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Cost and Miles Analysis of my AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite 30,000 EQM challenge Sep 2 to Oct 6, 2015

This post shares a spreadsheet with a detailed cost analysis of my four American Airlines tickets I purchased to complete my AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite challenge by flying 30,000 EQM – Elite Qualifying Miles between June and October 9, 2015. My AAdvantage EQM earning flights were flown September 2 to October 6, 2015 with 18 flown segments for 39,131 EQM and 66,790 redeemable miles at a ticket cost of $1,582.40.

Three nested transatlantic tickets between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California and Copenhagen, Denmark and Bergen, Norway allowed me to spend 19 nights in Europe on three trips visiting Copenhagen-Denmark, Malmo-Sweden, Bergen-Norway and Harstad in Arctic Norway, Prague- and Brno-Czech Republic, London-UK, Paris, Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand, France, and Geneva, Switzerland.

AAdvantage ExPlat Challenge Chart-1

AAdvantage ExPlat Challenge Chart-2

AAdvantage ExPlat Challenge Chart-3

AAdvantage ExPlat Challenge Chart-4

AAdvantage ExPlat Challenge Chart-5

AAdvantage Executive Platinum Elite 30,000 EQM Challenge brief story

I already had nearly all July 2015 booked with travel to Boston, Copenhagen and London at the time I received the targeted AAdvantage elite challenge offer late June. The offer was AAdvantage Gold after flying 6,000 EQM or EQP, AAdvantage Platinum after 12,000 EQM or EQP and AAdvantage Executive Platinum after 30,000 EQM or EQP.

After returning home from my July trip to Boston and Europe, I spent the last days of July planning out how I could fly 30,000 EQM in September and finish by October 9, 2015, the deadline for meeting the challenge goals.

The main reasons I wanted AAdvantage Executive Platinum status is for valuable benefits beyond getting free upgrades for myself.

  • Early plane boarding for overhead bin space.
  • Complimentary same-day flight change for American Airlines operated flights.
  • Award fee waivers for cancelling and changing award tickets and reinstatement of miles (only AA ExPlat have this benefit), no fee for last minute award bookings.
  • Upgrade a companion traveling with me (my wife) with 500-mile e-certificates. These can primarily be reserved for my wife.
  • Oneworld Alliance First Class lounge access on international travel.
  • Three free checked bags. Not sure if I’ll use this benefit, but reminds me of news stories last month when I was in Sweden about some airlines at Copenhagen Airport allowing passengers to Greece one free checked bag to transport relief supplies for refugees.

After several days researching airfare worldwide, my travel decisions were based around the purchase of two round trip tickets originating in Bergen, Norway BGO to San Francisco SFO. These two tickets were priced at $373 and $397.50 all-in and covered 25,000 EQM of the AAdvantage Elite Challenge goal for $770. The lowest ticket price I could find from California departed Orange County to Copenhagen with return to Los Angeles for $672.70.

The most difficult decision of all was choosing dates to allow me enough time to travel away from Copenhagen and Bergen while in Europe.

My first trip I stayed in Malmo, Sweden for two nights, a 22-minute train ride from Copenhagen CPH Airport. I flew Norwegian Airlines from Copenhagen, Denmark to Brno, Czech Republic and stayed at Holiday Inn Brno four nights, an IHG PointBreaks at 5,000 points per night. Another Norwegian Airlines nonstop flight from Prague to Bergen, Norway on a beautiful day in Bergen allowed me to take a great hike up Mount Floyen and watch the sunset on one of the most beautiful settings in the world in fjord land.

On my second trip to Europe, I traveled to Arctic Norway for one glorious day with sun and warmth before the relentless rain descended on the town, as I  concurrently developed a throat infection in what I attribute to dry airplane air and lack of sleep during the previous two weeks of flying and travel.

My third trip to Europe surpassed the 30,000 EQM threshold for AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status upon touchdown in London LHR. I skipped out on my final ticket segment from London LHR back to Bergen BGO, in large part due to the Bergen Film Festival making rooms unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Instead, I flew Air France to Paris, where I burned my last IHG Into the Nights free night from the fall 2014 IHG Rewards Club promotion for InterContinental Le Grand Paris. The next afternoon, I flew to Clermont-Ferrand, France in central France volcanoes country and stayed four nights at Holiday Inn Clermont-Ferrand. Even better than all the cheap pilsner beer in Brno were the big bottles of craft brewed strong beer from northern France I indulged in for the week. The weather was great in France.

A train to Geneva, Switzerland and a night at InterContinental Geneva took me to a room with gorgeous views of the Alps, but unfortunately a big rainstorm arrived within an hour of my arrival at the hotel and I did not tour Geneva before flying back to Copenhagen for my flights home to California.

The same rainstorms that weekend killed 20 people on the French Riviera in flash floods, in addition to the tragic deaths of many captive marine mammals, including Valentin, a 19-year-old captive Orca killer whale at Marineland Antibes, Europe’s largest sea park.

Copenhagen was a long, good weather 5-hour photographic walking tour to end my continental travels and American Airlines AAdvantage elite challenge of 2015.

Immediate Benefits of my AAdvantage Executive Platinum Elite status

Benefits of my AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status on my final return trip home to Monterey included access to London Heathrow Terminal 5 South First Class lounge. I was disappointed to find the same food and same can-only beer as the Business Class Terraces lounge. More available seating in Terminal 5 South First Class lounge though compared to the usually overcrowded Terminal 5 North Terraces Lounge.

I received a complimentary upgrade to First Class for Los Angeles LAX to Las Vegas LAS. Nicer seat, but drink service was suspended due to air turbulence. Spent a few hours in Las Vegas with family and my sister on her birthday. Also, received complimentary upgrade to First Class for my final flight home from Phoenix to Monterey. Too tired the last flight home to Monterey in First Class, about 38 hours since a bed in Copenhagen, to even celebrate the end of my month’s travel and mission accomplished with free alcohol.

AAdvantage Executive Platinum aftermath and vacation hangover

My wife is still angry ten days after I returned home, knowing I spent most of September hanging out in Europe and I call that my work, while she went through the daily grind of a regular job and extra duty chores at home. Frequent travelers in relationships, where the significant other is not a frequent traveler, know all too well the grind at home.

A good deal of her discontent ever since I settled back in California last week is due to the fact that I have been waking up and start writing between 2am and 3am in the morning. My late morning European wake-up time (3am Monterey time is noon in France and Denmark) is disrupting her sleep pattern.

Hopefully those eight American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades will place her in a Business Class seat and a better disposition for a couple of 2016 trips to Europe.

She needs to soften her attitude to my long distance trips now that I can take advantage of the value inherent in flying as an American Airlines AAdvantage Exeuctive Platinum member. Free same day flight changes, no award ticket last minute purchase and change fees, 100% miles bonus and an opportunity for complimentary flight upgrades without even touching the 500-mile and SWU e-certs for confirmed upgrades.

Those $400 Scandinavia to California tickets are still available on American Airlines website for 2016 travel and there are routings where I can earn over 30,000 redeemable miles per ticket. How quickly I forget the suffering of long-haul economy class seats.

This loyalty traveler is running on the frequent flyer elite treadmill again.


  • Steve October 16, 2015

    Your wife has the patience of a saint. The idea of spending that much money and time on travel for a (potential & hypothetical) future benefit would likely mean divorce in my household. Well, unless enough chocolate or cheese was provided at least…

  • Dan October 17, 2015

    Maybe membership in the mile high club is warranted ….

  • Ric Garrido October 18, 2015

    @Steve – travel writer is my job and travel is a fundamental work requirement.

    As far as the amount of money involved, there was a feeding frenzy on British Airways $1,200 Business Class tickets from USA to Europe the day before I wrote this post. High travel spend is relative to each person’s economic situation. Time is more of a factor here.

    @Dan – as someone who has traveled well over one million miles on airplanes, an aircraft bathroom ranks pretty low for places where I want to join any club.

  • Ric Garrido October 20, 2015

    @Steve – the future is fast approaching. The miles I earned last month will buy reward tickets for us to travel to Europe Thanksgiving week. Kelley likes the idea of long airport transit layovers for First Class lounge benefits.

    I am developing a 2016 travel plan that will examine how much Kelley benefits from my AAdvantage Executive Platinum status. Looks like we will have 5 trips to Europe between November 2015 and July 2016 with about six weeks of travel time.

  • […] Although I have never actually done one, I do enjoy the planning aspect of mileage running and elite status challenges.  Here’s Loyalty Traveler’s breakdown of the flights he took to complete a recent American Airlines elite status challenge […]

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