I’m serious this time. 😉
For the past several years I’ve been a top tier elite with United, though have earned more than double the number of elite qualifying miles needed to maintain 1K status. While the benefits are still great, the marginal benefits do decrease after 100,000 elite qualifying miles. So for a long time I’ve been toying with the idea of going for top tier status with American, which, along with United, are the two more rewarding top tier statuses, in my opinion.
The problem is, American has long been stingy when it comes to matching competitors’ status. While they’ve long offered a challenge to anyone off the street with no flying activity for a fee, they did nothing to encourage other people to switch their business to American. So for several years now I’ve been saying “next year,” because I just don’t have it in me to fly all those miles in coach in order to earn top tier status.
The offer American seems to be offering most 1Ks is instant Platinum status, with 25,000 elite points required within 90 days to achieve Executive Platinum status. If you complete the challenge, you earn eight of American’s systemwide upgrades. Then, throughout the rest of the year, you have to requalify for Executive Platinum (by earning 100,000 elite qualifying points or miles), and they give you another eight systemwide upgrades. So for the 100,000 actual miles I plan on flying this year with American, I’ll be earning 16 systemwide upgrades, all of which I can use to upgrade any fare class, even internationally.
Now if you’re a United flyer you’re probably unfamiliar with the points system. United simply has elite qualifying miles, though American has elite qualifying miles and elite qualifying points. With them, virtually all fares earn one elite qualifying mile per mile flown. However, discounted tickets earn only half a point per mile flown, while premium cabin tickets mostly earn 1.5 points per mile flown. So I could have really strained myself and flown 50,000 miles on discounted coach fares and gotten really close to requalifying for Executive Platinum status.
Instead, though, I didn’t take my usual “I’m going to do whatever I need to do to minimize the cost” approach, and instead said “I’ve put in my miles in coach back in the day, let’s at least make this comfortable.” So I was looking at several paid first class tickets to Central America, where American has some pretty decent fares, at least to and from select markets. I would have eventually pulled the trigger on one, though then I saw the fare war going on between most of the airlines between Miami and London. At least that’s where it started. The fare war quickly spread to include more points in the US (including Tampa) and then spread to more points in Europe (including Paris). So after playing around with routings a bit, I managed to find the following routing all in paid business class for $1,600 all-in:
AA0415, Tampa to Chicago, 8:25AM-10:15AM, 737-800
AA2074, Chicago to Miami, 12:45PM-4:45PM, 767-300
AA005, Miami to London, 6:25PM-8:10AM (+1 day), 777-200
BA0308, London to Paris, 10:45AM-1:00PM, 320
BA0303, Paris to London, 7:35AM-7:55AM, 320
AA0057, London to Miami, 9:50AM-2:30PM, 777-200
AA0544, Miami to Dallas, 4:10PM-6:25PM, 737-800
AA0674, Dallas to Tampa, 8:40PM-11:55PM, MD-80
It’s by no means cheap, but I earn around 22,000 elite qualifying points, which is just short of what I need to earn Executive Platinum and those eight systemwide upgrades. So in my book, $1,600 to finally switch some business to American, have a weekend in Paris, and not stress with uncomfortable routings in coach was totally worth it.
Best of all, my flights from Miami to London are operated by 777-200s featuring three cabins of service, and American allows you to upgrade all revenue fares, even internationally. So a generous Executive Platinum friend offered to upgrade me to first class on the international segments.
I never thought the day would come where I would be mileage running in international first class.
Since I realize my blog is pretty United-centric at times, you can bet I’ll be sharing my experiences with American along the way, both good and bad.
And while I get to try their international first class product in June, I’ll be flying with them this week in international business class, though in this case not on my own dime. Details on that are coming soon!