Why I Just Spent 28 Hours On a Plane

By  | 

I just spent 28 hours in transit on 5 flights, coming back from a two day mini-vacation in Panama. And when you calculate the outbound flights, it’s more like 56 hours of travel for 39 hours of leisure. My back is killing me. So why am I excited?

I just earned 43,000 award miles and 25% of the elite qualifying miles (eqm) I need to requalify for top airline status. All in a long weekend!

American Airlines has been/is offering $700-$900 First Class fares from Los Angeles to Panama City, Panama. Since Panama wasn’t at the top of my wish list and Los Angeles is quite a ways from DC, I couldn’t understand why my friend was encouraging me to do the mileage run. Fortunately patiently walked through what a great deal it was.

The routing was LAX (Los Angeles)-JFK(New York)-MIA(Miami)-Panama City (PTY), which is 9, 432 miles according to the Great Circle Mapper. Because it’s a paid first class fare, you earn 150% award miles and double status miles.

american airlines earning miles chart

So my flights yielded 14, 148 award miles and 18.864 miles towards status. Executive Platinums still currently get a 100% mileage bonus, which boosted my award miles total to 23, 580.

But it gets better! The flights qualify for American Airlines’s premium class bonus miles offer.
AA bonus miles promotion

As an Executive Platinum I earned 3,500 miles for the LAX-JFK segments, and 500-1,000 for the rest, a total of 10,000 additional award miles.

Tack on the miles earned by flying from the East Coast to Los Angeles and back and I’ve netted over 43,000 award miles for around $1100, plus I got a two night vacation in Panama City, just enough time to soak in some sun, experience the food, and check out the Panama Canal.

Keri Panama Canal top viewing deck

The outbound wasn’t bad. I broke up the flights with a night in LA to hang with a friend and saved the cost of a New York hotel room by taking the redeye. It was the flights back that were a little brutal – 6AM out of Panama, landing in DC at 11AM the next day. Even in lie-flat seats on the JFK-LAX flights, not enough time for sleep.

view of american airlines a321 lie flat business seats

But thanks to this trip, and 3 other fun adventures including Portland Urban Winetasting and the Iditarod, I’m already at 80K for the year making requalifying for Executive Platinum much easier!

If you’re interested in doing this mileage run, Google Flights is still showing availability for select dates May-July, though you might have to pay more and play with dates and flights to get the LAX-JFK legs that earn the biggest bonus. Economy fares are available for under $400, but then you’re not getting the class of service or premium bonus offers.

Note your existing status with American Airlines will determine how many miles you earn, so make sure you do the calculations!

Also note: you should go as soon as you can, before American Airlines puts their new revenue-based mileage earning guidelines in place mid-year.

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

Related Posts:

Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world.


  1. Flying Chris

    April 29, 2016 at 3:43 am

    Was this intentional?

    When I clicked on your “Google Flights is still showing availability” link the first choice of flight options in each direction were both 3 segs each way LAX-MCO-MIA-PTY//PTY-MIA-DFW-LAX.

    And on the shortest segments in each direction, it was on a 767 with flat seats….in F. MCO-MIA & MIA-DFW.

    Good job!

    • Keri Anderson

      April 29, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Was not intentional — just trying to provide a quick link to start searching for flights but that’s pretty awesome. The LAX-JFK segments are harder to find (I booked back in February) so takes some searching across dates but worth it for the extra bonus miles.

  2. Louis

    April 29, 2016 at 9:35 am

    If it’s an F fare, why is there a picture of the J cabin???

    • Keri Anderson

      April 29, 2016 at 11:13 am

      I was able to book the JFK-LAX segments in Biz on the A321 with lie-flat seats. So much better than domestic first!

  3. Ash

    May 1, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Great run! I’m wondering what personal reasons you have for going after status? Is it lounge access, upgrades, or baggage, or something else? I’ve never personally seen much value in status, but then, I normally fly J by default on long haul and am fine with economy for anything under 6 hours..

    • Keri Anderson

      May 2, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      A great question! My big two motivations are upgrades and flexibility. The majority of my paid trips are domestic, so free upgrades make a big difference for having room to work inflight and for comfort (and my back/sciatic nerve act up after about 3 hours in coach). I also value the flexibility as an Executive Platinum of being able to book and cancel award trips with no fees, especially as my parents and other family members are getting older.

  4. Jeff

    September 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve seen several posts on flying LAX-PTY on AA, via LAX-JFK-MIA-PTY. Like yours, these posts have all been 2015-2016, so I’m not sure if AA has changed the routing since then, or I’m not doing something right. But when I look for a similar non-direct route, the best I can find is LAX-ATL-MIA-PTY. I’d like to find a route that includes JFK. Am I just being lame?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *