Posted by Ric Garrido

American Airlines has a double elite miles (EQM) promotion for all members Nov 1-Dec 31, 2012 that also includes double redeemable miles on flights from November 16 to November 26 for all AAdvantage members.

AAdvantage elite members earn double redeemable miles (RDM) and double elite miles for all American Airlines operated flights during November and December. The two double miles promotions for Thanksgiving double redeemable miles Nov 16-26 and elite member double redeemable miles for all flights in November and December will not be combined for AAdvantage elite members.

All AAdvantage members must register for Double Miles Thank You Promotion to earn these bonuses.

“Mileage Runner Rehab is for Quitters”

It has been five years since I planned mileage runs. I used to be an expert.

This past weekend was frequent flyer university for me as I refreshed my skills for finding good flight deals. This post guides readers through some of the basic steps and pitfalls for planning mileage runs based on my experiences. 

I welcome comments and tips on websites and strategies not mentioned here that assist in creating mileage runs. There have been numerous new websites to help find great fares and routes in the five years since I last planned intricate routings. I found myself using the same sites I used five years ago when I last planned mileage runs like airfarewatchdog.com and itasoftware.com matrix airfare search.

I need 13,140 additional elite qualifying miles (EQM) to reach 50,000 EQM in 2012 and earn AAdvantage Platinum status with the benefit of 100% bonus miles and complimentary oneworld lounge access at international airports.

Most of my mileage runs in the past were international trips. My first searches for this American Airlines deal was looking for airfare from California for cities in Europe, South America and Asia.

I did not locate any international bargain fares for cheaper miles earning opportunities than I found for domestic trips in November and December. Seeing tickets priced at over $1,000 for Europe, South America and Asia makes the value of frequent flyer miles earned during this double RDM promotion an even better deal for me. I need to ticket a couple of flights to Germany for travel in February 2013.

 

Planning out mileage runs

Somehow along the way there developed a group of flyers who turned the meaning of a “mileage run” into a trip that may mean never leaving airports as you fly around earning miles.

I hate taking those kinds of trips. I have done those kinds of trips where I took a red-eye from SFO-JFK, got off the plane, walked around the airport terminal for 30 minutes and reboarded a plane for the flight back to SFO.

Flying around airports and not seeing your ticketed destination is a waste of travel time, but unfortunately circumstances of work and family often make that kind of travel the only feasible routing for reaching miles goals. The benefits of elite status and a load of redeemable miles can be worth spending a weekend flying to Asia and back. I have done those kinds of trips.

My view of a mileage run is simply a trip that I would not be taking if not for the miles factor. American Airlines Double EQM/Double RDM for flights in November and December has me looking at two trips I would not otherwise have considered. But my plan is to actually stay one or two full days to enjoy my flight destination.

 

Finding the Low Fares

This is one of the most challenging aspects of planning a mileage run. I have been out of this game for a few years.

Here are four resources I used:

Basically I started on AA.com and checked their fare deals. There were some good leads here, but the list of cities was nowhere near comprehensive.

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Fare Sales page under American Airlines Travel Deals tab

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Monterey to DCA is a good fare for a decent number of miles, but this list is quite small. I needed more options.

San Francisco and San Jose have good coverage for flight deals on a variety of sites like airfarewatchdog.com and aa.com.

I prefer to fly out of Monterey for both convenience and in this case with Double EQM/RDM I earn an extra 1,000 EQM/RDM miles for each Monterey segment. That is an extra 2,000 miles per roundtrip ticket.

Commuter Airport Blues

Monterey can be double the price for a flight compared to San Jose or San Francisco or Oakland. But that is not always the case.

I checked the cities offering good sale fares with high mileage potential on airfarewatchdog.com and aa.com for SFO and SJC.

I then checked MRY for these same cities using  matrix.itasoftware.com to see fares for a one-month period. Many of the airfare deals I found were located with itasoftware Matrix Airfare Search by trying random cities on the east coast. I found cheap fares from Monterey to Miami, Orlando, D.C. area, NY-area and Boston. I found cheap fares to Hawaii from San Jose (SJC) and San Diego (SAN).

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One-Way Flight Search from MRY-BOS using code AA+ to limit search returns to American Airlines.

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itasoftware shows the lowest fares are $272 roundtrip MRY-BOS over a one month period.

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MRY-LAX-BOS-LAX-MRY $271.20

I checked Great Circle Mapper for airline miles.

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MRY-LAX-BOS is 2,877 miles. Since I have AAdvantage Gold elite I earn a minimum 500 miles per flight segment for the Monterey-LAX flight. My total AAdvantage miles is 3,111 EQM for this flight before calculating double miles.

$271.20 MRY-BOS roundtrip

The AAdvantage double RDM/EQM promotion earns 12,444 redeemable miles and elite miles and 1,555 Gold elite bonus miles for me.

13,999 redeemable miles for $271 is less than 2 cents per redeemable mile.

This flight earns 12,444 EQM and I need 13,140 EQM to reach 50,000 EQM Platinum status.

I could use some more flight miles.

AA.com actually provided more flight choices than itasoftware once I knew the city pairs to search.

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MRY-LAX-ORD-BOS $142 or MRY-LAX-DFW-BOS $142 are other options.

Recheck Great Circle Mapper for new miles totals.

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LAX-ORD-BOS = 2,612 miles + 500 miles for MRY-LAX = 3,112 miles.

The Chicago connection option is out since I earn only one additional flight mile for this routing over a nonstop LAX-BOS flight. Weather conditions can screw up the best planned mileage runs.

LAX-DFW-BOS = 2,797 miles + 500 MRY-LAX = 3,297 miles one-way.

I need 13,140 EQM to reach 50,000 EQM for Platinum elite.

3,297 miles x 2 with double EQM = 6,594 EQM miles for one-way travel.

One roundtrip for $282 earns 13,188 EQM if I route MRY-LAX-DFW-BOS in both directions.

I can finish 2012 with 50,048 EQM buying and flying one MRY-BOS $284 roundtrip ticket and earn AAdvantage Platinum for 2013 with 100% bonus miles and oneworld international lounge access and about 14,836 redeemable miles.

 

Mileage Run Planning Tips

1. Don’t spend more money than necessary.

For example, I can plan additional flights for November and December and earn triple miles for each flight as an AAdvantage Platinum member. I could book multiple trips and earn 20,000 redeemable miles for every $300 ticket. Since I am not trying to reach Executive Platinum status the miles are the only real advantage of flying more in 2012 for triple miles. I can save that money for low-fare flights in 2013 when I will need to earn more EQM and RDM.

2. Be sure there are affordable hotels or lodging options for your travel dates.

I can fly to any of four islands in Hawaii for $318 roundtrip out of San Jose, California. The hotel costs are too high for me. I spent quite a bit of time checking hotel rates over different dates correlated to the cheap airfare dates.

SPG Cash & Points had availability some dates. Without SPG Cash & Points the cost was a lot of hotel points I would rather save for travel with my wife in Europe this winter. I have not ruled out Hawaii, but the hotel situation is my primary concern for Hawaii. Also Hawaii leaves me short about 600 miles to reach my EQM goal.

3. Don’t buy too fast, but don’t wait too long

I could have booked flights on Friday. Some of the deals I saw Friday are gone, but some new deals have appeared.

Take the time to research and plan out all aspects of your travel. In the past three days I have studied public transportation in Boston and Kauai to determine the cost to travel to hotels. There are additional costs besides the flight tickets. Meals, lodging, ground transportation are all costs to be considered in addition to the cost for AA tickets.

My plans include earning elite stay credit with Starwood Preferred Guest so I am considering the cost of Starwood Hotels at each destination I search for low airfares.

I considered the strain of doing a red-eye in Boston at 5am. I’d rather fly all day and arrive in the evening.

I have mentally traveled to Baltimore, D.C., Orlando, Miami, Boston, Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii while considering where I want to spend my time and where I can stay affordably while meeting the goals of 13,140 EQM.

4. Consider the impact on your family and work.

This is sometimes hard to gauge. The time away from the house, the extra chores my wife has to do while I am gone, the air of resentment over the phone if I complain about how the rain made the Hawaiian beach resort photos suck. My cats miss me when I am away.

Your children miss you. You still have to be able to function when you get home after two days of straight travel and your boss is not going to like hearing you are stuck in the Chicago blizzard when you had a meeting date in Phoenix and the weather was gorgeous there all weekend.

The reality for me is work and family have made many of my past mileage runs limited in terms of vacation value. But I try to get travel value out of the trip. I ruled out taking a pure mileage run to reach my EQM goal. I want to see more than airports.

I am planning for time at the destination so there is some travel value and rationale beyond the miles for spending money in November and December chasing frequent flyer status.

Happy Mileage Run Planning.

Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

6 Responses

  1. […] the rest here: Planning out AA mileage runs for 2x EQM/RDM – Loyalty Traveler ← 4 Insider Secrets to Holiday Travel Savings – Peter […]

  2. @Ric – Another great resource for mileage run fares is The Flight Deal. They take all of the work out of looking for great mileage run opportunities from each of American’s cornerstone markets, San Francisco, and most other large US cities.

    Comment by aadvantagegeek on November 5th, 2012 at 1:38 pm
  3. @aadvantage geek – The Flight Deal is a good resource. Puerto Rico would be a good option if I needed more miles. $440 RT from Monterey.

    I’ll stick with Boston and maybe Hawaii.

  4. Ric, thanks for the post. Aadvantagegeek thanks for the tip on the flight deal – Have either of you come across any sites that offer the same services as airfarewatchdog or the flight deal does for US flights, but for strictly European destinations to and from european airports?

  5. […] to earn American Airlines Platinum status for 2013 on a single $280 roundtrip ticket from Monterey: Planning out AA mileage runs for 2x EQM/RDM. I opted instead for a trip to Kauai via San Diego for […]

  6. I’m in a very similar position as you. I have 14,794 more miles to make Platinum so I booked a flight from SFO to Panama PTY in first/business class on 12/29-12/31 for $1200.

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