Thanks to American Airlines’ generosity, participants in the upcoming Oneworld MegaDO were able to participate in a fee-free status challenge. Normally, American charges for challenges and offers them only up to Platinum. MegaDO participants had reduced flying requirements and could match existing status with other airlines up to the top-tier Executive Platinum level.
And I’m now an Executive Platinum. The requirement was 20,000 flown miles on American within three months, which isn’t bad, except that the flying had to be completed by January 13 and it was mid-December before I decided to jump in and do it. American’s double elite qualifying miles promotion meant that any of the flying I did in January would could double towards re-qualifying for Executive Platinum, making it easy to keep the status for two years based largely on my flights in January.
With that, I held back and waited for a Virgin America sale which American matched, and I grabbed four roundtrips to the West Coast and a Florida roundtrip, all but one of the West Coast trips to be done in an 8 day period in January. Add in another trip I need to take later in the month, positioning flights for the MegaDO and the MegaDO itself, and I’m not just an Executive Platinum but also will end the month with over 60,000 qualifying miles.
The travel has been interesting to say the least, running into Billy Crystal last weekend (he followed behind me through security, was the only person not asked to go through the nude-o-scope, and then waited behind me to get into the AAdmiral’s Club while musing over what it would take to get Concierge Key status). On my last flight I followed American Idol judge Randy Jackson being escorted by American’s Five Star service. In the lounge he wound up talking to Reba McEntire. He wound up on my flight across the aisle in first class. Ahead of me was a pre- or early teen female aspiring pop star (accompanied by a handler) that I didn’t recognize but that Mr. Jackson stopped by several times to talk to during the flight. She practiced her signing inflight, it wasn’t very good, but fortunately my noise cancelling headphones did the trick.
While I had some minor quibbles with service along the way, like the inconsistency with which pre-departure beverages are served in first class and that my ice cream sundae was freezer burned on one flight, overall I was extremely happy. In fact, other than that one sundae the rest of the food has been quite decent compared to what I’m used to in domestic first class, and on transcons there’s even a printed menu still. Everyone has been friendly. And inflight wifi has changed my life.
I purchased a GoGo monthly pass. A majority of my flights have had wireless internet, the MD80s all do and many of the 737s do, I only wish they all did and especially wish the 737s with wifi had seat power, and that those with seat power had wifi, a frustration magnified by my need for a laptop with better battery life. As it stands, I power my screen down nearly all the way and at times have to bring it up close to my face to read the screen, if I want it to last much fo the flight.
There’s no question I got great value out of the $34.95 monthly pass, especially when a transcon is $14.95 and I had internet on at least three of those plus on several mid-con flights as well. Frustratingly, GoGo now requires you to cancel the service at least 7 days before the end of the month to avoid being charged for that next month. Since that’s a new requirement, it’s not something driven by technology or system limitations, it’s presumably a way to eek out an extra month’s revenue from customers intending to leave the service. Still, even though I’ll fly with wifi less in February than in January, the service will still pay off and I’ll likely keep it.
I never really knew what I Was missing with the service so regularly. A five hour flight taken during the business day can be stressful because by the time I land I’m hopelessly behind and it can take hours to catch up. Now I land more rested and relaxed because I’ve been able to plod along during the flight. Ironically, I’m better rested because I’ve been working, and certainly my productivity is increased tremendously thanks to GoGo’s wifi. And I love their tagline as you log in, “Can’t wait for 10,000 feet!”
My first flight had pretty slow wireless connectivity, all of my subsequent flights were better (wonder why?), and I admit I don’t really understand the low levels of adoption. Surely this is the future.
I’m no longer a Starwood Platinum, but the Sheraton LAX remains the best airport property. Not missing a ton without Platinum status there, they do give Platinums bigger rooms but mine were still comfortable and with free large bottles of water which is nice. I also didn’t miss the club lounge, where I’ve found evening spreads to be among the weakest I’ve seen, and I generally wasn’t around for breakfast except to take advantage of the Starbucks in the lobby (which always seems to open a few minutes late, though admittedly 5:30am is early).
Thanks to the nearby Avis I had a 55 mile Infiniti M37 and an 800 mile Volvo S60. Those facilitated seeking out some good Mexican food, and of course the obligatory In N Out run.
Of course, I could have avoided the car entirely and just hopped the Parking Spot (Sepulveda location) bus from the airport, the In N Out is right next door, then taken that bus back to the airport for the Sheraton bus. (I wrote about this back in 2008.) Not really what I wanted to do though, but a common tactic during extended LAX layovers for sure.
Wonderful thing about the In N Out isn’t just the good fast food burger, and for some the animal fries, but sitting outside watching landings of strange foreign aircraft at LAX.
Great thing as an Executive Platinum is that – in contrast to, for instance, United’s 1K level – it’s actually top tier status. United has Global Services, that program started outside of Mileage Plus and there used to be even Global Services members who weren’t 1Ks as well. But it’s become the new invitation-only top tier, and 1K is more like what Premier Executive used to be back in the day. American’s revenue-based recognition program, Concierge Key, is really a service program and doesn’t’ impinge on the AAdvantage elite program.
Upgrades generally clear. American holds back more first class seats until the airport which means it’s often possible to change flights at the last minute and still get an upgrade.
And their 8 ‘systemwide’ international upgrades are valid from any fare, rather than requiring a higher fare buyup which often equates to buying a lottery ticket, you spend money for the chance at upgrading but of course if your upgrade doesn’t clear the extra cost of the higher fare isn’t refunded to you. (Delta’s minimum fare requirement – M fares are nearly full fare – is particularly heinous here.)
I’m excited to continue getting to know an airline that I haven’t flown a ton in the past, despite 3 million miler (and lifetime Platinum) status with them. And especially because their miles have become increasingly valuable for aspirational first class awards.