Craig asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” section of the blog:
I have a quandry that you might appreciate somewhat, now that you are AA Executive Platinum.
I am very fortunate in that I have about two million frequent flyer miles and I am just starting to use them. However, a very good buddy is AA Exec Platinum and he is willing to give me a good number of his VIP upgrade certificates.
However, unlike you, I have a full-time job and can only travel so many times a year. (This year I’m really pushing it to take five one-week international trips — two on miles and three on VIP vouchers).
The dilemma is that if I use a number of his VIP vouchers in the future, I will not be able to use my miles and will end up hoarding them, which is contrary to your “earn and burn” mantra. In the last year, I picked up another 750,000 miles between credit card spending and bonuses, and I can see getting lots more after reading your great advice.
To make matters more complex, I am so intrigued by your AA Exec Platinum challenge, that I am tempted to do it myself, with my son, which would give us 32 upgrade vouchers in a relatively short period of time.
I realize that AA would probably only let me do a Platinum challenge, since I am not an elite on any other airline, and that I’d have to earn my 100,000 BIS miles or points to get Exec Platinum. But with the availability of my friend’s VIP vouchers, any trips and milage runs would be most comfortable, and like you, could include discount business class to LHR, upgraded to first class.
What are your thoughts??? Earn and burn and forget about the upgrades, or use the upgrades while I have the opportunity and become EXP?
Also, any way a non-elite can ever get an Exec Platinum challenge when AA offers them again?
Thanks and keep up the great work!!!
While the circumstances above are specific to him, I find this to be a question that a lot of people face. I realize that not everyone has the time to fly 300,000 miles per year like me, because some of you have “real” jobs (shudder). And that can put people in a tough situation when deciding which direction to pursue with travel. They love to fly, but realistically they can only fly somewhere right around 100,000 miles per year. So while they can reach top tier status, they’re rarely able to use their miles for some of the world’s best first class products to exciting destinations, which is for me the biggest perk of mileage running.
First of all, in Craig’s case above there’s no way he could do the Executive Platinum challenge I did, since American isn’t offering the challenge at the moment (and he doesn’t have another top tier status to match from, even if they were). So his journey to Executive Platinum wouldn’t be quite as easy as mine, but then again, his friend is willing to give him some systemwide upgrades, which would ease the pain a bit.
As I plan out my own path to Executive Platinum, I realize that I won’t be doing a whole lot of mileage running on them. Instead, I’ll be doing a whole lot of mini-vacationing, which is something I had previously not done a whole lot of with United. I was looking at fares to Shanghai for the fall, and I see tickets that are $900 all-in. That’s far from great, but it is about 20,000 elite qualifying miles (and 40,000 redeemable miles), and upgrades are confirmable. So it’s really $900 for a business class ticket to Asia (with first class lounge access). The issue is, though, that it requires a lot of planning in advance. While Executive Platinum members usually clear their upgrades eventually, if I book any closer to departure I’ll likely have to sweat out the upgrade and waitlist. Similarly, there are six day minimum stay requirements for most of American’s good fares to Asia, which wouldn’t be very good for Craig.
Mileage running to Europe sounds nice in theory, but New York to London is less than 7,000 miles roundtrip, so he would have to do more than 14 of those per year (and trust me, they’re no fun).
But here’s the bigger picture for me. If Craig ends up mileage running, he’ll spend most of his time in American’s international business class slanted flat seat. It’s a decent product, but I think the excitement is lost a bit when that’s all you’re able to fly.
Living in New York, Craig could instead start to redeem his miles for Lufthansa first class with travel through Frankfurt where he would have access to Lufthansa’s amazing First Class Terminal and be driven to his plane in a Porsche. He could fly Swiss’ new first class for the amazing onboard product they have. He could fly British Airways’ new first and spend some time in the Concorde Room. He could fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong in first class. If he wanted to go to South America, he could fly American nonstop in first class for a fully flat bed. And he could do all that on award tickets.
The thing is, if you plan well, awards tickets aren’t really that expensive. You can travel from the US to Asia via Europe for 120,000 miles in first class. You can travel from the US to New Zealand in business class for 100,000 miles.
When it comes to flying, I’ve always said that business class is a comfortable form of transportation. First class on premium airlines, on the other hand, is an experience in and of itself.
So I think it all comes down to what “earn” ratio Craig could maintain. If he earned at least 500,000 miles per year, for example, and his goal was to travel with his son, that’s enough for two awesome first class trips for him and his son every year. I’m sure he could make up any deficit in miles by buying US Airways miles whenever they have a promotion, and be much more comfortable (and have more money in the bank) than if he chose to mileage run.
Just my two cents. Did I miss anything?