Here’s the scoop on how to earn status on an alliance and not just an airline. The oneworld alliance may be smaller the other two major ones, but its 14 members (plus 21 affiliated members) can literally take you anywhere in the populated world.
If you regularly fly on Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, or SriLankan Airlines, it’s a safe bet that you might benefit from oneworld tier status.
Benefits of oneworld Tier Status
Oneworld has three tiers: Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald.
Ruby is an entry-level status. It offers the following benefits:
- Business Class priority check-in
- Preferred or pre-reserved seating
- Waitlist and standby priority
The Sapphire tier provides all the benefits of Ruby status and unlocks other perks:
- Priority boarding
- Priority baggage handling (not available on British Airways)
- Access to over 650 airport lounges including Business Class lounges for member and one guest on international travel
- Extra baggage allowance:
- 33 pounds in addition to the regular Economy baggage allowance or
- One additional bag up to 50 pounds (two pieces maximum)
Emerald tier provides all the benefits of Ruby and Sapphire, plus the following:
- First Class priority check-in
- Access to premium first class lounges
- Extra baggage allowance: 44 pounds in addition to the regular Economy baggage allowance
Earning oneworld Tier Status With American Airlines
You can’t earn oneworld tier status without having elite status with one of the airline’s frequent flyer program. And with the new rules imposed by all major U.S. airlines, you can’t earn status just by flying. American Airlines is rolling out its cash component in 2017, and you’ll have to pay your way up there with flights, as well as Elite Qualifying Dollars or EQDs.
- AAdvantage Gold status gets you oneworld Ruby
- Platinum and Platinum Pro (new in 2017) get you oneworld Sapphire
- Executive Platinum and Concierge Key get you oneworld Emerald
But getting AAdvantage status is never easy. For Gold/Ruby, you will need to fly 25,000 EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles) or 30 EQS (Elite Qualifying Segments) and spend $3,000 EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars). For Platinum/Sapphire it’s 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs and $6,000 EQDs, you will need to fly 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs and spend $12,000 in EQDs.
You can already earn EQMs for flying on American Airlines oneworld partners and Alaska. In 2017, you’ll be able to earn EQDs by flying on partners, too, although government taxes and fees don’t count.
Companies Are Aggressively Cutting Travel Costs
Even if you’re a seasoned business traveler, the chances are you don’t get to buy the most expensive tickets to satisfy your airline’s drive for extra revenue. Since companies are as strongly motivated to reduce travel and entertainment budgets as airlines to increase their revenue stream, more and more businesses are taking away employees’ ability to book their own travel. Many companies even outsource travel booking to travel management companies, which have one goal in mind – to cut travel costs for their clients.
And let’s remember that to get to Platinum/Sapphire, which is the first elite level that gives you some tangible benefits, you must spend $6,000 a year (in addition to flying enough miles) to satisfy the American Airlines elite earning requirements. When you are consistently getting squeezed into the cheapest airline seat money can buy by a travel management company, this is not an easy proposition.
Credit Cards to the Rescue
The good news is, there are credit cards that will count your credit card spending as a qualifying EQD earning activity. One of these cards will even let you get enough EQDs for the Platinum/Sapphire level.
The not-so-good news is, you’ll have to spend a lot.
Per American Airlines:
AAdvantage® AviatorTM Red, AviatorTM Blue and AviatorTM Business MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $3,000 EQDs by spending $25,000 on qualifying net purchases during the calendar year.
AAdvantage® AviatorTM Silver MasterCard® accounts can earn up to $6,000 EQDs by spending $50,000 on qualifying net purchases each calendar year. They’ll earn $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000 on qualifying purchases and another $3,000 EQDs after $50,000 on qualifying purchases.
The AAdvantage Aviator cards (Red and Silver) were converted from the US Airways card as a result of the merger between American Airlines and US Air. The Aviator Red card wasn’t available for new applications until now, and the Aviator Silver card will become available in 2017.
The Aviator Red card is a very good product that you can apply for online. In addition to the EQD earning option, there is also a 40,000-mile sign-up bonus after the first purchase, so even though the card carries a $95 annual fee, there is no mandatory spending requirement.
If you want the Silver card now, you can upgrade the Aviator Red card after 90 days. Or you may want to wait until the new Aviator Silver card application becomes available for new members because it will likely have a sign-up bonus as well.
You Can Only Earn EQDs From One Card
Unfortunately you can’t use both Red and Silver cards to earn EQDs – it has to be one or the other. The AAdvantage Aviator Red card can earn you $3,000 EQDs after spending $25,000, and the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card can earn you up to $6,000 for spending $50,000. Once again, $6,000 EQDs is what you will need to earn for AAdvantage Platinum, which corresponds to oneworld’s Sapphire tier.
There Are Two Cards That Let You Earn EQMs Too
- Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver MasterCard: 5,000 EQMs after spending $20,000 (up to 10,000 EQMs a year)
- Citi AAdvantage Executive MasterCard: 10,000 EQMs after spending $40,000 a calendar year
You can earn up to 20,000 EQMs a year using these two cards, but you would need to spend $80,000. As a reminder, you will need to earn 50,000 EQMs a year to reach Platinum/Sapphire.
Big spend is not the only thing that you need to take into consideration. These two are premium cards come with a cost. The Barclaycard Aviator Silver card carries a $199 annual fee, and the Citi AAdvantage Executive card carries a whopping $450 annual fee, although it comes with a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus and Admiral Club Membership. Still, if you fly oneworld airlines fairly often, the benefits can be worth it.