Posts tagged American Airlines
Last week American Airlines launched one of the best double-miles bonus programs that I have seen in quite a while.
You can read the full details here, but here are the key points:
- American is offering double elite qualifying miles AND double flight miles on flights between DFW and San Francisco or Los Angeles, and flights between Chicago and San Francisco or Los Angeles.
- The bonuses will be awarded on flights between now and March 31, 2012
- This bonus is only available to residents of Texas, Illinois, and California.
The thing that jumped out at me is that the bonus runs until the end of March next year. That means I can front load my year with several of these flights in the first few months and get off to a very quick start on earning Platinum status again next year.
I’ve booked AUS-DFW-SFO-DFW-AUS for the middle of January. Here is how the numbers work out for me.
The ticket cost $311. Without the bonus, I’d earn 3,928 EQMs and 7,856 miles at 3.96 cents per mile, not a very good deal.
With the bonus I’ll earn double miles between DFW and SFO, so I can add an additional 2,928 miles to the trip, giving me 10,784 miles at 2.88 cents per mile. That’s okay; not great, but okay.
The most important thing to me however is the double EQMs that I will earn between DFW and SFO. That will raise my EQMs for the trip to 6,856. If I do that trip three times, I’ll earn almost 9,000 bonus EQMs. That’s a great start towards my goal of 50,000 for the year.
I looked at some other routes. From a mileage standpoint the longest flight I can make is AUS-ORD-LAX-ORD-AUS, but I can’t get that to work without spending the night in the Los Angeles airport. So I tried the same trip but with San Francisco as the destination and found a good schedule that would get me home that same day, but the ticket would cost $510, making it impractical.
So, I have booked one of these trips and will look to book at least two more. I not only look forward to the miles, but also look forward to seeing the new American Airlines terminal at SFO that opened last year. I won’t be able to leave the airport during this trip, but will try to make that work on my subsequent bookings.
On another note, I saw a great bonus from Citi for the American Airlines credit card, a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus. That was the good news, The bad news is that it is only available to people who do not currently have a Citi American Airlines card as I do. Here is a link to the offer if you are interested.
After several months of planning, it was finally time earlier this month for us to take our trip to Rome.
Our itinerary for the flight to Rome was not what I wanted, but it was the best I could get when using miles to pay for the flight. We’d leave Austin at 9:30 a.m., arriving at JFK at 2:10 p.m. That was okay. The problem was with the next part of the trip: our Rome flight wouldn’t leave until 8:50 p.m., giving us an almost 7 hour layover. That was not what I wanted, but it was the best I could do with the miles I had. (I used 30,000 miles for each of us to get from Austin to Rome. I would have had better scheduling options if I had paid 60,000 miles for each of us, but I did not have enough miles in my account to cover that. )
A friend picked us up at the house at 6:30 a.m. to take us to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Thankfully rush hour traffic did not delay us very much and we arrived at the airport at 7:15. We entered the terminal and went to the American Airlines First Class check-in line. (We were flying coach, but one of the benefits of Platinum status is the ability to use the First Class line which should be much shorter than the regular coach line.)
AA had two agents checking in passengers on the First Class line which should have been enough, but it wasn’t on this day. One of the agents was helping a family with their reservations. The passengers could not speak English very well; the agent was helping them when we got on line, and was still helping them when we finished our check-in 20 minutes later.
We cleared security and went to the Admirals Club. My membership had expired and I wanted to renew it for another year. American had sent me an email offering me the chance to renew; if I did they would give me two luggage tags. I managed to pass on that offer. Instead, I wanted to renew on this date at the club for a couple of reasons. First, the club gets credit for each member who renews at the club instead of online. The AAngels at the Austin club have been so nice to me that I wanted to return the favor by helping them get credit for my renewal.
Second, since I had earned Platinum status, they would reduce the renewal fee by $100. I thought that was a good deal, but the AAngel told me even more. American Airlines has long been the Official Airline of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, October is National Breast Cancer awareness month. Since I was renewing in October, American would reduce my fee by another $25 and donate $25 to the Komen foundation. So, I got the extra discount and money went to a good cause. Well done.
We soon boarded our nonstop flight to JFK in New York. We were on a 737-800, one of the newer planes in the fleet. The 737s are replacing the MD-80s and there are a variety of good reasons for them to do that. But there is one thing I will miss about the MD-80; the left side of the plane has only two seats; my wife and I could have a row to ourselves. The 737 is three-across on both sides of the plane, so a row of our own probably won’t happen.
However, one of the benefits that American offers its elite passengers is the chance to have a row for themselves. I reserved the window and aisle seats for us with the hope that the middle seat would not be taken. AA tries to keep those middle seats open as long as possible as a benefit to its elite members. Sure enough it worked this time, the middle seat remained open and we had the row to ourselves.
We had a smooth flight to JFK. One of the things I find interesting about a flight from Texas to the New York City area is the route. Instead of flying a direct route to New York, we go east to Atlanta, then turn north following the eastern seaboard to the New York area.
We arrived in New York on time, and began our long wait for the Rome flight. We went to the Admirals Club for lunch. The dining area offers a great view of American’s operations at JFK.
We finished our meal but still had a very long wait for our connecting flight. We read from our Kindles. We checked email. We watched TV. Eventually we got bored and left the club to wander through the terminal. One good thing about a long delay at JFK is that there are a lot of shops to visit. We visited most of them, then found another Admirals Club! So, we went into that one; it was smaller than the first club we had visited, but it was in a different part of the terminal and provided a different view.
Eventually it was time to board our flight for Rome. Our pane was a 767; I had reserved seats next to the window where they are only two-across and we’d have the row to ourselves.
The next several hours were, in a word, uneventful; we had a meal, we watched a movie, and we slept for a few hours. Sometimes the best flight is one where nothing out of the ordinary happens — that was the story of this flight. If you are at 38,000 feet over the North Atlantic, dull and boring is good.
We were able to sleep for a few hours, then woke up to a view of the Alps and a Continental Breakfast served by the flight attendants. Not long after that we began our descent into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. We landed two minutes early, not bad for an 8 hour 5 minute flight!
We got off the plane, enjoying the chance to stretch our legs and walk. We took the train across the airport to the arrivals terminal, where our first goal was to get our luggage. That was easier said than done. There were several luggage carousels, every one of them was very crowded, and we had no idea which one was ours. After stopping at five carousels we finally found ours, got our luggage, and moved on to the Customs and Immigration inspection. At least we thought we would do that.
With passports in hand we followed the signs to the “Non-EU resident” line, walked through door, and into the main terminal. That was it. No one looked at our passports, no one asked where we would be staying. No security check of any kind. We passed through one more door and were in the arrivals hall.
Our hotel offered a shuttle bus but we’d have to wait four hours for the next one. After our long wait at JFK that was the last thing we wanted to do! I had visited FlyerTalk to see what those travelers had to say about getting from the airport to their Rome hotel. Most of them wrote about the bus and subway service that went downtown — maybe a good idea for some, but our hotel was not in the downtown area. Several people suggested using a limousine service; that sounded like a much better idea to me.
I made a reservation with Rome Shuttle Limousine and could not be happier with the service they gave us. When we entered the terminal our driver was waiting for us, holding up a sign with our name on it. He took us to the limo, a very nice Audi sedan, and drove us to our hotel, the Sheraton Roma Hotel & Conference Center located 11 miles away. The cost was only 40 Euro.
I would have preferred to stay at a centrally located hotel in the downtown area but did not have enough Starwood points to do this. I could get five nights at the Sheraton Roma for 28,000 points. One night at the Westin Excelsior downtown was 20-25 thousand points. With my limited total, Sheraton Roma was our only choice.
We checked into the hotel and were in our room a mere 65 minutes after our plane landed. Our long anticipated Rome vacation had begun!
Where did we go? What did we do? I’ll cover that in future posts.
I had two mileage runs left for the year; this was the first of the two. While my itinerary said this would be a trip to Portland and back, my route was actually much stranger. Austin to Dallas to Portland, and then the trip home; Portland to Seattle to Chicago to Austin. I’d fly out at approximately 8 a.m. and land back in Austin at midnight.
I’ve said many times that one of the best features that American Airlines offers is the flight notification service. Give AA your cell phone number and you’ll get a call two hours before departure to let you know if the flight will be on time, and which terminal and gate it will depart from. On several occasions I’ve been at the terminal and the flight was moved to another gate or cancelled; I’ve received the call from the flight notification system before the gate agent has made the announcement; this made it possible for me to avoid the rush once the other passengers get the word.
A few years ago I was in Chicago with tickets for a noon flight the next day. The notification service called me at 9 o’clock the night before to let me know that my flight had been cancelled. Less than an hour later it called again to let me know which flight I had been rebooked on. This was a great service.
Where am I going with all this? I’m trying to put into context what happened to me on this trip.
My flight to DFW was scheduled to depart at 7:50 a.m., so I went to bed the night before expecting a call at 5:50 a.m.
At 2:15 in the morning my phone rang, waking me and my wife. In our household a call in the middle of the night never means anything good; someone has been arrested, has been in an accident, or has died. I staggered out of bed and ran across the room to answer the phone but did not get to it before it went to voice mail.
I looked at the screen and saw that the call had come from American Airlines. Since my flight would not leave for another five-and-a-half hours, there had to be a major problem for me to get the call so far in advance. I waited for my voice-mail notification. Finally it came on and I quickly entered my password to hear the message. MY flight schedule had indeed changed and I was glad to get the advance notification until I heard what it was: My 7:50 a.m. departure had been changed to 8:00 a.m.
Come on American! You call me in the middle of the night, five-and-a-half hours before departure to let me know my flight would be leaving ten minutes later? I could understand that if the flight had been cancelled, and might even understand if it had been changed to ten minutes earlier, but not ten minutes later. Tell me about the change once I get to the terminal, and I won’t even notice it. Even better, have us board for a 7:50 departure and hold us for ten minutes… But don’t call in the middle of the night to let me know about such an inconsequential change.
And that was the start of the trip.
I got to the airport just after 6:30, cleared security and went up to the Admirals Club. I walked in and the AAngel behind the desk immediately greeted me by name! I was amazed, I had not flown in almost three months but she remembered me! I was so impressed that I immediately went to the Club’s business center, visited AA.com and left a very positive comment about the AAngel.
Shortly after that it was time to go to my 7:50 flight that was now scheduled for 8:00. I got to the gate and saw they were already boarding Group 3! I quickly boarded and went to my seat. A few moments later the pilot announced “Everyone is on board so we’ll leave a few minutes early.” And with that we pushed back from the gate at, wait for it, 7:50.
I had the normal quick flight to DFW where I transferred to my Portland flight. Although I only had 50 minutes for my transfer, that is not a problem at DFW. The Skylink rail can get you from any gate to any other gate at the airport in 10 minutes or less.
I boarded the plane for the flight to Portland; it was a Boeing 737-800. In years gone by that wold have been an MD-80, but American Airlines is phasing those out and thankfully replacing them with the 737.
It was an uneventful flight to Portland, I took advantage of the opportunity to both catch up on my reading and sleep.
We arrived a few minutes early at Portland and I made my way to the commuter terminal for my flight on an Alaska Airlines Q-400 to Seattle. Alaska Airlines has been very proactive in reducing its carbon footprint, increasing its recycling efforts and being a “green” airline. This plane, which they called “comfortably green” is an example of that, using less fuel and creating less pollution than the small commuter jet it replaced.
I had a short wait at the commuter terminal before boarding my flight to Seattle. I am always impressed by Alaska Airlines: on a short flight in a turboprop plane, they serve beverages including complimentary wine and beer, and give out snacks too. I can’t remember the last time I had a snack on American.
We made the trip to Seattle in less than an hour. I had almost an hour and fifteen minutes before my flight to Chicago, so I decided to visit the Alaska Air Lines Board Room.
American Airlines used to have an Admirals Club in Seattle, but it closed a few years ago. No one seemed to know if if closed due low use, or because the airport raised the rent too high. Since then there has not been a similar club at SEA that I could use. But now there is. A month ago American and Alaska announced an agreement: Admirals Club members could use the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms in Portland and Seattle as long as they were flying out on American Airlines that day.
I found the club and went to the desk to check in. I had to give the representative my Admirals Club card and my boarding pass for my departing flight. She wrote down all the relevant information, returned the items to me and wished me a pleasant day.
I went into the club; there was a stairway leading to the second floor, but I checked out the ground floor first. It was very similar to an Admirals Club; there were comfortable seats, big screen TVs, and a row of tables by the window that all had electrical outlets for charging your phone, laptop, etc. It seemed a perfect place from which I could call home, except for the sign that said the downstairs area (where I was) was the quiet area, if I wished to make a call I should go upstairs.
I decided instead to get some food. The club had a wider selections of beverages, sodas, coffees, and teas than the Admirals Club. Like the Admirals Club they offered complimentary alcoholic beverages. They also offered a wider selection of complimentary snacks, including soup, salads, and a selection of cookies and crackers. I took advantage of the food (I wasn’t going to get any food on my flight to Chicago), charged my phone, then went to my departure gate.
I got there just as they were ready to start the boarding process. The gate attendant announced that the flight was overbooked and they needed someone with flexible travel plans to volunteer to be bumped. That caught my attention! Then I heard the deal: they would put the person up overnight in a hotel near the airport, then fly them to Chicago the next morning, and would give them a $300 voucher. Three hundred dollars for a delay of more than twelve hours? As soon as I heard that I lost interest and boarded the plane.
As expected, the plane was packed. I used my time on board to read from my Kindle and take a quick nap. We arrived in Chicago on time and I made my way to the food court for dinner. I’ve been to the O’Hare food court many many times and always seem to end up at McDonald’s. I resolved not to do that this time. But when I go there I saw how little time I had and ended up getting a combo meal from McDonald’s. I ate it quickly and walked to my gate, thinking I had plenty of time.
By the time I got to the gate for my Austin flight, they were already doing final boarding! As I walked up to the gate, the gate agent greeted me by name.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“Simple,” he replied. “We only have two passengers who have not yet boarded, and you don’t look like a Susan.” Good one, thanks for the laugh!
We had an uneventful flight to Austin, arriving ten minutes early. I was home by 12:45 a.m.
It had been a good trip. I earned 5,315 EQMs, and a total of 6,643 miles. My ticket cost $264, so I paid 3.97 cents per mile. That’s not great, but it left me within 3,500 miles of 50,000 and Platinum status, so I was willing to pay a bit extra to earn that recognition. One mileage run left, and I’ll have Platinum status again.
Earlier this year I achieved a milestone with American Airlines when my lifetime AAdvantage miles total passed one million miles. Although I knew it was a long way off, I looked forward to eventually reaching the two million mile mark and earning lifetime Platinum status. However, a recent change by American Airlines in the way that it tracks mileage will make it almost impossible for me to accomplish that.
In the past it didn’t matter how I earned my miles, they all counted towards the one million mile total. I could earn miles by flying, by collecting bonus miles for my elite status, by eating lunch at a restaurant that is part of the AAdvantage Dining Program, by shopping at the AAdvantage eShoping Mall, by charging items on a CitiBank AAdvantage MasterCard. It didn’t matter how I earned the miles, they all counted towards my lifetime total. On December 1, 2011, that will all change.
Under the new plan, American will only count base miles for a flight towards the lifetime status. Right now, if I fly 1,000 miles, I earn 1,000 miles for the flight plus an additional 250 miles as my 25% Gold bonus. A flyer with Platinum status would earn the 1,000 base miles, plus another 1,000 as the 100% Platinum Bonus. All of those miles count towards lifetime status. Under the new plan only the base 1,000 miles will count, the bonus miles will no longer be included.
Under this new system, if you want to earn 1 million mile status, you’ll need to actually fly 1 million miles. For many people, myself included, this will make it much more difficult to reach those elite goals.
I’m lucky, I hit the 1 million mile mark a few months ago, and will keep that status. But I no longer have any hope of reaching the 2 million mile mark. I’m 980,710 miles away from that goal. If I fly 50,000 miles each year, enough to earn Platinum status, I won’t hit the 2 million mile mark until the year 2031. In other words, it isn’t gong to happen.
There is one other way to earn miles; AA will give one mile per dollar spent on the new Citi ExecutiveSM / AAdvantage® World Elite™ MasterCard® credit card. This is the new CitiBank/American MasterCard that has a $450 membership fee. Purchases made on this card between now and December 2012 will count towards the one/two million mile level. If I was close to the two million mile mark, I’d apply for this card. But I am 980,000 miles away and, in my circumstance, it’s a better deal for me to use my Starwood American Express card for my purchases to build up Starwood points rather than AAdvantage miles.
I’m not an expert on the way other airlines track lifetime miles, but messages I have seen on FlyerTalk and MilePoint indicate that American’s old plan was much more generous than those offered by other airlines, The new plan brings them closer to the industry standard.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad to have all the miles I earn because I can still use them for free travel. It doesn’t matter how I earn them, they will count towards travel, but not towards my lifetime miles.
So, I am both glad and lucky to have earned my 1 million mile status. I had hoped to eventually hit the 2 million mile mark, it’s too bad that I won’t.
It’s late August, almost two-thirds of the way through the year, and a good time to look at my numbers for the year, and also review future plans.
These are my numbers for 2011 listed on AA.com:
- YTD Elite Qualifying Points: 19,131
- YTD Elite Qualifying Miles: 41,174
- YTD Elite Qualifying Segments: 37
- Miles Towards Elite Upgrades: 22,743
- Program to Date Miles: 1,018,631
- Total Available Award Mileage: 88,631
Some of these numbers are important to me, some not.
My Elite Qualifying Points don’t matter. I need to earn 50,000 to reach Platinum status, so I need 30,000 more points. Since I usually fly with a discounted ticket that only earns half a point per mile, I need to fly more than 60,000 miles in the 4 remaining months to earn Platinum based on points. That is not going to happen, so I don’t pay much attention to this number.
The important one for me is YTD Elite Qualifying Miles. I only need 8,826 more miles to reach 50K and earn Platinum status. That’s a big deal to me!
Elite Qualifying Segments: some qualify for elite status by flying a lot of segments. I need 23 more flight segments to earn Platinum. That won’t happen.
Miles Towards Elite Upgrades: I’ll earn four additional upgrades when I reach 30,000 miles for the year, That is within reach, I only need to fly 7,257 miles to reach that goal.
Program to Date Miles: it’s exciting to see that I have passed the one million mile mark. I’ll have Gold status for the lifetime of that program. My new goal is lifetime Platinum at 2,000,000 miles; I need to earn another 981,369 miles to reach that goal, it’s so far off that I can’t worry about it at this time.
I have 88,000 miles in the account that I can use for travel. That’s a good starting point for next year.
My goal for the rest of the year is to earn Platinum Status, the quickest way for me to do that is by flying an additional 8.826 miles. That’s a reasonable number that I can reach with two mileage runs. Now I need to find those trips and book them.
Our San Diego trip was nearing its conclusion.
On our last morning in town we met some friends for brunch at a restaurant near the convention center, which is located downtown, next to the shoreline..
After brunch we said good-bye to our friends and drove to the airport. We returned our rental car, checked in and got the good news that we had been upgraded to First Class for the flight to DFW, then went to the Admirals Club to relax.
We boarded the flight; as always I enjoyed being in First Class. An hour after take-off dinner was served. I had baked ravioli with shrimp cocktail and a salad.
Our flight to DFW was the kind I like — totally uneventful. We landed at DFW and changed terminals for our flight to Austin.
One of the people on our flight was Earl Campbell, winner of the 1977 Heisman Trophy after his senior year at the University of Texas, NFL Rookie of the Year, NFL Most Valuable Player, and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Earl is not doing well these days, having a variety of health issues. In fact, he was taken aboard the plane in a wheel chair. That was sad for me to see, I will always remember Earl as one of the most dominant running backs that I have ever seen; I have not seen anyone who could equal his combination of speed and bruising power. This video shows the Earl Campbell I will remember.
We had a smooth flight back to Austin; our friend picked us up at the airport and were home by 10 p.m. It had been a fun trip but as always, it was good to be back home.