Anyone who has been a member of an airline loyalty program for an extended period of time knows that it's best not to get too comfortable with the rules and policies. Airlines are constantly adjusting and tweaking their rewards policies to fit with market demands and customer habits.

The newest change on the horizon is coming from the American Airlines Aadvantage Frequent Flyer Program. American Airlines recently announced that it would be making some changes to its rewards polices in 2017. Are these new changes good or bad for customers like you and me? The answer will depend on what your travel plans look like in the year ahead.

The Big Change Announced By American Airlines In 2017

American Airlines has already added a revenue requirement for attaining elite status and introduced a fourth elite tier to ring in 2017. However, the airline isn't stopping there when it comes to changing things up for its loyal customers. The big buzz at the moment surrounds what American Airlines is doing with its companion upgrade policy in 2017.

The old policy was a bit difficult to deal with because companions and elite members actually got different priority statuses regarding airport upgrades and standby lists. What's more, many travelers found the policy to be a bit unclear and inconsistent.

The way it typically worked was that a companion traveler was able to have their upgrade cleared based on the status of the elite customer they were traveling with if they requested it at least a few hours in advance. However, companion travelers would have their upgrade cleared based on their own status if they waited until they got to the airport to make a request. The reality is that this policy wasn't always followed perfectly by gate agents. The result was often that two travel companions were stuck in two different cabins during a flight.

What is American Airlines doing differently now? Companions of elite members began receiving the same priority as elite members on all lists at the start of this year.

This means that travelers using a companion ticket no longer have to worry about clearing an upgrade ahead of time. Companions will now be automatically given the same priority as the elite members they are flying with.

What Does The Change To The Companion Pass Policy Mean For You?

What the new policy changes mean for you all depends on how frequently you bring along another person using your companion privilege. For those who travel around the world frequently with a companion, this change actually makes upgrades much more worthwhile than they used to be.

You've probably had the experience of having to choose between enjoying a cozy upgrade to a better cabin and leaving your travel companion behind. Most travelers would prefer to sit with their companion in Economy Class than sit apart in a better cabin.

Of course, the obvious issue raised by this new policy is that elite customers can now lose out to the companion of another traveler on an upgrade list. This change is likely to make the competition for upgrades a lot fiercer going forward.