Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Official AA rules for the Platinum Challenge

The following are the rules related to my last post on Gold and Platinum challenges. On a little side note, I think AA should be commended on the friendly language in the email. It's great:


**** CALL 800-421-0600 OR SEND US EMAIL VIA AA.COM ****

Thanks for speaking with me about your AAdvantage account. We have put you on a Challenge for AAdvantage Platinum membership. Congratulations - and Good Luck!

Here are some helpful tips:

* Remember that Challenges are based on points, not miles, and your goal is 10,000 points in the three-month period we discussed. If you're not sure how you earn points, read on. (That's why you wanted this email, right?)
* Use American Airlines (of course!) and other elite-qualifying carriers to maximize your earnings. These elite carriers are Aer Lingus, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, LAN, Qantas and Alaska Airlines (and their eligible affiliates). When you earn miles on AA or on these carriers, you also earn points. Only points count toward your Challenge. (But remember that there are some fares on these carriers that are not eligible to earn miles or points. You can easily check out these rules on

# aa.com/aadvantage when you select 'Partners and Mileage Programs' and then navigate to the particular airline.)Select fares with high point values. If, for example, you use Deep Discount Fares, get ready to fly 20,000 miles because those fares earn points at half the rate of miles. But if you buy Discount Fares, the rate is one point per mile and you can meet your Challenge by flying 10,000 elite-qualifying miles. And if you select premium fares, you earn 1.5 points per mile and can meet the Challenge by flying just - OK, you do the math!
# Know the point values you'll earn for the booking codes you select. Yes it may look like alphabet soup, but there's a point to these codes. In fact, there's anywhere from .5 - 1.5 points!
# Earn 1.5 points per mile when the purchased fare on your American Airlines ticket begins with one of these booking codes: A F P D I J B Y
# Earn 1.0 point per mile for these AA booking codes: H K L M V W
# Earn .5 points per mile for these AA booking codes: G N O* Q** S (sorry, you knew there had to be an asterisk somewhere)
# Equivalent booking codes for the other elite-qualifying carriers are included on the various airline pages on AA.com
# How can you determine what booking code is used for the fare you're purchasing? Simply ask the booking agent, whether that's your travel agent, corporate travel planner or AA Reservations representative. Or, even better, when you book your flights on AA.com, the Flight Summary screen displays the booking code in the same column as the cabin booked
# Here's an easy way to keep track of your progress: Before you take your first flight in the Challenge period, look at your YTD Elite Qualifying Points. You can access this information when you login to AA.com with your AAdvantage number and password. (If I've just lost you, call us at 800-421-0600 and request the email on 'AA.com Login and Passwords.') Click on 'View My Miles' and your Mileage Summary (displayed on the left) includes your YTD Elite Qualifying Points. Add 10,000 to this number and that's what you're shooting for. At the end of your Challenge, if your YTD Elite Qualifying Points are 10,000 more than when you started, victory is yours and you'll see 'Status: Platinum' on your Home Page right below your name when you login to AA.com.

A Challenge is intended for members who are in a hurry to get to the elite level they desire. Think of it as a shortcut to the status you would probably earn on your own during the normal 12-month qualification period.
If you meet your Challenge goal, then you will be expected to requalify the following year by meeting the normal criteria. We know you can do it.

Now here are those pesky but important footnotes:

*O -- only eligible domestic fares booked in O will count

**Q -- excludes American Airlines transatlantic fares booked in Q and equivalent booking codes on participant airlines

Regards,
AAdvantage Customer Service

Becoming Gold or Platinum quick through the challenge

Did you know that American Airlines have two secret programs called Gold and Platinum Challenge? You won't find any information about this on their web site, but it is one of those great insider secrets shared around between frequent flier afficionados on their various web forums.

Basically the idea is that AA want to reward you if you think you are going to be flying alot in a short period. The really cool thing is that you can achieve elite status on something as short as a transatlantic flight.

The rules are basically the same, but the milage requirement differs. You have 3 months to achieve:
  • 5000 QPoints for Gold
  • 10000 QPoints for Platinum
QPoints is based on miles and the level of service you fly. On First, Business and Full fare you receive 1.5 points per mile flown. On most discount fares it's 1 to 1. Finally on what they call deep discount flights you get 0.5 points per mile. See the AAdvantage Qualification Requirements page for exact info.

So what is the best way to do this? First of all avoid fares that are deep discount. I very rarely get them when booking on aa.com. Basically avoid fares where the code starts with G, Q, N or S.

If you are about to take a transatlantic flight, check the fare code and the miles. A typical transatlantic leg is about 3500-5500 miles depending on which coast you are flying to or from. So you are already nearly there for gold and with the return trip nearly there for platinum. What if you don't have the full 5000 or 10,000 miles? A little known trick is to change the routing of your flight. You can often get away with this for no or very little extra cost if you book it directly at aa.com.

Lets say you want to go from London to Boston. This is only 3250. If you instead change the routing to go via Miami or Chicago you can get 5670 or 4803 miles respectfully instead. With a little creativity it is very easy. On the Chicago route add another stopover somewhere in and you should be fine.

In the above example if you think you are only going on one trip this year you might as well stick with the gold challenge, so you get some of the benefits for the return trip. Otherwise if possible go with the platinum challenge.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My AAdvantage goals this year

The past year I have not been travelling with American Airlines at all, so for the first time in years I am back to regular membership. My goal is to become a Gold member before New Year and at least Platinum by year end.

I will be able to reach Gold status on just a one way transatlantic trip from CPH-MIA through an undocumented trick that I will describe later. In the new year I should be doing quite a bit of transatlantic travel, which means that I doubt I will have any problems reaching Platinum status. Who knows maybe even Executive Platinum, which I have never had before.

I also aim to make my travel as comfortable as possible with as many free upgrades as possible. Both through electronic upgrades and through use of my miles.

I currently have:
  • 37,098 miles available
  • 6 Electronic upgrades
  • 347,098 miles to date in the program
After each trip I will update my status and let you know how it went.

Whats your goal free travel or comfort?

Frequent flyer miles are mostly about getting free trips for most people. However people who fly more than once or twice a year know that the real benefits are in the elite status programs.

What are these? Well they are special programs with real benefits for people who fly a lot. American Airlines have 3 levels of these programs:

  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Executive Platinum
I will describe these later on in more details. But basically if you have 25k miles in a year you become Gold, 50k Platinum and with 100k the ellusive Executive Platinum.

Why are these programs so good? Well even on the Gold plan you get the following:
  • You can check in at the business class counter
  • Easy upgrades to business class
  • Milage bonuses
There are many other benefits, but these are the most important that make your travel nicer. Have you ever arrived at an airport and had to stand in the check-in line for 45 minutes or more? Well with just gold status, that is history.

In later posts I will go into more details about the different elite status levels and how to "cheat" yourself to Gold status on as little as a cheap trans atlantic flight.

Welcome to the American AAdvantage Miles blog

I have been a happy AAdvantage user for over 10 years now. I have my years when I fly a lot and some where I don't. AAdvantage is constantly rated one of the top programs and while American Airlines itself has hollowed out it's quality the AAdvantage program means that I keep coming back to American Airlines.

Over the years I have learnt a few things about the program. Various ways to maximize milage as well as get other benefits out of the program.