How I screwed up my end of year AA mileage run

AA mileage run progress to Executive Platinum

Flight deals, especially the really great ones, rarely last long.  Once a great deal is publicized, it’s a race against the clock to find and book the deal before its too late.  Often, I miss these deals because I’m not at my computer at the time, or I find out about it too late, or the deal simply doesn’t work for me.  When I do catch the wave of one of these deals, it’s exciting.  My heart beats faster as I rush to capitalize.  Unfortunately, as adrenaline surges, logical thinking declines.

Early in the year, when AA mistakenly offered a business class round trip fare to Beijing for only $465, I jumped on the deal.  By the time I learned about it, some blogs had already declared the deal dead, but I found a few dates still available.  The harder part was finding dates where I was also available to travel.  That didn’t leave many options, but I found one.  It was a very short trip: I would arrive in Beijing on Wednesday and depart on Friday, but I booked it anyway.  My adrenaline clouded thinking suggested to me that 2 to 3 days in Beijing would be enough.  In reality, I ended up having only one day to explore Beijing.  I arrived in China late Wednesday night and flew home Friday morning, so I had only Thursday available for sightseeing.  Still, with a little planning, I was able to cram in a pretty full tour of Beijing into that one day, and I was very happy I did it.  You can read more here: One day in Beijing. Fewer words, more photos.

Recently, it happened again when three British Airways promotions overlapped (see: Ignoring terms and flying cheap via 3 stacked promos: BA sale, AARP discount, and Avios promo).  I paid $446 plus 30,000 Avios for a round trip business class flight from Chicago to London.  In exchange, I earned about 43,000 redeemable AA miles and lots of elite qualifying miles and points.  This time I purposely booked my flights back to back so as to be away from home and family as little as possible.  I flew to London on Saturday and returned on Sunday.  I plan to write up my flight experiences soon, but this post is about my attempt to re-qualify for elite status.  That’s where my clouded thinking screwed me up…

Reach elite status faster

This year, since early April, American Airlines has offered bonus Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs) for business and first class fares.  They have long offered 1.5 EQPs per mile flown for business and first class, but they would now give even more: a total of 2 EQPs per mile for discount business or first class and a total of 3 EQPs for full fare business or first class.

AA mileage run EQP Promo

AA mileage run EQP Promo Reach elite status faster

With AA, you can (for now) reach elite status through miles flown (EQMs), number of segments (EQSs), or elite qualifying points (EQPs).  Thanks to my flight to Beijing, as well as first class flights from and to Puerto Rico, each of which resulted in 2 EQPs per mile flown, I was reasonably close to re-qualifying for AA Executive Platinum status with EQPs.

All year, I’ve maintained a spreadsheet with all of my planned flights and expected EQM and EQP earnings.  For flights booked in discount business class, I multiplied the expected miles flown by 2 in order to calculate EQPs.  For flights booked in discount economy, I divided the miles flown by 2 since those flights earn only .5 EQPs per mile.  Up until now, my actual EQPs and EQMs earned have tracked closely to my spreadsheet, so I was pretty confident that this final mileage run to London would secure my Executive Platinum status.  It was a business class flight, so I followed my usual routine of doubling the flown miles to estimate earned EQPs.

Here’s the thing…

The combination of deals I took advantage of to book this flight were specific to British Airways.  That is, I could fly American Airlines, but I had to book through BA.  My adrenaline addled brain was aware enough of this distinction to check the AA website, but it didn’t fully comprehend what it read.  The fine print read:

*Offer applies to AAdvantage members who purchase and fly on eligible published-fare First or Business Class tickets booked in F, A, P, J, R, D or I on flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines or Qantas. Flights marketed or operated by other codeshare partners are not eligible for this promotion.

I read “and operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, Japan Airlines or Qantas” and thought I was good to go.  In fact, I booked the outbound operated by American Airlines and the return operated by British Airways.  What I failed to notice was the very important “and”.  The terms state that flights must be “marketed by American Airlines and operated by American Airlines, British Airways, …”  If the “and” had been an “or”, I would have been fine.  But any rational reading of the terms makes it clear that the flight must be marketed by American Airlines.  Period.  But my flights were marketed by BA.

A delayed surprise

I flew to London and back on the weekend of December 12th and 13th.  Each morning afterwards I eagerly logged into my AA account expecting to see over 100,000 EQPs (that’s how many I need to re-qualify for Executive Platinum status).  Flight credit finally posted on Thursday.  I now had a total of 97,409 EQPs.

I was 2,591 EQPs short!

I quickly realized that the extra .5 EQPs hadn’t posted, but I didn’t know why.  I tried to bring up the terms of the EQP promotion, but the web page for the promo had been taken down (I later found it cached, here).

I called the Executive Platinum desk and explained that I was missing the bonus EQPs.  The agent put me on hold while he looked up the terms of the promotion and discussed it with a supervisor.  In the meantime, I found the cached webpage for the offer.  Eventually, both of us reached the same conclusion: I had screwed up.  I asked if they could make an exception for me.  The agent said no, but in a very nice way.  I spoke with a supervisor and asked again.  The supervisor’s “no” was blunt and unfriendly.  Both agents told me that I would have a chance to buy back my elite status for $1,199, but they couldn’t otherwise do anything to help me.

Ugh

The weekend before my London trip, I flew to California to present at Frequent Traveler University Advanced.  I flew AA discount economy.  If I had paid more for full fare economy or for first class (even just one-way), I would have earned enough EQPs to secure Executive Platinum status.  In other words, if I had figured out my mistake earlier, I could have fixed it at relatively low cost.  Now I had to decide whether to cram in one last mileage run, pay for status, or give up entirely.

One last flight

I’m traveling with my family to Florida right after Christmas.  Our outbound flight is in December and the return is in January. We had booked flights on Delta with miles, and we had booked our outbound and return flights as separate one-ways.  Since these flights will take place during the height of holiday season, I couldn’t find cheap economy flights.  Instead, I had booked first class awards, at saver level: 25K miles per person one-way.  Thanks to my Delta Platinum status, I was able to cancel my portion of the outbound flight without penalty.  Delta gave me back my 25K miles plus $5.60 in TSA fees.

Instead of the outbound Delta flight, I booked an AA first class flight.  Most AA flights from Detroit route through Charlotte, but via Great Circle Mapper I realized that I wouldn’t earn enough EQPs that way.  Instead, I found a flight routed through Philadelphia.  Great Circle Mapper says that the route through Philly is 1446 miles.  Assuming I correctly earn double EQPs, I should get 2,892 EQPs.  Combined with my current total of 97,409 EQPs, I should end the year with 100,301 EQPs.

The one-way price for the flight came to just over $700 (remember: this is during holiday season and I had zero time / date flexibility).  I used ThankYou points to pay for the flight.  Thanks to my Citi Prestige card, I get 1.6 cents per point value when points are used to book AA flights.  So, my total point cost came to just over 44,000 points.  I’ll earn AA miles from the flight and, of course, I got back my 25,000 Delta miles, so the net cost to me wasn’t too bad.  It was certainly far, far cheaper than buying my status from AA for $1,199!

Now, here’s to hoping that nothing goes wrong…

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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My final AA mileage run involved actual running. Here’s the story. - Frequent MilerEliScrewing up a Mileage Run, BA vs. AA Business Class Comparison, Best way to Use Chase Points for Hotels & More! - Frequent MilerJohn HillAshker Recent comment authors

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Adam
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Adam

Stupid question.. I’m switching to AA, and just got status via a fast track. Does the 500 mile minimum apply to EQMs and Ps also?

Carrie
Guest

Oh man that sounds stressful.
I definitely read those terms the same way you did and even after you pointed out the “and” vs “or,” I still had to think about it for a second. And my brain ISN’T adrenalin clouded lol. Seems like an easy mistake to make.
Glad you caught it in time though!

Ryan
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Ryan

Great to hear bloggers admit their mistakes…this game is not ALL fun and games – no one plays without hitting some speed bumps along the way! Congrats on lining up your trip to Branson’s place, can’t wait for the TR!

mark o
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mark o

I am more shocked you found Delta First class for 25k in points…how far out did you book it?

Ashker
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Ashker

If AA rebook you on another route for a flight cancellation/delay, don’t agree to take a route which would generate less EQM. This year I was supposed to get ~3600 EQMs for a flight. As I missed my connection, I was rebooked on a different route where I got ~3400 EQMs. When I contacted AAdvantage customer Service later and requested for the ~200 EQM difference, they said, without actually flying, there’s no way they could add EQM to my account. The added 500 RDMs as a courtesy, but no dice about EQM even after talking with supervisor. Good luck!

bltn95
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bltn95

I’m with you; 301-mile cushion would make me nervous. There’s a chance of not making the 100k. I’d try to book another 500 miles just in case.

Patrick S.
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Patrick S.

FYI, you could have called and upfared (that’s a real term!) your flight to FTU without penalty. Have done it before for the same reason. Use ITA to look up fare classes / retail cost.

Ashker
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Ashker

Slightly off-topic question – I used my Thankyou points to travel domestically on AA. When I called to apply a SWU Cert, the representative couldn’t do that and told me to call within 24 hours. The reason was – they still cannot see the details of the ticket. However, she mentioned it’s a bulk ticket (O fare class), and I wouldn’t earn any RDM or EQM. Do you think this is true?

From AA’s website: http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/earnMiles/airlines/american.jsp , I can see that I’m supposed to earn 1 EQMs for O fare class. Additionally, this was definitely a publised routing, and the price shown on Thank you portal matched with aa.com.

Ashker
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Ashker

Forgot to mention that, this if for traveling in 2016, so AA’s new mileage accrual rule should come into effect.

trackback

[…] The weekend before last, I flew to London Heathrow airport on Saturday and returned home on Sunday… on purpose.  My goal wasn’t to visit London (which is a great city to visit, by the way), but rather to earn the remaining EQPs (Elite Qualifying Points) I needed to secure American Airlines Executive Platinum status for another year.  I had to earn a total of 100,000 EQPs by the end of this year, and I thought this trip would get me there.  To see how wrong I was about that, please see: How I screwed up my end of year AA mileage run. […]

John Hill
Guest
John Hill

I did something similar in doing a LAX-JFK-PTY trip which was great EQP on a cheap business class fare but I really needed to requalify on EQM so had to do 2 trips on 12/21 and 12/22 to make up for it. But now I have my 100K and have already started better planning for next year. Looking forward to doing a much better job in 2016!

trackback

[…] How I screwed up my end of year AA mileage run – How miscalculating elite qualifying points ended up becoming a very costly mistake. […]

Eli
Guest
Eli

Hi I am aa platinum and maybe you know or maybe you don’t but gold and platinum members can fly standby same day on any flight for free as long the origin and destination stay the same. This comes in very handy because you can book the cheapest flight available between two destinations. Let’s say Miami and NY and then fly standby for free on a flight from mia-sea-lax-lga…racking up a ton of points for the price of cheap one way to ny (which is now 48 in december)…..also aa counts your points based on the class booked not in the class you actually fly therefore it doesn’t matter the flight u take as long as you book the class you need. Also note that v class economy fares are a full 1 point as opposed to .5 for most classes of economy.

Anyways thought this knowledge would be of use to you

Eli
Guest
Eli

Also a common mia-NYC flight pattern is mia-dallas-ord-nyc… (can’t remember the Texas airport) anyways if you fly first and take the cheapest flight you can gain 10000 points on a Roundtrip flight for less than $500…do the math:)

trackback

[…] the recent post, “How I screwed up my end of year AA mileage run,” I told the story of what I thought would be my last mileage run.  I had calculated my last […]