American Airlines has traditionally offered its elite members a “soft landing”, meaning that American would only drop your frequent flyer status one tier if you didn’t qualify for your current level of status during the year. For example, if you were an Executive Platinum in 2012 and only flew enough in 2012 to earn Gold status for 2013, you would be granted Platinum status in 2013, even though you did not fly enough to earn it. From the folks over at Flyertalk, it appears that this practice has come to an end. One Flyertalk member received the following in an email from American:
Previously, based on your prior year status, you benefited from an exception to receive a higher level of elite status than you actually earned. Next year, regardless of your current status, your elite status for the next membership year will be based on your elite qualifying activity in 2013.
I can mostly understand this, since the experience of most United/Continental and Delta/Northwest flyers was that the ranks of the elite flyers swelled post-merger, making upgrades harder and crowding lounges. American may be proactively trying to “thin the herd”.
More discussion over at FlyerTalk.