If you don’t think that you’ll be able to meet your goals in 2014 to earn or requalify for elite status on American Airlines, you’ll be glad to hear that they’ve brought back last year’s offer to buy the necessary bump to elite status without the hassle of mileage running. The cost of purchasing any of these offers may look steep, but bear in mind that in addition to the time required to fly you may also be looking at some pricey fares this holiday season. Staying home and writing a check — sorry, swiping your latest points-earning credit card — is sometimes the best option.
The general pitch this year is that if you are within 15,000 elite qualifying miles, 15,000 elite qualifying points, or 15 segments, you can pay some amount to make up the difference. You won’t actually receive any miles (certainly not any award miles) but you will get the status you were seeking. Exact pricing for Boost depends on the status you want and how far you are from obtaining it. Renewal allows you to pay an even higher amount if you aren’t within that range, e.g., you barely flew at all.
Executive Platinum Status
There is no renewal option for Executive Platinum status, so you must be within at least 15,000 miles to take advantage of one of the boost offers. Some of you may have already earned some bonus EQM thanks to the calendar spend bonus that comes with the Citi Executive/AAdvantage credit card.
However, I can see some value in paying even $2,499 for up to 15,000 EQM. That kind of travel would require flying to Asia and back, probably spending a one-night minimum, and paying at least $1,500. For an extra grand you get the convenience of staying home in a comfy bed while keeping your unlimited domestic upgrades and 8 international systemwide upgrades for 2015.
Paying as little as $700 for a 5,000 elite qualifying miles is pretty good. That works out to 14 cents per mile. Though in the nosebleed area compared to traditional mileage run material of 4-6 CPM (let’s be realistic, < 4 CPM is becoming very rare) it is still in the range of 12-20 CPM that I see common on many flights near the end of the year when I have a two-week window between Thanksgiving and Christmas and can only fly on weekends.
Paying $1,199 to renew probably isn’t worth it. You’ll get some lounge access and free checked baggage, but you will still be subject to many fees to make same-day changes or change award reservations. You probably aren’t using the 500-mile upgrades you already have and could probably just buy the ones you need by saving the $1,199 for a la carte benefits.
You really shouldn’t boost or renew for Gold status unless you’re super close. Many people can replicate the most important benefits of low-level status with an airline credit card and then pay for any other extras they still need or want.
Personal Reflections to Provide Context
American’s Boost and Renew is a little different from United Airlines’ Premier Accelerator offer, usually pitched at you when you check in for a flight. United lets you buy extra award miles, and if you agree to that you can also pay an additional amount to buy elite qualifying miles. The price is not very good (United charges some ludicrous prices for its award miles) but is another option for those who fly United. I present it here for contrast with American’s program.
American Airlines deserves kudos for including a friendly reminder at the top of the page reminding people to plan out their travel for the rest of 2014 and to include their travel on US Airways. You won’t be able to request a refund if you end up meeting the regular elite qualifications on your own. And if you have any travel on US Airways, that will be combined sometime in the second quarter of 2015 with your travel on American. Patient people may not need to buy up.
Personally, I have already given up on meeting my requalification goal on American — for the second year in a row 🙁 — and am no where close enough to be able to participate in this promotion. But I do have a strategy in place for next that I’ll discuss in more detail tomorrow.