Getting A Head Start On Executive Platinum Status For 2016

We’re at the point in the year where I’m sure many of us are starting to plan our 2016 travels.

2015 was an “easy” status year for me

Living in hotels and on planes full time made it really easy for me to requalify for status this year. I more than double qualified for top tier status with American, Hyatt, and Starwood this year.

Some might ask why I didn’t go for status with more programs. Living in hotels full time I could have easily qualified for top tier status with Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, and Starwood.

But after having played this game for about a decade, I was just tired of mattress running and trying to squeeze every possible stay credit out of a trip. I’d rather stay somewhere a bit longer and be able to enjoy a destination more, rather than switching hotels every night.

The average number of nights per hotel stay this year was considerably longer than in past years, which contributed nicely to my sanity.

Why I’m going for Executive Platinum status in 2016

In mid-November we learned about the changes American is making to the AAdvantage program next year. For me, the most significant changes are the following three points:

  • Executive Platinum members go from earning eight systemwide upgrades to four systemwide upgrades per year
  • Starting in the second half of the year, redeemable miles will be awarded based on revenue rather than distance flown
  • There will be a huge award chart devaluation on March 22, 2016, which will increase the cost of many of my favorite awards

Still, I’ll be going for Executive Platinum status in 2016. That doesn’t actually take that much effort on my part, since I easily fly 100,000+ miles per year (excluding award travel) without much effort.  As I explained in the post about whether the AAdvantage changes impact my loyalty to American in 2016:

American-Premium-Economy-1

Point being, while I’m not thrilled with the direction American is headed, there’s still value in having status for domestic upgrades and priority services.

Getting a head start on 2016 status

While I know I’d probably requalify for status anyway, there’s something nice about getting a “head start” on status for the year. It’s nice to not have your elite qualifying mileage counter low for too long.

Fortunately in the first couple of weeks of the year I have a discounted paid business class ticket from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Los Angeles on Qatar Airways (a new flight for them), which will earn me ~16,000 elite qualifying miles.

Qatar-Airways-777-Business-Class-03
Qatar Airways business class

But now I’m planning a couple more tickets. American has a ton of great fares from the US to Central and Latin America, given what a strong presence they have there. For example, for a long time the business class fare between Los Angeles and Panama City on American has been under $750 roundtrip.

LAX-PTY-Fare

For a few more dollars you can route it quite creatively, like the following, which is still under $800:

American-Premium-Fare

To put that on a map:

LAX-PTY-Fare

How many miles would that earn an Executive Platinum member?

  • 9,432 miles “butt in seat miles”
  • 18,863 elite qualifying miles
  • 32,580 redeemable miles
    • 9,432 miles (base miles)
    • 9,432 miles (100% Executive Platinum bonus)
    • 4,716 miles (50% class of service bonus)
    • 9,000 miles (premium cabin bonuses)

American-A321-Business
This ticket includes travel in American’s A321 business class

That’s quite an efficient mileage run. Earning elite qualifying miles for under 4.8 cents each and redeemable miles for under 2.5 cents each in paid business class is tough to beat. That’s almost a fifth of the way to Executive Platinum requalification in one trip. I’ve also never been to Panama City, so it seems like a fun weekend getaway.

Just for comparison, once American goes revenue based, Executive Platinum members will earn 11 redeemable miles per dollar spent on base airfare. The base fare on this ticket is ~$662, meaning an Executive Platinum member would earn a total of ~7,282 AAdvantage miles for the trip after the change. That’s just over 20% of the miles you’d earn for the same ticket now.

Bottom line

Maybe this is only something “old school” mileage runners can relate to, but I sort of miss the crazy routings I used to take to get places. Nowadays my revenue travel is almost always on the most direct route, and I sort of miss criss crossing the country. There’s something exciting about planning a trip with some out-of-the-way connections while miles are still earned based on distance flown rather than dollars spent. And if I can visit a new city in the process, all the better.

Are you planning your 2016 travel yet? What do you have planned?

Comments

  1. Since you’ll inevitably have a lot of AAdvantage miles that you’ll want to burn before the devaluation, are you considering some products you haven’t reviewed before, like Finnair (they have a new business class seat in the a350 and a330, but the a350 seat is clearly better) and Iberia? Granted, business class from US to Europe isn’t being devalued as much as other awards, but it would be nice to see reviews on those products. Or business class with JAL (the highly rated seat, not the mediocre seats they have on some of their planes)?

  2. Newbie here…. Does this mean before March 2016, whatever miles we fly would still count towards the next year’s qualification based on present structure?

  3. Hi Ben! Long time readers, my husband and I are taking this MR as our first together to visit Panama for a few days this winter. All my coworkers think I’m crazy, as copa has nonstop service, but where’s the fun in that?

    I’ve been PLT with AA this year and as I’m moving to DFW, plan to stay with them for the near future. I appreciate all the work you’ve done on your blog allowing people like us to be inspired to travel well!

  4. Lucky,

    Are the premium cabin bonuses still in effect for 2016? I didn’t think they were.

    I’m thinking of matching and qualifying next year for MVP 75k (and maybe cutting out AA – I’m EXP). I have an SFO-PTY trip in F/J in January and I’m not sure where to credit it, so an extra 9000 RDM might make it worthwhile to credit to AA over AS.

  5. The game definitely changes when they go revenue based. The premium economy fare is also going to negatively impact the game too. Seeing what Delta is now doing, I fear all the airlines will start taking away some of the FF benefits we all enjoy for from being loyal customers, like main cabin extra, exit row and then the upgrades when space is available to first or business. The airlines are constantly squeezing us for more revenue and I hope they take a long hard look at the programs they created and don’t take away incentives to be loyal. I’m not holding my breath.

  6. I have four TATL OW business class trips booked already due to some recent sales. Average price was ~ $1500. I credit to BAEC, so those trips alone are more than enough to qualify for BA Gold / OWE.

  7. April/May ’16 trip with the girlfriend has just been booked!

    Yow-Yul-Zrh-Del (Swiss’s new 77w)
    Del-Goi
    Goi-Bom-Jai
    Jai-Auh-Ist-Auh (Etihad’s A345)
    Dxb-Yyz-Yow (AC’s 787-9)

  8. Wonder if there’s any deal like this from Boston? I’m planning to finish my 100k all by international trips early next year, booked 5 already, add couple more like this will be great

  9. Lucky, why don’t you fly LAX-PTY in American and try the PTY-DXB flight? Maybe you can get on the inaugural. Then you can fly back to PTY and back to LAX/MIA

  10. @ Mateusz I don’t think Lucky will go on the finnair A350, he already been on the Qatar inaugural and media and he is not too interested

  11. After a long year with all my family earning Ex. Plat we are looking forward to 2016 and should have 100k by May. Leaving DXB to AUS Jan.1 to start things off with a bang. Best wishes to everyone.

  12. I have 70K EQM booked on AA for the first two months of 2016. So I am planning to get the 100K by mid year before the revenue based change. I will monitor my upgrade rate through 2017 and then determine if it makes sense to switch back to UA with LT 1K.

    On you hotel stays – if you go for Marriott Platinum no need to change hotels as Marriott is based on nights only, not stays. You need 75 – 15 or 60 nights for Platinum. The minus 15 is for the Marriott CC.

    With Marriott buying Starwood and all their other acquisitions – AC, Protea, etc – they will have the biggest network of hotels. 10X the number of hotels of Hyatt.

  13. Well since UA is offering double PQM for business class tickets, and given the fact that I only purchase business class tickets, I calculate I’ll reach my 1K threshold by late February. It’s too bad UA does not add on DL’s “roll-over” concept for PQM’s as that would just be awesome (wishful thinking I know). Now that AA is offering the same thing, I might “branch out” this year and try AA for the heck of it and maybe become an EXP just like you. My only problem with AA and OneWorld is that they do not have many options into and out of GUM – my home airport; so that may be a challenge. But I’d love to have EXP status for the sake of trying all the international first class lounges here in the Asia Pacific area.

  14. @Lucky: the Waldorf in PTY takes great care of Diamonds and is relatively cheap on weekends. Haven’t seen if the stackable bonuses for Waldorfs/Conrads is coming back for ’16 but it’s a nice solid hotel anyway.

  15. Here’s how I’m jump-starting my EXP requalification for 2016:
    BNA – CLT – LAX – YVR (Y on AA for $200.38)
    YVR – HKG – MEL roundtrip (premium economy on CX for $1893.83)
    YVR – YYZ – CLT – BNA (Y on AA for $259.41)
    Total cost: $2447.62
    Total EQM: 39,435

  16. Although there is no DEQM the new earning structure for Aadvantage sounds good. However with the new earning structure for 2016 and the reducedbenefits, I think that I will pass on ExPlat this year.

  17. I think you can do this same mileage run to Bogotá instead of Panama City and enjoy much better cultural sites and weather.

  18. Thanks Lucky for the tip. I was able to book the exact routing you mention in the article for 825.00 in March. I am excited as this will be the first time for me on the Trans-con A321. I have another flight booked in February for ELP-DFW-NRT-BKK-HKG-DFW-ELP. Costs 950 in economy on that, for about the same amount of EQMs. Only fly about 60,000 for work every year. So those two trips should put me over the edge for ex plat this year. Of course I picked the year they decided to cut back on benefits oh well. I love your articles like this, as it helps us regular fliers find great deals. Thanks again.

  19. @jeff – I’m only PLT and was upgraded from J to F (paid for I class) LAX – JFK on Sunday. Would imagine this was a result of needing seats in Y so pushing upgrades from Y->J->F rather than a usual thing. But this has happened to me a few times on this route.

  20. @lucky How would you route JFK into this itinerary and make it bookable on AA? I am quite a newbie at this and am only able to get directly to Miami….Do I need to call AA to book? Any information would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks!

  21. Would love a 20k mileage run from ORD or DFW – any ideas? I am EXP with AA but losing it soon and need to get a jump on it for 2016!

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