Mileage Running for AA Executive Platinum status. EQMs vs. EQPs


Lately I’ve been suffering from mileage-run paralysis.  I need to book additional One World flights in order to re-up my AA Executive Platinum status for 2016, but I haven’t yet picked a strategy.  Should I focus on earning EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles) or EQPs (Elite Qualifying Points)?  EQMs are earned directly from miles flown: 1000 miles flown becomes 1000 EQMs.  EQPs are more complicated: discount economy fares earn only half an EQP per mile flown whereas premium fares earn more than 1 EQP per mile flown.  As airfare deals are discovered in both economy and business class, I’d like to jump on those deals but I need a strategy.  Economy deals aren’t worth pursuing if I plan to qualify for status through EQPs, and business class deals aren’t worth pursuing if I plan to qualify through EQMs.

I wrote about this conundrum before.  See: Achieving AAdvantage elite status through points.  One thing has changed since then: American Airlines introduced a 2015 promotion titled “Reach Elite Status Faster”.  Before the promotion, business and first class fares earned 1.5 EQPs per mile flown.  Now, with the promotion in place, discount business and first class fares earn a total of 2 EQPs per mile flown and full fare first and business class earn a total of 3 EQPs per mile flown.

My current progress this year, including flights booked but not yet flown, and including the expected 10K EQM earnings from my Citi Executive AAdvantage card (after $40K spend) is as follows (numbers are rounded to nearest thousand):

  • EQPs: 64,000
  • EQMs: 66,000

Both numbers show great progress towards the Executive Platinum 100,000 point requirement.  However, they’re so close to each other that the progress to-date doesn’t really help me decide on a strategy.  Either way, I need around 35,000 more points.

I could earn about half of the required EQPs with a business class flight to Dublin for about $1,500.  Or, I could earn about half of the required EQMs with an economy flight to Shanghai for about $700 (and I could apply my Systemwide Upgrade Certificates to fly business class).  Clearly, the economy option is cheaper, but the Dublin option would earn far more redeemable miles to help offset the extra cost.  Plus, I could keep the upgrade certificates for later travel.  Let’s look at the redeemable miles earned with either option:

Shanghai economy:

  • Miles flown (rounded): 15,000
  • EQMs earned: 15,000
  • EQPs earned: 7,500
  • Redeemable miles earned: 15,000 + Executive Platinum 100% bonus = 30,000

Dublin business class:

  • Miles flown: 8350
  • EQMs earned: 8350
  • EQPs earned: 8350 x 2 = 16,700
  • Redeemable miles earned:
    • 8350
    • + Ex Plat 100% bonus: 8350
    • + long haul flight bonus: 12,000 (if I fly AA rather than British Airways)
    • + Fly to Europe Bonus: 20,000 (if flown by Aug 7)
    • = up to 48,700

So, the Dublin trip could earn almost 19,000 more redeemable miles than the Shanghai trip.  If I value those miles at 1.5 cents each, then its like an extra $285 rebate

Once I account for the extra miles earned, fewer SWUs used (none vs. two), and time savings, the Dublin trip is suddenly looking more attractive.

However, I need to pick a strategy for more than 1 flight…

Each of the above options (used for illustration purposes – the actual deals may be gone by the time this post is published) would get me only halfway to my goal.  I really need to commit to two similar trips to reach my goal.  If I pick just one now, I’ll be committed to the same approach for the second trip.  Economy deals come and go all the time, so going economy is the safer approach.  Business class deals are less common, but we’ve seen a number of good ones this year. 

With my Systemwide upgrades, I can fly business class even if I book economy.  However, seeking business class deals has a big advantage: I can fly AA partner airlines (British Airways, for example) and still fly business class.  AA Systemwide upgrades meanwhile are good only on AA and US Airways flights.

Family travel will force the decision

There have been a few terrific deals for economy flights on American Airlines to Tokyo, such as a flight from Detroit for only $645 round-trip. And, I’d love to plan a family trip to Japan. Assuming I can find a similar fare through the ThankYou Rewards portal, I could book this flight for only about 40,000 ThankYou points per person (thanks to the fact that the Citi Prestige card gives me 1.6 cents per point value towards AA flights).  Then, I could use my 6 remaining System Wide Upgrade certificates so that all three of us can fly business class.  If we decide to go this route, I’ll pursue status through EQMs.

Another good option for family travel, though, is to visit Ireland.  I’d be happy put together a summer trip, but a more likely scenario is for me to accompany my wife on a work trip to Ireland planned for this autumn.  Maybe we’ll do both…

What do you think?

Ultimately, I do think that my decision will be driven by family travel plans.  I need to get moving on planning our next trip!  In the meantime, I’m interested to hear your perspective.  Do you see an advantage to one approach vs. the other?  Am I missing any important considerations?  Please comment below. 

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