American Airlines Challenge

In the last post we mentioned the American Airlines challenge. This challenge allows someone without elite status to fly a reduced number of miles to reach status more quickly. Normally one must fly 25,000, 50,000, or 100,000 miles per year to attain Gold, Platinum, or Executive Platinum status on American Airlines. However, with the Challenge, you can fly 5,000 or 10,000 miles in 90 days and qualify for Gold or Platinum instead. There is no challenge for Executive Platinum.

Please note that this is an unpublished program and is a one time only option for travelers wishing to switch status from another carrier, or someone who's future travel requirements has increased so much that they want to obtain status faster. You cannot re-qualify using the Challenge next year. Since it is an unpublished benefit it could go away at anytime, but with the recent addition of challenges at US Airways, United, and other airlines I doubt its going away soon.

To register for the Challenge call the AAdvantage desk (800-882-8880) and give them your frequent flyer number. There is a fee associated with the challenge depending upon which status level you want to achieve. As of this writing (Sep 2009) the fee is $100 for the Gold challenge and $200 for the Platinum challenge. Normally you have to pick the first or 16th of the month to start your challenge, and you have 90 days to complete the required miles. Any challenges started in the second half of the year (after July 16) generally qualify you for the rest of the year and all of next year. The representative I just spoke with also mentioned that you can pay for the Gold challenge, and if you end up achieving 10,000 points you can pay $125 and be moved up to Platinum.

After registering it is time to book your flights. Make sure you understand the difference between American AAdvantage points and miles as outlined in the previous post. The challenge is based solely on points. And points are based on fare class. So if you buy a deeply discounted ticket, there is a good chance you will only earn 0.5 miles per flown mile. Meaning you have to double your flying.

Check out the next post for hints on searching for Challenge friendly fares.