On Monday, Dec 28, I checked my American Airlines frequent flyer balance for the first time in ages and clicked on the elite qualifying information maybe for the first time ever… I discovered that I was one flight segment away from Gold status. For all you serious and jaded world travelers, I’m sure this sounds like no big deal since you easily reach Platinum status every year. Not me. Not yet.
I’m cheap, and I’m just learning the tricks to thing whole mileage game. I only recently purchased the Frequent Flyer Master ebook from Chris Gillebeau, which I highly recommend.* So this was kind of a big deal to me. Gold status means not paying checked baggage charges, having priority standby, and a Gold Advantage desk to call when booking flights. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s definitely helpful.
The kicker was that I was already traveling before the end of the year to Memphis to visit my sister and her family. If I’d just checked my elite status a few weeks earlier, then I would have purchased that ticket to Memphis instead of accepting my parents’ miles for the New Year’s trip! So I tried just about everything I could think of to accomplish this extra segment…
- Maybe I’ll purchase my flight to Memphis and reschedule the mileage flight for a later date? Two visits to see my nephews would be great. –> Nope. Flights into Memphis didn’t budge up until the last minute from over $600 each way.
- Maybe I’ll check flights to Little Rock and rent a car to drive the extra two hours to Memphis. –> Nope. The flights to Little Rock we’re outrageous, but when you add in the additional expense of the rental car, I would be paying over $500 for the benefit of a low level elite status. It’s good, but it’s definitely not that good.
- I even emailed Chris, the Frequent Flyer Master himself, just to make sure that he hadn’t heard of any last minute way to get the miles that I was missing and to ask his advice about my dilemma. –> Nope. Chris was great, but he didn’t know of a super-quick posting mileage option that might help. Most options take a while to post to your account.
- Maybe I’ll just take a cheap, quick roundtrip flight to somewhere close by to get the last segment I need before I left on my flight to Memphis. –> Nope. The prices weren’t outrageous, but the best I could do at the last minute and in the area was about $280 (since I needed to be there and back to Dallas to catch my midday flight to Memphis on Wednesday, Dec. 30). But, when I added in the extra night at the kennel for my dog and parking at the airport with the impending snow and ice headed toward Dallas on Tuesday night, Dec 29, it just didn’t add up, and, as Chris also suggested, the Gold status benefits may not be worth that expense especially when it can be achieved at less expense, just not immediately.
It’s embarrassing to admit how much time I spent trying to determine whether or not it was worth purchasing a random cheap roundtrip ticket for the one qualifying segment before the end of the calendar year, but ultimately I decided to let it go.
The Best Solution is Often the Simplest
There’s always 2010 to make the run for miles (or participate in a challenge) maybe making a higher status and in a smarter way. For instance, I thought, next year I will keep all of my boarding passes and check that those miles have posted to my account because am more invested in the process and because one of my new year’s resolutions is to travel MORE, but spend LESS.
Then it occurred to me that I had been saving those boarding passes during the second half of 2009, and I wondered whether any of those flights weren’t already posted to my account…
All I need is one segment to push me over the edge to Gold. I searched through the pile of boarding passes to find that the last one didn’t have my frequent flyer number listed on the boarding pass itself. So I called the AAdvanatge desk to see if it was possible that this flight hadn’t been posted to my account. The very nice woman I spoke to looked up my flight and put me on hold. The ticket itself showed that it was a Class T flight, which doesn’t mean much to me. I think it may not actually be elite qualifying, but I decided that I’d ask anyway. She came back on the phone and told me that they had manually adjusted my status to Gold and that it would show up in my account when I purchased my next ticket.
Embarrassed & Excited
I’m not sure whether the flight was actually elite qualifying or whether I just spoke to the right person (more likely!), but I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth. I’m still a little embarrassed that I didn’t think of checking old boarding passes earlier – the obvious and *free* answer to my problem. But, I’m definitely excited that I got the desired result with no extra money spent, and I thought maybe you could learn from it…
To recap, here are my lessons learned:
#3: Don’t assume that the solution has to be complicated.
#2: Keep boarding passes and check them against your FF account.
#1: If you don’t like the answer you receive from an airline, hang up and call back until you do.
Here’s the caveat, I won’t believe the status is legit until I see it show up on my account online. The nice woman assured me that I could call back if it didn’t show up, and the manual change would be noted on my account. TBD. I’ll update with a comment here when (or if?!#!) the status shows up.
Now, I’m off to figure out what flight I need to purchase next…
Update: My Gold status did show up as promised.