30,000 miles to nowhere: My 4 mile buffer and a contingency plan

Background: Until recently, there was a one time opportunity to get top tier American Airlines AAdvantage elite status (Executive Platinum) by enrolling in and completing the US Airways Preferred Status Trial.  For fun, I decided to go for it and I know that many readers did too.  Now we just have to fly 30,000 miles on US Airways or American Airlines flights!  Follow along through this series of posts, or on Twitter search for hashtag #30Ktonowhere.  For additional background, please see:The last great mileage run.  See you in the air!

4 mile buffer

When I last posted my #30KtoNoWhere progress and plans I said that even with all of my past and future flights booked, I would be a bit over 4000 miles short of the 30K goal.  Since then I booked a quick mileage run to San Diego (I’ll be there this Thursday if any locals want to meet for happy hour. Let me know via the comments, below). 

If my calculations are correct, I have now booked flights that will result in 30,004 miles flown (after accounting for 500 mile minimums). That gives me only a 4 mile buffer. To calculate the miles, I used the Great Circle Mapper distance tool.  I put in 500 as the minimum number of miles earned and then entered in every single flight I’ve taken and have booked:

dtw-dca-gso-phl-dtw-dfw-las-phl-las-phx-dtw-clt-pbi-clt-dtw-phx-san-phx-dtw-dfw-las-phl-las-phl-las-phx-dtw

The result: 30,004 miles.

To see how well Great Circle Mapper tracks to preferred qualifying miles earned on US Airways, I then compared the flights I’ve already taken:

dtw-dca-gso-phl-dtw-dfw-las-phl-las-phx-dtw-clt-pbi-clt-dtw

Great Circle Mapper says that I should have earned 12,745 preferred miles from those flights.  I then looked at my US Airways account and found that I had earned 10,745 preferred qualifying miles in January and 2,000 preferred qualifying miles in December.  In other words, Great Circle Mapper was spot on.

Here’s the map showing all of the routes I plan to fly (many flights overlap, so it looks like less flying than it actually is):

30Ktonowhere_great_circle_mapper

Contingency Plan

A 4 mile buffer is awfully small.  What if the calculations go awry?  Or, what if a weather or mechanical issue causes a change to my itinerary?  My scheduled mileage runs finish on February 6th. I have until February 11th to complete the 30,000 miles for the Trial.  If I don’t earn the expected 30,000 miles by Feb 6, I’ll schedule the cheapest flight I can find to make up the difference.  Usually there are cheap flights between Detroit and Chicago on American Airlines, so that might be a good option.  I probably wouldn’t even have to pay for both directions. I could fly one-way as a paid flight and use 4500 Avios for the other direction.


About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. If you get involuntarily re-routed on any flights, you may be able to request original routing credit (ORC). I’m impressed you were able to schedule your miles so close to 30k.

  2. Just a FYI, only butt miles count, not class of service bonus.. This had a lot of people upset thinking that if they got upgraded this would help… But Class of service bonus kicks in once you have completed your trial.

    • Yes, I know that class of service bonus doesn’t count. I didn’t factor that into the calculations. Minimum 500 mile credit for elites does count though (I’ve verified that through actual flights).

  3. GCM will tell you A-B is 400 miles but in some cases differs from the “official” airline number (and each airline could be a little different). If US says it is 399 there is nothing you can do. 4 miles is cutting it way too close unless you specifically call the airline and check how many miles you have scheduled to fly. Even that may not be safe because phone representatives can be a bit incompetent.

  4. I use Webflyer mileage calculator when I am trying to work out my own numbers and it might be a good cross reference. Are you already an elite? Is that why the 500 mile minimum can count? Or were you given status during the challenge?

  5. Do you have anymore PHL-LAS or PHL-DFW flights? I’ve got one more run with those flights next week and I’m through if you want to meet for happy hour?

  6. You can download the AA timetable in PDF form. In it, it lists the miles between each city pair. And since it’s published by AA, it’s the mileage that they use. If, for some reason, they credit you fewer miles than what’s listed in their timetable, at least you can contact AA and claim that you should receive the mileage that they publish.

    The timetable is at: http://www.trvlink.com/download/aa/AAschedules.pdf
    Note that it’s like 15MB, so give it some time to download.

  7. Are you able to come landside of security for happy hour in SD tomorrow? Might be able to meet up depending on when you’ll be in town… shoot me an email if you have a time/place.

  8. Mrs. CB got 60 day summary email from US for #30kmilestonowhere. However, only the first 30 days of flights (4 segments out of 12) were counted. Time for a phone call. Also, it does not look like 500 mile minimums count for the challenge.

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