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Why I booked a Finnair flight to help me reach American Airlines elite status

Nov. 24, 2022
7 min read
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Before becoming a TPG reporter, I knew very little about airline elite status, and had never given much thought to earning it myself.

This is largely because I grew up primarily flying Southwest Airlines — and its two-tiered status program doesn't offer the traditional perks of airline elite status, like class upgrades or lounge access.

All of that changed once I joined The Points Guy and realized the benefits that could come from earning airline elite status, including complimentary seat and flight upgrades, free checked baggage, priority boarding and lounge access. I've experienced some of these benefits as an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold member for the past 10 months.

However, since I have had entry-level AA status, I knew routine flight upgrades would be few and far between. Also, the only way I could access an Admirals Club for free is by having a qualifying flight or being Concierge Key, which is AA's top-tier status.

As with many flyers, the possibility of being upgraded to a better cabin, such as business or first class, is a priority to me, so I decided to kick my status quest into high gear about halfway through the year.

To do so, I mapped out some travel plans to help meet the next status threshold, which is why I took a 66-hour and 15-minute round-trip flight on Finnair last month.

Here's why and how I did that — and how this helped set me up to reach Platinum for 2023.

A status run

One way to quickly and efficiently further your status goals on any airline is by completing a mileage run. This typically involves flying from point A to point B and back to point A, sometimes without leaving the airport at the destination, simply for the sake of flying a certain amount of miles or reaching the spending thresholds necessary to earn or requalify for status.

This can be particularly beneficial for AAdvantage status goals since AA's status currency, Loyalty Points, are earned based on distance, spending and fare class flown.

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Generally speaking, one base mile earned equates to one Loyalty Point. These are earned whenever you fly an AA-operated or Oneworld partner flight, use a cobranded American Airlines credit card or earn eligible base miles that count as Loyalty Points, including by shopping online via the AA shopping portal and SimplyMiles portal or eating at participating restaurants in the dining rewards program AAdvantage Dining.

However, since I don't currently have a cobranded credit card, I knew the quickest way to reach the 75,000-Loyalty-Point threshold required for AAdvantage Platinum was to book a long-haul flight in a premium cabin, on either American or a Oneworld partner.

You earn bonus miles that qualify toward your Loyalty Points balance when you fly a premium cabin, specifically premium economy, business or first class. Because you get more Loyalty Points for flying in a premium cabin, I knew I wanted to fly premium economy at a minimum.

Also, since flights on partner airlines also qualify for Loyalty Points, I chose to book a premium economy fare type on Finnair, based on its availability out of my home airport — Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD).

Read more: Comparing the Finnair premium economy flight experience on the A330 versus the A350

While this decision was largely a status run, I also picked this flight because I wanted to visit Singapore for the first time.

To facilitate this, I found a round-trip flight from ORD to Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN), with a long layover each way at Helsinki Airport (HEL). In total, I spent 66 hours and 15 minutes in transit over five days across 20,372 miles.

Thanks to a 40% elite-status bonus as a Gold member, I earned 28,554 Loyalty Points and American Airlines redeemable award miles on this one trip.

AA.COM

How close this got me to Platinum

Thanks to this trip, I now have nearly 69,000 Loyalty Points, just 6,371 points short of Platinum status for 2023. This year, I have until the end of February to get Platinum since the qualification period runs from March 1, 2022, through February 2023.

AA.COM

When I think about my strategy for the rest of the year and how I'll acquire these remaining Loyalty Points, I plan to take the following trips:

  • O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to LaGuardia Airport (LGA): Base fare of $437.21 for a total of 3,060 Loyalty Points and award miles.
  • ORD to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Base fare of $229.77 for a total of 1,608 Loyalty Points and award miles.
  • ORD to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): Base fare of $255.81 for a total of 1,790 Loyalty Points and award miles.

Those three trips would put me roughly 2,000 Loyalty Points above what's necessary for Platinum. Additionally, I'll earn 1 AAdvantage mile for every eligible $1 I spend from staying at World of Hyatt hotels on each trip, thanks to the companies' ongoing partnership.

Future status goals: Lounge access

While no status guarantees you Admirals Club access besides Concierge Key, AA's top tier, you can qualify for lounge privileges for certain routes.

For example, Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and Platinum members get lounge access for certain international flights along with first- and business-class ticket holders on certain international, transcontinental or domestic flights operated by American or a partner airline.

Accessing Admirals Club via qualifying international routes as a Platinum status holder will be my immediate goal after becoming Platinum.

Bottom line

Flying one of the world's longest flights wrecked me physically — I developed a clogged ear that required a trip to urgent care when I got home, resulting in being up straight for more than 30 hours, and it took two weeks to get over my jet lag. But I would still contend it was worth it to get me close to my American Airlines status goals with just four flights.

Related: There is some debate about whether an airline's elite status is still "worth it."

Before joining TPG, I would not have thought about pursuing airline status. However, as I have seen, even with entry-level status you can start enjoying extra perks.

As an AA Gold member thus far, I've received one flight upgrade to business class on a regional flight from ORD to St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). I routinely select complimentary extra-legroom seats when checking in for my flights — either preferred seats or Main Cabin Extra based on availability. Though I haven't needed it thus far, I like having the option of checking a bag for free should I so choose.

All of this has helped me come one step closer to my end goal — complimentary lounge access and more frequent flight upgrades, which would be extremely valuable to me on long-haul flights in particular. This is why I am chasing Platinum and will continue doing so.

Featured image by CAROLINE TANNER/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023