Maybe you’re in the same boat I am – an American Airlines Gold elite flier who flew practically zero last year, and maybe your elite status is about to evaporate into a shimmer of “you’re in Group 6, buddy” and “hey, that’ll be $25 for your golf clubs, bub.”

American pushed out its annual “hey, you want to keep all that stuff? All it takes is cash!” offer to its soon to be former Elites. I’m not sure if the offer applies to Platinums who were going to fall to gold or ExecPlats who were going to fall to merely Platinum – I’m not in that tax bracket.

Here’s the nicely worded pitch:

We hope you have enjoyed the recognition and benefits of your AAdvantage Gold® membership as much as it’s been our pleasure to serve you at this level. As we begin a new elite membership year, you may already be aware that your 2010 flight activity does not support the continuation of your current elite status past February 28, 2011.

We understand the needs of elite members who have not requalified at the same membership level, but have a desire to retain valuable benefits. That’s why we are offering you a special opportunity to keep your AAdvantage Gold membership in 2011. The charge to renew your membership is $559. To extend your membership or simply learn more about this opportunity, visit But don’t delay because this limited offer expires on April 30, 2011.

This is an interesting calculus if you’re sort of an infrequent flier. Since we basically don’t travel much that more here at the DMN, I can’t count on work trips pushing me toward status. But if I’m going to take say, 5 more domestic trips and facing the prospect of paying $50 in bag fees for each of those trips – that’s $250 toward the ‘re-up’ fee as it is. The ability to board in Group 1 (or Priority Access) both at the gate and at security lines is nice, though D/FW is such an easy airport security-line wise that this benefit is less important. What earlier boarding does is let you stuff your carry-on up above without having to play Tetris with everybody’s else’s bags. Status on American — or any other carrier — just smooths the rough edges off an experience that long ago lost its magic. But is having basic status level worth it? You tell me.

If you’re American, I bet you need all the elites you can muster as it tries to claw its way through the marketplace as the No. 3 carrier and as an airline that’s trying to re-write the rules of ticket distribution. Elite fliers are probably (I’m taking an educated guess here) the MOST likely of all American’s passengers to book directly through for leisure and maybe for some business, and that’s the low-cost channel. Elites are the best customers margin wise (other than just a pure group of corporate travelers), they’re the most loyal and they’re wedded to regaining status to the point where they’ll fill up seats just to clock miles. You don’t think Qantas will get a bunch of “I’m flying to Australia for a day, turning around, flying back, taking a bunch of Ambien and banking those 17,000 qualifying miles, thank you!” customers? You bet they will. That’s what elite fliers do: stay elite.

Except me and others who got this pitch today. Interesting choices. What will you guys do?

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