American has long employed use of an “Eagle ranking” system to determine a customer’s worth for the company. The Eagle ranking is not meant to create additional status levels, but rather to specifically rate the customer, and their benefit and importance for American.
There’s not a lot known about this system. To be honest, the details were never meant to go public, but word has leaked out over the years, and there’s curiosity among elites and non-elites alike. There’s more speculation than fact, but there’s little of good sources to consolidate the information in one place.
Scouring forums (FlyerTalk and Traveling Better) and talking to other knowledgeable folks, I wanted to compile a list of what’s known about this mysterious system, and how it affects you as an American customer. While none of this information has been confirmed or denied by American, it may provide a helpful starting point to understanding.
What is it?
It’s referred to in the inner circles of American as Helix, so for easy explanation, I’ll use that term throughout. It originally started out as a signal light system using the colors green, yellow and red, which transformed into an Eagle ranking system with 3 levels. The current “Eagle system” ranks from 1 to 5 Eagles, with 5 being the highest.
Who is ranked?
All customers are ranked with a Helix rating, regardless of status. It’s commonly thought that the Helix system is something reserved for Executive Platinums, but that’s known to not be true.
What can a person with 5 Eagles do that a person with 1 Eagle can’t?
The more Eagles you have, the better. A person with 4 or 5 Eagles, can, for example, have their systemwide upgrades extended beyond the expiration date, if they’ve booked their reservation prior to the certificate deadline. The more Eagles you have, the more chances you have at earning additional systemwide upgrades, for meeting certain point (not mile) thresholds above and beyond the traditional 100,000 required for Executive Platinum. It’s also rumored that the more Eagles you have, the more agents are able to “break the rules” for you.
What is the Helix system not?
The Helix system is not a tie-breaker for upgrades.
What influences the Helix ranking?
Higher Eagles tend to be customers who are at risk of leaving American because of a recent history mechanical issues, disruptions, service failures, etc. Essentially, if you’re giving money to AA, and there’s a risk of you walking away due to problems that may have been within their control, the “red flag” goes up, and you’re moved up on the ranking. It’s reported that length of status also increased your rating. Many think that you’re able to loose Eagles based upon complaining, getting favors from agents, etc., but the system is not designed based off of that criteria.
How can you find out your Eagle ranking?
Well, you can’t. It’s not information that’s publicly disclosed. However, many folks have reported success in asking phone or airport agents, or having agents “slip up” and disclose their ranking. In all, it’s not supposed to be something you’re able to find out – but, if you are, you’ve hit great luck. Ratings are reported to update nightly.
There’s one method that may work to find out your ranking, though you’ll have to fly and have a lot of Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs):
- If you are offered an unlimited amount of systemwide upgrades – 2 for every 25k over 125,000 EQPs, 150,000 EQPs, etc.) then you may have 4 or 5 Eagles.
- If you are only offered 2 or 4 systemwide upgrades total, no matter the EQPs flown, you may have 3 or 4 Eagles.
- Those having Platinum or Gold status (since they cannot accumulate systemwide upgrades) are presumed, though not guaranteed, to have 1 or 2 Eagles.
Is there anything else you’ve heard on the Helix/Eagle system that wasn’t listed here? Do you know any more information? Feel free to share your experiences below!
Hat Tip: Thanks especially to JonNYC for the invaluable information contained in this post from Traveling Better. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and a great backbone for what I saw when compiling this post. When looking at the data from the forums available, JonNYC has provided well more than 90% of the statistics available, which is remarkable. A lot of the data is strewn across various postings, so in order for folks to find things in one place, I thought it helpful to place everything in this one post. Again, thanks to JonNYC for his contributions towards these data points across the various frequent flyer forums.
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