American Airlines has been sending out “secure your status” offers where they offer you back the elite status you currently hold. You just have to fork over some cash. In my case, I’ve held Gold status for 2019 thanks to a status challenge offer last year. I was able to use a couple work trips to hang onto it through this year, managing to use some 500-mile upgrades as a lowly Gold to snag domestic first on a trip with my daughter.
But would I pay $715 to keep AAdvantage Gold? Not on your life.
Why Status Purchase Offers Are Silly
Elite status with airlines is an addictive thing. Once you get on the hamster wheel, you don’t want to stop. It makes you irrational. I’ve enjoyed status with all three major airlines this year, and it has really come through for me several times. I’ve enjoyed cross-country first class upgrades with Delta, reduced fees and Economy+ seats with United, and the ability to book last-minute AA awards without the $75 close-in fee.
All of these perks are valuable, but paying $715 for the lowest level status with just one carrier is insane. The perks are nice, but I’ve never received a status offer where what you get is worth what you pay. Thanks, but no thanks, American.
As a general rule, if you’re not flying enough organically to keep the status, it’s not worth paying to keep it. Going even further, it’s rarely even worth mileage-running for status. However, there are times where a well-planned mileage run can pay dividends. If you actually are considering paying to keep your elite status, consider a mileage run instead, as you will likely come out ahead.
Ok, maybe not. But you might come out even compared to buying it back outright, and/or get a vacation out of the deal.
Mileage Run to Secure Your Status
Truth be told, I really only enjoyed the benefits of my AA Gold status last year, with the exception of booking last-minute tickets on one occasion this year, which saved $75 times 3 passengers. I have credited a couple partner flights to American AAdvantage this year, but I am pretty far away from Gold and don’t plan to attempt to keep it.
But if I was interested in keeping AAdvantage Gold, I’d rather fly somewhere and enjoy a couple days than just fork over some cash to American and call it a day. It would be a mileage run-turned-vacation.
The particular run I’m looking at would be a ticket from San Francisco to Singapore (via Hong Kong) in Cathay Pacific premium economy. This ticket earns 100% flown miles as redeemable miles, 1.5x flown miles as elite qualifying miles, and 20% flown miles as elite qualifying dollars. This itinerary is just over 17,000 flown miles (calculated by MileCalc). It would earn 25,500 EQMs and $3,400 EQDs, just enough to hit AAdvantage Gold in one fell swoop.
This Cathay Pacific premium economy ticket is $1,355 round-trip. Sure, that is quite a bit more than $715, but it’s still a fine play.
The ticket also earns just over 17,000 American Airlines miles which I value conservatively at $255 (1.5 cents per mile). This is a decent return on a $1,355 ticket, and brings the cost difference to just $385. Now you’re effectively paying $355 to have a weekend in Singapore. Worth it? Maybe not. But I’d rather take a trip than not. And if I can get 3+ cents each out of my AAdvantage miles, the cost difference disappears rapidly.
The other option is just fork over money to AA and go nowhere. I’d rather travel. Plus, Cathay Pacific premium economy ain’t half bad.
Considering that I would be mileage running an entire elite status level in one go, there are almost certainly better mileage run options for most folks who need fewer EQMs and EQDs. You can almost certainly achieve your next level of status for less than what American asks. Again, I don’t really recommend mileage runs to people, as if you’re not flying enough to earn the status, then you’re probably not using the benefits enough to make it worth it.
But if I was 1,000-5,000 miles short of an mid-tier or upper-tier status? I’d probably look into booking the cheapest ticket I could to make sure I lock it in for the coming year.
Just don’t take a lame status offer where you pay the airline $100s.