Let's say one is interested in gaining or retaining AAdvantage frequent flyer status with American Airlines (I am happy to broaden the question to other airlines if that's useful). Normally, this requires you to actually fly, typically with either American or their alliance/codeshare partners. However, are there any other mechanisms to contribute towards frequent flyer membership without flying? As far as I understand, most credit cards/hire car programs etc. which are related to the AAdvantage program don't contribute 'elite-qualifying' miles. Are there any other legitimate ways to earn these or retain membership?
The only easy way to attain AA status is to have it gifted to you, either by the company or by another elite. Still, there are some avenues to shorten the climb.
AA Elite Awards allow Executive Platinum members who earn 125,000 EQMs to gift AAdvantage Gold status to a friend for one year.
A company enrolled in Business ExtrAA can redeem 2,400 points (equivalent to $24,000 in spending) to give Gold status to an employee.
AA does not generally status match except some cases negotiated through corporate travel departments; however, earlier this year they pounced on problems at United to poach some upper tier Premiers with matches.
Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard — Each calendar year when you reach $40,000 in spending on purchases, you will earn 10,000 EQMs. This card is also sometimes promoted with a one-time signup bonus of 5,000 EQMs for new cardholders.
Completing a challenge is usually the easiest way to attain status quickly if you have travel already scheduled, particularly if in a premium cabin as the challenge is based on EQPs, not EQMs. Note that the challenge is only offered to attain a status, not to maintain it.
AA periodically runs double EQM promotions.
If you're a true mover-and-shaker, someone who is giving AA hundreds of thousands of dollars of business over the years in full fares, you may be invited to the Concierge Key program.
Also, while the AAirpass prepaid card no longer comes with status, it does come with Admirals Club membership and priority checkin/screening/boarding.
No, there is no other way to get an elite status. There are very few exceptions:
Sometimes airlines match the status you have with another airline.
You can participate in a status challenge. You pay a fee and get a temporary elite status. Then you have to fly a certain number of miles in a specified time period. If you do that, you get an elite status for a year. You cannot participate in the challenge to retain your status.
If you are in charge of a travel department in a large company, you may get a complementary elite status.
If you earn more than 1 million miles (it doesn't matter how you get them in some frequent flyer programs; but not any longer in AAdvantage), you get an elite status for life.
Normally, this requires you to actually fly, typically with either American or their alliance/codeshare partners.
To attain frequent-flyer status on American, you must fly, and you must fly at least four segments per year on American Airlines flights (flights with AA flight numbers). The only exception is lifetime status, which you retain even without flying. Lifetime status is achieved by having flown more than one million (for gold) or two million (for Platinum) miles in your lifetime.
However, are there any other mechanisms to contribute towards frequent flyer membership without flying? As far as I understand, most credit cards/hire car programs etc. which are related to the AAdvantage program don't contribute 'elite-qualifying' miles.
There are several mechanisms that contribute towards elite status. If you purchase first class, business class, or full-fare coach tickets, you earn elite status with less flying (fewer miles flown). Both of the AA-affiliated credit card companies (Citi and Barclays) offer elite-qualifying miles for certain spend on certain cards. Additionally, AA may offer a fast-track to elite status on a case-by-case basis.
You can buy an Airpass for $10,000-$30,000 to instantly get the status tier you want.