NOTE: In the time since I wrote this post, American Airlines has changed the way it calculates when an AAdvantage member has one or two million miles. See this post for more information.

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Since January 1 I have made several mileage runs, I have used my American Airlines credit cards, I have eaten in restaurants that are part of the AAdvantage Dining Program, and I have even made online purchases at the AAdvantage eShopping Mall. All of those items brought me very close to hitting one of my goals, one million lifetime AAdvantage miles.  This doesn’t mean I have flown one million miles, it simply means that I have earned that many miles using every program American Airlines offers. All AAdvantage miles count towards this total.

My wife and I flew to San Diego last week for four days. After we arrived I checked my miles and saw that I had reached 998,000 miles. That meant that my return flight from San Diego to Dallas would put me over the one million mile mark. Or so I hoped.

Actually, I reached that mark even faster: bonus miles for purchases and dining were added the next day, putting me at 1,000,417 miles. I had reached my goal!

Today I received an email from American Airlines.

Happyflier, You’ve Reached a Major Milestone in the AAdvantage Program

Congratulations on earning 1,000,000 AAdvantage miles!

Whether you eagerly awaited this achievement or didn’t realize it occurred, I want you to know that we think it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. As a special thank you for your loyalty, you will soon receive a new elite-status membership card with the distinctive Million Miler emblem. For a review of the wide range of benefits associated with your membership, view the Elite Status Benefits chart online at aa.com/elitebenefits.

Plus, your new Million Miler status entitles you to AAdvantage Gold membership for the lifetime of the AAdvantage Gold program, regardless of your annual elite-qualifying activity. Of course, if you meet the criteria for a higher level, then you will be recognized accordingly.

Every one of the 1,000,000 AAdvantage® miles you have earned is an indication of your support, and we thank you for your commitment to American Airlines and the AAdvantage® program.
Yours truly,

Maya Leibman
President
AAdvantage® Loyalty Program

There are two key points in that message. The obvious one is confirmation that I have indeed reached the million mile mark. The other one is the comment about earning lifetime AAdvantage Gold status. Even if I don’t fly at all in the coming year or two, I will keep my Gold status.

I’d rather have Platinum status and earn double miles for all my flights, lifetime Platinum comes at the two million mile mark. I’ll earn that status later this year after I fly another 8.800 miles and reach 50,000 miles for this year. But even if I never do that, I will remain Gold and have the important benefits that status offers. There are many advantages, but these are the ones that are most important to me:

  • I have a better choice of seats including exit row seats with the extra legroom
  • I can check in at the First Class ticket counter at the airport
  • I don’t have to pay luggage fees
  • At most airports I can go directly to the front of the TSA security line
  • I can board the plane before the non-elite coach passengers, making it easier for me to find room for my bag in the overhead compartment
  • I get a 25% bonus on my miles (fly 1,000 miles, earn 1,250 miles)
  • I’ll pay a reduced price when I renew my Admirals Club membership

Those are valuable benefits that I take advantage of every time I fly; I’m glad to know I will have them from now on. At least I hope I will. American sets the rules for the AAdvantage program and can change them at any time they want. They can eliminate Gold status tomorrow, replacing it with Silver status or something similar and say the only way to earn lifetime Silver is to fly 650,000 miles. If they did that I’d be out of luck and would have a long way to go to earn that status. I hope they don’t change, and there is no indication that they will, but I understand that they can if they want.

In the meantime I am thankful for reaching this goal, a number I once felt was far out of my reach. Now, I have to hit my next goal for the year by flying at least 8,826 miles between now and the end of the year to earn Platinum status for 2012.