Overseas Flight and a AA Challenge

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by IPBrian, Jul 3, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    Hey Everyone,
    Totally new to all of this, but my wife and I are taking a trip to Europe in a few months and the total round trip should be just over 10,000 miles. We are booked on an O fare, so from what I have read I would only be getting 0.5 Qualifying Points for this trip and thus signing up for the gold challenge (I currently do not have any elite status with any airline) would be a done deal.

    What I am wondering is if this is worth it or not. I would love to be Platinum, but I just don't have an opportunity to fly that much and I think the gold challenge will be as much as I could manage in three months. Is gold worth the money, especially for someone who only takes a few trips a year? Is there something I should consider that would be more beneficial that I am perhaps missing? Thanks!
     
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  2. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    It's always difficult to answer these questions because at the end of the day it's subjective and only you can answer whether it's worth it. Is business class check in, exit row seating, priority boarding, and a small bump in your RDM accrual, etc... worth the fee to you? The fee isn't that large, so perhaps this can be a trial run for you. If you end up enjoying GLD, you can plan to retain it. If you think it wasn't worth the time and money, the investment was minimal and you can wash your hands of it.

    My personal opinion is that GLD is nice, but isn't worth doing a MR or challenge for. Most of my personal favorite benefits like lounge access and the 100% RDM bonus kick in at PLT. But again, that's just me. ;)

    It's a bit difficult to tell you what you might be missing since you haven't provided much information. What benefits are the most attractive to you? Where do you typically fly and what is your home airport? Do you travel alone? For work, or for pleasure? Depending on what you want, where you go, and why you go, there might be other options/airlines/investments that would make more sense in the long term.

    Sounds like you have a handle on the EQM vs EQP issue with challenges. The only thing I'd ask is what route and flights are you taking in to Europe? Are they all on AA codes? Or do you have flights with BA/IB/AY/MA codes?
     
  3. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    Hey David...thanks for the reply (I can use all the advice I can get).

    Its hard for me to answer these questions as well. In theory elite status sounds great, but I am usually limited to less than five domestic flights a year. I live smack dab in the middle of the country so it seems mileage runs seem somewhat less effective than those located on the coasts (please let me know the key to a MR stating in Missouri as I have missed it thus far).

    I travel a very small amount for work and a few times a year for vacations and conferences. I generally fly from SGF and fly with my wife on personal trips.

    We are going to Paris flying from SGF to CDG and the flights are all on AA.

    Personally I would love to make Platinum, but I just don't think I would be able to get the extra 5000 EQP required at a reasonable price. It seems like quite a bit of extra expense for a status I am not even sure I want. Gold would appear to be not a problem and perhaps a good toe in the water.

    I think I am most interested in generating miles for lifetime status faster, which is somewhat humorous considering I am not even sure it would be of great benefit to me.
     
  4. Elusive

    Elusive Silver Member

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    I agree with Double D, I think the real benefits of status are double miles, access to lounges, and exceptions on certain fees. As a gold member you don't have to pay baggage fees or to use your miles for an award within 20 days of departure. If you don't travel often you won't miss any of this and instead use the money saved from not doing the challenge to spend on a nice dinner in Europe on your trip.
     
  5. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    And now for a slightly different perspective:) all thats been said above is correct but my advice to go even a bit further and have one of you sign up for the Plat challenge. this can be done bytion to calling AA and upgrading your O fare to say a V fare which give 1.00 point/mile (the upgrade often runs $150-$200) if you are flying 10k miles then that should be enough to qualify

    Why the plat challenge? It actually will give you two years of status because even if you dont fly enough next year to qualify you be gold for the subsquent status year.
    Cost about about $400-$500 or the cost to check two bags for 5 round trips (when you both travel together) over the next 2 years plus... all the other benefits listed above become icing on the cake:D
     
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  6. Eloy Fonseca Neto
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    Eloy Fonseca Neto Silver Member

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    Newbluesea has an excellent point. This time it is worth it to pay a little bit more!!
     
  7. gemac
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    gemac Silver Member

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    [quote="IPBrian, post: 554301 I live smack dab in the middle of the country so it seems mileage runs seem somewhat less effective than those located on the coasts (please let me know the key to a MR stating in Missouri as I have missed it thus far).[/quote]

    The key to mileage runs starting in Missouri:

    1. Often, fares are lower to Europe out of LAX than out of Missouri, and lower to Asia out of NYC than out of Missouri. I have flown STL-LAX-STL and nested in a LAX-JFK-BCN-JFK-LAX for about $100 more than I would have paid STL-JFK-BCN-JFK-STL, and gotten an added 6000 miles.

    2. Any time I am transiting NYC or LAX, I look to squeeze in a mileage run. As an example, in May I flew OGG-LAX-STL. I put a two-night stopover in LAX in the itinerary, and on the extra day I flew LAX-MIA-LAX for about $200 all-in.

    3. If you find a good mileage run, you may have to take a positioning flight at the beginning and the end. This is most cost-effective if you can do the mileage run numerous times.

    4. Depending on your flight pattern, it can make sense to qualify on segments rather than on miles. Since to get somewhere else we have to fly through DFW or ORD so much anyway, we tend to rack up a lot of segments. 8 round trips to almost anywhere will get us gold status.

    One benefit to status is that we get a minimum of 500 miles for any segment. I fly STL-ORD to get a lot of places, and get 500 EQM rather than 258.
     
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  8. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Welcome to the OP. These sorts of questions are always difficult for others to answer for you, but the guidance given here is pretty solid.

    First let me ask the OP this. Why are you limited to just 5 domestic trips? Time? Money? Don't like to fly (some here would say this)? Still new to traveling and taking it slowly? This will help guide your expectations and reasons to have or not have status.

    Now the pros of PLT over GLD. Many mentioned above.
    Plat will be like 2 years of status due to AA's softlanding policy. This means even if you do not qualify GLD next year and you are PLT, you'll be GLD the year after. You only lose status one level per year with AA.
    Extra RDM. 100% at PLT vs 25% at GLD. If you're only earning via flying for a Y to South America will run 40k off peak and you will have to fly 20,000 to earn that ticket when PLT. When GLD you'll have to fly 32k. That is a lot of extra flying for the same award ticket.
    Lounge Access when going INTL. This although not super, is quite nice. Throw in that overseas lounges are almost always better than domestic ones.

    Reasons to have any status over none for me would start with earlier boarding to get overhead space and the minimum mileage benefits that really help, especially when you are in the middle of the country trying to get elsewhere as gemac says above.
    And of course the reduced or waived fees. Do you travel as a family on vacations and check bags? This will run up the savings.

    Regarding how to MR from the midwest I think gemac's advice is perfect.

    I also like the advice of calling AA and checking how much it would cost to upfare the CDG flights you have to see how you can get 1 point per miles instead of only 1/2.

    And follow the promos and MRs. It often feels like there are no good fares, but then something comes along that will send you to Paris for $332 all in or the like. They come. Be ready and grab them when you see them.
     
  9. swag
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    swag Silver Member

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    If your wife usually travels only with you, then there's little benefit to both of you doing the challenge, but many of the benefits would apply to her as well, when traveling on the same reservation.

    The bag fee is the easiest one to quantify, if you often check bags. If you do two round trips together as a couple after getting GLD, and check just one bag each, that's $200 in bag fees right there, already more than the GLD challenge fee.
     
  10. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    Guys I am blown away by all the advice. Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond!

    @newbluesea - I had no idea you could even do this....the difference when I booked between O fares and V fares was over $1000 additional each way. I can just ask them to upgrade my code for that little? Really?

    @gemac - Thanks for the midwest advice. I end up looking at the overall cost of MR out of SGF and it is something like $.07 per mile (just ugly). Driving to STL is something I have considered in the past, but it is a good three hours away.

    @Tenmoc - To answer your question on why 5 domestic trips a year. I think all of the above primarily time and the cost. If I could get really low cost flights I would not mind flying at all, but I love the destinations and spending time photographing. To fly to Europe or Asia to just turn around seems like a waste (I don't like to fly THAT much) so time (vacation) and money (hotels+flights+food) start to add up.

    I am with you guys, Platinum carries a much bigger draw to me than Gold. I would love to make my way to million and even two million mile status to get status for life. Sadly I am afraid by the time I get there American will nix the program and I am only 100,000 miles in currently.
     
  11. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    Don't worry about the possible changes to the program. There is a lot of speculation out there but there has been for years. If it changes, reevaluate then. But until then go forth with what is and make as much effort as the current benefits would value to you.

    Don't forget to put some value in the short trips to you. I rarely will plan a pure turn MR. I like to at least get some time in places I go. I do often pay more for this than I could to just turn, but it is worth it to me. Even if that is just a dinner in SFO before heading home or 26 hours in CDG.

    I am not very familiar with your home airport, but check out where any airline flys nonstop from there as a possible origin point for AA trips. If you have to buy an $80 Southwest trip to get to your AA flights, that can be of value and a savings.

    To answer about the upfare, you'll have to pay what the difference is at the time. But it is possible the difference has dropped. As newbluesea stated, some trips will be affordable. Can't hurt to call and ask every week until you decide what the plan is.

    Edit to add. This link should help.
     
  12. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    I missed that you were travelling SGF/CDG in your original post, however last year I was able to help a friend with her plat challenge and the class upgrade was around $200.

    Not sure of your travel dates but I just checked on EF and putting in the dates of 10/15 with a return 10/25 the difference between O and V fafes was listed at about $350.00
    Not sure if the there is a sale on but the O fares were listed at quite a very low $555.00 its almost worth to make TWO
    trips to Paris:D and if you paid more for your O the difference between the current V might be less.

    Again emphasing there would be need to upgrade only one fare.
     
  13. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    Its not the fare that kills me...the fares are pretty good, its the AA YQ surcharge (darn fuel prices)...UGH, $420. Would I just call AA and give them my Record Locator and ask what the least expensive way to upgrade to a Discount Economy Class ticket is?
     
  14. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Yes.. ask them to give the cost of upgrading to a fare that gives 1 point per mile. The codes would be V, L, M etc but
    V is usually the lowest cost of those you might want.
     
  15. Microwave
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    Microwave Silver Member

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    I will throw in an opposing view here... For the occasional traveller, Gold is a big step up from nothingness, and in the case of the OP I think would be a good move. Gold gives access to exit rows, allows earning of 500 mile certificates, permits the use of fast track through security, gets free checked bags, access to business class check-in on AA and oneworld partners (BA maybe not... but that's a different discussion), and permits early boarding on all AA flights. Going from not having any of those (or having to pay for it) to getting them for free is a big jump. Is Platinum even better? Sure. But I think the rift from nobody to Gold is bigger than the rift from Gold to Platinum.

    Now, as others have pointed out, it will be a task to requalify for Gold next year (qualify during 2012 for the 2013 membership year) if you get it through a challenge this year, but if the OP is flying 5 times a year, as long as at least one of those is an intercontinental trip it shouldn't be too tough to keep Gold year on year.

    It's worth noting that I've read recently folks being charged a change fee when upfaring an itinerary that's already been ticketed. OP, if you've already bought your tickets, it may be that a fare difference plus the change fee is assessed, which needs to be added to the difference in challenge fees to determine whether an extra year of status is worth it. Also note that once you get Platinum you're unlikely to be satisfied with Gold... ;)
     
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  16. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    If this is the case and they want to charge a change fee, I would hang up and call back trying someone else.

    Although I will admit some great benefits do change. I in the past two weeks had a fare drop below what I paid but they no longer refare for free. So taking the change fee into consideration, was a wash. Disappointing, but the (not so) new reality.
     
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  17. gemac
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    gemac Silver Member

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    SGF is indeed a very tough nut - even worse than STL, and I have a tough time finding fares out of STL for less than $.07/EQM. One tool I like to use is FareCompare's Flyertalk Fares page. I think I set it to SGF default for you, but anyone else could replace SGF with their home airport in the URL to have that as the default airport. It tells you what fares are valid on AA now (to see AA only, use the carrier filter on the left and select "AA only". This doesn't mean that AA currently has inventory for that fare bucket on the dates you want to travel, but does normally mean that the fare exists and gives you an idea of where to start searching. The mileage that FareCompare uses to compute cost/mile is the mileage for a nonstop flight, and of course we have connections that increase the mileage somewhat.

    Like you, I prefer to make trips to places I have wanted to see and stay awhile. As I indicated earlier, every time I am transiting an airport where there is more competition, I check fares from that airport on Farecompare. I also watch the Mileage Run forum here looking for good fares that I can work into a trip. Last year, I found a fare on the Mileage Run forum, SFO-MIA-LIM-MIA-JFK-SFO for $344.70 all-in, 11477 miles for 3 cents per mile. I could re-route a trip was making anyway through SFO and put a break in it for this trip, so that's what I did. I had always wanted to see Macchu Piccu, and that's where we went. We decided to fly LIM-CUZ-LIM on an award ticket, and had an unforgettable 5 days in Peru. If we had had to pay for a flight on a separate itinerary to SFO, it would still have been around 4 cents per mile.

    Good luck. :)
     
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  18. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    I am somewhat familiar with the FareCompare tool. That was what I was quoting the $0.07/mile rate which reflected the last time I looked. Currently as you point out it looks closer to $0.11...UGH. I guess I just need to keep an eye out for deals.
     
  19. gemac
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    gemac Silver Member

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    It's 11 cents for domestic - add the international destinations, and you can get results around 7 cents. 7 cents can often drop to 6 or even 5 cents if you calculate based on the actual mileage rather than the non-stop mileage. Summer is the worst time to look for good fares. The best time for great fares is winter, but I am becoming more selective about where I will go in winter, as it is a different vacation experience when it is cold outside. Last year, I went to London for theater and to Switzerland to a ski resort in winter. I like the spring and fall seasons, often you can get a decent fare and pretty good weather also.
     
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  20. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    I will keep that in mind. The Paris trip is in the fall, so perhaps there are some other fun destinations before the end of the year for a short trip. :)
     
  21. Skye1
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    Skye1 Silver Member

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    Noting the "lounge access" perk alluded to earlier, PLAT not only includes lounge access overseas, but AAdmirals Club access on the day of departure/arrival for international itineraries. That's the kind of thing that, like insurance, you may not always "NEED" it, but when you do need it, you're glad you have it. That'll be true for you, since every flight you take on AA out of Springfield will go either thru Dallas or Chicago. I agree that Gold is better than nothing, and there's merit to the point that a Plat Challenge "investment" now is really getting you status for two years.
     
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  22. Tenmoc
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    Tenmoc Gold Member

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    As Skye1 says, when you need it the AAngels can really pull some magic and save a disaster. That is one of the reasons I bought access for the lounge above just being plat.
     
  23. IPBrian

    IPBrian Silver Member

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    I just called AA to check on moving to a V fare from O. The total price to upgrade my flights was $670 (that includes the $50 change fee). For that price I could book two flights to CDG, but I just don't have the time or desire to spend almost $1000 for platinum status. I am holding off currently...any thoughts on how often I should check back?
     
  24. Skye1
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    Skye1 Silver Member

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    Am trying to remember fare bucket heirarchy, and thinking thru if there's a cheaper fare than "V" among the 1.0 earning fare buckets---H, K, M, L, W, V
     
  25. Microwave
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    Microwave Silver Member

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    Typically V is the cheapest bucket that earns at 1.0 EQP/EQM, but checking the published fares for the route in question is really the only way to know for sure (they do end up juggled from time to time). The Inventory Classes and Mileage Eligibility page on the FlyerGuide wiki has a list of all of the inventory classes and their earn rates, and is in the typical order of fares from highest to lowest (within each cabin).
     

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