Here we are, rapidly winding down 2010 and taking stock of what remains to be done this year. Each year, achieving status with your primary airline carrier brings increasing value to the traveler, especially at the higher levels. Last year I posted a whole slew of promotional offers that would get qualifying miles to those who registered. I’m sorry to say that this year, most of the airlines aren’t offering any promotions that will help.
EXCEPT American Airlines. They are offering triple miles and double elite qualifying miles for all travel originating out of Raleigh Durham, Nashville, St. Louis or Pittsburgh between now and the end of the year. American Airlines does require you to register prior to travel.
If you want status on Delta, United, Continental, US Airways or Alaska, you will have to fly enough to accrue those miles, as usual. The good news is that, on average, airfares are still fairly low and if you are creative, you can find ways to maximize the miles accrued on a trip. For example, if you are planning to go to Ft. Lauderdale from Salt Lake City, you can fly on the nonstop and get about 1,500 miles in each direction. However, if you are willing to connect in JFK, you can accrue about 3,000 miles in each direction. And if you are already at the silver status, many programs award you a bonus of an additional 25% of the actual miles flown – so instead of getting 3,000 miles, you would receive 3,750 qualifying miles. Yes, this does add time to your trip, so you will have to decide if the extra miles are worth your time and stress.
If you are pursuing status on an airline that counts segments toward status (such as Delta), there is an alternative strategy: do lots of short trips. If you have to fly between Los Angeles and Denver, you may want to connect in Salt Lake City. That gets you four segments per round trip, and you only need 30 to make silver status. Again, it’s a matter of whether the extra segments towards achieving status are worth your additional time and stress.
If you don’t currently have status, but you expect to be traveling frequently next year, you may find it worthwhile to spend a little time and effort to qualify for it. Not only do you get benefits like access to preferred seating and upgrades, but most carriers also waive the fee for the first checked bag and give you priority check in and boarding. In addition, many airlines are more willing to go out of their way to assist a loyal customer vs. the person who only travels once or twice a year.
Hopefully some of these strategies will help you get or keep your airline status!