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Crazy First Class Mileage Run Haiti
For a brief period of time on Tuesday American Airlines had amazing $375 RT First/Business Class fares to Port-au-Prince, Haiti from various Delta hub cities. One of the better deals was from Seattle. Depending on the exact routing, each ticket involves about 8,000 miles of flying roundtrip.
In the old world this would have been good news for elite qualifying on American, but alas we live in a new world of loyalty. In the old days each trip would earn about 12,000 EQMs which would put a nice dent in the path towards Executive Platinum. Today they actually earn even more EQMs than under the old program (2X instead of 1.5X), but with the Elite Qualifying Dollar requirement you still won’t qualify to be an elite.
The combination of terrible earnings, terrible service and a gutted awards program have lead me into a different direction. I briefly covered my surprise Alaska status match and my ascension to MVP Gold 75K in that program. Since I am planning to re-qualify for that status these fares came in handy. I can credit my earnings to Alaska’s program since American is a partner.
When I first saw the fares I decided that I was going to book with Citi ThankYou points at 1.6 cents per point value. I chose this over the American Express Business Platinum “Pay With Points” rebate simply because I have a ton of ThankYou points (thanks to the AT&T Access More card) and because the ability to redeem them at that value on America Airlines is going away soon.
I live in Las Vegas which means I will have to position for these fares. While Salt Lake City was also among the cities included in this deal, I decided to go further away to Seattle. First, the itineraries from Seattle were better and I will of course earn more EQMs since the flying distance is longer. Second, flights from Las Vegas to Seattle are actually cheaper on most days than to Salt Lake City. That is because Delta & Alaska are battling it out on that route plus Spirit launched nonstop service as well.
Once I identified Seattle, I decided that I would want to book back to back tickets in order to maximize my time. Why fly up to Seattle for just one roundtrip when I could book two or three? And knowing how quickly these things die, I decided on three tickets. Back to back to back.
The total cost for all 3 tickets combined was 71,073 ($1137.17 Value) ThankYou points and the itinerary looks something like this:
Day 1: Depart SEA 5:30PM
Day 2: Arrive PAP 9:07AM
Day 2: Depart PAP 1:55PM
Day 2: Arrive SEA 11:07PM
Day 3: Depart SEA 1:05PM
Day 4: Arrive PAP 9:07AM
Day 4: Depart PAP 1:55PM
Day 4: Arrive SEA 11:07PM
Day 5: Depart SEA 5:30PM
Day 6: Arrive PAP 9:07AM
Day 6: Depart PAP 11:54AM
Day 6: Arrive SEA 9:25PM
While this will no doubt be exhausting, it will be an experience as well. Additionally I made sure to give myself some rest time. For example, I arrive late in Seattle after my first trip but don’t fly out until 1:05PM the next day so I can sleep in. Similarly, following the second trip I have almost an entire day in Seattle before heading back out.
Strangely I couldn’t get the same routings on most tickets. During the course of these flights I will go through LAX, JFK, CLT and MIA. Thankfully most directions only have one connection so it isn’t too bad. While I wish I could have managed to snag a widebody here and there, all of the flights are on A321 or B737 aircraft in their domestic first class cabins. Not the best, but it beats coach.
Two More Mileage Runs
After getting those tickets squared away I began chatting with a friend and we agreed to try to squeeze in back to back runs into a long weekend in July. Since I was paranoid this would die, I quickly held three tickets on American’s website as backups in case we couldn’t come to a consensus on flights before it died. I also wanted to make sure I had a day to spend in Haiti which is something I didn’t schedule in my first bookings.
It turns out I made the right choice. Just as we found something that seemed to work, the pricing jumped. Alas we wouldn’t be mileage running together, but thankfully I still had my backup tickets held. Although I had three tickets on hold, I only booked two of them since the connection between tickets 2 and 3 would have been too tight. While I would have loved to pay for these flights with ThankYou points, since they were held on the AA website, I used some gift cards I had sitting around. (Bought utilizing credit card travel credits.)
Here is the itinerary for the two July flights which includes a day in Haiti:
Day 1: Depart SEA 10:05PM
Day 2: Arrive PAP 11:13AM
Day 3: Depart PAP 9:00AM
Day 3: Arrive SEA 6:59PM
Day 3: Depart SEA 10:05PM
Day 4: Arrive PAP 11:13AM
Day 4: Depart PAP 1:55PM
Day 4: Arrive SEA 11:52PM
What I Get
These fares are all D/I coded which means they earn the following in the Alaska Airlines program:
Each of my tickets has a different routing and will earn slightly different amounts of miles, however they are all at least 7,500 miles flown. Let’s use that conservative number for calculations.
Based on 7,500 for each roundtrip, I will earn 11,250 qualifying miles for each trip or 56,250 qualifying miles total. These fares will also earn a total of 56,250 redeemable miles as well, but it is much better for me. I earn a 125% bonus as an Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K member. That means I should earn about 126,000 Redeemable miles.
Alaska Elite Through 2019
Alaska has a couple of very good levels of elite status that come with 100%+ bonuses and free upgrades. MVP Gold is reached when you fly the following:
As you can see, these 5 tickets will get me MVP Gold status through 2019. Of course, I want to get MVP Gold 75K, but the requirements for that status are much steeper.
Between my 5 trips to Haiti and what I earn for my flights to/from Seattle to re-position, I will be about 30,000 miles short of earning MVP Gold 75K. At this point I am not sure if I will go for it considering I will have MVP Gold, but who knows?!? Note that if I do hit MVP Gold 75K, I would also get another 50,000 redeemable miles as a kicker so that might be enough motivation.
Other than a bunch of time (which I am not discounting), here are my costs for this journey. To start, I spent 71,073 ThankYou points plus $741 in AA gift cards. I will also spend another 21,000 Ultimate Rewards points for my two roundtrip flights between Las Vegas and Seattle. I also need some hotels as well.
- 71,073 ThankYou points
- 21,000 Ultimate Rewards points
- $741 in AA gift cards
- 4 Hotel nights in Seattle
- 1 Hotel night in Haiti
What I Receive:
- 126,000 Redeemable Alaska miles
- Alaska MVP Gold status through 2019
While I won’t assign a value to this (I’ll let you determine value for yourself), I value the Alaska miles roughly at the overall cost of the tickets including hotel nights. There is also A LOT of time invested which is something that needs to be factored in. Thankfully since this is my job, doing crazy stuff like this is a bit easier to justify. I will also be flying almost entirely on aircraft with WiFi and should be able to work during many/most of my flights. (If I have the energy!)
These crazy mileage runs sadly are a reminder of how things will be changing this year. AA is doing away with free holds (although they do have 24 hour cancels) and soon ThankYou points will be worth a max of 1.25 cents each to book flights. I’m glad I was able to use these to my advantage and get these flights booked, but I’m exhausted just thinking about all of the flying. At least it is up front. The only place to be!
Did you book any of these tickets? Share your crazy plans in the comments!
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