I previously wrote about the details of the Executive Platinum Status Challenge with American Airlines for which I recently signed up. Well, I didn’t just blindly agree to the challenge — earning 25,000 elite qualifying points (EQP) in three months is no small feat, after all!
Before I even asked for the challenge, I carefully planned out the least expensive way for me to accomplish this challenge. My two limiting factors in this endeavor were both time and money. I had a very busy fall already with trips planned to Europe, Asia, and South America to go along with a wedding, a bachelor party, a weekend with the parents, a trip to Auburn for a football game, and a trip to Vegas for the BAcon Boarding Area blogger conference. Adding to that, pretty much all of my vacation time has been either used or earmarked for the trips mentioned above. This left me only three weekends between September and mid-November that I could use to hit this challenge.
Planning the Challenge
I planned this challenge by following these steps:
- I searched for cheap flights that cover a long distance
- Note the fare code of the flight (it’s a one-letter code next to “economy” or “first” while searching on AA.com or Kayak.com, for instance)
- I traced that fare code back to the particular airlines’ accrual chart for the EQP multiplier. American has a separate chart than US Airways and British Airways.
- For purposes of the challenge, one is limited to travel on American, US Airways, British Airways, Iberian, Finnair, JAL, or Qantas. EQP accrual charts for all airlines can be found here.
- This number (0.5, 1.0, or 1.5) is the multiplier for the EQP on the trip
- I then mapped out the exact routing of the trip (including the layovers) at www.gcmap.com – this calculates the total mileage
- Finally, I multiplied the mileage calculated on www.gcmap.com by the EQP multiplier to come up with the total number of EQP that I would gain on each trip
Out of my already planned trips this fall, only one of my itineraries would qualify for the challenge — my trip to Las Vegas. It was booked several months ago on US Airways via Phoenix. Since it was booked as a deep discount economy fare (R-class), it only earns 0.5 EQP per mile flown. In order to know this, I checked with the earning tables on American’s websites — in this case for partner flights on US Airways. I then mapped out my flight with the Great Circle Mapper Tool at GCMap.com. This trip will cover 4,978 miles (including the 500-mile minimum segments for elite passengers) for a total of only 2,489 EQP.
So with that flight already in the pipeline, I needed to find a flight or combination of flights that would get me about 22,511 EQP.
I searched everywhere for the best values and came up with two finalists:
- A round trip to India (Mumbai-BOM orHyderabad-HYD) for the weekend on British Airways, in Premium Economy Class (for 1.5 EQP per mile)
- 16,327 miles flown for a total of 24,491 EQP (IAD-LHR-BOM-LHR-IAD)
- This, with my pre-existing trip to Vegas is more than enough to satisfy the challenge
- Two round trips to Anchorage – one in discount economy V-class (for 1.0 EQP per mile) from Washington-National (DCA) and one in first class (for 1.5 EQP per mile) from Boston (BOS).
- 8,470 + 9,210 = 17,680 miles flown for a total of 22,285 EQP (8,470 + 13,815)
- Add in the 25o EQP for my short, DCA-BOS positioning flight on US Airways, and that adds up to 22,535 EQP — just enough to satisfy the challenge along with my pre-existing flight to Vegas!
The Winning Strategy
After running the figures, the Anchorage option ended up being decidedly cheaper when you take into count the visa and hotel costs that are required for a trip to India. Though the Anchorage trips would encompass the better part of two weekends, they still wouldn’t require me to miss a day or two of work like the India trip would.
Though it doesn’t leave much room for error, the duo of trips to Anchorage were winners.
In fact, I’m posting this entry from seat 4A (my first upgrade as an Executive Platinum on American cleared!) on my flight from DCA-DFW on my first round-trip to Anchorage! I plan to spend the evening and all day tomorrow in or around Anchorage before taking the red-eye back to DFW on Sunday night.
I’ll be taking another trip like this in paid first class in a couple of weeks as well, but that will be a straight turnaround in Anchorage — a true mileage run (and an exhausting one, too). I’m doing the turnaround so I can still get back to DC Sunday afternoon to spend the evening with my girlfriend since I’m leaving for Germany the following week.
It’s a lot of flying, but I consider it worth it for the benefits that Executive Platinum membership!
Has anyone else taken advantage of American’s Executive Platinum Challenge? If so, what flights are you flying to meet the challenge?