced her that sitting near the front could have been preferable after all. I’d take better odds / less running and be happy with it. I’d probably be willing to pay $50 per year for this.

1 free checked bag: Meh. One can get this with most of the AA credit cards. I guess if you don’t want to carry one of the credit cards, this one is worth the $95 you save by not paying one of those annual fees. On the other hand, I have so many cards that reimburse incidental fees that I can’t really put monetary value on a free checked bag anymore.

oneworld Ruby status: This one gets you business class priority check-in, preferred or pre-reserved seating, and waitlist and standby priority. I’m again happy with priority check-in and preferred seating. However, the vast majority of my international travel is in business or first class, so I already have access to those benefits thanks to my award tickets. If I traveled within Europe more often (where it’s typically not worth flying business class), I think I might value this one a bit more. However, I just don’t often fly on oneworld flights where I don’t already have these benefits.

So far, I’m only at about $170 in value.

However, AA is missing the chance to market two more benefits of Gold status that I think are worth considering:

  1. AAdvantage Award Processing Fee Waived: This means no $75 close-in booking fee
  2. Complimentary same-day standby

Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t use same-day standby as I’m usually traveling with my wife and she wouldn’t enjoy wondering whether or not we’ll have seats together. However, that benefit certainly may be more valuable to other folks, especially since it means you can book a cheap (unideal) flight and have a chance to change to the flight you really wanted for free. I’m not going to value this since I won’t use it, but others probably would place some value here.

I certainly would have to value waiving the $75 close-in booking fee as that would be really nice for me. I’m often planning travel within 21 days of departure and that means I am often looking at using British Airways Avios or Iberia Avios for travel on American Airlines, even when it sometimes means paying more miles since I avoid the $75 close-in fee with those programs.

Being able to avoid the fee on close-in booking would mean I’d be able to use AAdvantage miles a few more times per year and that I’d be better positioned to take advantage of reduced-mileage awards. I think I’d use this benefit at least twice a year, which is providing a $150 value. However, realistically, I’m not paying that $150 right now, so I can’t really calculate the value at $150. I guess I’d pay a $40 close-in booking fee if that’s what American charged. Considering that twice, I’d value this benefit at around $80.

Adding that $80 with the $170 from earlier puts me at around $250 in value. Unfortunately, that’s still well below the $350 I’d have to spend to get myself to AA Gold status. If I were really looking to stretch for a reason to do the challenge, it might be to position myself to status match with some other airline. In my case, I’d always be happy to have Alaska Airlines elite status, and I could likely match AA Gold status to Alaska MVP status for greater mileage earning on Alaska and partner flights. However, at the moment, I don’t have a need for that. While having AA Gold status for a year and a half would give me plenty of time to choose an Alaska match on my own timeline, I just don’t think it’s worth pouring extra money into this challenge for the hope of maybe matching to a status I only “might” want/need.

Bottom line

When I saw the ability to get instant American Airlines status, I’ll admit that I got a little excited. Free status sounded nice. Furthermore, the bar appears to be set really low in terms of earning continued status until early 2021. However, even at very low qualification standards, I’m just not interested enough in airline elite status. The perks aren’t worth enough to me to justify my own little mini “mileage-run” of a single $350+ segment. I’ll reserve the right to change my mind if my travel schedule changes significantly, but as of now I think I’m going to take a hard pass on the Hyatt / AAdvantage status match and challenge.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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Tom
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Tom

No. The AA Hyatt partnership seems to have been structured to be as cheap as possible. Few will see benefit from it as opposed to the United Marriott partnership where more elites can derive at least some benefit.
I won’t bother with registering for the AA platinum with status challenge. Frankly platinum for three months is just not enough to encourage me to fly AA where I’ve had significant operations issues when flying them in the past.
This tie up is a big fail in my book.

Cowsrus
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Cowsrus

hey nick can you send me a message? I would like to ask something.

Craig at Middle Age Miles
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Craig at Middle Age Miles

Hi Nick – Really good article and solid analysis as always. I love this type of thought-process/analysis article.
A few things to add:
1. The annual EQM requirement for AA Gold is 25,000 EQMs (not 30,000)
2. Do you and your bride have your MLife accounts linked so that she has MLife Gold, and then Hyatt Explorist too? If so, she might also have a challenge available to her? (or could get one through linking/matching) It sounds like that might be of some use to you.
3. Possible to book one of your Bay Area flights in first? You’d get extra EQDs from the higher spend, plus 2x EQM earning on the flight that could perhaps kick you up over the 7,000 EQM threshold for your challenge? If so, that might at least save you from taking an extra flight just to get an 8th segment.
4. On Basic Economy fares, Gold members retain preferred check-in/security/boarding and 1 free checked bag, but lose upgrade chances and preferred seat selection. Not sure how those factors cut in your personal analysis, or if they impact it at all.
5. You’re correct about “Preferred” seats – They’re near the front of the plane, but not Main Cabin Extra.
6. I know it’s not so important to you, but I think many people would find the free checked bag to be a meaningful benefit. Good reminder of how analysis on topics like this is so individualized.
7. GREAT point about Gold waiving close-in booking fees on AA. This is critically important for at least 2 groups of people: (1) people like you who live in secondary markets and are hurt by the fact that BA charges separately for each segment when booking with Avios; and (2) those people who find AA miles much easier to earn than Avios, for whatever reason.
~Craig

Mary Jane
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Mary Jane

Join the discussion…My husband and I are lifetime gold. Craig’s comments were right-on. We live in a AA hub so we take AA a lot. As a gold, you NEVER get upgraded. There are too many elites in the system now. Also, as a gold, you now have to pay for main cabin extra or preferred seating. The only tangible thing you rally get Is the one free bag. We had the chance/opportunity to pay $1200 for Platinum and declined.

Owen
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Owen

I had gold status with American and never seemed to catch an upgrade (unlike with Delta, even at Silver). I think you are correct – meh.

wise2u
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wise2u

If you can get it through the company dime then it might be worth it….for most people the CC’s offer the best value overall….I agree status perks are subjectively valued. I also agree AA has issues staying on schedule. My main gripe is even from DFW award availability and scheduling stinks, business saver is NEVER available on AA metal, add the recent devaluation and status just doesn’t seem that big of a deal.

bccc
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bccc

Nick, this is probably the best cost-benefit analysis I’ve seen on a points blog in quite some time. I was fully expecting you to value the waived $75 fee as something like “I’d use this three or four times, so I’ll value it at $250.” I was pleasantly surprised to see your great thought process on how your consumer habits would change with and without the status, and how you didn’t use this whole post as a way to refer the Barclay Aviator or something. Keep up the great work my man!

Bob
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Bob

As a person who’s manufactured AA Gold status the last two years (last year on a mileage run to FTU Chicago – where I met you, Nick, and was the recipient of a snickers bar for asking a timely question; and this year on a paid Gold status challenge – paid for with my new Ritz card airline incidental fee credit; thanks, Greg, for showing me how to upgrade my Marriott Premier card to get the Ritz card).

Both years I enjoyed a paid ($300 plus 25k miles) upgrade on the DFW-PVG (or PVG-DFW return) AA flight. The base fare was paid by my employer in China where I teach for a few months a year, and I earn AA miles – at the 7 miles per $ rate – from these trips.

I’m convinced that I would not have cleared on the upgrades w/o AA Gold status. So, yes, with AA Gold, you can score (very) meaningful upgrades, making it most definitely worthwhile. Granted, my case may be somewhat special, but isn’t this what it’s all about – finding those special cases where one can find exceptional value? I say this as I prepare to fly PVG-DFW next week and I’ve already been cleared into business class, again. So, AA Gold does work when you need it and know how to use the system to your AAdvantage.

iahphx
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iahphx

So I take about 30 AA flights a year. The majority of those are on award tickets, and the minority are on cheapo fares (some of them basic economy). I used to have elite status on AA but ever since they implemented a minimum spend, I can’t meet the requirements. That said, they periodically “gift” me (and my wife) 3 month gold status, and between the two of us we have this about half the time. We are also Hyatt Explorists, and have been offered this latest 3 month status match.

AA Gold is useful if you fly the airline. It kind of means you get treated reasonably — kind of how ALL pax were treated, say, a decade ago! You get reasonable access to seat assignments. You get to board early enough to stow your luggage. You can redeem for award tickets and make flight changes and waive some crazy fees. You are more likely to have an empty middle seat next to you if your flight is not sold out. You earn more plausible mileage when you buy revenue tickets.

But, realistically, even if you fly AA once a month, these benefits aren’t THAT valuable. Even with my travel schedule, I wouldn’t value them as being worth more than $300/year. What you absolutely NEED to have to fly AA is an AA credit card, but those are handed out like candy and somebody in your party can probably get one for free with a nice sign-up. Think of Gold status being slightly better than that.

Given this reality, I don’t pay for Gold. What my wife and I do is “tag team” so that one of us will try to have the status for both of us to use. Like with the Explorist offer, I will do the match right before I have a heavy month or two of AA flying. After my status expires, my wife will do it for our next round of travel (I haven’t yet linked her Hyatt card so as to delay her status match offer). Meanwhile, while you have the 90 day status, make sure you book seat assignments for ALL your current reservations, as you’ll keep those benefits (seat assignments, boarding priority) even after your status expires.

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Oh, also, with Gold, you get access to Main Cabin Extra 24 hours before the flight. More likely than not, seats will be available. The extra legroom and free drink are pleasant, even if I wouldn’t really be willing to pay much for either benefit.

Vee
Guest
Vee

If you book an American Airlines ticket through the Chase portal (with points) will it count towards earning the AA status match?

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

If it’s a normal revenue ticket and you give AA your frequent flyer number, it will. We occasionally hear about some wholesale tickets being sold by travel agencies, but that would seem unlikely.

Ken
Guest
Ken

So if I’m traveling around EU for the next few months and book BA flights with cash it would count for the AA Gold status? Trying to avoid that damn $75 fee since we mainly book travel last minute.

trackback

[…] Those requirements set the bar for re-qualification reasonably low, though not as low as my current Hyatt->American Airlines offer, which I decided wasn’t worth pursuing. […]

Alli
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Alli

Anyway to do this if I am only a Discoverist?

trackback

[…] flown, though that won’t be a ton more miles than you’d earn with AA in this case. Those with Hyatt status who are working on AA status challenges may prefer to credit to American. In my case, I think one round trip on this would be enough to get […]