Lessons Learned Booking Mileage Runs on American Airlines

This is a guest post by Gary Leff of View from the Wing.

As part of the oneworld MegaDO, American Airlines is offering participants a special status challenge opportunity. There’s no fee for the challenge, and qualification requirements are relaxed. A top tier member of a competitor airline can become top tier Executive Platinum with American by flying just 20,000 miles by January 13 (basically a 3 month window).

I admit, I was skeptical whether or not it made sense for me to go for it. I wasn’t doing a ton of revenue travel over the Thanksgiving and Christmas period. And what travel I was doing was already booked before I saw details of the challenge offer and realized it was much easier than I had expected. So I’d have to do some mileage runs.

But status challenges and status matches are only valuable if you’re going to use your new status. And as a DC-based flyer, am I really going to switch to American? Will I retain my current status and top tier with American?

But then some things changed which influenced my thinking.

  • British Midland is being sold to British Airways (probably) or Virgin Atlantic (unlikely). Either way I probably don’t have a keen interest in retaining that status next year. Bummer, I’ve just requalified for Gold, but probably not going to do that again.

  • US Airways is going to be getting more slots at National. Much of my bmi flight credit comes from short hops on US Airways where United wouldn’t give me 500 mile minimums but bmi does 600 mile minimums. US Airways is putting first class into their regional jets. It’s not a great product but it’s a lot of non-stop flights from my home airport. I might actually want some US Airways status and what I can’t fly for I can top off by straight buying the qualifying miles or segments.

  • American offered double elite qualifying miles. So any flying towards the MegaDO status challenge during the first 13 days of January will also count double towads requalifying.

So with some prodding and goading and egging on from others, I decided to take the plunge. I’ve got myself set to earn Executive Platinum by completing the challenge in just a couple of weeks, and I’ll also have earned about 50,000 qualifying miles on American during the month of January.

There are some interesting things I’ve learned along the way, or at least they’re interesting to me as very much a non-expert in all things American.

Upgrades can’t be processed until tickets are issued and American doesn’t issue tickets instantly, it can take 30 minutes or a couple of hours. Actually I already knew this.

Only two upgrades on an itinerary can apparently be processed at one time, I had to process two, wait for tickets to re-issue, and call back to process the third piece of the itinerary.

Confirmed upgrades can’t be done online. I knew this also. While American will allow confirmed upgrades from any fare when using electronic VIP upgrades, the re-ticketing does mean you need to only upgrade ‘legit’ tickets, no pricing tricks permissible or else they’ll probably be caught during the re-issue process.

American has discount codes. Google is your friend. Meeting codes, usually. They’re good for 5% – 10% off any fare bookable at AA.com. This is generally more lucrative than using a shopping portal site like Big Crumbs to book through Expedia, and you can double dip by adding in a small business program (Business ExtrAA) account code.

I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to the next 20,000 miles of domestic flying on American or not. But I couldn’t not do it and I’ll be half requalified for next year, too. I’m sure I’ll have a whole lot to learn as I continue to sample the dAArkside.



  1. i believe, based upon my limited experience, that if you use a discount code then you cant get credit in Business ExtrAA. you may want to confirm that.

  2. Can one of you elaborate a bit on where you can find the 5-10% off codes? I’ve looked without any luck, and it would help the economics of my first MR month on AA

  3. After the cheapo SFO-ORD fares got pulled last night, then came back, I went ahead and held nine reservations today. In the process I learned a few things, too.

    (1) Discount codes cannot be used on held itineraries. As in, you can’t apply the code, then hold it to pay later.
    (2) You cannot apply discount codes to itineraries that you’ve already held at the full price. It needs to be input during the beginning of the search.

    Hopefully the fares will hold until tomorrow when I go to my local Costco to buy $2100 in gift cards.

  4. Gary, how are you getting the double EQM’s? I understand that offer is only for residents of certain states and it seems you are from DC which is not part of that list.

  5. Double EQMs until the end of January on all AA flights, regardless of residency – as long as you are on AA metal, you get (at least) DEQMs.

  6. I’m curious about the discount codes–I thought they used to be widely available via google (and maybe it’s just my luck), but I haven’t found any in a couple of years that have been useful. Do you have any suggestions for digging through the masses of information?

  7. “They’re good for 5% – 10% off any fare bookable at AA.com. This is generally more lucrative than using a shopping portal site like Big Crumbs to book through Expedia”

    The discount code is only on the base fare, not the taxes, fees and fuel surcharges, so a 5% discount code is worth less than a 4.8% big crumbs and on international fares, 4.8% big crumbs might be worth more than a 10% discount code.

    Disclaimer: Travelocity is currently 4.8% on bigcrumbs, no idea if that is the best deal for AA right now.

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