I just checked my American Airlines AAdvantage account to see how many miles I have for a flight award.
To my surprise I saw this on my account page:
Surely Gold is not too exciting for on-the-go frequent flyers, but AAdvantage Gold elite is a significant milestone for this loyalty traveler.
The Loyalty Traveler Saga
I quit my job as a frequent flyer analyst for a publishing company in March 2007. That was my fifth job in four years following my decision to leave elementary school classroom teaching as a profession. I was promoted once, laid off twice and quit jobs twice due to low pay (motivated me to launch Loyalty Traveler) and top-down aggravation and oversight (motivated me to go back to Loyalty Traveler self-employment).
I had status through butt-in-seat miles with all three alliances OneWorld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance in 2007. I vacationed in Singapore, Amsterdam, Alaska, Dresden, Prague, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Colonia, Uruguay in 2006-2007. I bought a marble penguin in Chile that sits on my fireplace mantel. I stayed in Atlanta, D.C. and New York (actually Newark, New Jersey for lower priced hotels) several times while I made a couple of trips to South America on Delta $500 business class mistake fares.
I started Loyalty Traveler blog in 2007. Loyalty Traveler as a business started in 2006, but within three months I was hired to write frequent flyer books. I used to be quite proficient at ITA and ExpertFlyer and finding loads of cheap airline fares to travel the world on mileage runs and mini-vacations. The experience of seeing how continual changes in frequent flyer programs outdated books I was writing within weeks led me to move into blogging.
So why no elite airline status in 5 years?
No income for the first year of Loyalty Traveler from mid-2007 to mid-2008. Then projects started rolling in again. My travel started up again in late 2008.
Then 2009 rolled around. The economy went to shit. And so did our household in January 2009.
My wife went in for a routine medical exam to discover she had rectal cancer.
One day everything was falling into place and the next day everything fell apart again.
The doctor told her she could not work for 9 months and she would have immediate surgery followed by six months of regular chemotherapy with six weeks of radiation treatment.
We lost most of our income for the year. We spent our money on gas and prescription medicines, food and hotel rooms to take advantage of the most incredible hotel deals of the decade and give Kelley a break from staring at the walls of the living room and bedroom at home for weeks on end.
My days were filled with driving 150 miles roundtrip to take Kelley to the hospital in San Jose and during summer 2009 we drove 180 miles daily for a 15-minute hospital radiation treatment in Santa Clara. Kelley rested when she could and I did everything else. I look back over those months on Loyalty Traveler blog now and see I was posting fewer than half the days of the month.
Kelley finished her treatments in late September 2009. We have our fingers crossed she is cancer free when her three year check-up comes in the next couple of weeks.
2010 and 2011 I primarily drove around the western states in my car for travel. My car is a business deduction. Air travel is also a business deduction, but one that takes more out-of-pocket spending.
And Loyalty Traveler grew in readership over the years.
Hotel companies started contacting me for meetings and events and projects.
2012 is my Golden Year
Earning American AAdvantage Gold Elite in 2012 for miles flown holds a special significance for me. I might even reach Platinum elite with the remaining trips I have planned for 2012. I also have flown United, US Airways and Spirit this year.
Perhaps I will even go back to writing about frequent flyer programs on Loyalty Traveler.
A person commented to me at TBEX Girona, Spain that she was surprised to read that I had not been to Europe in five years.
Another travel blogger wrote the other day that most travel bloggers do not travel all that much. I do not travel as much as I would like, but I still have 50 nights or more in hotels each year.
The meaning of travel is relative to each person’s travel experience.
For some people travel means leaving the country and being on the road or in the air for months at a time or even all the time. For some people travel means being in a hostel or a tent or a luxury resort or in the homes of friends and family for holidays.
I decided thirty years ago, after backpacking on the road for months in the northeast U.S and across Canada, that I wanted a true companion to share the travel adventures with me. My wife Kelley has been with me for 30 years. We live about 500 yards from where we first met in Monterey in college.
People who meet me often ask, “Do you travel all the time?”
I tell them I like to travel away from home about every six weeks.
Frequent travelers wonder why I don’t travel more. My response is typically something like:
I live in Monterey, California. I like to travel, but I have no desire to travel all the time to other places. Monterey is a fine place to be. And my home in Monterey is filled with cats and my wife who all love me and miss my companionship when I am away.
And now the frequent flyer elite status is a Loyalty Traveler milestone.
Being American Airlines AAdvantage Gold feels good.