My 2017 Airline Elite Status Plans: Delta Double Diamond, United Silver, and a possible Companion Pass

Most people agree that chasing airline elite status is a fools game.  The traditional way of earning and keeping elite status is to fly a single airline often and far.  This often means forsaking better fares with other airlines, or even taking unplanned trips just because you’re close to that next level of status.  For many, it also means that frequent flyer miles go unused.  When you book an award trip, you don’t earn elite qualifying miles.  So, many prefer to pay for flights even when cheap awards were available.

Personally, I’ve tried earning elite status through flying, and decided it wasn’t for me (see: “My final AA mileage run involved actual running. Here’s the story.“).  That doesn’t mean that I’m willing to give up all of the perks of status though!  I love getting first class upgrades, free award changes, lounge access, etc. Through credit card spend, status matching, and hotel partnerships, there are plenty of ways to get elite status perks without spending all of your time and money flying just for status sake.

Here are my plans for 2017 airline elite status…

Airlines

AA nothing

My AA Executive Platinum status, earned through mileage running, will last only until the end of February.  I didn’t fly AA enough in 2016 to come close to securing bottom tier AA Gold status.  But, AA would happily take my money if I wanted status.  For “only” $699 they’ll give me Gold status for a year, or I could pay $1,299 for Platinum status.  No thanks.  In 2015 I flew AA often, and I’m not a fan.

Alaska MVP Gold 75K?

It’s possible to status match to Alaska’s top tier MVP Gold status.  My Delta Diamond status should easily qualify me.  That would give me a number of great benefits when flying Alaska Airlines, and a number of good benefits when flying American Airlines (details here).  The problem is that there is only one Alaska Airlines flight out of my home airport (Detroit), and so I rarely fly Alaska.  I don’t want to use up my one chance at a status match unless I’m sure I’ll use the benefits.  I’ll hold onto this option until I’m ready to plan some west coast / Hawaii trips.

Delta Double Diamond

For several years, I’ve run up spend on Delta credit cards in order to get my wife to Diamond status and me to Platinum status.  This past year, though, I got both of us to Diamond status because I expect that we’ll make good use of all eight global upgrade certificates (as Diamond elites, we each get 4 global upgrade certificates as Choice Benefits).  In 2017, I plan to do the same.  It won’t be too hard.  My wife has already rolled over 105,000 MQMs from last year (125,000 are needed for Diamond status), and I rolled over 26,000.

Delta elite status

Southwest Companion Pass?

Last year, my wife and I each signed up for both the personal and business Marriott Rewards cards, and so we have oodles of Marriott Rewards points.  Plus, thanks to the Marriott SPG merger and the ability to convert SPG to Marriott at a 1 to 3 ratio (See: Marriott SPG Complete Guide to Sweet Opportunities), we have what seems like an infinite supply of points.

One of the best deals in travel today is the ability to redeem 270,000 Marriott points for a Marriott Travel package which results in a certificate for a seven night stay and 120,000 airline miles of your choice.  When choosing to receive Southwest points, those points are enough to give you a Southwest Companion Pass good for the rest of this year and all of next year.  But, you must get the travel package before the end of March for this to work.  Beginning April 1, points transferred from hotel or rental car programs will not count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

So, while we don’t have any immediate plans to fly Southwest or for an extended Marriott stay, time is running out for this awesome deal.  I’ll probably do it.

United Silver

I barely fly United enough to be considered a customer let alone an elite customer.  But, Marriott and United have a cozy partnership called RewardsPlus (details here).  One of the perks of this partnership is that Marriott Platinum elites get free United Silver status just by signing up!  I do have Marriott Platinum status (and I keep it each year with Marriott’s Elite Buy Back program), so I’ll keep my United Silver status as well.  Will I get benefits from it?  Probably not, but you never know.

Virgin Atlantic Silver?

I want to return to Necker Island someday.  It was that awesome.  And, now that Necker Island awards require Virgin Atlantic Silver or Gold status for booking, I’ll need to get Virgin Atlantic Silver status eventually.  It’s easy enough to do through credit card spend, but it might be possible to simply match to Silver instead.  Will I go for Silver status this year?  Probably not.

Star Alliance Gold?

Over a year ago, I status matched to Copa Platinum status (unfortunately that status match is no longer available).  That gave me Star Alliance Gold status, which in turn gave me the ability to visit Star Alliance lounges when flying Star Alliance.  I took advantage of this by visiting Lufthansa Senator lounges in Detroit and Frankfurt.  Now my Copa status will soon end, so what will I do?

Lufthansa Senator Lounge at the Detroit Airport North Terminal

Lufthansa Senator Lounge at the Detroit Airport North Terminal

I don’t have specific plans, but I’ll keep my eye out for good Star Alliance status match opportunities. Loyalty Lobby has a good write-up of current options, but none are as simple as a straight up match.

Truthfully, I don’t fly Star Alliance often enough for it to matter much, but I’d love to have lounge access when I do.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I actually did a status match to Turkish Airlines for their Gold level. It lasts 2 yrs and re qualifying isnt so bad really. I’ve had it for 4 years now and it really is a relief to have when flying star alliance domestically 🙂

  2. I’m not a huge fan of Southwest but it makes sense out of Detroit or Flint.

    It seems that Marriott has a level above Platinum. I assume for corporate travel folks, etc. It also qualifies for the United match through RewardsPlus.

  3. Greg have you figured out any other way to get into the Detroit lounge? Since it is the only one in the terminal I would love to be able to get in there sometimes but I feel like there is no way now unless you are flying to Frankfurt.

  4. I’ve been stuck deciding between Delta or American Airlines as a main carrier.

    I might just go with AA for the rest of 2017 and then start flying Delta mainly because of the lower-fares and the rollover MQMs. Having the AMEX Platinum for the Delta Sky Club was an added benefit too.

  5. When you use points to buy back your Marriott platinum status each year, is it true that it reduces your lifetime point total by the amount of points used? I believe I read this somewhere, but I haven’t tried it yet myself, as I’m gunning for lifetime status and don’t want to risk lowering my totals..

    • I’ve read that too, but I haven’t paid any attention to it since attaining lifetime status seems unlikely for me. I can’t see anything online that tells me one way or another whether they’ve reduced my lifetime point total.

  6. I’m willing to bet the new requirement for booking Necker Island is directly your fault for rubbing it in Sir Richard Branson’s face that you had never flown VS.

  7. Wow your wife rolled over 105k after qualifying diamond? That’s a LOT of flying. I just qualified diamond for the first time. So excited to plan my international trips this year!

      • I almost exclusively qualified for Diamond through spending (80k mqm ) and the rest on flying. Will try to push it to 100k mqm this year 😀
        DTW captive here as well, DL is still the best choice.

      • It depends on the route you want to upgrade. We’ve had 100% success upgrading flights from Detroit to Europe. Often we have to first go on the waitlist, but it has always cleared. Getting upgraded on routes like Altanta to Johannesburg, on the other hand, is probably just as likely as winning the lottery.

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