I was called up to the United First Class cabin, minutes before takeoff, on a crowded flight home from Denver last week. I had been sitting for 10 minutes in an economy class exit row seat. The bulkhead panel offered no visual distractions and I had some wine and cheese. There wasn't a movie. I was fairly productive in working through the flight.
I realized that next week I will not have a sufficient level of elite status in any frequent flyer program to earn an elite bonus of 100% miles for flights. My low tier status means a significant reduction in "seat scored per upgrade attempts" on United flights. A premier member in Mileage Plus has a difficult time in successfully navigating the upgrade waitlist. This is the first time in 8 years I have dropped below Mileage Plus Premier Executive (50,000 mile) elite status.
I only had about 55,000 butt-in-seat miles for 2007, and like many frequent fliers basing decisions to a large degree on fare price (meaning a fair price), my miles were divided between two different airline alliances – Star Alliance and Skyteam.
My wife asked me after the Denver flight, "How long will it take to re-earn frequent flier elite status?" For a poverty jet setter, the cost is more of a consideration. Air travel is expensive and I have to make it in economy until I earn elite status and a chance at upgrades.
First, the Loyalty Traveler must see the possibilities, and then seize the possibilities.
AAdvantage Platinum Challenge
I just signed up for the AAdvantage Platinum Challenge this morning. Earning American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum status will not take long, as it turns out. The primary benefit of AAdvantage Platinum elite status is earning a 100% miles bonus on flights. And the cost is highly affordable.
Economy class airfare is relatively low to many international destinations at the moment with Tokyo at a reasonable under $800 fare, and Frankfurt, Munich the recipient of fare wars and near the historically low fares in low season at just over $450 to $550, even over Easter break.
Airfare to Europe for between $400 and $500, with all taxes, is generally the low fares to Europe which surface periodically throughout the year. $400 to $500 all-in fares have generally been available from the major California airports for brief purchase periods each year over the past decade. The travel economy has some good value for consumers.
This past weekend, the last weekend of February, airfare searches revealed interesting features for March 2008 spring break travel. The holiday season timing of low international airfares are available from many regional airports like Monterey. Generally holiday season fares have 14-day or longer advance purchase requirements. Many of the March 2008 international fares only require a 7-day advance purchase. The easing of advance purchase ticketing is alluring to the spur of the moment vacation getaway.
Low airfares, a low American Airlines airfare tied in with a London overnight, and drastic rate cuts in Hilton Hotels in London indicate a travel slowdown on the European front. The travel battles are escalating and all-out travel discount war may be around for the 2008 seasons.
This past week Asiana had a $500 all-in fare between Los Angeles and Hong Kong via Korea. The ticket was available Saturday and gone on Sunday.
Tokyo is available from several locations for $600 to $700 on American Airlines. Hong Kong available now for March travel for under $700 from California. These are low fares compared to the average lows of the last two years for Asia flights.
An interesting feature of the American Airlines tickets was Monterey to Tokyo for $750 was in "W" booking class. Monterey-Frankfurt, with a night in London, for $550was in "L" booking class. These discount economy class tickets can be used to qualify for the AAdvantage Platinum elite status challenge. A single airline ticket will qualify and meet the Platinum elite qualifying points 90-day challenge.
A distance of 5,124 miles between San Francisco and Tokyo means AAdvantage Gold elite status is earned through the AAdvantage Challenge on the flight to Tokyo. The return flight confers Platinum 50,000 mile status. All remaining flights taken with American Airlines in 2008 will earn a 100% frequent flier elite status miles bonus. The goal is to requalify for 50,000 mile Platinum status with additional international flights in 2008.
There is a thread on FlyerTalk about the Platinum challenge.
The number given in FlyerTalk redirected me to 800-882-8880. I tried the AAdvantage Services option unsuccessfully. I ended up going to a reservations agent and asked to be transferred since I could not find a non-automated phone message through Customer Services.
American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Challenge:
10,000 Elite Qualifying Points must be earned in 3 months to receive AAdvantage Platinum membership.
An elite qualifying point is a factor of the flight miles.
For some discount economy class tickets the booking code earns 1.0 elite qualifying points per flight mile.
Assume San Francisco to Denver is 988 miles. The airline ticket booking codes of H, K, M, L, W, or V will earn 988 elite points.
If the booking code is deep discount economy designated by letters G, Q, O, N, S, then only 0.5 elite points are earned per mile and an SFO-DEN one-way flight would earn 494 elite points.
A paid First Class fare of A, F, P or even a full economy fare of B or Y will earn 1.5 elite points or 1,482 elite points for the one-way SFO-DEN flight.
Discount economy booking codes earn 1.0 elite point credit: H, K, M, L, W, V
Deep Discount booking codes earning 0.5 point credit: G, Q, O, N, S .
Full Fare economy/Business/First earn 1.5 point credit: A, F, P, D, I, J, B, Y
Coming This Week:
The Loyalty Traveler is going to journey the world this week as an armchair travel planner seeing the possibilities for earning and burning in a March Madness Triple Pointer travel extravaganza:
- AA Platinum
- Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum
- Free Nights with Starwood Hotels Le Meridien brand.