How I’m Earning Executive Platinum Status For ~$3,000 In Business Class

As we probably all know by now, American is making some major changes to the AAdvantage program in 2016. Most significantly:

  • There will be an award chart devaluation for travel booked as of March 22, 2016
  • Starting in the second half of 2016, miles will be awarded based on how much you spend rather than how much you fly
  • Executive Platinum members will go from earning eight systemwide upgrades per year to earning just four

2016-AAdvantage-Program

While these changes are negative for a vast majority of us, I still plan on requalifying for Executive Platinum status this year, and then will reconsider next year. Why?

  • While it’s not as much of a no brainer as before, I still value the perks of being Executive Platinum, like unlimited complimentary upgrades, fee waivers, bonus miles, etc.
  • For the first half of this year I’m still earning miles under the old system, which is extremely rewarding

So not only am I planning on requalifying for Executive Platinum status this year, but I’m also planning on front-loading it, and doing as much flying as possible in the first half of the year. That way I can maximize the number of redeemable miles I earn.

While I intended to travel a lot in the first half of the year, I may have taken it a bit far, as I’ve now basically requalified for Executive Platinum status all in confirmed first & business class for around $3,000. How?

I’ll share the tickets I booked, how much they cost me, and the order in which I booked them. Here we go:

Los Angeles to Bogota

Cost: $950
Elite qualifying miles earned: 20,284
Redeemable miles earned: 35,355

As I explained in a post late last year, I’ve heard great things about Colombia and have been meaning to visit. American has reasonable business class fares to much of Latin America, and Bogota is no exception. So while the primary goal of this trip is to actually visit Colombia, I still took advantage of a rather creative routing, and booked Los Angeles to New York to Miami to Bogota and back.

Not only is it a lot of elite qualifying miles, but it allowed me to maximize American’s premium cabin bonuses, which still apply for the time being.

American-Premium-Cabin-Bonus

The benefit of taking the Los Angeles to New York flight is that it qualifies as a “long flight” for the purposes of this promotion. In each direction I earn 3,500 bonus miles for the Los Angeles to New York flight, 1,000 bonus miles for the New York to Miami flight, and 500 bonus miles for the Miami to Bogota flight. That’s 5,000 bonus miles in each direction, for a total of 10,000 bonus miles roundtrip.

Add in the 100% bonus on elite qualifying miles, and it’s a very nice fare for getting somewhere I really want to go.

American-A321-Business
American’s A321 business class

Los Angeles to Shanghai

Cost: $715
Elite qualifying miles earned: 12,969
Redeemable miles earned: 25,938

As any Executive Platinum member with systemwide upgrades can relate to, finding confirmable upgrade space can be difficult. While upgrades usually clear in the end as an Executive Platinum member, there’s something to be said for the peace of mind of confirming an upgrade at the time of booking.

American happened to have at on of upgrade availability on the Los Angeles to Shanghai flight, so when you combine that with cheap fares, I couldn’t say no to that opportunity.

The route is also operated by a 787, a business class product from American which I haven’t yet reviewed. And I also quite like Shanghai.

American-787-2
American’s 787 business class

Los Angeles to Beijing

Cost: $570
Elite qualifying miles earned: 16,411
Redeemable miles earned: 32,822

Just a couple of days ago, American had extremely cheap fares to Asia. I was already going to Shanghai, but when I found an even cheaper fare to Beijing with confirmable upgrade space, I couldn’t say no.

Perhaps this is where my addiction kicks in, because it’s not that I really needed to go to Beijing or even particularly wanted to. But it was a good deal, and after American not having any upgrade or award space across the Pacific for so long, it just felt so good to book a cheap fare and upgrade at the time of booking. It gave me a rush. I’m sure any long time Executive Platinum member can relate, at least to some degree.

As I’ve always said, it’s absolutely an addiction, but there are worse things once can be addicted to!

Great-Wall
Back to the Great Wall I go!

Los Angeles to Panama City (x2)

Cost: $450
Elite qualifying miles earned: 18,864
Redeemable miles earned: 33,580

Several weeks ago I wrote about the great business class fares American is offering to Panama City. These fares have been available for months, and allow you to route in business class from Los Angeles to New York to Miami to Panama City and back for ~$800. That’s a great deal, and I had meant to book some, but forgot.

Well, fast forward to a couple of days ago, where for whatever reason American almost slashed those prices in half. I have absolutely no clue why they’d do that, and it was only alive for a very short period of time. I would have posted about it, but I only learned about it so late that availability was limited to just a few days at that point, and I felt like I would have been wasting peoples’ time. I managed to hold two, both of which have terrible schedules, but it’s a deal I couldn’t say no to.

I probably didn’t need to take either of these to requalify for Executive Platinum, but it was such a good deal that I instinctively pulled the trigger. See my point above about addiction. 😉

Bottom line

To crunch the numbers on all of the above, here are the “stats” from the above trips:

Cost: $3,135
Elite qualifying miles earned: 87,392
Redeemable miles earned: 161,275

And here’s the flying on a map (it doesn’t look that impressive, given the amount of repetition between Los Angeles and New York, and between New York and Miami):

EXP-Requal

I’m pretty darn proud of those numbers, especially as every segment is confirmed in first or business class. The above leaves me ~13,000 miles short of requalifying for Executive Platinum status, though that’s flying I already have booked for “essential” travel.

Anyone else front-load their travel on American for 2016, given the impending changes to AAdvantage?

Comments

  1. Once AA introduce Premium economy, systemwide upgrades will not be as worth anymore. Granted, you’ll still earn a good chunk of miles – which in the end is what matters.

  2. I’ve definitely been front-loading my travel on AA this year as much as possible. My best deal so far was booking LAX-KUL a couple days ago when AA was offering those great fares to Asia. My routing will earn me almost 22K EQM’s and 44K RDM’s which at only $399 RT is an amazing price. I can say without a doubt I have definitely become addicted to this hobby, however it’s a very fun and rewarding one!

  3. Glad that you are going to China again, considering you went to Beijing three times last year~~lol, and glad you like my hometown Shanghai.

    My thoughts were the same, doing as much flighting as possible in the first half. So I booked two rt to CGK, all on AA codeshare. the first was booked late last year for $785, the second was booked couple days ago for $491. each will earn me 21000-23000 EQM and 42000-46000 RDM. if i were to take them during the second half, it will only be 5000 rdm or something. don’t wanna think about it…

    and I will have two trips back to shanghai during summer and winter, a trip to europe, so more or less set for the year.

  4. @Jon from another Jon

    He is using SWU to confirm in the premium classes here, those come as a benefit of status. Without status to fly these routes in the cabin he is confirmed in would cost more. Plus status is part of the manipulation of the miles and points game, increased earning rates, comp upgrades, oneworld cross benefits etc.

  5. I mean this is where the collect miles hobby gets me a bit split in what I want to do.

    I’ve been to almost 75 countries now and have spent 5 days or more in all of them.

    At what point am I just flying back to the same places again just to sit on an airline and collect points, when I could go and visit somewhere with the $3000 you just spent and have a great time.

    This is where I start to think, yes Business / First class is great, but did i just waste money on something I’ve already done.

    Granted you write about these products and people enjoy it, so its a bit different for you.

  6. Congratulations, those are good deals and give you also a lot of RDM’s. It does make sense for this year but next year the decision will be much harder. Will be interesting to see with the changes what your next year plan is.

    I made up my mind last year and just went for discounted business class tickets rather then chasing status.

  7. Unless I’m overlooking something, the math here doesn’t seem to add up.

    WebFlyer’s mileage calculator says that LAX-JFK-MIA-BOG is a total of 10,140 miles each way.

    Discounted First/Business fares earn 2 EQM’s per mile flown. So that’s 10,140 x 2 = 20,280 miles.

    Additionally, as an Executive Platinum you get a 100% (double miles) bonus on the base distance so again that’s 10,140 x 2 = 20,280

    That should give you 40,560 EQM’s for the whole route.

    Now add in the return (assuming you’re on the same routes) and that’s another 40,560 miles.

    So by my math, you should have 81,120 EQM’s at the end of that trip. That’s four times the number you have though. What am I missing here? Do the premium cabin bonuses and status bonuses not combine or something?

  8. @Weymar

    “Do the premium cabin bonuses and status bonuses not combine or something?” Yeah they are different bonuses and don’t combine like that.

    Elite status bonus miles are bonus RDM, you don’t get any extra EQM. You additionally get a 50% RDM bonus for discount business regardless of status.

    The 2x EQM for discount business is EQM only.

    Then on top of that there is a promotion running that gives you additional RDM.

    So…

    Base miles = 10,142

    EQM = Base * 2 for discount business = 20,284

    RDM =
    Base : 10,142
    + 100% Bonus for EXP/PLT : 10,142
    + 50% class of service bonus : 5,071
    + Current promo 10,000
    total: 35355

    Phew.

    I wish I was getting that for $950, what a bargain!

    Details on the current promo here: http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/aadvantage-currency.jsp?anchorLocation=DirectURL&title=moremiles

  9. @ Jon — Because I also do a good amount of paid travel domestically, which is almost exclusively in economy before upgrades.

  10. New to this game but trying to learn. How do you find these routes? I’ve looked on the AA website and can’t find where they offer the Los Angeles to Bogoto route you used.

  11. OMG sooo confusing. I just can’t quite understand why you do all this to qualify. The light will go on some day.

  12. Theoretically if you had 187,500 Citi points would you be able to book those flights thru their agency, save the cash and earn the status?

  13. Me too – front loading on AA. Doing multiple J ticket to LHR. 2 this month. Last week flew to LAX (escaping the snow from DCA) and to LHR and back to DFW. Delayed a day at DFW due to DCA being closed.

    But doing domestic weekend trips as well – with domestic upgrades.

    I guess the thing to consider is – if you are mostly flying cheap paid J to earn EXP, then what is the point of getting it – once AA goes revenue based and down to 4 SWUs.

    I want EXP so I get domestic upgrades.

  14. I’m flyin’ almost the whole month of February and will have 130,000+ EQM by the end of March taking advantage of deals to PTY, PEK and CGK. I’ll turn a lot of those miles into award tickets before March 22.

    In 2014, I racked up over 450,000 DL MQMs before it went over to the dark side in 2015. The good thing about those MQMs (as opposed to AA EQMs) is they just keep rolling over year after year minus the amount needed to requalify for annual Diamond Medallion status.

  15. Yep – definitely frontloading as well but not quite as efficiently as you. It is very difficult to find low fares from the east coast… in particular, the southeast. Pretty much everything I do requires a positioning flight. That being said – three business class to Europe as part of the BA sale several months ago – price adjusted with Avios points (~$2100) – cheap flight CLT-BOG (~$400) – ORD-PEK (~$500) will give me 75K EQM’s. The positioning flight to ORD was paid for with AA gift cards (think AMEX). I really need one more decent business class fare and have been checking the Premium Fare Deals, but missed the LAX-PTY as I was out of the country. Fingers crossed.

  16. After Rio’s Carnival, I will fly GRU/MIA/MAD/JFK/EZE for $575. Today AA confirmed upgrades for al the flights! 17.000 miles

  17. The flights you are doing were good deals. I am front loading a bit to burn up my last years system wides. Flying to Europe twice in the next four weeks and extremely excited as AA has released upgrade C inventory for February. I was so excited when I saw this I had to book. Its been years since I have been able to book an economy fare and upgrade at booking. Thanks AA.

    Anyhow I am putting all my miles to my Alaska account asall that flying you are doing, and you will barely be able to book a one way ticket on Cathay from the states to Hong Kong as the new award chart will cost 110K of the 160K that you earned.

    Speaking of changes, next year if you did all that flying you would earn what about 36K miles.

  18. @GMan

    Alright, AAdvantage’s website says “Elite Mileage Bonus: 100%” so I guess I misinterpreted that to mean 100% bonus on elite miles rather than a 100% bonus on award miles for being an elite. The numbers you and Lucky list are still for one way though right?

  19. “[…] for whatever reason American almost slashed those prices [Los Angeles to Panama City] in half.”

    Perhaps this is due to the Zika virus.

    If I were you, I would research what little is known about the probability of becoming a Zika carrier and the potential consequences to those around you as much as possible before deciding whether to go through with a trip to south or central America right now.

  20. Bogota is a wonderful city and safer than many inner city neighborhoods in the USA. Good food, very cheap – ditto for hotels. Also a decent airport. If you are smart you will make a side trip to Cartagena while you are there.

  21. Fascinating insight as always, thanks!
    Re your comment on AA changing to revenue based approach in second half of 2016….Is there an actual date/month set for this? Flying to HNL end of August and wondering which system will apply for getting elite status?

  22. @Rich — I live in Sao Paulo and have no idea what you’re talking about. Would you kindly elaborate?

  23. @Lucky: It was that crazy fare mistake on AA.com last August. I booked 8 tix. GIG-JFK-HKG-SIN and back with the JFK-HKG in Cathay F for 1200 RT.

  24. @James I live in Brazil.

    @ A.S. It was an AA.com fare mistake back in August. AA cancelled a bunch of the tickets for people that live outside Brazil , but honored all of them for people who live in Brazil.

  25. @ Thomas Coupar — No date has been announced yet, unfortunately. I suspect it’ll be around July 1, but that’s just speculation.

  26. What is the most effective way to research these types of great fares/ mileage earning opportunities?
    Have never really tried to do front load or locate deals on flights before as I just normally earn EP thru regular travel, but with the changes would like to do so. Where does a newbie begin?

  27. Impressive “flying around the world” technique. No question AA has the better fares. I’d love for you to try next time you fly to China AA187 and AA186 or AA289 or AA288. I’ll bet you the flight can’t arrive soon enough. Business or first, 8 out of 10 times something is wrong with the seat. Then add the “bitchest” flight attendants in the industry.

  28. @Lucky: How do you find/book routings as in the flight to Bogota with many stops? I get mostly only direct or flights with 1 stop shown in the search results. Thanks

  29. You are going to all these neat places and didn’t invite me to any of them! Surely bae isn’t going with you on all these trips.

  30. I just completed the purchase of the LAX JFK BOG via the multi segment. I was curious with the request for Business/Discount fare why the AA10 and AA21 don’t show exp upgrades from business to first on those 2 segments… are the “I” discount business class fare class not allowed complimentary upgrades?

  31. I just hit 122k EQM from 1/1 until today (with maybe another 50-60k by July 1). I guess I made it over the hump, but now I’m wondering if I continue building on my Exec PLT or try to get Star Alliance Gold seperately. I’m thinking super elite on multiples may be better than just one (especially if I max out at 8 system wide upgrades on AA). I’ll fly at least 250k base miles this year at about $2k for each PE ticket on CX/AA. Anybody have any thoughts?

  32. @Dave
    You’ve probably already figured this out by now, but yeah, I’d go on and work on status with another alliance, if status is all you care about. All you’ll do on AA from now until year end is rack up bonus miles that will help you with awards, but not status. (Award miles REALLY come in handy for non-business travel!)

    Actually I would have made Executive Platinun much earlier this year (by late July) if I hadn’t switched some of my earning credit to British Airways. Although they are the same alliance as AA, getting upgrades is a pain on BA without BA-specific status. Basically you have to pay; it’s never complimentary. So I figured I’d earn some avios to make it cheaper later. Cathay Pacific, however, is great… Status in OneWorld gives you status on their airline. I’m treated like a king on their airline!

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