It’s confirmed: I’m going for Executive Platinum status with American!

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.

But then earlier this year United starting matching American Executive Platinum members to 1K, so American responded by giving United 1Ks a pretty lucrative challenge to Executive Platinum.

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!

Comments

  1. It is a smart move, if I fly as much as you do, this is a best way to get two alliance top tiers.

    Good luck on the dAArk side.

  2. Welcome. You’ll like it. I am ST e+, ow e (aa exp) and *a silver…so I see most carriers a few times in the course of a year…I made the transition to AA as my anchor carrier about 2.5 years ago and have been very pleased.

  3. Hope you status matched to Flying Blue also then you will be top tier on all three alliances!

  4. You’ll also begin to wonder what life was like without wifi in the air, even on an MD80. 🙂

  5. I was really tempted to start the trek to EXP this year, too, but decided against it. I can’t wait to read about your impressions, etc.

    Part of the reason I was considering it was due to getting the AAdvantage Citi Visa card & 40,000 bonus miles earlier this year. I do have one flight booked in a couple of months just to test AA out, as it’s been years since I flew them, and then it was twice a week ORD-PHL-ORD for 6 months.

  6. Congrats! Love your site and will be nice to hear your opinions of EXP. Never flown United, so it will be nice to hear your opinion. Been EXP for 2 years now and can’t imagine going back…unless it was to try for 1K on UA/CO! 🙂

  7. Excellent to hear. I’ve long been a fan of AA and been surprised by how few internet-flying-people-types are into them. I guess the lack of free domestic upgrades? Whatever. In any event, I anticipate your posts

  8. Interesting plan. I also considered splitting my business between AA & UA, but felt as though UA & Star Alliance had more to offer. I would have loved to redeem miles for CX F, but with AA not flying to some of the places that I usually go to, as well as requiring me to connect on any flight from MCI, I figured UA would be the better option.. I do like the policy of allowing SWUs to be used on any revenue fare, but I feel like the day is soon approaching, that AA puts a minimum fare bucket requirement on SWUs.

    I would be curious to hear your thoughts on Star/OneWorld.. (IMHO, the Star livery looks better than the crappy OW livery 😉 :p)

  9. congrats on making the switch. You will be underwhelmed by AA’s biz service internationally — even their First is just good, not great, and the food is horrible!

    On the other hand, to use the evips on low international fares is just great: I’m flying LAX-ORD-PVG, earning 17000 eqms and 34000 redeemables for $800 and flying biz the whole way, so you can’t get a better bang for the buck than AA.

  10. @ANAFCLASS: Pretty sure you missed the business class sale… Keep an eye on the Mileage Runs Deals section of FT!

  11. Pretty cool! Looking forward to reading your reports on the dAArk side. If this post is any indication of what is coming ahead, I can’t hardly wait: first MR in First International, nice itinerar. Good for you and for many of us, AA flyers that I am sure, will have an opportunity to learn from you.

  12. I’ve beat you to it Ben, I’m almost done my challenge.

    One logic of your i don’t quite understand, I assume you’re going to try to re-qualify for EXP for next year, that means you’re need 100K by the end of the year anyways, so you’re eventually going to have to fly 75K after completing the challenge anyways, it seems to me that you cheapest possible approach might end up costing you more after the year is up.

  13. Do try to visit the AA club in Dallas. It is one of the nicest domestic clubs around.

    I was in there in December (via Amex Plat card and AA flight) and was very impressed. Totally puts RCC to shame.

    Steve

  14. I would do the same if I still live in Florida. Now living in a country where Oneworld is the weakest link, I have not incentive to do the matching or the challenge. Once I make 2MM, all bets are off.

    Look forward to your future blog on AA.

  15. I can’t wait to read what you are going to complain about on American. 😉 I hope they fully stock limes and lemons.

  16. Gene, I’m referring to their international biz and domestic first offerings. On plus side, LAX flagship AC is great – and it should be as Qantas paid for it, or so I heard.

  17. @ Gene/Michael,

    AA’s international J/F products suck, even when compared to UA. Uncomfortable seats and inedible food combined with an extremely limited route network render AA a useless airline for real global travelers. I think Ben’s going to hate AA and rushed into this decision; you can only redeem so many CX awards.

  18. trAAitor!!!!!

    Mile that eagle for all it’s worth. I hope you drive them (trAAsh) out of Business.

  19. “While they’ve long offered a challenge to anyone off the street with no flying activity for a fee”

    Hi, Do you know where I could find some details regarding this type of offer from AA? Thanks!

  20. Welcome over! I’m an AA flyer chasing Executive Platinum status this year, and I also got in on the fare ware across the pond. My routing was MIA-BOS-LHR-AMS, but it’s a trip with the wife as well as a mileage run! Too bad that since I’m already AA PLT I can’t do a challenge to EXP, as this would boost it, but I’ll hit EXP this year either way. If you’d like to know more about how I did it, feel free to check out my blog: gettingstatus.wordpress.com

  21. I made the jump from UA Premier Exec to AA Exec Plat 4 years ago. AA didn’t have the Exec Plat challenge at the time, only a Platinum Challenge, which I hit in 2 months when given 3. The rest of the year sucked, because there were no complimentary upgrades, but the guy I travelled with most of the time tons of stickers and would sticker upgrade me when available, so that was OK.

    Once I was Exec Plat, complimentary upgrades over 90% of the time, regardless of ticket class.

    And I have never looked back. I don’t give a crap about the food or the drinks. Just give me the bigger seat. And for that, AA puts UA to shame. You will be much happier.

    When I was PremExec at UA, I never understood why only the Flight Attendants at UA were decent people with good attitudes. EVERYONE ELSE, as a group, were unhelpfull clods. And the Flight Attendants are the only employee class at UA that isn’t part of the employee ownership plan . . .

    At AA, the Ticket Counter staff are a pain, but everyone else, Pilots/Flight Crew, Flight Attendants, Gate Agents, Baggage Service, everyone, are nice, helpful, and very forward-going in tending to me. You couldn’t PAY me to go back to UA.

    I’m based in Chicago, and fly over 100 segments a year, a few internationally.

    Yes, I wish AA had newer planes (they are working on it) with nicer amenities (individual video, etc.). But I really don’t care about that crap. I have a tablet, and Bose headphones, and away I go. Just give me the wider seat.

    Also, AA lets you qualify for Exec Plat with 100 segments a year. So if you live “off the grid”, and have to connect through a hub on all flights, 25 round trips can get you to Exec Plat. And if you’re small city is served by the CR-700’s, instead of the Embraer 140’s, there is a Bus/First section on those, which makes them tolerable to fly.

    Doug

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