It’s hard to believe we’re nearly half way through 2017. For the first quarter of the year I was on pace to earn AAdvantage Platinum Pro status (new in 2017), but as the year progressed my travel has slowed considerably. Given my current EQD and EQM I’ll be lucky to earn AAdvantage Platinum organically. Since I’ll most likely fall short or earning Platinum I’ve started looking for American Airlines mileage run opportunities.
In the past mileage runs were extremely simple. You could fly from A to B to C in a single day for less than $100 and earn a decent number of miles. I once flew from ORD to LAX and back for $68! Many mileage junkies could earn American AAdvantage Platinum status for less than $6,000 a year! This year, with the introduction of the EQD requirement, American made it more difficult (and expensive) to earn elite status. As a result, I’ve started to look for cheap possible mileage runs to earn enough EQM and EQD to bump me up to AAdvantage Platinum or Platinum Pro status.
Partner Airline Premium Cabin Mileage Runs
One of the nice things about the EQD requirement is the generous earning rates with partner airlines. When paying for premium cabin flights on partner airlines you’ll earn 20% or more of the mileage flown of EQD. Also buying a premium cabin fare will earn 1.5 or more EQM per mile flown. So if you’re looking to earn a TON of EQM and EQD your best bet is booking a long premium cabin flight or two. Below are a few of the routings I’ve come up with and look to maybe book before the end of the year.
Option 1: Qatar Airways Business Class
Qatar Airways often offers incredible business class deals on flights originating from Europe. Earlier in the year you could book a business class flight from Stockholm (ARN) to Krabi (KBV) for just $1,400 round trip! By booking and taking this flight you’d fly a total of 12,400 miles by routing through Doha (DOH). For that you’ll earn $2,480 EQD and 18,600 EQM and get to fly one of the best business class products in the sky. This one is a little more difficult to book because of the potentially large positioning costs. I’d have to pay for a roundtrip flight to Europe just to being my journey. Not exactly ideal, but worth considering given the ever decreasing costs of transatlantic flights.
Although these fares have long since expired there is a chance we’ll see them again later in the year. I’m curious to see if there are any lucrative Qatar Airways sales given the current politics surrounding Middle Eastern airspace.
Option 2: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy (North America To Auckland)
Another option I’ve been considering for a while now is Premium Economy from US to Auckland on Cathay Pacific. Flying from New York via Hong Kong you’d fly a full 27,500 miles! If I plan the journey well I’d get to visit Auckland potentially spend one or two nights in Hong Kong. This trip is pretty darn expensive which makes it pretty unappealing at face value. At the time of writing the cheapest flights I found were $2,400… If I end up booking these flights I’ll earn $5,500 EQD and 41,250 EQM. Two of these would get you pretty darn close to Executive Platinum status for just $4,800 which is about what mileage runners were spending prior to the EQD requirement.
Obviously the $2,400 price tag makes booking this flight a tough pill to swallow, but the payout is massive. No only do you get to spend some time in Auckland, but you get to fly on Cathay’s new A350 aircraft! I’ve been considering booking this for a while because I’ve been dying to visit Auckland, but the idea of spending that much time in a slightly better economy seat sounds painful. Also, the entire trip would end up being much more than $2,400 with hotel bookings which reduces the appeal of this “mileage run.”
Option 3: British Airways Premium Economy
A third and equally outrageous option is to fly British Airways premium economy from Los Angeles (LAX) to Johannesburg (JNB). Currently you can book a round trip flight from LAX to JNB in Premium Economy on British Airways for just $1,780. For that price you’ll fly 22,150 miles and earn $4,430 EQD and 33,225 EQM with American. The best (worst) part of this mileage run is that it doesn’t require an overnight in Johannesburg so the ancillary costs of the mileage run are low. Other reasons I love this mileage run opportunity are the low positioning costs, stellar lounges at TBIT, and you can fly the A380 the whole way!
American Airlines Special Fares
Another option for those still trying to mileage run for less is to buy American Airlines special fares. Special fares earn EQD and EQM based on distance flown rather than price paid. This means you can book long distance flights in economy for cheap and still earn a decent amount of EQD. If you book regular discount economy fares when flying long distances you won’t earn enough EQD to qualify for a high level elite status. Booking special fares is easy, but there are definitely situations where it makes more sense to book a regular fare over a special fare.
Option 1: Long Distance Economy Flights With AA Flight Numbers
I’m constantly monitoring flights from the US abroad with AA flight numbers. By booking an AA flight number special fare you’ll earn 10% EQD per mile flown and 1 EQM per mile flown in coach. Premium cabin fares earn EQD and EQM at a higher rate, but often not enough to make a positive difference.
Your best bet is to fly from the US to Europe in economy with an AA flight number. Transatlantic flights are cheaper than I’ve ever seen. I’m consistently finding flights from the West Coast to Europe for around or less than $700. From the East Coast you can find flights to Europe for under $500. Either option earns nearly double EQD per actual dollar spent.
The key thing to remember about special fares is that you need to purchase flights with AA flight numbers. Most OneWorld partners have codeshare agreements which mean you could potentially fly a partner airline (generally with superior service) while earning AA EQD at a favorable rate.
Option 2: Long Distance Domestic First Class Flights With AA Flight Numbers
Domestic first class flights are also becoming increasingly less expensive. So much so that it’s often only marginally more expensive to “upgrade” from economy to domestic first. If you find yourself in that position for a fairly long distance flight, it could make sense to buy a special fare instead of a standard fare. Domestic First Class special fares earn 30% EQD per mile flown and 3 EQM per mile flown. If booking a special first class fare you just need to make sure the EQD earned is greater than the price paid for your ticket.
Since it looks like I’m going to fall short of my AAdvantage elite status goals again in 2017 I’ve started looking at mileage run options that make sense. My travel plans for 2017 and early 2018 are fairly limited at the moment so it doesn’t make sense to push for Executive Platinum, but I definitely want to retain AAdvantage Platinum status. Platinum means that you can access international OneWorld lounges when traveling on partner airlines which makes a huge difference when traveling internationally.
These are just a few of the options I’ve been considering as I continue looking for mileage run opportunities. If you’re also considering taking an American Airlines mileage run make sure to check in on Flyertalk. The Flyertalk forums are full of miles run opportunities shared by other members. Likewise if you discover a worthwhile milage run opportunity make sure to share it with the forum especially if you’re unable to use the fare.
Hopefully this helps anyone looking for American Airlines mileage run opportunities in 2017 under the new AAdvantage program guidelines. Just remember, as great as it is to have top-tier status, if you don’t fly enough organically to come close to a certain elite level, it probably doesn’t make sense to mileage run for it either.
Featured Image Courtesy of American Airlines