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Late last year I wrote a post in which I concluded that simple mathematics suggested that I shouldn’t credit my 2018 flights to the American Airlines AAdvantage program. Now, almost a year to the day since I wrote that post, I’ve finished my flying for 2018 and it’s time to see how that decision played out.
As I said last year, I’ve been doing my best not to be one of those flyers who’s great about complaining about an airline’s loyalty program but keeps continuing to use it nonetheless…so it was time to give up on the American Airlines AAdvantage program for the purposes of airline status.
The AAdvantage program has made it very clear that it doesn’t want flyers like me (flyers who attain top-tier status by getting maximum value out of cheap fares and upgrades) and that’s fine…that’s the programs prerogative….just as it’s my prerogative to move on to a different program out of which I may get better value.
The introduction of minimum spend criteria for American Airlines status has been the killer for me because it has made it a lot harder to reach the dizzying heights of Executive Platinum status (EXP).
Flying 100,000 miles in a year isn’t all that hard when you have an understanding partner and/or if your job involves a lot of flying…..but hitting the 12,000 Elite Qualifying Dollar (EQD) target that EXP requires (it will be 14,000 EQD from next year) is tough if you’re someone who predominantly books cheap fares.
It was time for a change and that change saw me crediting most of my oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive Club (BAEC).
The way the BAEC hands out status means that it’s possible to book some very cheap (relatively speaking) Business Class flights while earning a substantial number of credits (Tier Points) towards elite status….and there’s no minimum spend threshold that needs to be reached.
This same flights would also earn a substantial number of credits towards American Airlines elite status (Elite Qualifying Miles) but, because there’s a secondary requirement to hit a minimum spend target as well, you need more cheap fares to get top-tier status with American than you do if you’re hunting top-tier status with BA.
So how did it go?
I’ve flown 44 segments this year and the route I’ve traveled the most is between Los Angeles and London.
- My flights across the Atlantic were either taken in Economy Class, Premium Economy or Business Class following an upgrade from Economy Class. I didn’t pay for a transatlantic Business Class fare this year.
- All my short-haul flights bar one were flown in Economy Class and all my flights to/from Asia were flown in Business Class.
- I relied heavily on my two trips to Asia to earn the bulk of the Tier Points I needed to get Gold Status with the British Airways Executive Club.
- My British Airways Executive Club membership year has just ended (the BAEC doesn’t run to a calendar year) and my final Tier Point count was 1,525 (you need 1,500 for BA Gold status).
My tier point count would have been higher but for two things:
- I credited a few flights to AAdvantage because I wanted to top up my account for a redemption I was looking to book.
- An incompetent telephone agent failed to change my details correctly and one of my bigger trips was accidentally credited to AAdvantage rather than the BAEC.
As well as 1,525 Tier Points I also earned some Avios (I haven’t bothered to work out exactly how many) and the flights I credited to American Airlines earned me some Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) & Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) too:
I will end the year with British Airways Gold status which, from a oneworld perspective, entitles me to all the same benefits as American Airlines Executive Platinum status…and that’s what I was shooting for.
But how would things have looked had I credited all my flights to the AAdvantage program? Did I really save money by crediting my flights across to the BAEC?
By my calculations I would have earned 101,397 Elite Qualifying Miles and 9,401 Elite Qualifying Dollars had I credited all my 2018 oneworld flights to AAdvantage and that would have left me short of top-tier status.
I would have earned enough EQM for Executive Platinum Status but I would have been approximately 2,600 EQD short of the spend requirement.
The Big Question
I have to admit that I would have got closer to the EQD spend requirement than I forecast at the end of last year and that brings up the following question:
Do I wish I had credited my flights to AAdvantage and then taken one or more extra trips to get me across the spend threshold?
To earn an extra 2,600 EQD without having to do multiple trips I would have had to either….
- Find another great Qatar Airways Business Class fare between Europe and Asia or
- Find a good British Airways/Finnair/Iberia Business Class fare between Europe and LA
Both would have cost me at least $2,000 once everything is taken into consideration (positioning flights, accommodation, taxis, dining etc…) and I don’t value the benefits of AAdvantage Executive Platinum status that highly – I value my time and my cash more.
There was a time where I valued American’s Systemwide upgrades very highly but, not only is upgrade availability very hard to confirm at the time of booking nowadays, the way upgrades are now cleared at the airport puts cheapskates like me at a huge disadvantage.
American’s systemwide upgrades are nowhere near as appealing to me now as they once were.
One could argue that I’ve also given up a lot of AAdvantage Miles in favor of fewer Avios (which are also worth less)….but I don’t mind.
AAdvantage Miles are still a currency I like to collect but I can do that pretty well via credit card spend and, added to that, I’ve recently been getting very good value out of Avios on some of my short-haul flights so they’re actually coming in more useful than I expected.
By crediting my 2018 flights to the BAEC rather than AAdvantage I ended up with the status I wanted for 2019 (oneworld Emerald) and I saved myself around $2,000 and a few days of travel.
I probably didn’t end up saving quite as much as I expected to save but I still saved a good chunk of cash and I spent less time on the road than I would have otherwise had to – that’s a win in my book 🙂