Jul282015

AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge 39,294 EQM booked for $1,583

Yesterday, I realized that any savings I would get from lower ticket prices to complete my 30,000 EQM American Airlines AAdvantage ticket challenge was being negated by lost productivity and income. Hours spent studying airfares, routes, and hotel options resulted in low writing output this past week as I planned September travel for miles. Sightseeing is the secondary objective of my trips, but I wanted to schedule flights that allowed plenty of time to visit places. Mileage running without leaving the airport is something I tired of years ago. The real challenge was setting up the dates for three trips that would allow me enough time to get to places around Europe.

American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge for 30,000 EQM flown by October 9, 2015.

Last month I was sent an email offer to fast-track to American Airlines elite status. It is a targeted offer for me. No link to share.

AAdvantage elite fast-track 2015 offer

A quick look at routes showed I could ticket 30,000 miles for around $1,500 with as few as two trips, if I flew to Jakarta, Indonesia and Sao Paulo, Brazil. I could also nest tickets with two round trips to Brazil for $1,200, leaving out of Monterey Airport MRY. Brazil also had the additional cost factor for a $160 Brazil tourist visa. Anchorage, Alaska was another potential ticket at $268 round trip from Los Angeles.

Scandinavia keeps pulling me back

Europe is my true love, so I opted for Copenhagen, Denmark and Bergen, Norway as my gateway travel airports. I spent a week in Bergen last September and loved the hiking views in the mountains around the city.

Ulriken hikers

More low fares appeared yesterday for US Airways flights in September that had me looking at Dublin instead of Copenhagen, and even Madrid came into the mix. In the end, the abundance of low fares across Europe from Copenhagen, compared to Dublin and Madrid, along with proximity to Bergen, where incredible flight deals are available to San Francisco for under $400 round trip on American Airlines, was the deciding factor on Copenhagen as my initial destination in Europe.

Ticket #1: American Airlines  $672.70

Orange County SNA – CPH Copenhagen, Denmark – Los Angeles LAX

Orange County, SNA – Chicago ORD – Dusseldorf DUS – Copenhagen CPH (Air Berlin codeshare) – London LHR – Los Angeles LAX (British Airways A380-800).

Flight Miles: 12,022 EQM

The fast-track offer does not include Air Berlin in my EQM challenge eligible airlines, so I did not count the 385 mile segment from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen in the flight miles listed above for the American Airlines Air Berlin codeshare. 385 extra miles, if it counts.

Ticket #2: American Airlines $376.00 

Bergen, Norway BGO – San Francisco SFO

Bergen BGO – London LHR – Dallas DFW – San Francisco SFO

San Francisco – London LHR – Bergen BGO

Flight Miles: 12,878 miles

This flight is American Airlines London to San Francisco and British Airways operated flights on the return San Francisco to London. I scheduled a 19-hour transit layover, when I can be in London city centre by 4pm for an evening in the city.

After countless checks of mileage on Great Circle Mapper, I learned Dallas offers the most miles to San Francisco given a choice of New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Ticket #3: American Airlines $397.50 

Bergen BGO – London LHR – Chicago ORD – San Francisco SFO

San Francisco – Chicago ORD – London LHR – Bergen BGO

The flights between London and Chicago are British Airways.

Flight Miles: 12,894

The third ticket is another Bergen originating trip. I played around with different returns. I could have started or ended in Oslo for the same price. The main reason I skipped Oslo is hotels are more expensive with the lowest priced Choice Hotel at 16,000 points and Bergen available for 12,000 points. That is a $33 price difference per night at the rate I am paying $7.70 per 1,000 points at today’s discount rate for purchases of Choice Privileges points.

I also could have set the return to Stockholm, Sweden for about $30 more. Stockholm has several low priced reward night hotels with Choice Privileges. The cost to travel to Stockholm is around $70 round trip from Bergen. I have 10,000 SAS miles I might burn to travel north of the Arctic Circle in Norway. Too bad Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen Longyearbyen is now 70,000 Club Carlson points per night. The two Best Western hotels on the Lofoten Islands of Norway, north of the Arctic Circle were available for 20,000 points per night when I checked over the weekend.

I might just end up in Helsinki at the Holiday Inn for an extended stay.

Ticket #4: $136.20 Los Angeles LAX – Las Vegas LAS – Phoenix PHX – Monterey MRY

Flight Miles: 1,500

My last ticket for this AAdvantage Executive Platinum Challenge trip is a crazy itinerary that will place me in Las Vegas for seven hours at 11:30pm upon my return to Los Angeles from Copenhagen. My sisters and I celebrated Disneyland’s 60th in June 2015 and I am scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas for the beginning of my sister’s 60th birthday celebration at midnight before jetting back home to Monterey in the early morning, via Phoenix.

Total American Airlines AAdvantage EQM = 39,294 EQM.

Total ticket cost = $1,582.40

(+$63 Southwest Airlines SJC-SNA to start) = $1,645.40

My primary task is completed by fixing the dates for the three long-haul international trips with checks of airfares into and out of Copenhagen and Bergen around the dates I need to fly.

Norwegian Airlines, SAS and Swiss Airlines all have tickets under $50 one way to a variety of places I have looked into for my hotel stays. Geneva, Switzerland and Milan, Italy are two places I have studied for hotel deals and a week in the Alps. I favor doing this excursion on my first trip over to Europe to get some mountain hiking exercise before a quick six-day round trip from Bergen, Norway back to California after ten days of travel.

Loyalty Traveler – Staying in the Alps with Best Western, Choice, IHG and Wyndham points.

Flights Secured, Now I need Hotels for 19 nights

IHG PointBreaks will help offset the cost of travel to places in Europe. I need to make those plans soon before the hotels are booked out. Holiday Inn London Heathrow T5 is already booked out for the date I will be in the city and most dates I checked for that hotel as I was planning my ticket were already gone.

Hamburg and Zwickau, Germany are train ride possibilities from Copenhagen. Berlin is a cheap $35 flight from Copenhagen.

Prague, Czech Republic is about a $60 flight and Brno, Czech Republic has a Holiday Inn on PointBreaks, about 200 km from Prague. I loved Prague and I can drown myself in Czech pilsner for days in Brno.

Over the next week I will plan out itineraries for my three periods in Europe with 19 hotel nights needed. Pointbreaks need to be a major part of that trip planning since I have over 100,000 IHG Rewards Club points and those 5,000 points hotel nights will save my bank and hotel points balances from going into the red.

I’ll need most of my Choice Privileges points for Norway and perhaps hotels in Italy and/or France. With 50,000 Choice Privileges points for $385 purchased today, I have sufficient points for 6 to 10 hotel nights on points.

Loyalty TravelerChoice Privileges points at 30% discount sale ends July 28.

Related Posts:

Loyalty TravelerMy fantastic American AAdvantage elite fast-track offer (June 22)

Loyalty TravelerCost of flying 30,000 AAdvantage flight miles (June 22)

Loyalty TravelerThoughts on my AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge (July 23)

Loyalty TravelerNested tickets for more AAdvantage EQM California to Scandinavia (July 23)

Loyalty TravelerFull list IHG PointBreaks July 27 – Oct 31, 2015 has me honing in on Hamburg HIX (July 24)

Loyalty TravelerHigh Value Wyndham Rewards in Anchorage, Alaska compared to other chains (July 24)

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I read your site all the time to find the best mileage runs for AA. I needed 30k AA EQM to requalify for EXP but just didn’t have enough time. I ended up booking those business class fares from LAX-PTY RT for like $750 each. They earn double eqm’s with the AA promo going on and go through JFK too. Best part is that it just takes up two weekends and I end up earning 36,000 EQM

  2. @Al and Corey – I was AAdvantage Platinum in 2013 and dropped to nothing in 2014. Perhaps American Airlines thinks I went to another carrier? Or perhaps they like bloggers? Or perhaps they know my account balance was dwindling in miles after missing two international return flights when I overstayed my itineraries and had to redeem AAdvantage miles at the last minute to get back home, along with the $75 booking fee.

    @Johnny – positioning flights are to be determined. Depends on where I spend my time.
    Milan to Bergen is $116 on Veuling via Barcelona. I can fly RyanAir and Norwegian via Copenhagen for $95. Flight from Copenhagen to Geneva is $42 one way on Swiss Air.

    If I go to Prague, I can fly there for $60 from Copenhagen on Norwegian and from Prague to Bergen, Norway for $50 one way on Norwegian.

    Hamburg is $33 EasyJet flight from Copenhagen or about $30 train ride. Hamburg to Bergen is an $86 flight on Norwegian Air.

    For the second Bergen ticket, I will either hang out in Bergen, take an SAS reward flight to some other place in Norway, or fly to Stockholm or Helsinki for a few days.

    Prices in Czech Republic are tempting me in that direction. I’ll have to see if I can work both Switzerland and Czech Republic trips within the flight schedules. Transportation is really the primary expense. It will take about $200 to travel to the Alps and get around and a bit less than that to travel around Czech Republic.

    I’ll find places where I can get good deals on reward nights and food is generally only about $10 a day when I travel solo.

    So far I have looked into travel in Italy, Switzerland, France, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. So many places I want to visit and so little time, even with 19 days.

    My objective is to find a few places where I can stay three nights and explore one city between travel days.

  3. Hi,
    Would you mind doing a post about how you went about booking such routes for so cheap?
    For example:Orange County, SNA – Chicago ORD – Dusseldorf DUS – Copenhagen CPH (Air Berlin codeshare) – London LHR – Los Angeles LAX (British Airways A380-800). for just $670.
    Or
    Bergen BGO – London LHR – Dallas DFW – San Francisco SFO

    San Francisco – London LHR – Bergen BGO for $376.
    Thanks

  4. Little confused…..Did you book 3 RT tickets to the same airport???

    It looks like you could do 2 RTs to Europe then a short domestic flight to get to 30K EQMs. It may be about 13.5K-14.5K per RT which gets you to 26K-28K then a domestic flight would get you over 30K

  5. @Dan – Three tickets, including two round trip tickets flying Bergen to San Francisco and my round trip ticket from California to Copenhagen. I will go home to Monterey twice from Bergen, Norway during the five weeks of travel, before my final flight to Los Angeles from Copenhagen, Denmark.

    Bergen to San Francisco was not much more than domestic flight and I would rather be in Europe. After first round trip I will have airport lounge privileges for other four transatlantic flight segments.

    @Abhi – I’ll publish some basic posts on searching flights using Google Flights. It has been about six months since I published article on how to find flights. I put a lot of hours into finding flights. The $673 flight was my third attempt to buy the starting ticket to Europe, after trying to buy two more expensive tickets, only to find the price increased when I tried to buy them.

    I spent a lot of hours searching for low fares. Then, even after finding the low fares, I spent another two days mapping out a good itinerary for travel while in Europe. Once I had itineraries worked out, then I went to buy tickets. I had to start over again a couple of times when the date that had a low fare changed to a higher fare. Then I had to spend another hour shifting everything to an adjacent low-fare date. Time-consuming, but I got an itinerary that works well for three trips at low prices.

  6. Here are two articles I wrote showing at the beginner level how to use Google Flights to find low fare deals.

    Google Flights Map reveals the airfare deals (April 19, 2014) – Beginner level Google Flights strategy for finding low airfare from my local airport to USA destinations.
    http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2014/04/19/google-flights-map-reveals-the-airfare-deals/

    Google Flights Tutorial for Delta and Skyteam $400+ fares to Europe into April 2015 (January 6, 2015) – Beginner level tutorial on using Google Flights for finding USA to Europe low cost flights.
    http://loyaltytraveler.boardingarea.com/2015/01/06/google-flights-tutorial-for-delta-and-skyteam-400-fares-to-europe-into-april-2015/

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