The major U.S. airlines incentivize employers to book employees with business rewards programs that are separate from their frequent flyer programs.
American Airlines, for example, offers Business Extra in addition to its well known American AAdvantage program. Although business rewards programs tend to fly under the radar, eligible business owners should always sign up to double dip on flights and earn rewards back when shelling out for employee flights.
When compared to AAdvantage, rewards come much slower relative to spend. However, when you aggregate air travel spending across a company with just a few employees — much less dozens or hundreds — Business Extra could net flight rewards, elite status, Admirals Club access and upgrade certificates at a rate much faster than AAdvantage alone ever could.
Unlike AAdvantage elite benefits, Business Extra benefits are universally transferrable, meaning they could be kept for the C Suite, or dispersed as perks to spoil and incentivize employees.
Who Can Enroll In Business Extra?
If you operate some type of business, small or large, with at least two employees, you can enroll in Business Extra. Online registrants are prompted to input the business name, website URL, address and travel manager (can be you) in addition to generic personal information.
There is a geographic filter, which limits applications to companies based in the US, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and six Caribbean countries.
A Tax ID number is required for enrollment, according to AA’s FAQ page, though the online enrollment process does not prompt one. American maintains the right to request employment documentation, which is likely a remedy in situations where members manipulate the program by adding their Business Extra number to a bunch of AAdvantage accounts unrelated to the business.
Earning Business Extra Points
Business Extra member companies based in the U.S. and Canada earn 1 point for every $5 spent on eligible fares, not counting taxes and fees. Member companies with an address elsewhere earn a slightly higher rate of 2.5 points for every $10 spent.
Eligible fares include flights booked for travel on American, British Airways, Iberia and select codeshare airlines including Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas when ticketed through American Airlines.
When booking flights online at aa.com, employees (or whoever is booking the flights) must add the company’s Business Extra number under “Promo codes and accounts” section to ensure Business Extra earning.
The number will auto-populate, however, if employees add the company’s Business Extra number to their AAdvantage account under “Reservation Preferences.”
Redeeming Business Extra Points
Business Extra points can be redeemed not only for flights but also for upgrades, AAdvantage Gold status and Admirals Club benefits. Some of the values are actually pretty great.
For flight redemptions, Business Extra offers three different types of awards: American Airlines PlanAhead awards, American Airlines Anytime awards and Partner Awards for travel on British Airways and Iberia. Redemption levels for all awards are zone based. There is no option to redeem half points for a one-way ticket, as both roundtrips and one-ways cost the same amount.
The flight redemption process is not as streamlined as it is with AAdvantage awards given that there is a two-step process which first requires redeeming points for an appropriate certificate for the desired award, and then calling American Airline’s meeting services line at 1-800-433-1790 to apply it to an available flight.
PlanAhead awards pull from the same T class inventory as MileSAAver AAdvantage awards, which can be searched from the AA.com homepage by checking the “redeem miles” box for booking a flight. A roundtrip economy class flight within North America costs 2,000 Business Extra points, which would require $10,000 in flight expenditures to earn. The same flight in domestic first class costs 3,200 points.
A round-trip PlanAhead flight between North America and Europe costs 4,400 points in economy class, 7,200 points in business class and 10,000 points in first class. 10,000 points are earned after $50,000 in flight expenditures.
Unlike PlanAhead awards, Anytime awards do not have any special restrictions on seat availability. A round-trip economy trip within North America costs 5,000 points, which would require $25,000 in flight expenditures to earn. The same trip in domestic first class costs 8,000 points for an Anytime award.
A roundtrip Anytime flight between North America and Europe costs 11,000 points in economy class, 18,000 points in business class and 25,000 points in first class. 25,000 points are earned after spending a whopping $125,000 on eligible flights.
Pricing for Partner Awards on Iberia and British Airways falls in between that of PlanAhead and Anytime awards. For example, a round-trip Partner Award between North America and Europe costs 6,000 points in economy class, 9,000 points in premium economy class, 14,000 points in business class and 20,000 points in first class.
Every $3,250 in flight expenditures earns enough points, 650, for a one-segment upgrade within North America or between North America and Hawaii or the Caribbean so long as the ticket was not booked into heavily discounted fare buckets, B, N, O, Q or S.
The best way to facilitate an upgrade is to first either call American or use a subscription-based service such as ExpertFlyer.com to ensure upgrade space is available in fare code C (business class) or A (first class) for the desired flight.
If you’ve already booked a flight that’s not eligible to upgrade, but you want to use one of these upgrades, it’s possible to hold a reservation for the flight on AA.com, and call American to increase the fare to the cheapest eligible booking code.
You can only use an upgrade certificate to move up one class of service and for only one segment. Travelers with one connection in their itinerary, for instance, would need two upgrade certificates to move up a class of service on both flights.
AAdvantage Gold Status
3,200 Business Extra points are enough to gift yourself or someone in your company AAdvantage Gold status. This is American’s entry-level elite status tier, which offers an occasional complimentary upgrade, a 40% elite mileage earning bonus, free assigned Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of departure, priority boarding and one free checked bag.
Admirals Club Benefits
The lowest cost of any redemption in the Business Extra program is for an Admirals Club day pass, which only costs 300 points. For ten times more points, Business Extra members may redeem an Admirals Club Annual Membership.
An individual purchasing a new Admirals Club Membership would otherwise have to pony up $550 for annual club access. At 3,000 points, or $15,000 in annual flight expenditures, this redemption represents a 3.67% value back.
Business owners have nothing to lose and only value to gain by participating in airline Business Rewards programs such as Business Extra.
Business Extra offers member companies a variety of ways to redeem their points, and particularly for companies spending tens of thousands of dollars each month in flights, the program offers quite a bit of extra value that would otherwise go unrealized.