This piece is an overview of my thoughts about flight planning for an AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge requiring 30,000 elite qualifying miles by October 9, 2015. I am starting at 0 miles.
Out of the Frying Pan and into the AA Flight Plans
I’ll get into the AAdvantage Executive Platinum flight plan details in my next post. This post turned into my rationale for even considering whether it is worth investing $2,000+ to fly 30,000 miles over the next 11 weeks on American Airlines and OneWorld partners to earn AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status.
Home in cool Monterey and out of the frying pan of Boston, where the past week had the hottest temperatures of summer 2015, while I spent 8 to 12 hours each day outside. I laughed inside when the United flight attendant asked passengers, upon touchdown in San Francisco SFO, to please close the window shades and turn the overhead air vents on full blast to keep the cabin cool for the passengers boarding the plane.
Did she not hear the pilot announce the temperature outside was 59 degrees?
I had not felt air so cold since leaving California for my 22-day July vacation in Boston, Copenhagen and London. This is San Francisco, not Phoenix or Boston. I’m back in the land of summer fog day afternoons on the cool California coast.
I am not a business traveler
Sitting in the airport in San Francisco, after July flights on WOW Airlines and RyanAir loaded with holiday family travelers and backpackers, had me thinking about what kind of traveler I am. Watching people on the plane spend their time working on spreadsheets and documents and watching people in suits engaged in urgent business calls while walking from gate to gate in the airport excludes me from that class of traveler.
I spent my time in the United terminal studying SFO Museum Art Deco displays. SFO Museum is the first and only fully accredited museum entirely within an airport.
Art deco posters for hotels at SFO Museum.
Some people have so much to do with their busy lives.
I am not a nomadic traveler
People like Drew and Carrie on Travel is Free or ‘Lucky’ Ben of One Mile at a Time are nomadic travelers. Pulling off 30,000 EQM in 11 weeks would be easier, if I had no time constraints or permanent home base with a wife who wants help with grocery shopping, cleaning the house and pet maintenance. Kelley has to pick up all the additional chores of maintaining a household when I am out of the house. My ten weeks of solo travel in 2015 places an additional workload on her time.
I changed my tagline for Twitter.
I’m not a business traveler or nomadic traveler. I take lots of 2-week vacations with hotel stays as Loyalty Traveler.
My travel style is a vacation travel lifestyle. I rarely ‘have’ to be anywhere at anytime for business. My 22-day vacation this month is the longest trip I have taken since a 31-day trip in 2003 to Europe and Australia.
My days of mileage running ended in 2007. Three day trips to Singapore are not necessary, since I don’t have to be back in the USA on Monday morning for a traditional job. Six week trips are not conducive to my ‘home-based lifestyle’ with three cats and a wife who need my care and attention.
AA Flight Plans for Executive Platinum challenge
Forget emails, forget trip reports, forget updating Loyalty Traveler. Forget going to the bank, since no check to Loyalty Traveler has arrived by the 22nd of this month from Boarding Area. Mail travel has been a tough trip over those Rocky Mountains to reach California in 2015.
My Loyalty Traveler focus these past two days shifted from where I have been to where I am going next.
In mid-June I received a fast-track offer from American Aiirlines AAdvantage allowing me to earn 100,000 mile Executive Platinum status through February 2017 if I fly 30,000 EQM by October 9, 2015.
Loyalty Traveler – My fantastic American AAdvantage elite fast-track offer (June 22)
Loyalty Traveler – Cost of flying 30,000 AAdvantage flight miles (June 22)
So, here I am picking up where I left off last month in planning 30,000 flight miles on American Airlines and specific Oneworld airline partners over the next 11 weeks.
What is the value of American Airlines Executive Platinum status?
1. 100% miles bonus.
2. Additional award seat space and waived fees on award changes.
3. Eight international systemwide upgrades from economy to business class.
4. Airport lounge access
5. Free checked bags
6. complimentary alcohol and snacks in main cabin seating.
Here are my basic considerations for AA Executive Platinum elite status challenge.
1. Spend a minimum of four nights staying in each destination I ticket.
2. Keep total airline ticket expenses to under $1,700 to earn 30,000 EQM.
3. Keep total hotel expenses under $500 out-of-pocket, while using current hotel points in my accounts to cover some of the travel nights.
4. Keep total travel expenses under $2,500 for three trips to earn 30,000 AAdvantage EQM.
Are AA/Oneworld Executive Platinum travel benefits worth spending $2,000+ on unnecessary trips over the next 11 weeks?
Let’s assume I take four trips on American Airlines and Oneworld carriers between October 2015 and February 2017 for 50,000 flight miles.
- I will earn 100,000 redeemable AA miles with the 100% bonus. That is 50,000 miles I would not have without elite status. ($600 value). But, I can get the 100% AA miles bonus flying only one international trip for 12,000 EQM and earn American AAdvantage Platinum elite status for under $1,000 all-in.
- Airport lounge access ($200 value). Also available with AA platinum elite.
- Waived ticketing service charge. I have paid $225 in the past year on last minute award tickets using AAdvantage miles.
- Free checked bags (domestic flights only, since international travel offers free checked bag) $100 value.
- Award seat space (intangible, but big deal if I can get an award ticket as an Executive Platinum elite that would be unavailable to a non-elite member or Platinum elite member.)
- System-wide upgrades on four American Airlines international flights.
Free upgrades are the primary benefit of AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite membership compared to Platinum elite. I could fly to Copenhagen for $700, spend four nights and fly back home to earn AAdvantage Platinum status with 12,000 EQM and all the primary benefits I need as an international economy class flyer. The primary reason to fly 30,000 EQM is for the luxury of inflight business class upgrades over the next 20 months.
AAdvantage Systemwide Upgrades
I assume I will take two paid economy flights to Europe with Kelley over the next 20 months and that we will be able to upgrade to Business Class for free. Hotel reservations are already booked for four nights in Amsterdam for winter 2016 and four nights in Stockholm for summer 2016 at Radisson Blu hotels.
I’ll give the AAdvantage systemwide upgrades a value of about $1,000 or $250 per international round trip ticket. That is a low and totally subjective valuation for upgrades. I feel mileage running for AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status is like paying a luxury tax upfront. I have flown in economy class for most of the past decade and it has not killed me.
I look at the extra $1,000 I will spend to earn Executive Platinum as a Loyalty Traveler business expense allowing me access to the front of airplanes for my own photo reviews and trip reports. I might even be able to turn 2016 AAdvantage Executive Platinum status into another airline alliance elite status for 2017 benefits.
I know from my years as United Mileage Plus 1K that upgrade certificates have no value, unless you use them. One time I ended up upgrading a college student on her way home from LAX to Sydney, Australia at the gate. I had a United Mileage Plus SWU certificate about to expire and she was the third passenger I had offered to upgrade with no strings attached. She accepted my offer and flew to Australia in Business Class.
Knocking out 30,000 AAdvantage EQM with 2 long-haul international trips.
Travel is not free for me. I don’t play in the world of manufactured spend and credit card churning. Obviously it is a great way to pile up big miles and points balances, but I am simply not interested in shopping for miles and points. I have very little need or desire to shop.
I plan out each of my trips individually with attention to how much my ground expenses will be for a destination. Since hotels are generally the major expense, my choice of a travel destination considers the hotel scene. I depleted a good portion of my hotel points balances this month in Boston, Copenhagen and London.
- Choice Privileges – 70,000 points (Skt. Petri Copenhagen and Comfort Inn Boston Logan).
- Club Carlson – 310,000 points (Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen 4 nights and The May Fair Hotel London 6 nights)
- IHG Rewards Club – three free night credits for InterContinental Boston and InterContinental London Park Lane and 35,000 points for Holiday Inn Camden Lock London.
- Marriott – one free night with breakfast at Marriott Boston Copley Place ($80 from an auction win last December in a children’s hospital charity auction).
- Wyndham Rewards – 15,000 points for one free night at Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill.
Five nights last week in Boston ate into my hotel points. Two nights at Comfort Inn Boston Logan Revere cost 25,000 Choice Privileges points per night. I stayed at the airport on our first night back from Denmark and my last night in Boston since Kelley and I were scheduled on 6am flights. Boston Mass transit does not run that early in the morning.
That bothered me to redeem 25,000 points for an airport hotel when I stayed in a one-bedroom balcony suite luxury spa resort Farris Bad in Norway last September for 20,000 points. Farris Bad is now 16,000 Choice Privileges points per night.
Kaupang Suite at Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Hotel in Larvik, Norway
Loyalty Traveler – Hotel Review Farris Bad Kaupang Suite upgrade.
Another option was Hyatt Regency Boston at 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points, but I knew I would get better value from my Hyatt points by holding them for another location.
Brazil and Scandinavia are leading contenders for AA tickets
Checking flight routes from California to other countries for low long-haul fares reveals Brazil and Denmark-Sweden as my top candidates for earning 30,000 AAdvantage EQM in August and September trips.
South Africa and Australia had low fares in the past months, but neither of these places is on sale today.
I want to buy tickets over the next couple of weeks.
In the next post I show why Sao Paulo and Copenhagen are my leading trip destination contenders for tackling the American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum challenge.