Airline Status: Qantas vs American Airlines

The American Airlines AAdvantage program is a popular oneworld alternative to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. AAdvantage status comes with perks such as system-wide upgrades, and AAdvantage miles are considered by many to be more valuable than Qantas points.

Having recently moved to the USA, one Qantas Platinum member is currently weighing up the pros & cons of switching their loyalty to American Airlines.

I moved to the US around 10 months ago and recently started a new role which will see my flying almost weekly (typically 3 hour flight). Being based out of New York it seems that most my flights are American Airlines. Is the better strategy to build up my AA status (I’m next to zero status), or to use my QFF number when flying American?

AAdvantage is certainly an attractive program. As it stands, one of the main and only criteria preventing Australian travellers from jumping ship (or aircraft, in this case) is a requirement to take four AA-marketed flights each year in order to retain status. But with our member living in the United States, this will easily be achievable. So, for many members, switching to American AAdvantage is a bit of a “no-brainer”.

One of the standout benefits of AAdvantage status is the generous number of free upgrades on offer. Subject to availability, Executive Platinum members (equivalent to Qantas Platinum) receive unlimited First class upgrades on American Airlines domestic flights. Executive Platinum members also receive 8 annual “System Wide Upgrades” that can be redeemed on any flight in the American network. This includes the new daily American Airlines Sydney-Los Angeles service.

You’ll get unlimited upgrades to F as an AA EXP (domestically, where available of course) and 8 SWU’s (System Wide Upgrades), allowing a trip of up to three segments, to be upgraded to the next fare class. eg. you may do say MIA-JFK-LAX-SYD on AA, and you can apply the SWU to the entire path. If flying AA, QF status is not a patch on their own.

However, there are benefits in sticking to Qantas. American Airlines status does not grant access to the airline’s Admirals Club lounges when flying domestically within the USA. Qantas status does.

Living in the USA, AA is an absolute no brainer, with one caveat. AA elites do not get lounge access on domestic only itineraries. If that’s important to you, you either have to buy an Admirals Club membership, or use a credit card to gain access where possible (if you are eligible for a US card).

Sticking with Qantas could also be beneficial if flying regularly on Qantas long-haul flights, as only Qantas points can be used to upgrade on these flights.

One option available to our member is to undertake an American Airlines Status Challenge. For a small fee, this offers a substantial shortcut to elite status with the airline.

With the travel indicated you could easily get status with an AA “Platinum Challenge”, retain it and then get to Executive Platinum (Emerald).

Once that status kicks in, earn and burn is generally far better with AAdvantage than QFF, even with the same flights and even with the current “enhancements” AAdvantage is undergoing.

Join the discussion HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]