Archive for March, 2009
American Airlines is offering double Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) on all flights booked and flown between March 18 and June 15 — this is too good a deal for a mileage runner to pass up.
I currently have 18,418 EQMs in my account and need 50,000 by December 31 to remain Platinum.
My next trip is this weekend, a quick run to San Jose and then come back on the same plane; this will be one of those rare mileage runs where I am home for dinner! However, I made the reservation before March 18 so I will not get the double EQMs. But I will earn almost 3,000 and that will put me at 21,370 for the year.
I booked another trip to Seattle: Austin to Dallas to San Jose to Seattle to Los Angeles to Dallas to Austin. Leave Saturday morning, take the red-eye out of LAX and be back in Austin by 9 a.m. Sunday. Not bad, I would earn over 5,000 EQMs, and then get the double promotion!
But then I realized I had outsmarted myself: the terms and conditions (T+C) for the promotion are very specific that the double bonus does not apply to codeshare flights: my flights from San Jose to Seattle, and Seattle to LAX have American Airlines flight numbers, but are on Alaska Airlines metal, a codeshare! Darn! So, that means that I will get the bonus for my American Airlines flights from Austin to Dallas to San Jose, and then Los Angeles to Austin on the way back, but not for the San Jose to Seattle to LAX route. Oh well…
I’ll get 3,876 EQMs from AUS to SJC, 1,650 from SJC to SEA to LAX, and then 3,470 from LAX to DFW to AUS. I’ll earn almost 9,000 EQMs for the trip, which isn’t bad, and more than 10,000 total miles for the trip.
With this trip I will be at approximately 30,000 EQMs for the year: I need a 10,000 mile trip to earn the remaining 20,000 EQMs that I need for my Platinum status. I’ll keep looking!
In an unexpected move, American Airlines (AA) has announced that it will double the amount of Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) that its AAdvantage members can earn on trips ticketed and taken between March 18 and June 15. American’s offer is a huge benefit for those trying to maintain or exceed their current elite status!
This promotion makes a huge difference for me: I need to earn 50,000 EQMs this year to maintain my Platinum status. I currently have a little over 18K EQMs, so I need another 32,000 to stay Platinum. That is a lot of miles!
However, with this bonus, I only need 16,000 to remain Platinum, a much more manageable number for me.
American offered this same benefit last year after the chaos caused when they grounded their MD-80s for several days, a move that caused major problems for hundreds of thousands of travelers. Once that problem was solved they offered double EQMs as a show of appreciation to the people who continued to fly American. I took advantage of it and the bonus EQMs helped me get to the 50,000 EQM mark much faster than I would have ordinarily done.
This year, there has not been any problem to compare to the MD-80 grounding. So why did they do this?
As the global economy endures the worst downturn in decades, the number of people flying has dropped. American and the other airlines thought this would be a profitable year as the price of fuel dropped from its high of last summer, and service reductions created fewer empty seats on their flights. They did not expect the number of fliers to drop this year.
They have not only been hurt by fewer fliers, they have also been hurt by who those fliers are: many of them were business fliers who travel on short notice and buy full fare tickets, frequently in Business or First Class. The airlines make a lot more money from those travelers than they do the vacation traveler that buys a deep discount coach ticket four months in advance. As the number of business travelers drops, so does the airline’s profit margin.
My guess is that this double EQM promotion is done to get those business travelers back in the air. Only time will tell if this will work, but in the meantime, I am going to try to do as many mileage runs as I can between now and June 15. Double EQMs is too good a deal to pass up!
Last weekend I completed my longest domestic mileage run ever, seven flights with over 9,000 miles in the air. I’ve done longer trips, but had to go overseas to do them, this mileage run was completely in the USA!
My itinerary was: Austin to Chicago to Boston to Los Angeles back to Boston to Dallas and then home to Austin. Leave Austin at 7:45 on Saturday morning, get home 4:30 Sunday afternoon. That is a L-O-N-G weekend!
Everything started well on Saturday morning. I was glad that I was not on my normal 6 a.m. flight out of Austin and was able to sleep a little bit later than normal. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) was not very busy and I was able to check in and clear security quickly.
Our MD-80 left on time and I quickly went to sleep. We arrived in Chicago (ORD) a few minutes ahead of schedule, allowing me a little bit more than two hours at ORD. There was heavy rain in the Chicago area, but I did not complain, given the time of year I was glad it was not snow or ice.
I spent some time at the Admirals Club, some time wandering the shops at ORD, and then went to the gate for my Boston flight. What a crowd! The plane (an MD-80) was booked to capacity; there may have been one or two empty seats but I did not see them. There are always problems whenever a flight is that full as the first people to board fill up the overhead compartments, leaving no room for the final passengers. That happened this time, making it difficult for us to leave on time as the flight attendants tried to find room for all the carry-on luggage. Eventually they did and we departed on time.
Weather was good, winds were favorable, and we arrived in Boston 30 minutes ahead of schedule! That was the good news! The bad news was that there was no gate available for us so we had to sit for 15 minutes before one became available. But that was okay, we still arrived 15 minutes early.
I had a little bit more than one hour layover at Boston, the extra time gave me a chance to visit the food court and grab a slice of pizza.
I went to the gate for my Los Angeles (LAX) flight and was again surprised to see how crowded it was. Although this was a large aircraft (767-300), the flight was a complete sell-out, no empty seats at all! In fact the flight was so crowded that I could not get my normal exit-row seat and had to sit in the row behind it, with my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me. Whenever I wonder if it is worth having elite status, I’ll think back to what it was like to take this 6-hour cross country flight in a normal seat, and that will settle that question for me!
We took off from Boston just before sunset and chased it across the country. Eventually the Sun went down and they turned off the cabin lights, leaving the reading lights as the only illumination on the plane. And then things changed quickly!
The cabin lights came back on and the flight attendant announced “We have a medical emergency aboard the aircraft. If there is a doctor onboard please come to the rear of the aircraft immediately!” Virtually all of the flight attendants and 2-3 passengers went to the rear of the plane. The flight attendants brought pillows, blankets, oxygen tanks and a defibrillator with them. This could be very serious!
We could not see what was happening from where we were, but we all hoped the passenger would be okay, and that we would not have to divert to another airport to let him off for emergency medical attention.
For more than an hour, there was a crowd at the rear of the aircraft tending to the passenger; in the meantime, the plane continued on towards LAX. Then the attendants all went back to their normal duty stations and the cabin lights again dimmed. Apparently the passenger was all right.
We landed in Los Angeles 35 minutes ahead of schedule and I went to the Admirals Club. I washed off, sipped a beverage, then went to On the Border, a great Mexican restaurant in the food-court, for dinner. I had enough time to eat the chicken burrito and then head back to the gate for my return flight to Boston. By now I was pretty tired and took a sleeping pill 20 minutes before boarding.
The Boston flight was again on a large aircraft, a 757, and it was also filled to capacity. I was lucky to get seat 10A which has no seat in front of it, I’d be able to stretch out my legs and rest. By the time I boarded, the sleeping pill was starting to kick in. I remember sitting down, putting my pillow against the window, and closing my eyes. The next thing I remember was the FA shaking me to wake me up for the landing in Boston.
We got into Boston 25 minutes early, so far all of my flights had arrived early! I went to the food court and ate a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, and coffee. I had a 1 hour 40 minute layover, so by the time I finished my meal, I had to head to the gate for my 8:50 a.m. flight to DFW.
This flight was on an MD-80, and once again the plane was completely full. Everyone boarded quickly so we were able to push back almost 10 minutes early for a smooth flight back to Texas. It was becoming a pleasant habit as we again landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
I went to the Admirals Club and asked to use the shower. By now I had been traveling for over 30 hours and a shower and shave was just what I needed. I felt great after that and spent time in the club snacking and reading the Sunday paper.
My final flight was an MD-80 back to Austin and it also was filled to capacity. I left DFW at 4:05 and I got back to Austin at 5:05. I was exhausted, but had put over 9,000 EQMs and 18,000 total miles in my account, so I was pleased.
Two things jumped out at me during this trip. First, although we are in the middle of an economic slowdown, almost every flight I took was sold out! At least on these routes on that weekend, people were flying. The other meaningful thing was that all my flights arrived early. There are two reasons for this.
First, the airlines have all cut back on the number of flights, this lessens congestion at the airports and makes it easier for planes to stay on schedule. Second, American Airlines has redone its schedules, allowing a more realistic time for its planes to get from point A to point B. As they say on AA.com, “We increased the time between flights in nearly 40 markets to offset Air Traffic Control (ATC) inefficiencies and weather. Streamlining our crews to stay with the same aircraft also enhances on time departures and arrivals and new technologies help facilitate turning the aircraft around on time. ”
These changes have made a difference. I flew into 4 major airports, (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth) and did not experience any delays. Bravo to American for making these changes!
It may be a while before I tackle such a tiring itinerary as this one. My next mileage run will be an easy one, Austin to San Jose and back, all on the same aircraft. I am looking forward to it!
I lucked out on this one!
Yesterday morning I was looking at FlyerTalk and saw a thread titled “AUS to LAX – $33 OW on AA + taxes/fees.” I had to check it out.
I found that Jet Blue was offering a special sale that American Airlines was matching, a one-way ticket to California for $33, it would total $46 with taxes and fees. A $92 round trip ticket to California? That is normally more than $200!
I went to AA.com and checked. Sure enough, AA was offering the price, but the number of tickets were limited.
I quickly booked a mileage run to San Jose (SJC) for next month, round trip for $92. I’ll earn over 2,900 EQMs, over 5,800 total miles, at a cost of only 1.58 cents per mile! That is, by far, the lowest cost per mile that I have ever booked! It’s not a lot of miles, but at that price, it’s a great mileage run! And the good news is the schedule: I fly out at 8:30 in the morning non-stop to SJC, spend 35 minutes there, then fly back on the same plane, landing in Austin at 4:30 that afternoon. It’s not often I can do a mileage run and be home for dinner that night!
I tried to book more of these last night when I got home from work, but was out of luck, the fare was gone. Apparently, it was only avialable for a few hours. I am glad I found it!