As an AA Million Miler, I enjoy lifetime AA Gold status, but I have a friend who didn’t make it to a million miles and, like me, does not fly as much as he used to (he’s an ex-consultant). He grew up in London, but lives here in Raleigh, where he owns a solar business, and travels several times a year RDU/LHR via AA173/174, the nonstop flights that connect Raleigh to London, to visit his family.
American has offered him Gold elite privileges for a year for $649, and he asked me if it’s worth it. He views snagging a more comfy seat in the Main Cabin Extra section of economy on AA’s 767 nonstops to and from London as the primary benefit of Gold status, a privilege that was gratis when MCE seating was first introduced.
Good question, I thought. After doing some research and thinking about it, here’s what I told him:
“I checked the AA website. Normally, RDU/LHR in Main Cabin Extra is an additional $130 one way, so being Gold gets you a 50% discount, which is a $65 savings one way, or $130 round trip savings per trip. At that rate you’d break even at 5 RDU/LHR round trips (650 ÷ 5 = 130).
“But of course as Gold you get other perks, like a free checked bag and somewhat earlier boarding in addition to the 50% discount on MCE seating in advance (and it’s complimentary for Golds within 24 hours of the flight if any MCE seats are left then). You also receive a 25% mileage bonus if that’s important to you. Lastly, and not easily quantified, American Airlines Gold status and higher elite levels usually give you preferential treatment though the elite desks when unexpected disruptions occur.”
To recap, measuring the value of paying for Gold status at AA will differ by individual travel patterns, distances, and frequencies, but for Raleigh-London, at least, it’s a wash after five round trips. For those who want to dig into this question a bit more, comparison charts for all three AA elite levels can be found here.