Finding last-minute flights for elite status qualification

Dec 30, 2019

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We’re less than 48 hours away from the clock striking midnight on Dec. 31, and that means you’re almost out of time to qualify (or requalify) for elite status. While there are a number of ways to close the gap, most of these require weeks or months of lead time and won’t do you much good in the final days of the year. However, there is a final, last-resort strategy to employ: the mileage run.

If you don’t have plans for New Years and had given up on snagging those last few thousand elite-qualifying miles, listen up. You may still have time to sneak in a last-minute trip with a same-day turn on New Year’s Eve, and we’re seeing some decent options with one airline in particular: American.

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Here are some sample itineraries from major U.S. gateways.

New York

Outbound: New York-LaGuardia (LGA) to Albuquerque (ABQ) via Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
Return: ABQ to LGA via DFW
EQMs: 1,958
EQDs: $242
Price: $300.40
Notes: Basic Economy

Charlotte

Airline: American
Outbound: Charlotte (CLT) to Las Vegas (LAS)
Return: LAS to CLT via Los Angeles (LAX)
EQMs: 2,139
EQDs: $156
Price: $198.20
Notes: Basic Economy; includes red-eye flight from LAX-CLT

Orlando

Outbound: Orlando (MCO) to Miami (MIA) via Charlotte (CLT)
Return: MCO to MIA (nonstop)
EQMs: 655
EQDs: $71
Price: $106.19
Notes: Basic Economy; must start on Google Flights (not bookable by searching on AA.com)

Outbound: Orlando (MCO) to San Diego (SAN) via Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
Return: SAN to MCO via DFW
EQMs: 2,156
EQDs: $225
Price: $282.40
Notes: Basic Economy

Seattle

Outbound: Seattle (SEA) to Albuquerque (ABQ) via Phoenix (PHX)
Return: ABQ to SEA via PHX
EQMs: 1,436
EQDs: $249
Price: $308.40
Notes: Basic Economy

San Francisco

Outbound: San Francisco (SFO) to Miami (MIA)
Return: MIA to SFO
EQMs: 2,585
EQDs: $233
Price: $278.60
Notes: Basic Economy

While these flights are all in Basic Economy, resulting in just 0.5 EQMs per mile flown, some are available in regular Main Cabin for a small premium — which would earn you full EQMs.

Using Google Flights

Of course, if you don’t live in these cities — or are trying to snag elite status with another airline — the above flights won’t help. However, there’s a fantastic functionality in Google Flights that allows you to quickly identify the cheapest options from your home airport: the Explore destinations tool. Here’s how it works:

1. Visit Google Flights.

2. Scroll down and click on the Explore destinations link above the map.

3. Enter your home airport.

4. Click on the dates box, select Specific dates, then set both your departure and return dates to tomorrow (Dec. 31, 2019).

5. Click Done.

6. Review the map, and use the slider to adjust the maximum price.

Once you select a city, review the flight results, and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into. Same-day turns can be risky — especially with connections — and most of the cheap flights will book into Basic Economy. Nevertheless, if it can help you reach that next tier of elite status for one day’s worth of travel, it just may be worth it!

For additional details on just how valuable elite status can be, check out our 2020 guides for the following airlines:

Featured photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

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