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?