Friday, January 1, 2010

Rarefied AAir

Earlier I had written about making "Gold" status with American Airlines' "AAdvantage" frequent flyer program. I wasn't planning on joining a program at all since I didn't expect to travel much for either work or pleasure, then the miles started piling up from business trips to both coasts. I felt I'd "arrived" when I made "Gold" and actually pondered what I would do first with a free domestic ticket and then, oh wonder of wonders, maybe even a roundtrip ticket to Europe!

The miles are still piling up and this year, through actual flying and an "Elite Qualifying" plan American offered during the summer to boost business I made AAdvantage "Platinum," exceeding 50,000 miles of flying and will enjoy the perks and privileges for all of this year.
For someone who has only ever bought the cheap seats, grudgingly gotten used to paying for checked luggage and traveled both under the radar and out of harm's way from wrathful customer service agents, I'm looking forward to how any or all of these experiences might change. Being "Gold" used to mean something, about the same as having a college degree used to signal a rare and wondrous achievement. I don't have an MBA but I do have "Platinum" status so now the question is whether or not one is as equally everyday and run-of-the-mill as the other.

In a phone call to AAdvantage Customer Service I was quickly greeted and thanked for my business but equally swiftly alerted that each level of status must be earned with every calendar year. If I don't hit 50,000 miles this year I will lose "Platinum" but only drop back to "Gold." That's ok with me. I will still enjoy priority check-in at the airport, priority boarding at the gate and free baggage checking. I won't get to board with the "Platinum" folks but right behind them. Other than that the biggest loss will be in bonus mileage. "Gold" members enjoy a 25% bonus for every mile flown while "Platinum" members earn 100% or double miles for every flight.

All this means that I need to enjoy it while I can and bank as many "redeemable" miles in to my account as possible at the double credit level. I can fly 25,000 miles, get another 25,000 bonus miles, add that combined 50,000 to the 53,000 already in my account get the idea. If I lose "Platinum" for 2011, I'll still have over 100,000 miles in my account just itching to, as my mother likes to say, be put somewhere!

The "Executive Platinums" (100,000 miles each year) are all laughing at me, I know. I don't have that doctorate in frequent flying and don't expect to; the question for me and my run-of-the-mill Platinum status is where to put these precious miles and how many of them? TWO round-trip tickets to Europe in Coach, one round-trip to Asia or the South Pacific via one of the oneworld carriers, maybe?

Further scouring of the various options pulled the crown jewel in my mind. I've always wanted to go to South Africa, and for 100,000 miles I can fly round trip from London to Capetown in FIRST CLASS on British Airways!

Now if only they will put the A380 on the route at the right time.

Gotta go!

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