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This week I have focused on premium economy fares to  Europe, and how buying one earns enough frequent flier miles for a domestic round trip with American Airlines or Alaska Air. Those redemptions are possible for any traveler. Today, I’m showing what’s possible for top frequent fliers with those airlines.

Top Fliers Earn A Lot More Miles

Getting to the top with American or Alaska takes a serious commitment to flying with those airlines or partners. There are certain ways to boost your status earnings, but you’re still looking at several thousand dollars and a lot of time on planes with either airline. For AA, it’s 100,000 “Elite Qualifying Miles” and $15,000 in “Elite Qualifying Dollars”.

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American Airlines status requirements

For Alaska it’s a bit easier, but still a haul: 75,000 qualifying miles on Alaska, or 90,000 if you include partners. There’s no spending requirement to earn Alaska status.

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Alaska Air status requirements

As you  might expect, reaching the top tier of an airline loyalty program gets you a lot of perks. One major positive for both American and Alaska elites is a large bonus when earning miles. AA offers 120%…

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…and Alaska offers 125%. More than doubling your award miles can be a significant incentive for loyalty!

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Flying the Family for “Free”

I’ll use the examples from this week’s Amsterdam and Madrid flights: booking British Airways premium economy from Los Angeles earns basic fliers ~11,500 miles in either program. But remember, top elites earn more than double that amount. AA’s Executive Platinum members will receive about 25,300 miles, and Alaska Air MVPs will earn 25,800. For simplicity, I’ll round it down to 25,000 for both.

What does that get you with American Airlines? Well, with web specials, how about a round trip for you and your spouse from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in the middle of winter?

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2 main cabin seats on these exact same flights totals well over $600.

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But why not bring the kids? True, you can’t get round trips for everyone. But what if you wanted to fly yourself, your partner, and 3 kids out of wintry New York and straight to Miami with a web special? Why yes, that’s 5 one-way tickets to the beach from a single premium economy round trip (+$28).

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Similar deals on shorter flights (under 700 miles) are also available for Alaska elites. What if you’d like to fly a family of 4 one-way from Utah to San Diego for Christmas? It’s possible. Actually, if 5 seats had been available, there were enough miles for all of them.

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4 one-way tickets available on Christmas eve.


Often we overlook the possibilities for earning useful redemptions these days. As the  major U.S. airlines make it harder to earn miles, much of the savings from “dynamic pricing” of  awards seems beyond us. But premium economy can provide opportunities to save hundreds of dollars on future travel. We just need to take advantage.

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