I still think that is madness, simply because I can't fly that long continuously in Economy but for those who can and are willing to do that, more power to them.
But there is this variant called a status run. The premise is that rather than focusing on earning miles to use for free flights, the aim is to earn elite status with airlines. And the actual miles earned are just a bonus on top.
So I recently found a cheap business class fare to Panama on American Airlines and booked it over the Memorial Day weekend. Then I also found there was a platinum status challenge with American, where you pay $200 then if you earn 12,500 EQM (elite qualifying miles), you get platinum status until ~Feb 2017. Usually you need to earn 50,000 EQM to earn platinum status.
So with my trip to Panama for $850 + $200 I earn platinum status. Now I am wondering of going on more status runs to continue my platinum status after Feb 2017 or even earning Executive Platinum status to earn SWUs (systemwide upgrades valid on almost any American airlines flight worldwide).
|Benefits of elite status on American Airlines (source: aa.com)|
By booking a premium flight, you board early, sometimes before the elites in economy, get lounge access, get more luggage allowance, supposedly priority luggage handling. The only thing I can think of that elites flying in economy have that premium tickets don't have is access to the elite phone centers in case flights get disrupted, delayed or cancelled and they need to get rebooked on other flights. But I feel in the lounges, you can still access that as a premium flyer.
So, let's do the math in my case and whether it makes sense to go on status runs. Especially given that I don't particularly travel that much aside from award travel on vacation
To re-earn platinum for 2017
$850 for Panama roundtrip flight
$100 for 1 night in Panama
$60 for taxi to/from airport in Panama
Not including meals since I'll eat anyway
$1000 to have platinum status for another year.
Per this page: http://thepointsguy.com/2016/02/what-is-aa-elite-status-worth-2016/ it estimates platinum status at $2840 for someone who flies 60,000 eqm per year. Since I mostly fly on award tickets in premium class, I feel like the value I'm getting from status is pretty close to zero actually. The only benefit really comes when I fly in economy. Things like priority check-in, boarding, access to main cabin extra seating, exit rows, free checked bags. Also, the 500 mile upgrade certificates, those have some value. But I find it hard to justify an extra $1000 for platinum status, when I'll have gold status anyway from my existing travel.
Now I do get a lot of enjoyment out of flying premium cabins so taking a flight in lie flat seat part of the way to Panama is giving me some enjoyment although it's hard to put a value on this but certainly not quite $1000. And I'll be going to Panama in May, so going again in say July, I'm not so sure, I'd be maybe staying 1 night. Although I may end up liking Panama and enjoy spending more time there.
Now then, if I'm going to go for status, I feel like I may want to go for Executive Platinum status, since I get 4 SWUs which I can use to fly 2 people on a roundtrip in business for the price of an economy ticket, it'd be great to use them to go to New Zealand, this would save perhaps something like $10,000.
However, if I conservatively estimate that I'll use them for travel to Asia or Europe, then a Y (economy) ticket may cost $1200 per person RT. Whereas a J (business) ticket may cost $4500. Being conservative on both ends, Y fares can go for $700 and J tickets can easily go for $5000+. So if I save $3300 per person X 2, it's a savings of $6600.
To get to Exec Plat, I'd need to do 3 total extra Panama trips plus I'd still be short a few thousand EQM.
So I'm looking at $3000 to get the status and get $6600 in value. This seems like a good deal.
What' interesting is that when I started writing this, I was convinced there was no point to earning status for status sake when I don't fly frequently but now I've convinced myself to go for Exec Plat status this year. -.-
Hmm.... so I'd go over July 4th, Labor Day, plus a random weekend, then need to get a few thousand more eqm from someplace.