American Airlines Double Elite Qualifying Miles Promo – Strategy Update

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As I wrote about on Friday, in light of its recent operational crisis, American Airlines decided to launch a promotion where elite AAdvantage members earn double EQM’s and points now through December 31. Originally I thought there was only this one promotion, but there’s in fact a separate one for current elite members that allows them to earn double AAdvantage miles during the entire promotion period- not just during November 16-26. The good news is that it’s the same promo code AATHX, but if you’re elite when you register, it will automatically give you the double miles.

The rules are similar to when they had a similar promotion last December/January (that allowed me to reach Executive Platinum by February of this year). As a reminder, they are:

  • Valid for all purchased tickets (read: not award tickets) on American Airlines, American Eagle and the American Connection® carrier marketed and operated flights from November 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012. Flights operated by our codeshare partners or oneworld alliance carriers are not eligible for this promotion.
  • Tavel booked prior to the start date of this promotion is eligible.
  • Offer is good on all segments flown- including one-way, round-trip, circle trip or trips including open jaws.
  • Registration prior to midnight CT December 31, 2012 is required and all travel in the promo period will be credited retroactively.
  • Bonus elite qualifying miles or points will count towards your 2013 membership year.
  • This offer does not increment the member’s prize eligible mileage balance or Million Miler status.
  • Double elite-qualifying miles and points will be calculated at 100% of the base miles or points earned, respectively.
  • The initial posting of double elite qualifying miles and points will be posted to the account of the traveling AAdvantage member within 3-4 weeks after qualifying activity posts to your account. Thereafter, the postings will occur weekly. However, even if the elite qualifying miles post in 2013, it will still count towards 2012 qualification- so only worry about when you flight takes place. Any flight that departs December 31 will count towards 2012 qualification.
  • Promotion does not apply to travel on mileage award tickets or fares that are ineligible for AAdvantage mileage accrual.
  • The elite tier you qualify for in 2012 will give you status until February 2014. 25,000 elite qualifying miles = Gold, 50,000 = Platinum, 100,000 = Executive Platinum

Just note, this likely won’t help people doing status challenges because American generally excludes promos, but I asked the American AAdvantage team about this and hope to get a definitive answer on it soon.

Points Versus Miles
Just as a little refresher, American Airlines calculates elite status based on miles, points and segments. Miles and segments are pretty straightforward – you get one elite-qualifying mile per mile flown, and one segment credit per segment you fly. Points are a little more complicated and are based on the fare class you purchase.

American’s rules for earning miles/points based on fare classes.

As you can see, the number of points you get depends on which class of service and which fare you buy. If you buy discount fares, like most of us do, you get either a half point or just one point per mile. If you buy premium fares like full-fare coach, business or first, you get 1.5 points per mile. It’s sort of like the class-of-service mileage bonus, only more lucrative for full-fare tickets in some cases. With this promo, you’re not only earning double EQM’s, but you’re earning double points as well. It won’t matter so much if you only usually fly discounted fares since you’re probably not near an elite level threshold anyway, but it’s good to have as a condition of this promo for travelers who have to fly on these expensive fares for various reasons.

Why This Matters
This is a huge opportunity to achieve an elite level that you’ve never historically been able to hit. I find AAdvantage Gold and Platinum to be rather lackluster (in comparison to United and Delta offering similar tiers complimentary domestic upgrades)- especially in comparison to the huge amount of benefits of Executive Platinum status. Executive Platinum includes a 100-hour upgrade window, a 100% elite mileage bonus on flown miles, waived ticketing and award charges and more, but by far the most valuable perk is the 8 systemwide upgrades I get that are valid until February 2014. The best thing about them is that you don’t even need to buy upgradeable or refundable fares like you would on United or Delta – you can buy the cheapest coach fare available and upgrade to business class, even on international flights.

Elite Rewards
Even if you’ve already achieved your elite level goal for this year and you won’t have enough flight miles during this promo period to get you to the next level, remember that American Airlines has “elite rewards” where you basically get to pick a gift if you hit a certain elite qualifying point threshold above your elite qualification threshold. You can find all the choices here, but take a look at this screenshot for the full rundown:

As you can see, there are choices like bonus award miles, upgrades, Admirals Club passes and membership and more. So let’s say you’re a Platinum who just hit your 50,000-point requirement. You’d just need to fly 12,500 more miles on eligible fares to hit that 75,000-point threshold for the elite rewards, and you could then choose an additional 25,000 miles as your gift. In all, for flying 12,500 miles you’d end up with 25,000 EQM’s with this promo, and 62,500 redeemable miles – 12,500 base miles, 12,500 from the double miles promo and 12,500 from your 100% elite miles bonus, then the additional 25,000 from elite rewards. Not bad. Just remember, that if you do qualify for these elite rewards, you must register by December 15, 2012, using the code ELTA2 (see the letter I received about it below).

My Personal Situation and Strategy
Due to American’s Double EQM promo at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 and the Oneworld Megado in January, I am already at 114,383 EQM’s for 2012, but only 52,100 elite qualifying points (I fly mostly on cheap fares!). While I’d love to choose two elite perk benefits, it would cost me an arm and a leg to accrue nearly 75,000 EQP’s by the end of this year, so I’m not really going to go for it. Instead I’ll fly American when needed and be happy with getting the double miles – especially since I’ve already qualified for Delta Platinum for 2013 and I value American miles more than Delta miles (though I have to say the Delta flying experience is better- as I type this from the MIA Admirals club while sitting around during a 4.5 hour operAAtional delay!).

If you are thinking about going for elite status, check out my recent Sunday Reader Question about the topic of mileage running at this point in the year and read through my elite status series. I saw a huge line of people fruitlessly waiting at the rebooking center at Miami airport due to snarled travel plans last night and couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. As an elite member, I would have done it all on the dedicated elite phone line and saved myself the time and frustration of waiting in line as all the available rebooked seats disappeared before I could be helped (other Executive Platinums like myself would have snapped them up first!). While some may think that being “elite” isn’t what it used to be since there are now so many ways to get status, it still makes  travel a lot more enjoyable and manageable – and if that’s a goal of yours, there are plenty of ways to maximize American’s promos to get there.

I do not envy the elite status-less!

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