Friday, November 11, 2016

The New Math, Mileage Style...

Welcome to Doha- Your destination for all your future mileage earning needs. 
So, so.... what can we say about current events?  Plenty, but this is not the blog for that.  As part of my angst over the past couple weeks, I decided to direct some energy elsewhere, and finish up planning my mileage runs for next year early.  I mean, it was that, or watching old episodes of "Commander In Chief" and killing a bottle of wine.  So, choices....

Now, I know that this type of early planning my not fit the traditional definition of 'Mileage Running' as it used to be, back when you'd just top up your mileage account in November or December on a few long flights, preferably with some added Double Miles bonus, or other incentive.  However, those days are over.  Since the revenue-based earnings and elite qualifying dollars have been introduced across the US's three major carriers, getting your status done each year has needed to get more creative.

Enter, the new Mileage Lifestyle.  Ironically, it's far more lucrative to renew you American Airlines status (or Delta for that matter) by trying to almost never step on an American flight on a mileage run.  Good job with that planning, AA leadership, we're all about to know way more about the Doha airport than we ever imagined.

"The Teddy Bear" at the DOH airport.  You will get used to it, I promise.
Instead, I'm heading to a few of the Oneworld partner airlines who, on occasion, have some very lucrative sales on premium class tickets to all corners of the world. What's important to know, is that partner flights in premium classes more or less earn redeemable miles like 'the good old days.'  For an Executive Platinum member, you stand to earn based on the miles flown, plus a 120% bonus, plus any cabin class bonus miles.  They also earn some extra elite qualifying miles, and more importantly, elite qualifying dollars based on a percentage of the distance flown.

Let's have a quick look at some 'sweet spot' examples.  First up, Qatar:
(Click on the chart for larger image)
So, what's the deal here?  The place to look on this chart is at those business R and I codes.  Qatar has been liking to sell promotional fares in these buckets for a fraction of what they're worth.  There have been discounts, holiday code sales, and 2 for 1 deals.  Simply put- this airline is growing, has a lot of business class seats to sell, and a lot of government 'equity.' 

What does this mean in terms of earnings?  How is it different than flying AA?  Well, for starters, let's do the math for each.  Let's take a hypothetical $1000 ticket for round numbers (yes, this is an expensive mileage run, but...math).  At the outset, on one of these fare deals you might be booking into business class for long haul on Qatar, while you almost certainly would be in coach on AA.  Let's say the ticket travels 20,000 base miles (this is like an itinerary from LAX-Doha-SE Asia and back, which is long, most average long haul ones lately have been in the 17-18k range for me but once again, math). 

On AA, in economy as an EXP, you would earn 11,000 redeemable miles (the $1000 you spent, times 11), 20,000 elite qualifying miles (the distance you flew), and $1000 elite qualifying dollars.  I'm assuming that the $1000 does not include the taxes that aren't included in the qualifying dollars under the new rules. So in short, the AA flight = economy travel (maybe you could standby for the upgrade) and 11k usable miles, 20k elite qualifying, and 1k elite qualifying dollars.

Now the same $1000 ticket on Qatar- at the start, you'd be in business class. So there's that.  Your earnings would look like this: 44,000 redeemable miles (20k + 120% bonus), 30,000 elite qualifying miles (the 20k with a 1.5 multiplier), and $4000 elite qualifying dollars (20k flown miles times .20).

Anyone see where I'm going with this???

I'll also note that I've recently been able to find some great deals on one way and shorter-haul Qatar tickets that book into A and D classes, making them even more lucrative.

Now, let's assume that in all honesty you're likely to pay a bit more for that Qatar business ticket, than the AA economy ticket.  Fair enough, but with current rates you're only going to be paying a few hundred more from what I've seen, if you're willing to dig around for the deals.  Add to that that at a $.02 value, those extra miles are worth in the neighborhood of $600, and with miles being harder to come by these days, I value them even more. Further, you don't need to burn a systemwide upgrade (someplace around a $350+ value) trying to make this trip comfortable, which is good, since we're only getting four now.  Save those for that trip with the family to Europe.

But, you say, 'What if I don't want to go to Doha? I'm trying to avoid 110 degree heat and questionable governments this year!'  Well, there are some other bright spots in the partner charts.  Take, for instance, British Airways' premium economy tickets.
(Click on the chart for a larger image)
Have a look at those W, E and T fares.  I've seen those get reasonably priced for some long haul flights.  What's even more interesting about those, is that if you have some Avios, or some AmEx Membership awards points that can be made into Avios, those fares can be upgraded to business class using them. Not a bad way to go to, say, Africa, and back in business class for well under 2k. 

So, this is the first iteration of the new mileage math.  It has its downsides: you're more limited in destination on average, though AA also has a few routes that always came up as well.  The initial price may be a shade higher, but you get more for it, and may need to do less.  The takeaway here, is that it's still possible to find some good deals to keep your status, and enjoy doing it.  

As an added bonus, we're about to finally know where Qatar is.

To see my preview of what a 'new math' mileage run looks like: Best Worst Decisions

Thanks for reading and travel well,


PS, if you don't want to spend your days and nights learning the ins and outs of mileage math, but still want to travel better, let me help you!  Check out Altitude Consulting and get in touch!

No comments:

Post a Comment