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As we get into the final stretch of 2017, you might be finding yourself a little short on American Airlines Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) or Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) for 2018 elite status. If you get a lot of value out of American Airlines elite status, you might be looking for a mileage run to push you over the top so that you don’t have to pay an absurd amount to American Airlines to maintain your status.

There are a variety of strategies that you can employTPG contributor Patrick Fallon explained how he used a British Airways premium economy flight to earn Executive Platinum. Another TPG reader said, in a comment to a story on what to do if you fall short of elite dollars requirements, that he was able to rebook an upcoming flight on a different fare class to make up for the shortfall:

But, let’s look at another way you can rack up those extra EQMs and EQDs: AA Vacations packages. Because some AA Vacations flights qualify as American Airlines Special Fares, this might be a great way of earning a lot of EQDs for cheap. Even better, there’s currently an AA Vacations promotion offering 20,000 bonus AAdvantage miles for booking a trip to Europe.

Only specific cities are eligible for this promotion, but there’s plenty of them to choose from: Prague, Czech Republic (PRG) • London, England (LHR) • Manchester, England (MAN) • Paris, France (CDG) • Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) • Munich, Germany (MUC) • Athens, Greece (ATH) • Budapest, Hungary (BUD) • Dublin, Ireland (DUB) • Shannon, Ireland (SNN) • Milan, Italy (MXP) • Rome, Italy (FCO) • Venice, Italy (VCE) • Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) • Lisbon, Portugal (LIS) • Edinburgh, Scotland (EDI) • Glasgow, Scotland (GLA) • Barcelona, Spain (BCN) • Madrid, Spain (MAD) • Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)

This promotion is available for packages booked by December 31 for flights through the end of the flight schedule. So, you can use this promotion for trips into 2018. For now, let’s focus on some year-end mileage run options.

First, it’s important to note that not all AA Vacations flights count as Special Fares. American Airlines originally treated all flights booked through AA Vacations packages as if the airline didn’t know how much you paid for the flight. Instead, mileage earnings would be based on flight miles. This is great way to earn miles and extra EQD on cheap flights. Now, the AA Vacations flights need to have an asterisk to qualify as Special Fares.

So, be careful to watch for that asterisk in the flight search results to get peak earnings. You can verify this in the flight details behind the booking code:

Here are some samples of what you can do with this promotion:

New York’s JFK to Milan (MXP) flight and 1-night hotel for $434

  • Award miles: 25,009 [20,000 bonus + 10,017 flight miles x 50%, before elite bonuses]
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: 10,017
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars: 1,002 [10,017 flight miles x 10%]

Miami (MIA) to Milan (MXP) flight and 2-night hotel for $463

  • Award miles: 24,931 [20,000 bonus + 9,862 flight miles x 50%, before elite bonuses]
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: 9,862
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars: 986 [9,862 flight miles x 10%]

Philadelphia (PHL) to Rome (FCO) flight and 1-night hotel for $480

  • Award miles: 24,408 [20,000 bonus + 8,816 flight miles x 50%, before elite bonuses]
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: 8,816
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars: 882 [8,816 flight miles x 10%]

Philadelphia (PHL) to Paris (CDG) flight and 1-night hotel for $475

  • Award miles: 23,729 [20,000 bonus + 7,457 flight miles x 50%, before elite bonuses]
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: 7,457
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars: 746 [7,457 flight miles x 10%]

Denver (DEN) to Amsterdam (AMS) flight and 1-night hotel for $517

  • Award miles: 25,098 [20,000 bonus + 10,195 flight miles x 50%, before elite bonuses]
  • Elite Qualifying Miles: 10,195
  • Elite Qualifying Dollars: 1,020 [10,195 flight miles x 10%]

All of the example award mileage amounts are what a general AAdvantage member will receive. Elite members will earn a bonus from the flight portion. Executive Platinum members earn a 120% bonus, Platinum Pro members earn an 80% bonus, Platinum members earn a 60% bonus and Gold members earn a 40% bonus on top of base miles earned.

Searching on your own

If your city isn’t listed above — or you can’t fly these dates — I’d recommend searching using Google Flights Explore Map for cheap dates between your city and European cities. Make sure to limit the search to Oneworld flights (Advanced users: change “a=ONEWORLD” into “a=AA” in the URL to eliminate false positives).

Once you find a cheap option, search AA Vacations for the same city pairing and dates. Make sure to check that the flights selected have the key asterisk if you’re looking to maximize your award and EQD earnings and the price is cheap enough (cheat sheet here).

Advanced users might want to use ITA Matrix for searching. That’s how I found the examples above. If you’re ambivalent about where you go, enter “PRG, LHR, MAN, CDG, FRA, MUC, ATH, BUD, DUB, SNN, MXP, FCO, VCE, AMS, LIS, EDI, GLA, BCN, MAD, ZRH” in the destination field. As AA Vacations requires American Airlines prime or codeshare flights, enter “aa+” in the routing codes. Also, all of the AA Vacations Special Fares that I found were in booking code N. So, you might want to search for this initially with the extension code “f bc=n”.

Bottom Line

AA Vacations is a decent everyday resource for flight and hotel packages. However, it can be a great option when it’s running a promotion and you know how to utilize it to maximize your mileage earnings. Between cheap flights to Europe, the current 20,000-mile bonus promotion and a need for year-end mileage runs, now is a great time to give AA Vacations a look.

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