As the clock struck midnight and everyone yelled “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” my heart sank a bit.  It was official.

I didn’t requalify for American Airlines Executive Platinum status.  I wasn’t even close.

a plane flying in the sky

I finished the year with roughly 60k elite-qualifying miles, 6500 elite-qualifying dollars, and 37 segments.  What does all that equal?  Platinum status.  Not the worst thing in the world unless you live in an American hub.  It’s especially bad if you live in a “fortress hub”, where one airline dominates an entire market.

[Note: Platinum status equates to mid-tier status on American.  I know their status tiers can be confusing, since 75% of them have the word ‘Platinum’ in them, thought I would clarify.  It’s Gold, then Platinum, then Platinum Pro (which sounds like a membership you’d buy at a car wash place), and Executive Platinum.  Then there’s the spooky/unpublished/oft-rumored ConciergeKey status, but that’s its own bundle of nonsense]

Wait.  I’m based in Dallas.  Crap.  Flying American as a Platinum out of DFW really sucks.

But wait, there’s a silver lining to all this…

I don’t care.

a close up of a glass

I feel free and liberated.  American, innovating by copying Delta in every way except operational reliability and profitability, is focused on three groups: the super wealthy, the high-end corporate travelers, and one-time travelers who might sign up for a credit card.  I am none of those.  I travel for work but not as often as I used to, most of my flying, due to corporate policy, is in the back of the cabin, and I hate the credit card pitch with the fiery passion of ten-thousand burning suns.  It’s a risky move by American but the big 3 US airlines (American, Delta, and United) all pretty much agree that they don’t have to care too much about how well they do because people will end up having to fly them anyway.

American has cut benefits, by my count, upwards of 50 times since 2012.  They’ve made AAdvantage miles harder to earn.  They’ve made AAdvantage miles worth less by making awards cost more.  And, just as one last kick to the nuggets, they’re the absolute worst in the industry when it comes to award availability.  And even if you can find award availability you’re probably connecting through New Orleans and St. Louis on your way to Chicago.  Oh, they’ve also slashed the number of systemwide upgrades and made it almost impossible to confirm them at booking.

a glass of champagne on a napkin

“bUt ANdY ThEy aRe a BUsInEsS aNd HaVe tO m8kE a pRoFiT”

Yep, I agree with you, fingers-in-ears internet commenter.  They are a business.  And, frankly, their business isn’t worth much right now.  Their stock price lost almost half of its value last year.  Their key indicators, notably RASM, lag their competition.  They’re still blaming the merger, which was over five years ago now, for lagging issues.  But the one thing they haven’t been afraid to do is throw shade at their frequent flyers, the same ones they asked to stay with them when they announced their bankruptcy in 2012.

American has no identity.  They’re trying to do what cannot be done: be three airlines in one.  They lust after the profits of Spirit, want customer service like Southwest, and the spendy premium flyers like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.  An entity who wants to be three different things at the same time will end up being none of them.

Basically, here’s where American is at: after five years of being the world’s largest airline, they are so completely out of ideas that they’ve resorted to intense credit card pitches as a last resort to secure more revenue from infrequent flyers.  They’re going after big spenders but those are the most fickle customers.  The things those customers care the most about, arriving on time and a consistent customer experience, is what American struggles at the most.  American picked the exact wrong time to move in this direction, probably because some analyst on Wall Street said they should be following their competition.  Well, American followed their competition and their stock price is crap as a result.

So I’ll let them make a profit off someone else.  I’m officially a free agent.  No more ignoring an amazing $400 roundtrip to Europe for a weekend trip in the Spring just because it’s on Delta or even (gasp) United.

It’s time to fly.  I will absolutely say this: I’ve enjoyed countless flights with American Airlines and will happily fly them in the future (what can I say, I’m based in Dallas, if you want a nonstop flight somewhere you can fly any airline you want as long as it’s American or Southwest).  The benefits I once had will certainly be missed.  The more I’ve flown, though, the more I’m realizing it’s just a seat.  I want to focus on destinations more.  No more flying just to fly.

I’ve said this before but this year I’m putting my money where my mouth is: it begins next week when I fly to Africa with Delta!

I’m rooting for American.  I know many quality people who have worked for American for years and years.  They’re great at their jobs and work incredibly hard.  But maybe losing my top-tier status was the jolt of reality I needed.  I’m no longer going to go out of my way to fly American.  If American wants my business they need to fight for it like everyone else.

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