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