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…
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.
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.
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?
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.