Tips for taking advantage of American’s elite fast track promotion

I’ve had several requests over the past few weeks for the best strategy for taking advantage of American’s elite fast track promotion, though kept getting sidetracked unfortunately. Anyway, I realize I’m way late here, but hopefully better late than never.

Those who were able to register prior to the promotion being pulled should have received the following email, confirming their registration and outlining the requirements:

AA_Fastrack_Promo_1

Unusually, qualification is based on elite qualifying miles and not even elite qualifying points, making this promotion easier to achieve than a typical status challenge with American.

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“Is it worth it?” is the question I get asked most often regarding this promotion. On one hand it’s a no brainer, since you’re getting top tier status and eight systemwide upgrades after flying just 30,000 miles, ordinarily hardly enough for entry level status. At the same time, the only way to truly decide whether it’s worth it is to analyze how much use you’d get out of the status. If you’re starting a new phase of your life next year and won’t be able to travel, it’s probably not worth it. If you’ll be able to travel a good bit next year it’s almost certainly a no brainer.

The next question I get asked is “where should I fly to complete the challenge?” As much as I love American, their route network does leave a bit to be desired. In general you’re best off looking at fares to Asia, in particular China. American does fly to Shanghai and Beijing out of Chicago, and the cool thing is that even if you originate on the west coast they’ll let you backtrack through Chicago for the same fare you’d usually pay to fly direct to Asia. To the average consumer that’s a huge inconvenience, but to the mileage runner it’s a blessing.

For example, American has some decent fares to China for the rest of the year, under $800 from many cities in the US. That’s not an amazing fare, by any means, but it is possible to add several connections to maximize the routing.

As an example, Los Angeles to Shanghai is $776 roundtrip for many dates in October and November, and at a minimum you have to connect in Chicago:

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That itinerary is just over 17,500 elite qualifying miles roundtrip, and that’s with just a single connection.

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To find this fare for yourself, I suggest using ITA Matrix.

Just enter the origin and destination. Then in the boxes below those cities enter “aa+” which indicates that you want to fly on American. You can also enter the airport codes if you want to route through specific cities, such as by entering “AA ORD AA+”

Then click the “See calendar of lowest fares” button, and entering the number of nights you’d like to stay in Shanghai (which can be entered as a range).

Once that’s complete just hit “search.”

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While the only consistent “secret weapon” to mileage running on American is China, theflightdeal.com is an awesome site to monitor for airfare deals. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re on top of just about every deal. It’s a site that’s worth bookmarking and checking every day to see if any specials popped up. They also tag deals by city, so if you just want deals for your city you can bookmark the city specific page. So for example I have their Seattle page bookmarked.

Another question I get asked is about whether it makes sense to mileage run on Alaska for this promotion, since they often have good fares. While Alaska flights are eligible for elite qualifying mileage accrual on American, per the terms and conditions technically Alaska flights don’t qualify for this promotion. Will they really not count in practice? That’s anyone’s guess, but it’s not something I’d chance.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that once the mileage threshold is reached, you should receive the elite status benefits associated with each tier. This means that if you currently have no status at all, you’ll be Gold by the time you arrive in Shanghai, and would earn a 25% elite mileage bonus for the return trip, so you’d end with nearly 20,000 redeemable miles. After completing one roundtrip you’d have Platinum status, which offers a 100% bonus on redeemable miles, which would come in handy if you’re shooting for Executive Platinum, as a subsequent roundtrip would generate over 35,000 redeemable miles!

Anyway, I hope that’s helpful, and good luck to those looking to take advantage of this promotion! Of course if anyone has any questions, please let me know.

Comments

  1. Not sure the GLD statuts would post by the time the theoretical passenger arrived at PVG, lucky. AA needs to update their status (and have the ADV number removed and readded to the record), unsure they would retroactively post the mileage.

  2. I took advantage of this a few years ago when traveling alot with work. Have since left that job and back to ground zero. How often do they run this and can you re qualify if you’ve done this before? Have to say, Platinum made life a lot more pleasant on those months of every other week trips…thanks

  3. Would your thinking change if I’m already Chairman with US? I have a few open weekends to get the 30,000. I’d love to get the SWU but if I would get them anyway next year if the merger goes through, I’d feel kinda stupid for flying so much for nothing

  4. Are there any international destinations that allow for quick turns? It looks like these fares to PVG require a couple of days in China. I’m pretty much out of vacation days for the year, so any ideas for a quick turn would be awesome.

    Leave on Friday come back Monday would be killer.

    Also, how easy is it to get a Chinese tourist visa? That’s required, right?

  5. @Noel – Lucky probably knows the details, but I believe that there is a visa requirement for US citizens UNLESS you are transiting to a 3rd country (So, not just a return to the US in this case) within 72 hrs through Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou

    Myself, I am looking for quick turns on the weekend as well out of NYC for this promo, but the best I can see right now is 5cpm. Ben, any thoughts on historical likelihood of sales to ANC or HNL over the fall, or perhaps improved BA sales during the same time frame? Or just grab 5cpm if I can right now?

  6. @Noel,you don’t need a Chinese tourist visa to PVG and PEK (and CAN I think) if you’re there for less than 72 hours.

  7. Here’s the latest on the 72hr transit exception from Timatic via the Star Alliance website. Note you do have to be in transit to a 3rd country, so no quick turns without a visa:

    CHINA (PEOPLE’S REP.): 72-HOUR VISA-FREE TRANSIT AT CHENGDU
    Effective from 1 September 2013, nationals of 45 countries
    transiting through Chengdu (CTU) to a third country and
    holding confirmed onward airline tickets are permitted to
    enter China (People’s Rep.) without a visa, for max. 72 hours.
    Passengers must arrive in and depart from Chengdu Shuangliu
    International Airport (CTU).

    This facility is available for nationals of Argentina,
    Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam,
    Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia,
    Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland
    (Rep.), Italy, Japan, Korea (Rep.), Latvia, Lithuania,
    Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland,
    Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Fed., Singapore, Slovakia,
    Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Ukraine, United
    Arab Emirates and holders of British Citizen passports.

    Nationals listed above may also use the same facility when in
    international transit through Beijing (PEK), Guangzhou (CAN)
    and Shanghai (PVG and SHA).

    Timaticweb Version 1.3
    16 September 2013

  8. FYI, in my case I flew AA from Miami to Seattle via LAX. The LAX-SEA segment was on Alaska and it gave me enough miles to hit the 6K for gold. So in my scenario the Alaska flight miles were counted. Not a guarantee that all will but this one was. I also asked AA ahead of time and they claimed it would could.

  9. @ Beekay — It seems making this public was an error, so wouldn’t count on it being offered again. It was open to people that had status in the past, though… at least while it lasted.

  10. @ heels05 — As far as the merger goes, if it does happen my guess would be that you wouldn’t get the eight systemwide upgrades for the next status year. I think aligned benefits would only kick in for the following program year, though I could be wrong. So I do think it’s worth it.

  11. @ Noel — Europe and South America often has fares with only Saturday night minimum stays, though the cent per mile ratio often isn’t as good.

    With China you do need a visa unless you continue to a third country within 72 hours. But getting a tourist visa isn’t too tough.

  12. @ Jig — It’s really tough to predict fare wars or “ridiculously” low fare sales. Usually in the 4-5 cent per mile range I’ll jump on tickets assuming I like the routing. Otherwise be sure to monitor theflightdeal.com and the FlyerTalk mileage run forum every day.

  13. @lucky – thanks for the tips. Hopefully I can piece something together. And with a decent stash of citiTY points, it should be affordable. Just need to find the right timing. 🙂

  14. @ Ryan K — Well you do get free award changes as an Executive Platinum member. But beyond that you basically get all benefits other than upgrades — premium check-in, security, boarding, seating, etc.

  15. I’m still trying to decide if this is worthwhile to me. I do a fair bit of traveling, but I generally fly Delta or SW since they have better schedules. I do not have status with either though. What are the best benefits to Platinum and Gold? I think I can almost certainly make Gold, but I don’t know if it’s worth it if the best privilege is checked bags. Or am I missing something?

  16. I got in too. Still trying to figure out if it makes sense to me or not. As a brazilian based flyer a simple trip from GRU to SFO and then this flight to China would do the trick. And it would cost me around US$1.700 Thanks for the post anyway.

  17. @ Rachel — For Gold you get checked bags, priority check-in/boarding/security/seating, a 25% mileage bonus, etc. Main benefit of Platinum over Gold is 100% mileage bonus and lounge access when traveling internationally.

  18. Starting my “quest for ExPlat” tomorrow with the first of four MRs – a +6000 mile run to BOS from YVR, then ending in early Dec with a MR to PVG.

    I never would have gotten to ExPlat without a promo such as this. It will definitely be struggle to achieve the same next year.

  19. I was able to sign up for this but pretty sure I won’t do it. I almost did a plat challenge (paying the $240 fee) but since my subsequent travel plans (where I wanted the 100% bonus) got changed I didn’t do it.

    I’m sure I’m in the minority, but if this were EQP-based rather than EQM I’d do it. As it is I might pay to do the plat challenge so a Puerto Rico mileage run in business (~8K BIS) would get enough points for plat.

  20. Lucky, I’m looking for fares to lax-pek thru ord in nov but was not able to find fares in the $700s. Was able to duplicate fares to pvg though. Am I doing anything wrong? Thks.

  21. lucky, are you saying as you hit GLD and PLT, since you get bonus mileage of 25% and 100%, you don’t have to fly actual 30,000?

  22. Lucky, I just realised that CX isn’t included in the list of eligible carriers….do you think its an oversight or are they singling some ow carriers out?

  23. I have to take a trip next month to AMS, departing from and returning to BKK (the result of a completely separate trip). Up popped a BA return flight for only $700, connecting in LHR. As much as I hate LHR, 12k miles for $700 is a great deal and BA is one of the included airlines for this promotion. I haven’t figured out the remaining 18k miles, but one return trip should net me enough for Platinum.

    (Side note: I didn’t notice until after booking, but the $700 ticket is actually premium economy.)

  24. I received a targeted instant Gold offer with 10 stickers a week before this promo went live. I tried to sign up for this one as well but was declined because of the instant status. Think I have any recourse? Would you trade the 10 stickers or plat or exp if you were a leisure only traveler?

  25. Comment. I am already executive platinum and need 35k elite miles to maintain my status through 2015. I have 30k of travel already booked through year end. But I am not eligible for this promotion, due to my status. I need to find another5k of miles to maintain my status, unless AA does some form of double elite miles promotion similar to what they did last year. I amazed that I have seen no comments concerning how current Elite members do no qualify for this promotion, seems a bit unfair, but then I guess life is! Comments anyone?

  26. @ Kevin — Sadly in your shoes the only option would be to actually book maybe a transcon mileage run to get the remaining 5,000 miles. Short of a bonus EQM promotion (which I don’t think is likely) you don’t have any other options.

  27. @ Tronic — Unfortunately I highly doubt you have any recourse, since American claims that this promotion wasn’t even intended to be public. Ultimately I do think EXP is more valuable if you’ll do a good bit of travel, but Gold status and 10 stickers for doing nothing isn’t half bad either!

  28. @ eros43 — I assume it’s probably intentional, though whether those flights don’t credit in practice may be a different story.

  29. @ jay — No, you do have to fly the 30,000 miles. The 25% and 100% mileage bonus are bonus redeemable miles, not bonus elite qualifying miles.

  30. @ Valerie — Unfortunately at the moment the good fares only seem to be to Shanghai, though I’m sure we’ll see a Beijing fare sale soon as well.

  31. Luckily, I got in on this status challenge. Was aiming for the Plat Exec since I do a fair bit of international traveling, but then I realized my Amex Plat card offers free Admirals Club + 2 guests. I’m already Gold on UA but was planning to do this so I can have the flexibility of choosing either airline when I travel.

  32. I’m NYC based and currently need about 70k points or 60k miles to requal for EXP. I have 3 transcon trips ticketed (in economy) for upcoming travel. Advice on how to make it?

  33. @ Leo — For international travel the real value comes with Executive Platinum status, which gets you the eight systemwide upgrades.

  34. @ Louis — Hmmm, if you’re that far away it might be worth considering whether it’s even worth it or not based on how much travel you have planned next year. If you do choose to go for it, your best bet is probably to travel to China several times, as it’s the easiest way to rack up miles quickly.

  35. Be aware that they are eliminating soft landings. I got Platinum through this for this year with the expectation that I’d have Gold next year but I no longer expect that to be true.

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