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Aug 23

The two best airline elite perks (that don’t involve upgrades)

I write a fair amount about elite status, the extra perks that airlines give you for flying a certain amount of miles (and/or spending a certain amount of money) each year. To me, the best perks are related to the ability to upgrade, whether its free domestic upgrades or certificates for international upgrades. Because that’s my bias, it’s what I tend to write about. Having said that, however, there are certainly a lot of other benefits from elite status, some of which don’t get a lot of publicity. Here are two of my favorites:

Free changes with JetBlue’s Mosaic status: JetBlue doesn’t really have upgrades, although it does have seats with a few extra inches of legroom (and Mosaic doesn’t even get you that for free). It also gets you bonus points, a couple of checked bags for free and priority security & boarding, but so does every other elite program. Mosaic’s true benefit is in its ticket change policy: You can change your ticket for free. Need to cancel at the last minute? No problem. Noticed that the price on your ticket went down? They’ll give you a credit for the difference. Added bonus: That applies to anyone else on your reservation, as well, so you can make changes as necessary. Just make sure to sign up at Yapta to know when the price drops. Mosaic status requires earning 15,000 base points (or 12,000 plus 30 flown segments), which is equivalent to $5,000 in spend. although the airline runs the occasional double points promotion.

Companion Pass at Southwest: With the Companion Pass (CP) at Southwest Airlines, every flight becomes a buy-one-get-one-free. Earn 110,000 qualifying points (or fly 100 one-ways; ouch) in a year and you’ll get to bring a guest with you for free for the remainder of the calendar year, plus the following year. Okay, not totally free: they still have to pay the $5.60 one-way security fee. Earning miles on Southwest varies based on the type of fare that you buy:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 9.04.20 PMPay the more expensive business fare and you’ll get more points per dollar.

Feel like taking a short-cut? Any points you earn through the Southwest credit card, including the sign-up bonus, also count as qualifying points toward the CP. If you are a Southwest flyer and the Pass interests you, do not get the credit card right now for the sign-up bonus, since it is only giving 25,000 points to sign up. Instead, wait for one of the 50,000 bonus points promotions. At a 1-2 cents of value per point, that’s $500-1,000 of travel. And you might be able to bring somebody for free.

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