Last week I was facing a bit of a conundrum: I had an upcoming flight on an alliance I don’t bank a lot of miles in and I wanted to make sure I got the best points value for the travel. This was one of the $950 Chile in business class fares so, to be honest, even without the miles I’d say I was getting pretty good value (n.b. this is the same trip ultimately canceled due to illness but the exercise still makes sense I think). Given that the flights covered more than 12,000 miles in paid business class there had to be somewhere useful to put them, right? Here’s the thought process I went through to make my decision about where they should post.
First up, as is my default for flights on both American Airlines and Delta, I looked at crediting to the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan program. Alas, the two longest flights were codeshares (AA code, LA metal) which meant no chance of credit. Without those flights crediting the pain of splitting the segments onto different programs was far in excess of the value realized. OK, scratch MileagePlan from the game plan. I guess I really need to do some research on this one.
My next thought was to credit the flights to AAdvantage. It is an AA ticket, I already have some points in an AA account and, all else being equal, it seems like a reasonably safe place to put a small stash. But is it the best choice? Here’s what the points would have looked like credited to AA:
Netting over 16,000 award miles isn’t so bad, but also not spectacular. More disappointing to me was that the status earning potential in AAdvantage would be pretty poor. The 19,000+ EQPs is great but I still wouldn’t be AAdvantage Gold (lowest elite tier) And getting 6,000 more EQPs would take a lot of flying on cheap fares (only .5 EQP credit for G, Q, N, O and S) which is what I usually purchase. I was mentioning my disappointment over this to Fozz and he suggested Avios as an alternative. Now I had to do some real research.
The combination of Avios and British Airways Executive Club is one which I’ve thought about from time to time but never done much research on. I get Avios from my American Express Membership Rewards transfers more than from actually flying with their partners so not so much in caring about accrual rates. And status in a program which requires me to fly some number of segments on their planes isn’t quite so easy when said planes are based in London. Still, I had to give it a look. The numbers were pleasantly surprising.
That same 16,491 award miles number gets me three one-way short-haul awards (and a decent bit leftover) or two one-way medium-haul awards. I think that’s of more value than the same number in the AAdvantage program (though with much larger numbers the metrics can shift). On the status earning side of things the 540 Tier Points (Tier Points calculator here) leaves me 60 points short of Silver status. I’d have more than the 300 points required for Bronze status, though I’d still need two BA metal flights (or 4 for Silver). Sure, it would require more travel to get to the status threshold but far less than what AA would require of me and the value of that status would be much better. BA Silver includes oneworld sapphire status which includes lounge access, priority check-in and 100% bonus RDM earning on future flights. That’s pretty darn nice.
Alas, the trip was not meant to be for me (all three PointsHoarder hosts scheduled to make the hop to IPC had to cancel; maybe there is a curse). Still, going through the process of exploring where to credit the flights was a useful learning exercise for me. And spending the 20 minutes reviewing my options helped ensure I was making the best possible decision. At least I think I was.
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