Friday, November 1, 2013

Here we go again....

The 'Goal'....and yes, also an obnoxiously large flyertalk tag behind it.

Well friends, flyers, lost guests who thought they were clicking on something more interesting.... guess what it is again?

Friday? Correct.  Half-price Halloween candy day? Also correct.  The day both LAX got shut down AND United devalued their miles hugely.... correct and correct.  However, the answer I was looking for is 'Start of 'official**' mileage season.

Yes, here we are again, been awhile hasn't it?  Days are getting longer.  Sanity and cents per mile are being tested.

So, I thought it was a good time to talk about what it's all worth in the end.  This year, as last, I'm flinging myself into mileage season to hit 100k on American and earn back my Executive Platinum status.  And this year, so far anyway, there's no DEQM deal to make it easy.  This means we're doing things 'the hard way'- 100k But In Seat 'BIS' miles.
Here's a gratuitous shot of the new AA paint
from the jetbridge for no reason.  Enjoy.

My breakdown of flying for the year is about - 25% business, 35% planned personal (vacation, family visits, friends' weddings, etc), and the rest left to mileage runs.  I've got it locked and loaded- two massive weekends on cheap fares with some of last year's SWUs to make them less grueling.  One per month, some new airports, plane types, and meetups planned.  And yes, while I was in the planning stages my notes of routing, schedules and columns of miles did look something like a scene out of 'beautiful mind' of the slightly disturbing ones, that is.

But, as I said above, for now I want to talk about the bottom line here.  I may not have been a savant at math in high school....or.....ever, but I do take an interest in getting a good deal, or at least 'justifying the crazy.'  

So, here's some of the tangible benefits of hitting 100k to put a price tag on:
1) Double all your earned miles for the year.  Same as the Plat level, but worth noting.

2) The 'big' one- 8 Systemwide Upgrades.  Valuation here is tricky, but my best stab at it is to not go by what paying for the business or first ticket would cost over the econ ticket....because would you REALLY cough up the extra, say 8-10k for a TATL upgrade?  Rather I value by how I would achieve those upgrades- meaning the co-pay and miles route.  This means they're worth $75 + 15,000 miles for domestic use, $150 + 25,000 miles to Hawaii (where some of mine went this year) and $350 + 25,000 miles for international (where I'm hoping to use the rest).  So if we value the miles conservatively and take an average there.... somewhere between $350-$800?? Even taking the low end there you could talk these reasonably up to a collective $3000+.

3) The other 'big' one- Free domestic upgrades + companion upgrades at top-level status.  Also varies by the person and route, but I'm batting 80-90% on the year, on 30+ segments.  What would you pay to sit in front for that many hours?  Could be hundreds, could be thousands, depending on your flight plan.

4) Expanded availability for Milesaaver redemption- this depends on how many award tickets you're doing per year and how lucky you get, but figure on an average year it could save a few hundred worth of miles?

5) Oneworld First Class Lounge access- This matters far more if you're traveling internationally on Oneworld flights.  But a visit to Qantas's premium lounges in Sydney, or Galleries and Arrivals lounges in LHR are definitely worth something!

6) Service- there's definitely value to the EXP desk, premium check in, top priority standby, etc.  These things are hard to value, but if it fixes even one trip that was going south due to a mechanical- throw some dollars there.

7) Intangible or little things that still can matter if you care (I do...I'll admit it): EXP luggage tags, bragging rights, the lot.... (yeah yeah, shallow I know...but it's there).

8) I'm sure there's tell me.

Here's another gratuitous pic- sunset over DFW.
You earned it by reading through all that 'math' up there.

One last point here is that when mileage running you're (obviously) also earning the miles as you go (and possibly some bonus ones due to this year's elite awards at 40, 75, 125, and 150k).  My flights for this mileage season are averaging 4.5 cents per mile (qualifying) and 2.25ish redeemable, and 1.9 when you factor in the elite award mileage.  I've seen people value AA miles between 1.8 and 2.5 cents these flights are somewhere in the neighborhood of "even money" at market value. Plus they 'come with' all of the above, and a chance to meet some new people and see some new places.

The math aside, I often 'check myself' by asking if I'd take the trips anyway if someone offered to give me the flights, even without the miles.  If my reservations about the itinerary, destination, or timing make that a tough call, I usually wait for the next deal to come along (case in point skipping the three hour turn in Dubai in favor of an overnight and time to explore in S. Africa for this year).  

In short, I've decided it's all a go for one more season.  Even if the concept is crazy (depending on who you talk to), the numbers might not be.... right??  ....Right???  Besides, there's plenty of adventure to be had along the way, especially when the destination isn't the reason for the journey in the first place.

Until the next departure, fly safe-


**Official mileage season, as declared by me, falls on the non-holiday weeks from the start of November through December.  Cheaper fares, lower business travel, and the perfect time to scramble for those last miles. 

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