Yesterday I discussed new ways to pay to keep your existing elite status with American Airlines or get a boost to the next level if you think you’ll fall just a few miles short. Today I will quickly talk about ways to get status with American Airlines from a fresh start. You may decide to take advantage of this now that the U.S. Airways and American Airlines merger will proceed, but the nature of such events also means that the program is in a state of flux.
Understanding Status Challenges
The following information should be prefaced with a disclaimer that status challenges are all about obtaining additional customers and revenue. American Airlines may decide that with the recent merger approval they want to put a hold on new challenges. Or they may decide they want to change the terms. You usually can’t apply for a new challenge if you’ve had a challenge or match in the past.
Challenges work by offering a short-cut to elite status. Rather than earn the full number of miles, say, the loyalty program will give you a break if you reach a lower number within some defined period. This is how they gauge commitment rather than offering status up front with no strings attached. A side benefit to consumers is that they don’t necessarily need to have any existing status with a competitor.
Depending on the program and when you apply, your new status may last for a few months or over a year before you need to meet the normal requirements to keep that status.
Also, American has only offered limited status matches to their top-tier Executive Platinum level in the past, and to the best of my knowledge they are not offering them now. There is still a chance that they may make an exception for you. I am guessing that you would need to present a significant opportunity for new revenue. Any ordinary Premier 1K from United isn’t going to cut it.
Two Status Challenge Opportunities
Challenges must be requested by telephone (1-800-882-8880). AAdvantage has typically offered two status challenges to their Gold and Platinum levels, which otherwise require 25,000 and 50,000 elite qualifying miles, respectively.
All challenges begin on the 1st or the 16th day of the month and last 90 days. You could start one this week and have through the end of the year to complete it! Because we are after June 16, completing a challenge that you begin now will last for the rest of this year, the subsequent year, and two months after that (status typically extends for a month or two into the next year whether or not you requalify). That means a challenge you begin now will last through February 2015.
The cost of these challenges are $120 for Gold and $240 for Platinum. You must pay this up front and you do not receive a refund if you fail to complete the challenge. Now for the catch…
Challenges aren’t completed by earning elite qualifying miles (EQMs) based on the distance flown. Instead American looks at elite qualifying points (EQPs). EQPs are based on EQMs with a multiplier that varies depending on the fare paid. So a more expensive fare means you need to fly less and a less expensive fare means you need to fly more. Completing a Gold challenge requires 5,000 EQPs and completing a Platinum challenge requires 10,000 EQPs. Here’s a quote from Amol on how earning EQPs can hurt or help your challenge efforts:
Instead of using miles to calculate challenge requirements, AA requires you to fulfill points requirements. Gold requires 5,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 90 days while Platinum requires 10,000 EQP.
Deep discount fares early only 0.5 EQP for every mile, so you would need 10,000 miles on deep discount fares to achieve Gold. Discount fares earn 1.0 EQP, while premium fares earn 1.5 EQP. There are several good premium fares on American Airlines that can be searched with ITA, so Platinum status can be achieved with just 6,667 miles of flying on a 1.5 EQP fare.
You could get Platinum status right now with a single flight and a $240 challenge enrollment fee. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I’m guessing there will be some devaluations to the AAdvantage program in the new combined carrier. But now is probably your last chance to participate in the current challenge offers before they are replaced by something new …or not at all.
Tomorrow I’ll discuss more about how US Airways lets you buy elite status outright, including their top tier, which may be matched to American Airlines’ status as the two carriers begin to integrate their services.