Sep222015

American AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge–Day 20–25,668 EQM

Yesterday I completed my fourth transatlantic flight in the past three weeks to come within 5,000 EQM of reaching American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite in my targeted fast-track offer. My flight to London next week will put me over 30,000 EQM and upgrade my AAdvantage status to Executive Platinum elite.

Restless, weary and kind of burned out on Day 20 of the challenge

When I started this venture to fly 30,000 miles in September 2015 for AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite, I stated I would blog about the experience. In all honesty, I am restless, weary and kind of burned out after three weeks of economy class travel.

This last trip to London and Norway did not meet my expectations. Bad weather and feeling bad made the week a tough experience. Flying to eight European countries looked great on paper when I pieced together my itinerary in July, but sometimes travel plans don’t work out so great.

Travel when the weather sucks

In Malmo, Sweden on my first trip to Europe at the beginning of the month, the weather was great the first day and then rain moved into the city for the next two days. I flew to Prague, Czech Republic and took a bus to Brno where I stayed for four nights. Brno was a good trip, although the temperatures that week were the coldest days the city had all this month with temperatures in the 50s and low 60s when it has been in the 80s and 90s many days this September.

This week was the worst weather so far with a major rain storm in London the day I was there and then rain nearly the entire time I was in Arctic Norway.

I checked the weather for Paris and France next week. Forecast to be 70 and sunny. My fingers are crossed that holds true. I want to wear shorts and feel the warm sun on my skin as  I hike to Montmartre.

While in Europe on my two trips, Monterey, California has had two heat waves with temperatures in the 90s, the highest temperatures of 2015 for our town. The skies over Monterey are filled with fog today. I returned home both times from Europe on the day the heat waves broke and fog returned to Monterey Bay.

Are you feelin’ alright? I’m not feelin’ too good myself.

I’ve been to Europe twice this month. Doesn’t that sound like a dream job benefit?

I wonder if I could have done better with the AAdvantage Executive Platinum 25,000 EQP fast-track offer some people received this month? That offer favors flying business class.

Flying 30,000 miles in economy class is tough. My first trip over to Europe three weeks ago was one where I got very little rest. In Malmo, Sweden I ended up straining a back muscle hauling my luggage around and I was in pain while traveling to Brno, Czech Republic. Thirty or so miles of walking around Brno and a lot of yoga stretches eased my pain, but I still feel some occasional tenseness, even after two weeks.

Having made two round trips to Europe in the past three weeks has screwed up my sleep patterns significantly. I have been awake in the middle of the night more often this month than in the past year or two. Normally, I have no sleep problems at all. My wife is so envious of my ability to sleep through the night. I had not slept for 28 hours upon arriving home seven hours ago. I slept 3.5 hours and I am awake again.

The first night sleeping in Harstad in Arctic Norway, I woke up after about three hours with a dry and scratchy throat. Friday I was feeling off and by Saturday I was feeling sick. The sickness went away after 24 hours, but now I have a dry cough that has been persistent for four days. I am drowning myself in a gallon or more of water a day to ease the cough and downing more cups of tea to soothe my throat than I have drank in a long time.

I have the rest of this week to try and heal my throat before I get back on a plane. I told my seatmates yesterday that I am not contagiously sick, just suffering from dry throat cough.

Most positive benefit of September travel is weight loss

I simply eat too much food at home. Sitting around the house writing is frequently interspersed with eating. And to justify being a stay at home guy while my wife leaves the house for her job, I cook a lot of food for nice restaurant style meals for our dinners.

Eating in hotels only at set meal times and with limited snacks between meals and miles and miles of walking has resulted in 12 pounds weight loss in the past three weeks. If I traveled for the next two months I’d probably be at my recommended healthy body weight. Then again, at the rate I am suffering with these trips, I might die from extensive travel.

Plane Observations

London Heathrow – Chicago

British Airways 777

Inflight Entertainment System – Great.

I loved the flight yesterday from London to Chicago. I was wide awake and read a novel, listened to several albums and watched a movie during the 9.5 hour flight. I will be on the same aircraft next week and I’ll be sure to take photos to offer a contrast to American Airlines 737 IFE system on the flight from Chicago to San Francisco last night.

Hey AA, your IFE is losing income for great music artists

On the British Airways flight I created musical playlists from the albums so I could hear a selection of songs that I like back to back. More than 100 albums in several genres are offered and each album selection offered had a song title list. Any song can be selected and ordered to create your own unique playlist.

On the American Airlines 737 flight I struggled to figure out how to even access musical selections. It certainly is not intuitively organized on the screen.

Worst of all is the AA system does not show what artist or song is playing.

AA music

After playing around with the system for some time, I finally figured out how to access music on the seatback monitor of the AA 737.

The AmericanRadio page lists 14 albums. The problem is there is no description of what songs are on these albums. Is ‘London Calling’ the album by The Clash? The artist is listed as Various Artists, so I guess not.

I selected ‘The Vault’.

The Vault

The Vault is a music album of various artists. Who these artists are is a mystery?

Excuse my poor image. This was 11:00pm on a flight and I did not want to use my flash since people were sleeping around me.

I had to endure listening to the first track, Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman five times before I figured out how to skip a song on this set list.

The icon to the right of the header “The Vault” opens a set of controls.

The Vault controls

At this point I learned The Vault is a 2-hour music selection. These are the only control buttons. The arrows did nothing, except restart the album back at ELO – Evil Woman. The only buttons that seem to function were pause and stop and the volume controls. The highlighted button is a random order I assume, but I never got it to function. The slide bar was the only way I saw to advance the music and it was terribly imprecise. I went from Cheap Trick to the Allman Brothers and when I attempted to slide back to the beginning of the Allman Brothers ‘Midnight Rider’, I discovered The Clash ‘Train in Vain’ was between the two songs.

To address another musical genre point, being someone who was a teenager during the musical era of most of these songs, how many people are fans of Cheap Trick, The Clash, Allman Brothers and The Kinks? It was an odd order of song selections. The only reason I know the band names is I knew the songs. This reminded me of my flight from London to Dallas on American Airlines on my first return flight when I heard several songs I liked on one of the AA songlists, but I was only able to locate one from lyrics I wrote down. There is no band or song information for the music on the AA monitor.

Sylvan Esso – Play It Right. (I prefer the song without the video distraction).

My verdict is British Airways gets a grade of ‘A’ for inflight entertainment.

The young woman seated next to me paid to watch a movie soon after we left Chicago. The entire IFE system on the aircraft crashed and took 20 to 30 minutes to reboot. I don’t think she ever saw her movie since she ended up falling asleep.

American Airlines ranks a B- for inflight entertainment on the domestic 737. The free musical content is there, just poorly accessible and ordered, and if you don’t already know the band and song title, you can’t learn it from the American Airlines IFE system.

Is all this flying in economy class worth it for Executive Platinum elite status?

Today I am simply not feeling the love for chasing airline elite status. I could have stopped after one economy class trip to Europe and hold AAdvantage Platinum elite with 100% bonus miles and airline lounge access on international flights.

Sure hope the sun king spirit greets me in Paris.

In another 12 months I can tell you if it was worth it to fly 30,000 miles for AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status.

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.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. The biggest benefit is 8 International One-Way Upgrades on American metal. I did the challenge last January and it is so worth it. This month I flew from Seattle to Beijing; the economy ticket cost $650. and I used 2 of the upgrades to fly business round trip. It is the first time in my life that I have been able to sleep on a plane (7 hours each way of good sleep).

    The other benefit is domestic upgrades. I’ve gotten upgrades about 90% of the time this year. And even when not upgraded, another benefit is Choice seating at no extra cost. If I don’t get upgraded, I’m generally in an Exit row aisle seat in economy.

    The downside to having done the challenge is that I am thoroughly spoiled and determined to get in 100,000 miles this year to qualify for next year.

  2. Laying in bed trying to sleep and memories came back to me of when my wife and I flew 36,000 miles in British Airways First Class in July 2003. That was certainly a comfortable experience, but I still ended up getting sick that month for a few days from lack of sleep and dehydrated from flying so much.

    Wife said I needed to learn how to sleep on a plane and not spend so much time playing with the inflight entertainment system. She slept great in BA First Class on those flights. Kelley never pays attention to the video monitor since it makes her nauseous to watch movies on a plane.

  3. I really don’t agree with this approach to the status challenge at all. The time and cost just seems much higher than one long trip in a premium class.

    You can get > 30k EQPs on a single reasonably priced premium economy ticket on BA. SFO-LHR-JNB in premium economy is $2,247 in Nov. Factor in a 10% discount for Chase BA Visa holders til end of year and it drops to $2k. Optionally use Asiamiles transferred from Citi to upgrade the whole journey to Business Class for 35,000 miles.

  4. @Jason – Firstly, I would need to have those credit cards. I don’t.

    Secondly, my time period required 30,000 EQM or EQP to be completed by October 9.

    Thirdly, my three round trips to Scandinavia on American Airlines tickets were under $1,500.

    Good strategy perhaps for someone on the 25,000 EQP fast-track with a December deadline.

  5. Where are you starting from?

    I could have booked SFO-ORD Chicago tickets and flown 8 round trips for under $1,000 to earn 30,000 EQM in August. I already had booked the Europe flights.

    I have been to Chicago several times in the past few years. I had never been to Brno, Czech Republic or Harstad, Norway or Clermont-Ferrand, France where I will be next week.

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