This might not come as a surprise to many of you, but I enjoy outsized returns on my investments. Having been an Executive Platinum member of American Airlines AAdvantage program for the past two years, I've really enjoyed the perks of top tier status: namely many complimentary upgrades on domestic flights, 8 systemwide upgrades on any fare class, 100% bonuses on miles earned, priority boarding, even free food and booze when I'm redeeming miles/points sitting in coach. Flying – which was once a drag that I had to endure – has now become a leisurely pastime in addition to getting me where I want to go.
I've had an amazing time as an EXP member these past two years and although I don't see myself flying another 100,000 miles with American anytime soon, I'm not about to give up these perks just yet. This is where status matching comes in. I'll start with an introduction to obtaining airline status in the first place.
1. The hard work: You need to obtain status on an airline the butt-in-seat (BIS) way. That is, your butt needs to actually fly a certain amount of miles before you get status with any airline. I would suggest the 50,000 mile mark with American Airlines as the most feasible of the legacy airlines because of their oftentimes cheap transcontinental fares and their lack of an annual minimum spend on tickets for status. For reference, United and Delta require you to spend a certain amount of money on their tickets to achieve elite status. Obviously, hitting the top tier 100,000 mile EXP status is the way to go, but Platinum status on American definitely has some perks.
2. Resources Needed: The Internet's been a game changer in so many ways, and for travel hacking this trend is no different. Chances are, to really get up to the rarefied heights of 50,000-100,000 miles, you're either a traveling salesman/consultant or you need to find some cheap international flights to subsidize your domestic flight totals. One of the best resources to find these cheap flights is at Flyertalk's Mileage Run Forum Board. Mileage runners typically list the cost per mile (CPM) of these mileage runs in their descriptions and although it's up to you to figure out how much you really want to spend on obtaining airline status, most people on the board agree that anything under 5CPM's is considered reasonable. For example, if you can snag a direct roundtrip flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Incheon/Seoul on American for $650, you just earned 13,620 elite qualifying miles for 4.77CPM's. If that's the difference between making between Platinum and Executive Platinum, I would pay the $650 in a New York minute.
Now all of this stuff is just a primer to the travel hacks I'll be elaborating upon in Part 2.