Some more thoughts on American’s double miles promotion

As I blogged about yesterday, American has just announced a double miles promotion for travel on flights marketed and operated by American between November 1 and December 31, 2012.

There are two versions of the offer. Elite members get double elite qualifying miles/points AND double redeemable miles on all flights during the promotion period, while non-elite members receive double elite qualifying miles/points throughout the promotion period and double redeemable miles for travel between November 16 and November 26.

First I figured I’d clarify some of the most common points of confusion regarding the offer:

I’m doing a status challenge with American (either their paid challenge or the United status match offer) — does this mean I have to fly half as much?

For challenges American specifically excludes promotional elite qualifying miles/points, so you’d still have to fly the full amount in order to complete your challenge.

Do these miles count towards 2012 or 2013 status?

A lot of people are thrown off by the fact that the terms and conditions say that “bonus elite qualifying miles or points will count towards your 2013 membership year.” This simply means that the status you earn this year counts towards your status for next year. So the miles you earn through this promotion qualify towards your 2012 mileage total.

What’s the difference between points and miles?

American has three metrics by which you can qualify for status: miles, points, and segments. You get one mile for each revenue mile flown, and one segment for each segment flown. The more “complicated” metric is points. The number of points you earn varies by the type of fare you’re flying. Here’s the chart about points accrual:

Typically those flying discounted fares will qualify for status based on miles or segments, while those flying on premium and full fare tickets will qualify on points. After all, it takes “only” 67,000 premium cabin/full fare miles to qualify for Executive Platinum.

Will United match this offer?

It’s anyone’s guess. If I had to guess I’d say no, as they haven’t been matching all of American’s promotions lately. If they do I suspect it will be with more restrictions than American has — maybe a fare class requirement, maybe only in select markets, or maybe double redeemable OR elite qualifying miles. But I’d still put my money on no, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong. The “new” United doesn’t match everything that American does to a “T” like the “old” United did.

Will American have another one of these promotions next year?

It’s anyone’s guess, but I’d bet yes. This is the second double miles promotion American is running this year, so clearly it’s working for them. They’re not exactly out of their financial troubles yet, so I’d bet we’ll see one, especially during the first quarter of the year, which is traditionally slow for travel.

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, though there are three main uses I see for this promotion:

Qualifying for status (or a higher status level)

I’ve heard many people suggest that the impact of this promotion will be minimal because the promotion is being run during a generally busy travel period of the year. Yes and no. November 16-26 and December 15-31 are a busy time of the year for travel, though everything around that is among the slowest, especially for travel to Asia.

Admittedly it’s late in the game so it’s not practical for everyone to go for status this late in the year, but if you have a bit of spare time and don’t mind a couple of trips to Asia, I’d definitely consider it. All you need to do is fly 50,000 miles to earn top tier status.

For example, doing the most basic search possible out of Seattle, I see fares to Shanghai for $975 all-in roundtrip.

That’s ~18,000 elite qualifying miles roundtrip, so through this promotion three of those would get you Executive Platinum status, for under $3,000 all-in.

And that’s without optimizing the routing or doing much fare searching. It’s literally the first thing I pulled up, and I’m sure someone that spent more time searching could find something much better.

You can see this post from last December about why top tier status with American is so valuable to me.

Getting an awesome deal on a mileage run!

For those of us that have already reached our desired status level, this translates to a pretty darn awesome mileage run opportunity if nothing else. As an Executive Platinum member I usually earn a 100% redeemable miles bonus for revenue travel on American, so through this promotion I’m basically earning 300% base miles for all my travel on American. I value American redeemable miles at roughly 1.8 cents each, so I’m basically getting a 5.4 cent per mile “return” on all my travel, which is more than I usually pay per mile.

Typically a good mileage run is under four cents per mile, so with this promotion I can take a totally mediocre mileage run and still get a great “return” from it.

Qualifying for Elite Rewards

This is where I stand the most to gain with this promotion. American has a 2012 Elite Rewards program, whereby you can choose between prizes for surpassing the elite qualifying points required for a status level. This year the rewards look as follows:

The key here is that this is based on elite qualifying points and not elite qualifying miles. Even though I have nearly 200,000 elite qualifying miles for the year (because I fly lots of discounted coach tickets), I still have under 100,000 elite qualifying points. As you can see, for passing 125,000 elite qualifying points I could choose two of those rewards. 35,000 AAdvantage miles is one of the rewards, so I could get a total of 70,000 AAdvantage miles for passing the threshold. I typically earn 0.5 elite qualifying points per mile on discounted tickets, so when that’s doubled I’d earn one elite qualifying point per discounted mile flown. That means I only have to fly about 25,000 miles in discounted coach to earn an extra 70,000 AAdvantage miles, which seems like a great deal.

The bottom line

This promotion means different things to different people. For me it’s an opportunity to go to China, earn triple miles, and qualify for the 2012 Elite Rewards. A 25,000 mile trip to China would earn me 75,000 AAdvantage miles (300% base miles), plus the 70,000 AAdvantage mile bonus from the Elite Rewards, for a total of ~145,000 redeemable miles, which is a spectacular deal.

Will this promotion change your end of the year travel plans?

Comments

  1. I did the math and would end up 18k miles short of EXP this year. Considering I’d only need to fly half of that, I’m busy at ITA right now!

    Thanks for bringing up that Elite Rewards Promo. Had forgotten about it.

  2. a question is whether on very short segments, we would earn the 500 minimum miles (both EQM and RDM), and get the doubling on that 500 x2 = 1000 EQM and 1000 RDM, or whether it’d be just double the distance.

  3. Thanks Lucky,
    Awesome blog.
    Just a quick question. Maybe I made a mistake but the SEA-ORD-PEK is only 16,602 miles. Or have I miscalculated? Therefore I would need to do 3 runs and another domestic…
    Do you have any further route suggestions?
    Thanks

  4. Probably not going to change much for me as I already am at 112K EQMs but only 45K EQPs so I’d really need to go nuts in addition to the flights I already have booked. One trip to not overlook here as I’m doing it over Thanksgiving is MIA-ASU, which has a 2x RDM promotion going on through 2/13 so a simple r/t will net 30,696 RDMs thanks to the 4x stacked bonuses. Also works for MIA-MAO as well.

  5. Hey Lucky, am thinking of doing the PVG run too! Do you think it’s worth it to do a Business Special fare for around 2800 rt? This run would basically put me over the edge for Platinum requalifying – and I’ve never been to PVG. What do you think? And how long have you stayed in PVG in the past on your runs – a couple days? Thanks so much!

  6. @ Eric F-D — It would be double of the 500.

    @ chris — It was in the emails sent to those doing an EXP challenge. Don’t think it’s published anywhere.

    @ C — Whoops, you’re right. I think I meant to say Shanghai, as three of those trips would get you there (or you could route the Beijing trips more circuitously).

    @ stacey — You can see Shanghai in a few days if you don’t want to go to surrounding areas. If you’re able to upgrade to first class I’d say $2,800 is a good deal, but otherwise I’d book coach and try to get your hands on some systemwide upgrades instead.

  7. Thanks Lucky! How would I get my hands on 4 system wide upgrades (for 2 of us) and how much would that run? How long will you be staying for?

  8. @ Stacey — It’s the end of the year so often people are giving them away on FlyerTalk. Haven’t booked my trip yet, so not sure how long I’ll stay.

  9. Lucky- where are people giving the SWUs away on flyertalk, and how would I get in on that? I have a trip coming up over Thanksgiving to Buenos Aires that i would be ECSTATIC to use them for, as right now I’m in lousy coach!

  10. Lucky – the 55K United re-qual offer specifically mentions bonus EQMs not counting towards the re-qual amount, but says nothing about EQPs. So you think bonus EQPs would then count?

  11. @ Joanna — If they give them away it’s usually in Coupon Connection, which requires 180 days on FlyerTalk and 180 posts to access.

  12. @ UA-NYC — Good point, I’m not sure. It could be an oversight, or maybe promotional EQPs are fine. Probably the latter based on the T&Cs.

  13. I have a question.
    The promotion says November 1- December 31. However they sent the email on November 2nd. I was actually in the air yesterday when I received the email and registered.

    1) Will my flight get credited with the promotion?

    2) Why the hell does American announce promotions after the start date? This same thing happened last year for their DEQM promo. Ridiculous.

  14. @ WarmNuts — Yes, you’ll get credit for that as long as you register before the promotion ends. Can’t answer the second question, unfortunately!

  15. Lucky

    Thanks. An organization like AA should be sending the email out at least a week in advance. Makes them appear even more disorganized than they really are.
    This promo will get me to EX PLAT. I was going to be really close but now the numbers play out accordingly.

  16. Lucky,

    What’s the best way to maximize this out of LAX? Particularly really close to the end of the year (i.e., I’d need to do 30k after Dec. 28–haha). Thanks for any help.

  17. @ Matt — 30K after December 28? That’s tough. It won’t be cheap, but do you need to fly 30K or earn 30K miles?

  18. Lucky,
    Could you please explain how to get 25,000 miles from the US to China?
    It might be important to flag to readers you need a visa for china for such a points run, or am I mistaken no visa is required?
    Thanks again. We are fortunate to have your knowledge and pro-active blogging.
    Cheers

  19. Lucky,

    Unfortunately, I need 60k EQM (so 30k flown). I might actually be able to work it in during November, but only on weekends (F-Sun). Feel free to email me and we can talk more–I’m happy to compensate you for helping me with routings, etc.

  20. @ C — You can’t do quite 25K, but you can route pretty circuitously to squeeze about 22K out of a routing through China depending on where you’re starting from, as American lets you make some domestic connections. Sorry, you are right about the Chinese visa. I always get a one year visa as I’m in China several times a year, though should have mentioned that.

    @ Matt — The best you’ll be able to do is a Shanghai or Beijing trip in those three days, and it won’t be cheap.

  21. Do you know if codeshare flights will count toward DEQM?
    i.e. if I fly from LHR to IAD on BA but, an AA coded ticket?

  22. “A 25,000 mile trip to China would earn me 75,000 AAdvantage miles (300% base miles), plus the 75,000 AAdvantage mile bonus from the Elite Rewards” Sorry Lucky, but how did you get the 75,000 bonus. As an Exec Plat, are you saying you get two of the 35K (but that’s 70K)? Or do you mean you get 15K from Gold, 25K from Plat, and 35K from Exec Plat(you can get all 3!) ?

  23. @ sg — I don’t think so, based on the terms.

    @ Happy — Typo on my part. Should have read 75,000 miles plus 70,000 miles (35,000 miles twice through Elite Rewards).

  24. I put a Business class ticket on hold today for SFO-ORD-PEK-ORD-SFO for $2595 in early Dec. My goal is EQ-points to get to 125,000. By my calculations, I think I’d earn 50,556 EQ-points (16,852 x 1.5 x 2). Is that right Lucky? If so, I’d rather do 1 trip in Business class to minimized mileage run time than take 3 trips in Economy at $923 each. Do these numbers look right? Also, I checked your trip report index and don’t see any reports for hotels in Beijing. I’m wondering if you have a favorite hotel in Beijing. Thanks.

  25. @ Mary Beth — Yep, that looks correct to me, and that’s a pretty decent fare. Is there a particular hotel chain you’re loyal to, so I can make an appropriate suggestion?

  26. Starwood or Hyatt but I also have a lot of points I could use with Priority Club (InterContinental) and Club Carlson (Radisson). Thanks for checking my math!

  27. @ Mary Beth — I’d highly recommend the Park Hyatt or St. Regis (St. Regis is probably better value if you can do Cash & Points).

  28. Many thanks!! The St. Regis C+P option is a great value plus will get me closer to 50 nights this year.

  29. @ mikeef — You do, unless you’re in transit for less than 48 hours. The issue is that if you’re both coming from the US and returning to the US you’re not in transit. But if you do something like ORD-PEK-NRT-ORD you could be considered in transit (since your next city is another country).

  30. It’s been a while so I just want to confirm – if I jump in Dec from plat to exec plat I would receive 8swus for 2012 followed by 8 more in March…do I have that right?

  31. Does anyone know when we will see the bonus miles added to our: YTD Elite Qualifying Miles? I flew from SNA to CLT via DFW a couple of days ago (after the promo started and I registered for it) and I see the 2,142 miles were added to my account for the actual miles flown, also see the 25% gold bonus miles added and 2,142 ELITE MEMBER DOUBLE MILES – But my YTD Elite Qualifying Miles only increased by 2,142 🙁
    Please let me know if you have any details on how much longer we should wait to see those miles show up! Are they trying to create confusion so people book more flights when in fact they already qualified for the next elite status???? mmmm … I wonder

  32. @ Marisa R — Per the T&Cs: “The initial posting of double elite qualifying miles and points will be posted to the account of the traveling AAdvantage member within 3-4 weeks after qualifying activity posts to your account. Thereafter, the postings will occur weekly.”

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