Introduction: Mileage Run To Beijing

Introduction
Review: American 787 Business Class Dallas To Beijing
Review: Sheraton Grand Beijing Dongcheng
Touring Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, And The Great Wall
Review: American 787 Business Class Beijing To Dallas


Late last year we learned about the major changes being made to American AAdvantage this year. In addition to a huge award chart devaluation, AAdvantage is also going revenue based at some point in the second half of the year, meaning members will earn redeemable miles based on how much they spend rather than how much they fly.

Therefore I’ve tried to front-load all of my travel for this year, and requalify for Executive Platinum before the changes kick in. This allows me to earn miles under the old system, which is significantly more rewarding than the new system.

Airfare this year in general has been quite low, especially internationally. It has been at least five years since I’ve seen as consistently low international airfare as we’ve seen this year. So I took full advantage of that, and managed to book enough travel to requalify for Executive Platinum status for ~$3,000. Best of all, the flights were all in premium cabins, either because I outright paid for business class, or because I confirmed upgrades at the time of booking.

One such trip I booked is the following fare between Los Angeles and Beijing via Dallas, which cost just $570:

03/31 AA2404 Los Angeles to Dallas departing 5:08AM arriving 10:10AM
03/31 AA263 Dallas to Beijing departing 11:15AM arriving 2:15PM (+1 day)
04/04 AA262 Beijing to Dallas departing 4:25PM arriving 5:30PM
04/04 AA1023 Dallas to Los Angeles departing 10:10PM arriving 11:34PM

LAXDFWPEK

That routing consists of ~16,400 flown miles, meaning I’d earn a total of ~16,400 elite qualifying miles, and ~32,800 redeemable miles (I earn a 100% bonus on redeemable miles as an Executive Platinum member).

As a point of comparison, under the new revenue based system Executive Platinum members earn 11x miles per dollar of base fare (the base fare on this ticket is ~$500), meaning I would have earned just ~5,500 redeemable miles for the entire trip. That’s ~17% of the miles I’m earning now.

Not only was the fare on this ticket awesome, but there was also confirmable upgrade space, meaning I could confirm systemwide upgrades to get upgraded in both directions. American has been much better about making confirmable upgrades available this year, which I appreciate.

This roundtrip flight would be operated by the 787, which I was excited about, since I had never flown the American 787. I’ve reviewed American’s other new business class products, including on the 777-300ER and 767-300, so this would allow me to sample their other type of business class product on a longer flight (previously I had only flown this type of seat on a short 777-200 flight between Miami and New York).

American-787-Business-Class - 5
American’s 787 business class seat

We had three days on the ground in Beijing, and I was going back and forth about where to stay. I’ve reviewed the Grand Hyatt BeijingPark Hyatt BeijingSt. Regis Beijing and W Hotel Beijing Chang’an, so I wanted to review a new hotel.

In the end we decided on the Sheraton Grand Dongcheng, which had a rate of 800CNY (~$125) per night before the tax and service charge. That seemed like a reasonable rate, and the Sheraton “Grand” properties tend to be quite nice, in my experience. If nothing else I figured it would make for an interesting contrast to the other hotels I’ve reviewed.

Sheraton-Beijing-Hotel-Grand-Dongcheng - 31
Suite at the Sheraton Grand Beijing Dongcheng

One of the days we were in Beijing we did a private tour of Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and The Great Wall. I’ve done this tour about five times (basically every time I go to Beijing with a first-timer, given that everyone wants to see The Great Wall), though have never reviewed it. This version of the tour was almost comically bad, so I figured I’d finally review the experience.

Forbidden-City
Forbidden City Beijing

I won’t be reviewing the lounges with this review, given that I reviewed them last year, thanks to American’s business class mistake fare to Beijing. During the trip we used the Amex Centurion Lounge Dallas, Flagship Dining Dallas, and the Dragonair/Cathay Pacific Lounge Beijing.

For what it’s worth, the following week we flew roundtrip from Los Angeles to Shanghai. I won’t be reviewing those flights, since they were also operated by 787s, and the service was virtually identical. However, I’ve already reviewed our stay at the Andaz Shangahi Xintiandi, which I enjoyed.

Since I know it’s something people are curious about, you do need a visa to visit China, though China now offers US passport holders 10 year visas. Previously they had single entry and one year visas, so it’s much more practical to get one visa and be able to enter China as often as you’d like for 10 years. If you don’t want to go to the consulate directly, I recommend using Allied Passport, which offers a $5 discount to One Mile at a Time readers.

Bottom line

While perhaps not quite as good of a deal as last year’s American Airlines business class mistake fare to Beijing, paying $570 for a roundtrip ticket between the US and Asia with upgrades confirmed is tough to beat. I’m sad that American’s AAdvantage program is going revenue based in a few months, meaning this is one of my last opportunities to really rack up the (now devalued) miles on a cheap ticket to Asia.

Has anyone else taken advantage of American’s great fares to Asia before the program goes revenue based later this year?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I booked 2 trips, IAH-HKG & HKG-ORD, for about $1250 for end of May travels. No upgrades for me since I’m only Platinum. But thanks to these low fares, I would become EXP during these runs. Cant wait to check out CX The Pier First Class Lounge. 🙂

  2. The dollar has been especially strong in the world current markets the last few years plus the cost of fuel has fallen dramatically that has led to record profits for the airlines plus less pressure to raise fares to cover costs. What else could be contributing to relative cost of international fares (at least in dollar terms)?

  3. @Donna in this case a visa is required since Beijing was not a stopover on the way to a third country.

  4. I’m going to read all reviews eventually, but out of the tested hotels, which one did you like the most?
    Grand Hyatt Beijing, Park Hyatt Beijing, St. Regis Beijing and W Hotel Beijing Chang’an?

  5. I don’t have a lot of disposable travel budget but I booked a short stay ATL-HKG next week for $550, and signed up for a PLT challenge before booking. $750 for PLT looked good to me.

    Then ~$450 ORD-NRT popped up, and I was able to get another very short trip booked immediately before the ATL-HKG. And then some excellent weekend trips ATL-LAX and ATL-SEA appeared; for ~$650 I used them to complete the PLT challenge ahead of the two Asia trips.

    By the end of next week I’ll have right about 47.5k EQMs and 83k RDMs and gone from no status to PLT, at a cost of about $1850 and a very sore butt. I should be able to squeeze another 2.5k EQMs and earn non-challenge PLT without exceeding $2k total.

  6. I’ve got the LAX-DFW-HKG mileage run next week. That will put me halfway to EXP for YTD which is better than last year when I qualified the last week of the year. The REALLY good thing IMO for those of us mileage running right now before they go revenue based is the awards recently booked by all who burned their miles will be WIDE open after 3-21-17 for those of us adding to our mileage haul.

  7. DCA-BOS-NRT-BKK in March for $675 (787’s on BOS-NRT, NRT-BKK, BKK-NRT, NRT-ORD, nice business class product for AA)
    DCA-DFW-ICN in April for $500

    Those two alone plus some really cheap DCA-LAX flights got me to Platinum for under $1400… The rest of the year I’m thinking of jumping ship to Alaska’s program or get Star Alliance Gold for ultimate flexibility in 2017. Thoughts? I am a cheap traveler so revenue based is going to destroy my mileage bank going forward. Anyone have Alaska Airlines experience in booking partner flights?

  8. When exactly do the changes kick in? I am confused, i thought the mileage system was already in. And if it’s not, until when do i have chance to requalify under the old system?

  9. I didn’t take advantage of the low fares as I am on my exit strategy with AA. As like you say a 500 fare that earns 6000 miles is not worth it.

  10. @Gustavo

    AA has not given a specific date, only middle of the year. 🙁 Old earning charts apply for now, get your cheap flying in while you can.

    @Donna

    If you were to buy a return ticket to say Hong Kong or Thailand you would be able to use the transit visa in China.

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