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My American Executive Platinum Status Sprint Begins

by on November 4, 2011 · 32 comments

in American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Elite Status

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While I’ve been a Delta Diamond for the past couple years and I enjoy my top-tier status, as a Oneworld Mega Do participant I was recently offered the opportunity to complete a relatively easy challenge to achieve American Airlines Executive Platinum status: simply fly 20,000 miles between October 9 and January 13, 2012.

To be completely honest, I haven’t had many good experiences with American Airlines. I’ve flown them in coach, business and international first within the last year and each experience was just eh (see my trip reports Buenos Aires- JFK and JFK- Madrid for examples). Additionally, when I purchased a first class fare to Hong Kong this year on AA.com for $4,000, they decided not to honor the fare and I believe they handled the situation very poorly – holding thousands of my dollars hostage for about a month and then canceling the ticket and dealing with me in a very unapologetic manner. I ended up getting my money back and that’s it – not that I was looking for huge compensation, but a, “Hey we are sorry our mistake caused you inconvenience, here is $200 in flight credit- we hope you still consider us in the future.” I probably could have sued, but honestly I don’t have the time and I prefer to focus on positive things, like blogging.

Additional reasons why I don’t like AA in comparison to Delta: Lack of wifi on most flights, more disgruntled flight attendants, less nice lounges, not a 1:1 transfer partners with American Express or Chase, no international stopovers on international awards and more regional jets out of NYC.

So why the heck do I want Executive Platinum status?
1) I moved to Miami this year and will be spending a good amount of time there (as well as NYC) and AA’s route network is unparalleled. I frequently travel the triangle of JFK-LAX-MIA and having AA as an option will make my life easier. Delta only has one flight a day MIA-Los Angeles and its at 7:35am and the only LAX-MIA is a red-eye, which I abhor.

2) I will get 8 super-valuable system-wide upgrade certificates that can be used on pretty much any coach fare class to get upgraded to business class. I anticipate a ton of international travel in 2012 and it would be nice to buy cheap coach tickets and get upgraded to business class. Whereas on Delta, you need to purchase expensive full-fare (Y,B,M) tickets in order to use system-wide upgrades. Often times these coach fares are more expensive than discounted business class. In short, flying AA will save me money and allow me to avoid coach, which is much appreciated since I’m 6’7″.

3) More valuable miles. While AAdvantage has it’s flaws, AA miles are far superior than SkyMiles for the following reasons: one way awards, international first class awards, lower award thresholds, much more lenient ticketing rules (no 72 hour cancellation nonsense like on Delta) and lower fees.

4) Better chances of upgrades on transcontinental routes. Delta does not release ANY advance elite upgrades on JFK-LAX/SFO so it’s always a nail biter and you never know until you are about to board. AA upgrades Executive Platinums as a part of complimentary domestic upgrades on these routes and from what I hear, the upgrade success rate is pretty good. I’ve had to sit in coach several times as a Diamond on LAX-JFK (or have had to play major Same Day Confirmed games to swing an upgrade). I’d prefer to eliminate that stress from my life as much as possible (yes I know, first world problems at their finest).

5) As a full-time travel/points blogger, I think it will be good for me to experience top-tier status on another airline. If anything, to make me realize how good I do or do not have it on Delta.

So right now I’m really evaluating where my loyalty will be in 2012. I’m going to do a big AA run to Asia in the first week of January to get most of the 20,000 miles I need for the challenge – that way they will count towards 2013 qualification as well. Executive Platinum is only 100,000 miles vs Delta’s Diamond at 125,000, so I’m thinking I will stop short of Diamond this year at 124,000 miles and roll over 44,000 miles to start 2012 with. That way, if I decide AA just isn’t for me, I’ll be well on my way to requalifying for Diamond. And frankly, the only reason I really valued Diamond was for the upgrade priority on those super-hard JFK-LAX upgrades – If I’m now taking AA on those routes, it doesn’t really matter if I’m Platinum or not.

So stay tuned! I flew my first AA leg Miami to Aruba yesterday and it was perfectly fine and I’ll be doing a quick trip report of my experience. 1,133 miles down and only 18,867 to go!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • troy

    Point 4 above is a little off. AA considers the “Flagship” JFK-SFO/LAX routes just like any other for upgrade purposes. In other words, any elite can potentially get upgraded, not just Executive Platinums. I got upgraded a few years ago as a Platinum on a JFK-LAX leg.

    That said, AA is great in terms of upgrades for leisure travelers because they upgrade based first on elite level, then by date of request (not by fare class). So, if you book a flight well in advance as an Executive Platinum, you’ve got a very high chance of upgrade.

  • Anonymous

    I will clarify to mean complimentary upgrade, which is only for exec plats (everyone else has to use an upgrade instrument)

  • david

    how did you get the offer??

  • Anonymous

    All participants of the Oneworld Mega Do got the offer. I paid $1200 to go on the event, which is now sold out but Ill be giving away a seat

  • Anonymous

    I have a similar “I could have sued” story. American decided not to land at my destination airport in La Paz, Bolivia and instead landed in Santa Cruz due to navigation system failures. Fair enough, just stick us on another aircraft or airline, right? Nope, close the ticket counter and flee. Customer service refused to pay for the connecting flight after and offered a paltry 4,000 miles for the inconvenience. Not even closeto the value of the 2 $168 one way tickets we had to purchase.

  • Jdoe

    good to know their service is uniformly crap. Due to bad experiences I decided to stop flying AA. Haven’t been on an AA plane in 3 years.

  • AAJunkie

    I’m PLT on AA. Flew into MIA 2 weeks ago on a busy Friday afternoon.
    Jumped to the front of the Standby list (28 people waiting) to hop an earlier flight home.
    An EXP took the 1st seat. I got the 2nd. No fees either.

  • DB

    One of the best benefits is the EXP phone line. The agents are great and actually have power to make things happen.
    Enjoy!

  • usviguy

    I’ve been an EP for a long time. I get upgraded on 95%+ of all my flights regardless of where I’m going. You’ll come around…

  • Rotem

    Delta have a 2% threshold status policy so anything above 122500 will grant you the diamond anyway – beware of that!

  • hobo13

    Prediction: Bye-bye Delta!

  • Carberrie

    You are going to love AA EXP! I am flying NYC-PVG all in business class for less than $1k. Try doing that on Delta as a Diamond… You’re going to be a convert, I can see it already! Plus you’re main destinations/departures from are MIA, NYC & LAX? Helloz!

  • Fornwest

    Great Website…. How do you find or get offered these Challenges?

  • Benthelefty

    Is there any way to obtain a SWU? Or how exactly do those work? If I’m in regular economy do they only upgrade me to premium economy? I’m taking a MIA-GIG flight on Jan 1 w/o status and am curious how I could get to business/first class.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jc.cangilla JC Cangilla

    Excited to read about your experience here–I’ll be EXP for AA in a few weeks. As a fellow tall-guy (and fellow former Pitt student), I’m also very excited about the opportunities for upgrades in the upcoming year. safe travels

  • Merc

    I intend to do an airline challenge starting in JAN. I made Delta Diamond (STL-based) this year and wonder which airline is best for multiple Asia (KUL/SIN/HKG/NRT/MNL), & 2-3 Australia trips in 2012. Should I go with AA or Cathay or ????

  • Napilikai95

    Very interested to hear your experiences. As a former Northwest plat to DL plat from the merger, I often wonder if I should have switched.

  • Stephanie

    You mentioned that you need to complete these miles by Jan 13th, 2012. Wouldn’t this miss the Dec 31st cut off date? I believe you need to complete the 100K miles from Jan 1 to Dec 31 of each year.

  • Anonymous

    The one world mega do status challenge is special and gives until jan 13- but you are right- normally elite status qualification is on a calendar year basis

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  • FFW

    TPG – While I really want to become AA EXP, as an NYC-based DL Platinum that generally flies internationally (to help maintain status but mostly because I enjoy international travel) I just don’t think it makes sense to convert. Those 8 SWU for international sound really, really nice and that’s why I want to become AA EXP…but the upgrades sound good until you realize how limited AA’s international network is and how expensive it will be to generate EQMs flying long-haul international routes (that tend to have the best cent-per-mile calculations).

    So here’s the problem I have with AA. I am currently DL Platinum (75k mile level) and AA doesn’t have an equivalent…but I can surely get to 100K (AA EXP level but no equivalent on DL) However, if I want to take advantage of cheap long-haul flights to get EQMs on AA, it gets really tough. For example, flying to JNB, NBO, BKK, HKG, TLV, etc. on Delta–I can typically get there either a) on DL metal or b) on KLM/AF metal where I will receive 100% MQMs on. Flying to JNB on KLM on the cheapest class (R), I’ll get 100% DL MQMs. Flying on the cheapest class (R or O) on Royal Jordanian will only get me 50% AA EQMs.

    In general flying with AA, I will most likely have to fly Royal Jordanian, BA, Cathay, Japan Airlines, etc. to many destinations. I have no problem flying AA’s partner airlines but as I mentioned, when checking the fare classes (on the ITA software site) you see that AA normally has decently priced fares that only give you 50% EQMs or sometimes NO MILEAGE AT ALL on their partners! While DL often does that too (with cheap flights with China Southern, China Eastern, and China Airlines, for example) this is normally because they are destinations serviced by DL AND their partners. Essentially, you can still buy a flight from JFK to Manila, for example, on DL metal and get full MQMs–trying to do the same on AA means not on AA metal but using partners—but at REALLY REALLY expensive prices if you want full elite qualification miles.

    Going to Manila any week in February, you can get there on DL for $1230 and $1160 on Cathay or $1390 on Japan Airlines (AA partners). However, the flights on Cathay earn NO MILEAGE credit and the JL flights earn only 50% EQM when crediting miles to AA because of the fare class.

    The only international locations that are well served by AA are South America (where AA dominates) and the more generic Western European destinations. However, as I stated before, if you want to travel FAR, long distances for getting miles, it will become a lot more difficult (and/or expensive) to do it on AA. JFK-BCN is a drop in the bucket in miles compared to JFK-HKG.

    If I earned most of my miles from domestic travel (or even South American travel), I think AA would suit me well. But they simply don’t have the international network to compete in my opinion.

    TPG, I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts after you experience being an AA EXP.

  • Nathan Keirn

    Whine, whine, whine, I am so sick of hearing about how screwed you were by American for them not flying you on your knowingly incorrectly priced fare with Cathay. After all of that they offered to fly you on their metal and you decided instead to pout on the internet!

  • Nathan Keirn

    To elaborate on this I think what American offered you was completely reasonable. Had they actually not offered you a flight in first then I could understand your animosity.

  • Anonymous

    The Tokyo to Hong Kong leg was in business class. And if you’ve ever flown Cathay first you’d know that American first is not a comparable product whatsoever.

    I agree it wasn’t the end of the world but it wasn’t an even exchange

  • Nathan Keirn

    I certainly think it’s time to burry the hatchet. This is a game where sometimes one wins but not always.

  • Anonymous

    Right.. Which is why I’m status challenging to executive platinum!

  • WLN

    TPG, hope this is the right thread to ask this on. Since you are MIA-based, and now going for AA, can you recommend any places landside of terminal D to meet a local friend during a 3 hour layover? A not-too hectic bar would be ideal. Thanks!

  • Counterfeit Bill

    Going on my 5th year as EXPL with AA. I have a love hate relationship with the airline. My home base is Honolulu and most of my flying is through LAX. Down from four flights last year, the three remaining are all 757s with the worst 1st class seats in the air. No foot rest, maybe 20% recline. The old boats have lots of maintenance problems and flights can often be delayed or cancelled. Will 2013/2014 and all the new planes come soon enough?

    The new 1st class check in counter and TSA experience are the best in the USA> It is amazing to me that after a ” just me and 12 TSA folks” in the security area at LAX, I flyout of DFW last week and it was chaos, with the Elite security line a joke and hard to find.

    I whine and whine, but in the end after 80+ flights in the last couple of years I have missed an upgrade only 3 times. The system wides are the best. Finsihed an ORD to Delhi and back a couple of months ago. $900 r/t coach ticket…I used the SWU both ways and flew business. Really racked up the miles on American’s longest flight in the world.

    For all the reasons shown above, when I think about changing, while Delta sounds like the best option, the upgrade difficluties related in your blog keep me away. United is out of the question. Can there be an airline with a worse service record or that comes close to the amount of flights they cancel or delay? So I am hanging in there with AA> I expect the Chapter 11 to come this year, don’t have a fear of losing my miles or status, and feel business class and first class cabin upgrades will result…while waiting for the new planes.

    I’ll hit 125K again this year and was thrilled when AA ire-introduced the 125K perks…free Admirals Club, 2 system wide upgrades, 30K ff miles or make someone a gold….pick two. The Admirals Club membership is at least worth $300 and I take the system wides everytime.

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