Challenge (AA)

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AAdvantage Elite Status Challenge

The AA Challenge: Basics

The AAdvantage Elite Status Challenge is American Airlines' way of granting a one-time "short cut" to elite status for those flyers who will likely generate significant revenue. The Challenge is an unpublished benefit; there is nothing written publicly about it, so the Challenge could be withdrawn or changed at any time. If you have a question about a Challenge after doing your research here, please ask it in Challenge Help Desk Thread on FlyerTalk. For historical posts, you can also review the trailing thread.

Choosing a Challenge

An AA Challenge is based on flying sufficiently to earn 5,000 (AAdvantage Gold) or 10,000 (AAdvantage Platinum) Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) in a three month period. Challenges may begin on the 1st or 16th of the month. Elite Qualifying Points are figured on the basis of miles earned and fare class. See the tables at aa.com for the official rates.

Important notes:

  • Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) are not the same as Elite Qualifying Points (EQP), and it is Points that count for a Challenge; miles earned are not relevant. See Miles and Points for more information on the differences.
  • See the tables at aa.com for the number of points that you will earn for the various fare booking classes. (Also see Inventory Classes and Mileage Eligibility.) See below for information on how to book specific fare classes via AA.com.
  • You'll earn points in accordance with the booking class that you purchased. This holds true even if you are upgraded into another booking class.
  • UPDATE: As of February 2014, US flights as well as flights marketed and operated by certain partners will also be eligible to earn points that count toward the completion of a Challenge: British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Qantas. (Cathay Pacific is notably missing.) The specific language from the challenge confirmation says "And now you have more opportunities to complete your Challenge because points earned on qualifying flights on American Airlines, American Eagle, the AmericanConnection® carrier, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Qantas and their eligible codeshare flights count toward your Challenge."
  • In general, status is not conferred during the Challenge itself, however it has been reported recently that Platinum Challenge participants having elite status on another airline or who have nonrefundable tickets for qualifying travel already booked, may be granted temporary GLD status immediately upon requesting the Challenge.
  • Once attaining Gold through a Challenge, you are not allowed to sign-up for a subsequent Platinum Challenge.1
  • You are not allowed to use a Challenge to maintain status - you must lose it and then Challenge to regain it.
  • You are not allowed to use a Challenge to re-attain status earned through a Challenge within the same year.
  • You are not allowed to use a Challenge if there is an exception on your account during the same year. For example, if you use the Buy-Back program to maintain status, even at a different tier, you are not eligible, so, if you use Buy-Back to maintain Gold status, you will not be eligible for a Platinum Challenge that year.
  • There is no Challenge for Executive Platinum.
  • To acquire Executive Platinum status you must fly 100 segments or earn 100,000 EQM / EQP in the calendar year; Challenge completion does not affect (reduce) this requirement.
  • You can only set your enrollment date for the 1st or 16th of the month
  • The challenge can start in the past to include previously flown miles, but you can only backdate your enrollment date to the most recent allowed enrollment date. For example, if you last flew on the 14th of the month, and call AA on the 18th, the earliest you can backdate the challenge is the 16th of the month, and therefore won't be able to include those miles in your challenge. However, if you flew on the 14th and you called AA by the 15th, you could backdate your enrollment date to the 1st of the month and be able to include those miles.

Status earned through a Challenge is treated the same as elite status earned through other means.

1There have been some reports of people doing this in the past, but it has become increasingly difficult and attempting either will likely just waste your time trying. It also goes against the spirit of the Challenge Program. UPDATE: As of October 2011, AA allows you to sign up for the Platinum challenge immediately after completing the Gold challenge in the same calender year. Also, if you sign up for the Gold challenge, and during that challenge you fly enough miles to meet the Platinum challenge, you can call AA and upgrade your challenge to the Platinum challenge (for an extra fee; the fee is usually a little bit more than it would have been if you signed up for the Platinum challenge in the first place) and get Platinum status.

Signing up for a Challenge

To enroll in a challenge, call AAdvantage customer service at +1 800-882-8880.

AA instituted fees to sign up for Gold and Platinum Challenges as of Oct 15, 2008. A Gold Challenge in progress can be upgraded to a Platinum Challenge for an additional fee, as of Dec 30, 2008. Conversely, a Platinum Challenge in progress can be downgraded if the flyer can only earn 5,000 points, but the fee difference is not refunded. (Recent reports on FlyerTalk suggest that AA is no longer doing explicit downgrades but Gold status may/will be conferred at the conclusion of a Platinum Challenge if the flyer only earns 5,000 points.)

Challenges begun before June 16 of a given year earn status for the remainder of that year and the first two months of the following year (8-14 months total); challenges begun on or after June 16 grant status for the remainder of that year, the following year, and the first two months of the year after (14-20 months total). Challenges can be started on the 1st and 16th of the month and you can request a specific start date (within the next few months). Be very explicit about requesting a start date unless you want the one offered to you. Challenge start dates may even be backdated to include a recent flight. (But only 2 weeks in the past)

The historical fee structure for enrolling in a Challenge has been as follows (be sure to contact AA for current information):1

  • As of June 22, 2012, fees are $240 for Platinum Challenge.
  • As of January 29, 2012, fees are $120 for Gold Challenge.
  • As of November 14, 2011, fees are $200 for Platinum Challenge.
  • As of October 24, 2011, fees were $120 for the Gold Challenge and $125 to upgrade from Gold Challenge in progress to a Platinum Challenge. Fees were $200 for the Platinum Challenge.
  • As of June 27, 2011, fees were $140 for the Gold Challenge and $240 for Platinum Challenge.
  • For Challenges starting Apr 16, 2011, fees were $100 for the Gold Challenge and $180 for Platinum Challenge.
  • For Challenges starting Jan 1 – Jun 1, 2011, fees were $120 for a Gold Challenge, $200 for a Platinum Challenge, and $100 to upgrade from a Gold Challenge in progress to a Platinum Challenge.
  • For Challenges starting Jun 16 – Sep 16, 2010, fees were reported for a Gold Challenge and $240 for a Platinum Challenge. (The upgrade fee was not reported.)
  • For Challenges starting Oct 1, 2010 - Dec 15, 2010, fees have been reported as of Oct 2010 to be $120 for Gold and as of Sep 2010 to be $200 for a Platinum Challenge. (The upgrade fees have not yet been reported.)

1Higher fees for Challenges starting in the second half of the year were first reported on May 22, 2009 at $100 Gold / $200 Platinum / $125 Upgrade.

Booking Flights for a Challenge

Deep Discount Economy fares only accrue 0.5 Points per mile. Thus, Challenge participants sometimes seek to book higher Discount Economy fares that accrue 1.0 Points per mile. However, the Economy Saver fare shown in AA.com Price and Schedule searches is often not the lowest published Discount Economy fare. Accordingly, the following procedure can be used to book that fare without incurring telephone booking fees:

  1. Identify the lowest published Discount Economy fare for your destination(s) and date(s). This can be done using fare tools such as Travelocity (free), ExpertFlyer (paid subscription), or the KVS Availability Tool.
  2. Identify flights on which Availability (inventory) for the lowest published Discount Economy fare is available. Availability for specific routes and dates can be determined using ExpertFlyer or the KVS Availability Tool. Routes and dates having the desired inventory can also be identified using ITA flight searches in which a specific booking class(es) is specified using the ITA route language (example: "ORD:: aa /f bc=h").
  3. Note the full price (fare plus taxes and fees) of the desired itinerary at the specified fare using ITA as above.
  4. Place the desired itinerary on Hold at AA.com in the lowest available fare (can be Deep Discount Economy).
  5. Telephone AA Web Services or AA Reservations and ask them to change the fare ("upfare") to your desired fare class. Verify that the final price matches the price from ITA.
  6. Return to the Hold reservation on AA.com and complete the purchase online.
  7. In some cases, the itinerary may be repriced back to the lowest available fare upon attempting to complete the purchase. An alert will be displayed on AA.com if this is the case. If this happens, call AA Web Services or AA Reservations, explain that you cannot complete the purchase online at this higher fare, and ask them to process the purchase without charging the telephone booking fee. If they refuse, call back and get a different agent. Repeat as necessary.

Completing a Challenge

An AA Challenge is successfully completed when you earn the requisite number of points within the three month period after you sign up. In general, status is not conferred during the Challenge itself, however it has been reported that Platinum Challenge participants having elite status on another airline may be granted temporary GLD status immediately upon commencing the challenge. On the flight on which you actually cross the threshold, status is earned for the purposes of elite bonus miles (25% GLD, 100% PLT) and miles from that flight will be added counting towards elite upgrades (4 upgrades per 10,000 base miles), although those bonus miles will post separately in View My Miles and may require a call to AAdvantage Customer Service if they do not post automatically. Remember, only base miles flown and elite minimum miles count in EQP calculations; class-of-service and elite bonus miles do not count. Keep in mind that the minimum EQP is 250, not 500.

When you complete the Challenge you have signed up for and your flight miles post to your online account, you will probably notice your new status (Gold status graphic, Platinum status graphic). You will be able to use the benefits of your status (ability to request upgrades, priority standby) as soon as the miles post. Your ability to use certain amenities, such as elite security lines, could be diminished until you have a physical card, though you may have success by pointing out your status when printed on boarding passes.

Your new status is not automatically applied to reservations made prior to the completion of a challenge. To apply your new status to reservations made before the completion of your challenge call the Platinum Desk 1-800-843-3000 or Gold Desk 1-800-843-4653 with the Passenger Name Record (PNR) of your scheduled travel.

American will send you a welcome packet with your new status card; you should receive it within a couple of weeks. (Luggage tags are no longer part of one's welcome kit.)

If you are attempting to begin a Platinum Challenge after completing a Gold Challenge, the whole 3-month Gold Challenge period must end before the Platinum Challenge may begin, even if you have earned 5,000 points to complete the Gold Challenge before the end of the challenge period. (This info provided by AAdvantage rep on 5/6/2008.)

Successful completion of a challenge does not provide a shortcut to the next higher elite level. When you complete a Platinum Challenge you are not half-way to Executive Platinum (EXP) status. To reach EXP status you will still have to earn 100,000 EQMs, 100,000 EQPs or 100 Flight Segments during a qualifying year. The actual number of EQMs and EQPs and Segments earned during the challenge count towards a higher status level during the remainder of the qualifying year using the regular AA elite qualification standards.

Other Information

Repeating a Challenge

AA Challenges may not be repeated back to back from one year to the next - that is, you may not use a challenge to re-qualify, with the exception of individuals who earned status through ordinary qualification means (ie points, miles or segments) after having successfully completed a challenge within the same year. If you do not requalify within the year, you will be downgraded one level, either to gold or no status. At the end of the downgraded year, you may complete the challenge again to regain your original status. (This info provided by AAdvantage rep on 10/10/2006.). AA refused a second gold challenge (May, 26 2010) even although the original challenge ended in 2008. The rep advised that status must be earned at some point. Also if you had an "exception" the prior year and attained status other than by ordinary qualification based on miles etc. (e.g., you paid a fee to retain status or acquire miles) you then will not be eligible for the challenge the next year -- so assuming you don't then qualify in the ordinary way in the next year you will have to lose status and then enter a challenge the year after that.

Further, it has been reported that members are allowed no more than a total of two Challenges and/or Status Buybacks per 4-5 year period.

Failed Challenges

"Failed" Challenges may be "forgiven" as not counting, and one may be allowed to try again.

Other Resources

  1. Here is the new "Help Desk" where members may ask specific questions not covered here:
  2. (Gold and Platinum)
  3. There is a very long trailing thread with more details:
  4. Challenge Trailing Thread (historical posts)

Please do not start a new thread about the Challenges, post to the thread above instead.

Sample Letter for Gold

The following is a letter from February 2007. A letter sent in April 2008 was nearly identical; there were no changes to the rules. (A Platinum Challenge letter sent in May 2008 has the miles and points numbers doubled, and is missing the last helpful tip; a Gold challenge letter sent May 13, 2008 remains unchanged with a 5,000 point requirement.)

Thanks for speaking with me about your AAdvantage account. We have put you on a Challenge for AAdvantage Gold membership. Congratulations – and Good Luck!

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Remember that Challenges are based on points, not miles, and your goal is 5,000 points in the three-month period we discussed. If you’re not sure how you earn points, read on. (That’s why you wanted this email, right?)
  • Be sure to fly AA (we know you want to anyway!) since only points earned on American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection flights (including AA codeshare flights operated by other carriers) count toward Challenges.
  • Select fares with high point values. If, for example, you use Deep Discount Fares, get ready to fly 10,000 miles because those fares earn points at half the rate of miles. But if you buy Discount Fares, the rate is one point per mile and you can meet your Challenge by flying 5,000 elite-qualifying miles. And if you select premium fares, you earn 1.5 points per mile and can meet the Challenge by flying just – OK, you do the math!
  • Know the point values you’ll earn for the booking codes you select. Yes it may look like alphabet soup, but there’s a point to these codes. In fact, there’s anywhere from .5 – 1.5 points!
    • Earn 1.5 points per mile when the purchased fare on your American Airlines ticket is booked in one of these booking codes: A F P D I J B Y
    • Earn 1.0 point per mile for these booking codes: H K L M V W
    • Earn .5 points per mile for these booking codes: G N O* Q** S (sorry, you knew there had to be an asterisk somewhere)
  • How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you’re purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that’s your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on AA.com, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked.
  • Here’s an easy way to keep track of your progress: Before you take your first flight in the Challenge period, look at your YTD Elite Qualifying Points. You can access this information when you login to AA.com with your AAdvantage number and password. (If I’ve just lost you, call us at 800-421-0600 and request the email on ‘AA.com Login and Passwords.’) Click on ‘View My Miles’ and your Mileage Summary (displayed on the left) includes your YTD Elite Qualifying Points. Add 5,000 to this number and that’s what you’re shooting for. At the end of your Challenge, if your YTD Elite Qualifying Points are 5,000 more than when you started, victory is yours and you’ll see ‘Status: Gold’ on your Home Page right below your name when you login to AA.com.

A Challenge is intended for members who are in a hurry to get to the elite level they desire. Think of it as a shortcut to the status you would probably earn on your own during the normal 12-month qualification period. If you meet your Challenge goal, then you will be expected to requalify the following year by meeting the normal criteria. We know you can do it.

Now here are those pesky but important footnotes:

*,** See the more recent Platinum Challenge letter below; these caveats about earning EQPs have changed dramatically since Oct 15, 2008!

*O -- only eligible domestic fares booked in O will count

**Q -- excludes transatlantic fares booked in Q and equivalent booking codes on participant airlines

AAdvantage Customer Service

Sample Letter for Platinum (March 2011)

The following is a letter from 04-MAR-11.

Thank you for registering for the American Airlines AAdvantage PLATINUM(R) challenge. We have charged your credit card $200.00. If you successfully earn 10,000 points by 05/31/2011, you'll enjoy AAdvantage PLATINUM status until the last day in February 2012.

Here are some tips to help you succeed:

  • Be sure to fly AA (we know you want to anyway!) since only points earned on American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection(R) flights (including AA codeshare flights operated by other carriers) count toward Challenges
  • Since Challenges are based on points, not miles, you'll meet your goal more quickly if you select fares with high point values. If, for example, you use Deep Discount Fares, remember that those fares earn points at half the rate of miles - so you'll have to fly twice as much! But if you buy Discount Fares, the rate is one point per mile and you can meet your Challenge by flying 10,000 elite-qualifying miles. And if you select premium fares, you earn 1.5 points per mile and can meet the Challenge by flying just -- OK, you do the math!
  • Know the point values you'll earn for the booking codes you select. Yes it may look like alphabet soup, but there's a point to these codes. In fact, there's anywhere from 0.5 -- 1.5 points!
    • Earn 1.5 points per mile when the purchased fare on your American Airlines ticket is booked in one of these booking codes: A F P D I J B Y
    • Earn 1.0 point per mile for these AA booking codes: H K L M V W
    • Earn .5 points per mile for these AA booking codes: G N Q S O (excludes tickets between North America and Latin America booked in O inventory, which are not eligible for mileage credit)
  • How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you're purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that's your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on AA.com, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked.
  • If you have the opportunity to upgrade, good for you! But with respect to the points you will earn, traveling in a premium cabin is not the same as purchasing a premium fare. When you upgrade, the points for your flights are still calculated on the fare and booking code you purchased, not the cabin that you were lucky enough to travel in!
  • Remember that the charge for your Challenge is nonrefundable - even if circumstances beyond your control (or ours!) prevent you from meeting the goal. But we're thinking positive thoughts and we know you can do it!

Keep in mind that a Challenge is intended for members who are in a hurry to get to the elite level they desire and begin enjoying their benefits. Think of it as a shortcut to the status you would probably earn on your own during the normal qualification period. Assuming you're successful, please be prepared to meet the normal criteria when it comes time to requalify for your status, since we offer only limited opportunities to earn status via a Challenge. That's fair, right? Now you're all set -- Good Luck!

Sincerely,
XXXXX
Manager, Member Services
AAdvantage Customer Service

Other Ways to Earn Status

See Elite Levels (AA) for alternate ways to earn status, including Status Matching.