Posts tagged AAdvantage miles
Thanks to my mileage runs, I have built up a large number of miles in my American Airlines AAdvantage account, and it is time to spend them on a vacation.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I tried to arrange a trip to Bangkok for my wife and I, but was not able to. So, we had to come up with another place for our vacation.
My wife gave me one criteria to follow when booking a trip: we had to go to some place warm. Since the trip will be in November, that obviously eliminated almost all of Europe and the northern United States and Canada. So, what was left?
I came up with a list of places that included Southern California, Arizona, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. To make a long story short, we eventually decided to visit Nassau, Bahamas, and stay at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort.
I used my Starwood points to reserve an ocean-front room for eight nights, and used my miles to book the flights on American Airlines. We’ll fly first class from Austin to Dallas to Miami, then take American Eagle from Miami to Nassau. Coming home, we’ll take American Eagle to Miami, and then first class on American from Miami to Dallas to Austin.
So, were all my mileage runs worth it?
Initially, I’d say no.
I used 60,000 AAdvantage miles for each ticket; if I bought them they would cost $982.20 each. That works out to 1.63 cents per mile. On average, I paid 2.5 cents per mile on my mileage runs. So, from that standpoint, this was not a good deal. (Two years ago we went to Thailand and Hong Kong, our business class tickets were worth more than 12 cents per miles, so we came out way ahead on that deal.)
At first glance, my mileage runs did not work out, but I think there is more to it than just the cost of the redeemed ticket.
Thanks to my mileage runs, I have Platinum status on American Airlines. Because of that, my wife and I did not have to pay a luggage fee when we flew to Ireland in February; that saved us $200.
My wife and I got free upgrades to first class when we flew to Orlando last year, and I was also able to get that upgrade on my trips to Chicago this year. I also saved $100 on when I renewed my Admirals Club membership. In addition, when I arrive at the airport I can use the first class line to check in, and then use the elite status line for the TSA security check. On my last trip home from Chicago that alone saved me at least a half-hour of standing in line.
So, I have certainly benefited from the elite status I earned by doing the mileage runs.
Finally, the mileage runs have given me great memories: I’ve met some really nice people (both in person and online) in the mileage run community, people that I stay in touch with. I’ve seen some beautiful scenery, eaten some wonderful meals in Seattle and San Francisco, and experienced some things (mostly pleasant) that I would otherwise have not experienced.
So, when all is said, and done, I enjoy the mileage runs, I enjoy our vacations, and will continue to do both.
I’ve been doing mileage runs for 3-4 years; my goal has been to keep my elite status with American Airlines (AA) and, more importantly, build up enough miles to pay for a fabulous vacation.
Two years ago my wife and I took such a trip. We flew AA first class from Austin to Dallas to Los Angeles. There we transferred to Cathay Pacific and flew business class to Hong Kong. After 4 days in Hong Kong we flew Cathay Pacific to Bangkok, Thailand. After several days in Thailand we flew home on Japan Airlines, business class, Bangkok to Tokyo to Chicago, and then American first class back to Austin. At that time, the cost of those tickets, if I had to pay for them, was over $15,000 per person, way more than I had paid for the mileage runs. I made those reservations 330 days in advance, as soon as the bookings were available.
Now I have a sufficient number of miles in the account to arrange a similar trip, but it will be in November for my wife’s birthday, not 330 days from now. And therein lies the problem.
I called (AA) today to arrange a trip to Phuket, Thailand, hopefully flying American to Los Angeles, then Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, then Cathay’s subsidiary, DragonAir, to Phuket. (Visit this page to see what business class is like on Cathay Padific, it is pretty amazing! Use the virtual tour option at the bottom of the page.)
Unfortunately, that route was not available for the days I wanted. The customer service representative did come up with another route that would be a great mileage run, but I am not sure how well it works for a vacation: fly AA first class from Austin to DFW to New York Kennedy, then Cathay Pacific business class to Vancouver to Hong Kong to Phuket. If that is the best, don’t ask what the worst was; I will say it involved an 11-hour layover at one airport. My first choice was to go through Los Angeles or San Francisco but neither were available.
I gave the customer service representative my return dates; unfortunately, there was no availability. I told her I would buy tickets on Thai Air from Phuket to Bangkok, could she get us home from there? Unfortunately, no.
She tried several options, but none worked. I even said I would spend the additional miles to come home first class instead of business, but still no luck.
So, I went to Plan B. Could she get us to Tahiti during that time frame? Again, the answer was no. She said she looked at the schedule for a full week and there was no availability. Darn!
She said they could put the Phuket itinerary on hold for five days; I could call in each day to check for availability on the return trip. If they did not hear from me after five days, they would cancel the reservation and not charge my account. That seems reasonable, I put it on hold.
I’ll call each night for the next few days to see if they can get us home. If not, I cancel and we’ll look for another destination.
I want to thank the American Airlines customer service representative that helped me, she really tried hard to book this trip. I never would have thought to look at going from Texas to Hong Kong via New York and Vancouver. The fact that she found that route tells me how hard she was workinkg.
My wife wants to go to a warm location for this trip, so Europe is out of the question. I’ve looked at Hawaii (Maui and Kauai); they can get us there first class, but the return trip would be coach.
I could change dates, but I wanted this to be a present for my wife’s birthday, so I am trying to arrange the trip around that date.
My lesson learned is that it’s best to make an international reservation as far in advance as possible. In the meantime, I’ll look at other destinations.
It’s a sign of the times.
As airlines cut back on every free service imaginable, from pillows and blankets and magazines to meals and checking a second bag for no charge, American Airlines is ending one of my favorite bonuses, the extra miles for booking a trip online at AA.com.
American began the program several years ago as a way to convince travelers to make their reservations online rather than over the phone: book a round-trip coach ticket online and get 1,000 bonus miles. A thousand miles might not sound like much, but it could make a significant difference over time.
A busy business traveler can easily make 25 trips per year; give that traveler 1,000 bonus miles for each trip and he/she will get enough miles, just from the bonus, to get a free coach ticket anywhere in the continental United States.
A traveler taking a short trip such as New York – Boston would earn 1,000 miles. Toss in the bonus and the mileage doubles. Not a bad deal at all.
As travelers grew more accustomed to using AA.com to make their reservations, American gradually reduced the bonus mileage. Several years ago it dropped to 500 miles for each coach ticket, and then it fell to its current level of 250 miles. In less than two weeks, that too will end.
The announcement on AA.com states, “Starting in April, American Airlines will no longer offer an online booking bonus for travel booked on AA.com. The current bonus will be honored for all bookings made on or before March 31, 2008, regardless of travel dates.”
But all is not lost, they say they will still offer great online service. “While AA.com is eliminating its bonus mile offer, it still provides members many great benefits. At AA.com you can conveniently search for and book low fares and award travel, select seats, make hotel, rental car and cruise reservations, get flight arrival and departure information, sign up for flight status notification and even check in and print boarding passes. ”
To their credit, their is a distinct level of truth to that comment. AA.com has consistently increased the amount of service it offers travelers, making it one of the most robust online booking tools available. In the last few years I have used the site to book award travel, select seats, register for flight status notification, and check-in. One of the best new services, in my opinion, was added in the last year: the ability to search by “price and schedule.” (I’ll provide more information on that in a future post.)
So, yes, they are indeed providing a dramatically better product with increased service on AA.com, no doubt about it. But that doesn’t change the fact that mileage runners will miss that online booking bonus.
Spring has sprung, and with it comes a challenge in finding a good mileage run. As the weather gets nice more and more people travel: increased demand makes air fares rise.
I flew to Frankfurt at the start of March: the same trip in the middle of May will cost twice as much. My February trip to Helsinki will cost $420 more in May. The increased fares make it a challenge to find a good MR.
Fortunately, I was able to locate one. As I mentioned in a previous post, I do a lot of MRs to Seattle simply because I can get more miles flying there than I can to any other city in the continental US.
I manged to find a sale on American Airlines to Seattle: $202! That is quite a good deal, I paid as much as $256 to fly there in December. In fact, the $202 fare was apparently available for only a day: the day after I booked it the new cost was $260.
I’ll make the trip in April: Austin – Chicago – Seattle – Chicago – Austin. I’ll earn almost 5,400 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs), and 11,000 total miles, for a cost of 1.83 cents per mile. Any time I can get the cost below 2 cents, I am a Happy Flier!
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go into town, my layover in SEA is only three hours. I’ll use that short layover to take advantage of some of the excellent sea food restaurants at Sea-Tac for lunch, then come home. The good thing is that I will not be on a red-eye coming back, I’ll leave Saturday morning and be back very late that night.
One of my goals for the year is to maintain my Platinum status (remember, Platinum gets me double miles on all my flights!): I’ll need 50,000 EQMs by December 31 to do that. Once I complete this trip I will be at 35,000: Mrs. HappyFlier and I are doing an Orlando vacation in a few months, that will give me another 3,000 miles. So, it looks like I will be able to hit the 50,000 mark without too much difficulty
Mileage runners are always working to build up the number of miles in their account. With those miles we are able to take trips that we might otherwise not be able to afford. My wife and I did that last year, traveling to Hong Kong and Thailand, flying Business Class and First Class on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. I build up the miles, then spend them on travel.
But some people let them build up and build up and build up.
CNBC recently ran a documentary called “One Week in the Life of American Airlines.” It was an informative show that talked about how the airline functions, covering issues like the cost of jet fuel, aircraft maintenance, and the AAdvantage Program. That’s the American Airlines frequent flyer program.
They introduced a man who has, they said, more miles in his account than anyone else. How many? Thirty-one million miles!
How do you build up that many miles? Well, you can fly first class from New York to Los Angeles and back to New York 2,065 times! How long would that take?
You could fly from New York to Los Angeles on Monday, and then fly back to NYC on Tuesday. Then do the trip again on Wednesday and Thursday. Then again on Friday and Saturday. And keep doing that every day for the next 11 years! (You should know every flight attendant in the system by that time!)
Welcome to the 31 Million Mile Club!
And what can you do with all those miles? You can fly First Class from the United States to Thailand 213 times, or First Class to Europe 248 times, or First Class to Hawaii 258 times!
Enjoy the trips!
Obviously, the man who has 31 million miles flies a lot! He insisted that he spends his miles: if one of his employees gets married, he uses the miles to pay for their honeymoon! That’s nice, but still. 31 million??
The miles have posted for my weekend trip for St. Louis. My Platinum bonus posted, so I got double miles for the trip. But, due to the bad weather, I did not get the trip I paid for. What will the airline do about that?
I called Customer Service and explained that I had paid to go to Tulsa and Chicago, but had to take an “involuntary reroute” due to weather. Since I did not get the trip that I had paid for, what would the airline do for me?
“Involuntary reroute” is the magic phrase when talking to American Airlines customer service, one that helps get action.
They put me on hold, then came back and said that they could not give me a refund, but could give me miles for flying to Tulsa and Chicago. Since the miles were what I wanted in the first place, that was good enough for me!
Next trip is February 8, Helsinki, Finland!