This post is part of a long-form series documenting the process of completing a status match challenge. For the master post on my experience matching from United Airlines MileagePlus Premier 1k to American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum, click here.
When preparing to do a status match, you’re going to want to have a game plan for how to rack up both “qualifying dollars” and “qualifying miles”. Each program has their own name for them. In this case United calls them “Premier Qualifying Dollars” (PQDs) and “Premier Qualifying Miles” (PQMs). For American Airlines, they use the terms “Elite Qualifying Dollars” (EQDs) and “Elite Qualifying Miles” (EQMs). Most challenges will give you 90 days to complete a minimum of both dollars and miles, depending on the levels and programs you’re working with.
The Master Plan
I started investigating the process earlier in the summer and when I received the requirements, realized that it was in my best interest to hold off until August to maximize as much paid client travel as possible during the fall.
To receive Executive Platinum status for the rest of 2018 (starting as soon as I meet the challenge), AND score those four one-way upgrades and retain EP status through the full 2019 program year (ending January 31, 2020) I would have to meet the following criteria:
- Earn a minimum of $4,000 EQDs (elite qualifying dollars)
- Fly 35,000 EQMs (elite qualifying miles) OR 40 EQSs (elite qualifying segments)
on AA, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia or Japan Airlines.
Airlines will categorize dollars and miles differently based upon how you book them and which partner airlines you also fly on. For the most part, as long as you book through the airline for the program you’re looking to credit, if you fly within the applicable alliance program.
(Now mind you…since I began this challenge both United and American have announced changes – with increases to minimum spend – for their programs earning for the 2019.)
All was lined up perfectly, and I would be cutting it incredibly close, planning on a flight to put me over the line with just two days to spare. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men.
In Fear of Coming Up Short
The worst thing that could happen when participating in a status match challenge is to change all your spend and habits and then fail…effectively missing out on all the great benefits you could earn AND losing the spend you could have kept up on the program you’re planning to depart. It was hard enough to adjust to all the differences with AA and the ins, outs and quirks of the AAdvantage program after becoming so familiar with MileagePlus.
Well, I had technically four trips back to back ( London -> Lisbon -> Bansko -> Amsterdam ) and as I mentioned would be cutting the last flight incredibly close with just over a day to spare. With just around two weeks before the original departure, I discovered that I’d be skipping both London AND Lisbon and would have effectively been shy of $500 EQDs and 6,000 EQMs. Time to panic!
Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!
Faced with the reality of having to spend my own money for a mileage run, I spent far more time than I would like to admit trying to determine a hodgepodge of itineraries that would A) fit within my existing travel schedule and B) not break the bank. I kept on coming up short and really began to second guess why I had done this whole crazy thing to begin with. Was it really worth the four system-wide upgrades, award ticket upgrade eligibility, OneWorld status, etc especially when I’ll easily retain United MileagePlus Gold and thus have Star Alliance Gold.
American Airlines’ website and app is quite lacking compared to all the new updates United has made. After searching and searching I felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. It was then that a link to AAVacations caught my eye promoting a 20,000 bonus mile promotion for any package booked for Asia. A ha!
So doing some quick calculations, I quickly determined that rather than fly seven flights through six cities over four days, for a hard cost of $600, it would make far more sense to fly to Tokyo for just over 30 hours. Yes, you read that correct. For around $900 I was able to get a RT from ORD-NRT with two nights hotel, effectively achieving my status challenge. Yes, I’d be far surpassing my EQMs and perhaps spending more EQDs than I would have preferred to, but I’d be earning around 30,000 award miles while doing it.
That’s far better than what I would have earned if I did a crazy mile run through the States. I double checked my logic (and my sanity) with Ed Pizza and after walking me through the math and benefits, I got his stamp of approval!
I’ve learned quite a few lessons while going through this challenge, some I expected and others I didn’t. Like when an agent on the phone says that the paid upgrade to Business will count towards your EQDs, you need to do better research, because they don’t know what they are talking about. Also, should I have anticipated that both programs would be following in Delta’s footsteps by raising their minimum spend? Sure. I’ve got a steeper hill to climb next year in working towards retaining Executive Platinum for 2020. I also began to second guess myself for ditching United so soon.
Perhaps I could have worked harder to at a minimum hit Premier Platinum and then just paid the difference for 1k? I got a bit bummed over seeing my United lifetime miles slow to a halt. 1 Million Miles = Lifetime Premier Gold and in just over 2.5 years I’ve already accrued 350k+. Now I feel as if I’m really going to be splitting that lifetime spend between both airlines, especially if I’m relying more on American Airlines next year.
Chicago is still my home base and United just has more flight options, plain and simple. Having access to AA’s Flagship Lounge however? That’s pretty nice, especially since I can’t get close to the United Polaris lounge without a Biz Class ticket. If I was in a Facebook relationship with both of these airlines, it would be categorized as “It’s Complicated”.
I also learned that no matter how well you plan, you really need to ensure that you give yourself a window of time to pivot if you need to change your travel schedule. Cutting it close caused me a ton of stress and unnecessary worry. I also spent a bit more than I would have wanted to, but thanks to the AAVacations bonus mile promotion, recovered nicely.
Is This Craziness Worth It?
Blame it on the insane jet lag of going from NY -> Tokyo -> Chicago -> Bansko or the fact that in one week I flew some 19,225 miles but I certainly feel the strain of this challenge. The icing on the cake for the insightful discussion Ed had with Gary Leff on a recent episode of Miles to Go. With constant changes to programs and possible changes to lifetime benefits, sometimes I feel that perhaps I am insane for some of these crazy antics.
Then again, when I can fly my business partner to super important (non client reimbursable) conferences in Europe for just $56 in taxes or score an old GlobalFirst seat (now Polaris service) for $704 when it retails for over $8,000, I’m reminded that maybe I’m not that crazy after all.
So, at the end of the day, in a period of 90 days:
I flew 42,759 miles (of which 35,000 were required)
Spent $4,567 dollars (of which $4,000 was required)
At the end of the day, I’m scoring all the perks of Executive Platinum, and I got to fly British Airways for the first time, experienced American’s Business Class product and their Premium Economy product, checked out a ton of new lounges (I promise reviews will be coming for all of these) and now leave myself wondering if…
Just One More Thing
…I can challenge myself to one more points and mile challenge. In the middle of all this craziness my firm landed a pretty exciting project in a foreign country (that’s all I can say about it right now). This project will require even more travel than previous work and considering the amount of time I’ll be out of the country, we’re looking to get a corporate apartment, that I could easily use as my new mailing address.
Since US carriers waive the minimum spend for non US mailing address accounts and I’ll have a lease in my name, there’s a better chance I can retain Premier 1k, not by spending PQDs, but by simply flying 36,000 PQMs. With just over 45 days left in the year, and a few flights already booked on United, I can’t help but wonder if I can have my cake and eat it too.
The post Mission Accomplished! AA Executive Platinum Status Match Challenge ✅ was first published on Coworkaholic.