Elite Status: Extra freebies for frequent travelers

For those travelers who fly more than 25,000 miles per year on a particular airline (or airline alliance), you may be eligible for Elite Status on that airline.  Think of it as a bonus on top of the miles that you are already earning.  The airline keeps track of not only the miles that you have flown in your lifetime (which are redeemable for rewards, as discussed here) but also what you have done in a calendar year.  The more miles you fly in a year, the better your perks will be for that year.  For example, on American Airlines, if you fly 25,000 miles in a year, you’ll get to check a bag for free and use a priority security line.  If you fly 100,000 miles, you’ll receive “Executive Platinum” status, which not only gets you that free bag and priority security access but also a special phone number to call, chance for a free upgrade and, when you land, your bag will be tagged as the first one to come off the plane.  Note that these are only some of the benefits that you receive, with the entire list available at each airline’s website.  While each airline has individual nuances for its program, the benefits tend to be very similar from program to program.  It’s also worth noting that airlines will often reward you with elite status based on the number of flights you take, in addition to the miles you fly.

One nice thing about elite status is that it lasts for at least two calendar years, the year you earn it and the following year.  So if you fly 25,000 miles on a particular airline in January, 2014, you’ll receive their first level of elite status for not only the rest of 2014 but also all of 2015 (in addition to a bad case of deep vein thrombosis.  Most airlines have only three tiers, which begin at 25,000, 50,000 and 100,000 miles flown in that calendar year, although some have two and some have four.  You’ll want to check with your particular airline to see what its program offers.

Since elite status can be so valuable (First class seats are awfully comfortable!), some airlines are making it trickier to earn.  For instance, Delta and United Airlines have added annual spending minimums to achieve elite status.  Others are making cheaper tickets only count 50% toward your elite status qualifications.  Charges like bag fees and upgrades are very profitable for airlines; the carriers have become reluctant to give them up.

Note that hotels offer similar programs, although the rewards vary so much between brands that each chain needs to have its own post.  But the goodies are there for your stay, as well.

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  1. […]  The current process is simply based on how many miles you fly, with some adjustments for your elite status and your fare class.  […]

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