AMERICAN AIRLINES PLATINUM CHALLENGE

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FAST TRACK YOUR WAY TO ONEWORLD SAPPHIRE ELITE STATUS

 

Around 18 months ago we wrote a piece on how to fast-track your way to Star Alliance Gold status. Using a loophole with Aegean Airlines, it was possible to obtain gold status from just one long-haul return flight, and even more impressively, keep gold status throughout the Star Alliance for several years. As frequent fliers will know, it was an incredible shortcut of historic proportions. Unsurprisingly, the article remains one of our most popular to date.

However, as we stated at the time, industry shortcuts like this usually aren’t around for long. Sure enough, late in 2014, Aegean Airlines changed their elite status criteria and the amazing shortcut to Star Alliance Gold status was gone for good.

Since the Aegean shortcut was abolished, many readers have asked us for the next fastest and most affordable way to hit airline elite status. Not wanting to disappoint our fans, we scanned the frequent flyer globe and came up with an answer.

Let us introduce the American Airlines Platinum Challenge.

Follow this shortcut and you could hit OneWorld Sapphire status and enjoy all the perks such as lounge access, priority boarding and extra baggage allowances from as little as one flight.

Note: OneWorld Sapphire is the OneWorld equivalent of Star Alliance Gold, the mid-tier elite status recognized throughout the OneWorld alliance.
American Airlines Platinum Challenge
The American Airlines Platinum Challenge is an incredibly generous challenge thrown out to members of the AAdvantage program whereby American Airlines offer a shortcut to elite status.
Let us first note this ‘challenge’ is extremely under the radar. Like many of the best industry inside shortcuts, it’s completely unadvertised. There’s no mention of it anywhere on the American Airlines website, and we even spoke with several American Airlines phone representatives who had NO knowledge of this challenge.

The challenge has been covered on several reputable frequent flyer blogs, but the details are still patchy and usually varied with each review. Details can also change from year to year with zero notice. That said, allow us to take you through it. Here’s where things stand in the first quarter of 2015:

Whereas one would normally have to fly 50,000 miles over at least 4 segments to hit Platinum status on American Airlines (equivalent to OneWorld Sapphire) or any major US carrier, the Platinum Challenge criteria is simple. All you need to do is:

  • Pay a USD $200 challenge registration fee to American Airlines
  • Obtain 10,000 elite qualifying points (EQPs) by flying on certain OneWorld airlines in a 3 month period
Complete these simple criteria and you’ll be granted Platinum status for anywhere between an 8-20 month period. If that sounds like a wide-ranging, unspecified period of time, that’s because it is. In fact, when you complete the challenge is just as important as how you complete the challenge. Allow us to explain:
With most airlines, elite status is generally earned based on the number of miles flown in one calendar year, and is awarded for the following calendar year plus a few months into the next year, usually expiring at the end of February. (For example, if you earned AAdvantage Gold status in November 2014, you’d be gold status through the end of February 2016). But when it comes to earning elite status through challenges, this is not a hard and fast rule.

Specific dates vary by airline but normally, if you earn elite status through a challenge in the first half of the calendar year, you’ll be awarded status until the following February. If this were in early June for example, you’d have only 8 months to enjoy the benefits of elite status. However if you complete a challenge in the second half of the year, July for instance, you could enjoy elite status for well over a year (the second half of that year, the entire next year, and the first two months of the following year), extending your elite status up to a possible 20 months! Timing is everything.

The cutoff date for the American Airlines Platinum Challenge is June 16th. Challenges begun prior to June 16th, once completed, will only earn status for the remainder of that calendar year and the first two months (end of February) of the following year. But challenges begun on or after June 16th, once completed, earn status for the remainder of the year, the entire next year, and the first two months of the following year.

 

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Do we have any evidence that this challenge actually works? Absolutely. Just last week one of our writers put the challenge to the test. A flight was taken from London to Melbourne. Three days later our writer was credited with American Airlines Platinum status.
But before you get too excited and rush off and book your flights, there’s some important details we need to explain.
Airlines and Elite Qualifying Points (EQPs)

The beauty of this challenge is that you don’t even need to fly with American Airlines to complete it. You heard that right – you don’t need to fly with American Airlines at all to be granted Platinum Status.

In fact, you can complete this challenge by flying entirely on certain American Airlines partners. However you must fly on one of the following airlines:  American Airlines, American Eagle, the AmericanConnection carrier, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines and Qantas.

What you do need to do – is obtain 10,000 EQPs within a 3 month period.

Note that EQPs are NOT the same as Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). How many EQPs you obtain per mile flown will depend on a host of factors – notably – what airline, what class, and importantly, what booking code you select. It’s imperative you do your research here and be very careful about the booking codes. You dont want to book deep discount economy flights to find out your booking codes qualify for zero EQPs.
Check the points chart for each partner airline. Here’s a link to the points chart for British Airways.

 

As an example, let’s say you book a flight from London to New York – approximately 3445 miles. Now if you had booked this flight on British Airways discount economy class code M, you would receive 100% of the base miles at a ratio of 1.0 EQPs per mile. You would be credited with 3445 miles.

However, if you had booked that same flight on British Airways ‘deep’ discount economy class code N, you would receive only 0.50 EQPs per mile – 1723 EQPs.

So, in some cases you may have to fly more than 10,000 miles to hit your target of 10,000 EQP, but this shouldn’t deter you in the slightest. In fact, it’s possible to meet your challenge with a single flight! As mentioned above, a flight from London to Melbourne with the appropriate booking codes generated more than 10,000 EQPs – a great example of how careful research and planning can make this challenge pay off fast.

Bear in mind the points tables are different for each airline so if you’re planning to fly another airline such as Qantas, you need to check their table. It all requires careful analysis to ensure you will hit the 10,000 EQP mark. Do your homework however, and you’ll be rewarded.

The American Airlines Platinum Challenge Process

Below is a full explanation of the American Airlines Platinum Challenge process:

 

  • Sign up for American Airlines AAdvantage membership on their website. It’s free to join, and you should have an AAdvantage membership number within minutes.
  • Call the AAdvantage customer service hotline on 1-800-882-8880. It’s important you speak with a knowledgeable representative here. Again, we spoke with several agents who knew very few details about this challenge. If you encounter one of these less knowledgeable agents – don’t be deterred – just ask to speak to someone more senior. Failing that, simply hang up, call again and try with a different agent.
  • Explain that you would like to register for the Platinum Challenge.
  • Inform the agent of a suitable start date for your challenge – you’ll ideally want this to be just before you flights to maximize your 90 day window in which to accumulate the necessary number of miles flown.
  • The agent will bill you USD $200 to register for the challenge.
  • Be sure to provide your AAdvantage number to your OneWorld airline before you fly.
That’s it. It’s that easy. Follow these easy steps and one long haul flight could earn you the perks of airline elite status. See you in the airport lounge!
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