Airline Elite Status: My Mid-Year Check

As we get to the halfway point of 2017 (really, we’re already there????) it’s time for me to check-in on my airline loyalty choices for 2017.  Airline loyalty programs have changed a lot over the last few years.  It’s no longer clear that there’s any one “best” strategy.  Most folks will likely adopt a strategy where they choose the carrier that’s most dominant at their home airport.

When I summarized my plans for 2017, my plan was to focus on the most efficient route to get from point A to point B.  To normal folks, that probably sounds like common sense.  But, the airlines used to reward us to take the longer path.  For the most part, that’s no longer the case.  In most scenarios, the shortest distance between two points for me is United Airlines.  When we look at my elite status progress for 2017, I appear to be hitting the proverbial nail on the head.  First up is United.

United Airlines

It’s the beginning of July and I’m already just about 3/4 of the way to 1K status with United Airlines.  I’ll easily hit the 100,000 Premier qualifying miles (PQMs) I need to achieve it.  I’ve already hit the spending requirement.  While I have a fair amount of travel scheduled for the rest of 2017, I don’t think I’ll spend anywhere near the amount needed to qualify for Global Services, the ultra-elite invitation-only level United offers to a select number of fliers.  While there are no published criteria, most accounts indicate I’d need to spend upwards of $50,000 in a calendar year.

American Airlines

I was an Executive Platinum member for the last decade.  It sure looks like that streak will come to an end in 2017.  There have been a lot of changes to their loyalty program, AAdvantage.  Most of them have been negative, though mostly on par with their competition.  I won’t go through all the changes but I’ve got a reasonably comprehensive review of the greatest hits.

I’ve actually only had one trip on American (4 segments) that amounted to about 3,300 EQMs (elite-qualifying miles).  I earned 5,000 EQMs from credit card spend and plan to earn another 15,000 before the year is out.  The question becomes, can I put another 50,000 miles on American through the end of 2017?  Maybe the question is “should I commit 50K miles on American”?

I haven’t redeemed any of my systemwide upgrades yet.  Those used to be worth their weight in gold.  Valid for an upgrade to the next class of service, they were great for upgrading long international flights from coach to a cushy business class seat.  Availability is now significantly restricted.  In fairness, I haven’t redeemed any of my United upgrades, either.  If you can’t/don’t actually use a benefit, how much value can it really have to you?

Delta Air Lines

Wait, what?  I have Delta elite-qualifying updates???  Yup.

Admittedly, that’s a pretty meager update.  But, it’s a good example of the “shortest distance between two points” argument.  I had a last-minute problem with a flight on United and needed to get from Salt Lake City home to DC.  Delta operates an SLC-DCA flight, which meant I could still get home to my family.  It’s only one segment, but it was an easier choice to make when I already knew I’d hit 100K with United.

Southwest Airlines

This is actually a bit light for me given the past couple of years.  I usually end up with closer to 10 short-hop flights on Southwest per year.  They run a good airline and operate some point-to-point stuff (hello, Burbank-Las Vegas and Reno-Las Vegas) that saves me a bunch of time.

I haven’t flown Frontier or Spirit this year, but given my review of my Frontier flight it wouldn’t be a shocker.

The Final Two Pennies

There’s very little in my mid-year status review that surprises me. Most of my business is going to United with a sprinkling elsewhere.

As a side note, you might have noticed I’m about halfway to million miler lifetime status with United Airlines.  I’m not actively pursuing it, mostly because of how American made my lifetime status much less valuable last year.  It’s in the back of my mind, but the best route to where I need to go continues to win.

I’ve had a handful of connecting itineraries on United that could have gone to American.  In those cases, United got the tie-breaker in the first half of the year to make sure I had enough travel to hit top-tier status on at least one airline.

For road warriors, having the highest level status with one airline is considerably better than having mid-tier status with two different airlines.  My goals still seem correctly aligned there.

Will I find myself leaning towards American Airlines in the second half of the year?  If I had to guess, probably not.  I put together my travel resolutions earlier in the year, and emphasized I wanted to spend more time with family.  So, I *hope* I don’t have 50,000 miles of connecting/nonstop itineraries where American doesn’t cost me time with my family.

I don’t think my overall travel is down so far this year, but I haven’t crunched actual miles/hours/days.  I ended up with two great experiences I wasn’t expecting so far.  There was “Boneshaker and the Beast“, and just last week my first delivery flight.  Those were both trips to Europe that added a lot of miles, though in relatively few days.  I have no idea if other cool opportunities will pop up.

But, with a focus on family, I’m trying to do less flying (unless it’s with them).

How does your elite status progress look at the halfway point?

The post Airline Elite Status: My Mid-Year Check was published first on Pizza in Motion

11 Comments

  1. Ah the SLC problem. I too find that Delta seems to own SLC with that weird hub for nonstop schedules home.
    I’m at Gold level for AA so far in 2017 and would like to reach at least Platinum. I’m very close to low level status on Air France of all places. At least I can credit those odd Delta SLC flights there 🙂
    I could tack on United Silver in the second half fairly easy but I think I’ll stick to AA mostly. My problem isn’t the EQDs. Living in the middle of the country I find it easier to qualify on segments than miles. These are on more expensive short haul.

    1. Dan, I can’t imagine there’s a whole lot of value in United Silver, especially at the expense of the possibility of reaching AA PLT. I need to do research on what you get with AF status. If anything, I’d stretch for Plat Pro before adding United Silver.

  2. My travel slowed a bit. I’m hitting United silver this weekend and will hit gold by end of year. I’m letting my AA plat go bye bye. Turkish will drop down to the silver tier.

  3. As much as I’m furious with AA, at the moment I have enough booked with them to nearly requal EXP this year by November. The spend isn’t the issue it’s actually the mileage. I’ve reached out to DL to see if the can do anything, but seems I’ll only make Plat over there instead of Diamond in my normal travel. Feeling kind of stuck. And in the middle of exact issue too give up AA. I can’t use my SWU on the only Intl trip I’m flying them this year. The Bleeping gate agent didn’t even run the list on the flight over here, but just upgraded person number four into the only seat. But I’m far more upset there were 5 seats at the 100 hour mark. This is a reward for flying. They should clear early…..

    1. Tenmoc, clearing early went out of style with bell bottoms and leg warmers. Just to clarify, did you ask DL for a status match, or have you flown a bunch on them this year as well? On AA, how close is “close” to EXP?

  4. My biggest challenge, is that everyone has a different renewal date. I renew in July, some in December, some in January. But, the advantages of the BA Family Account are fabulous. Just tracking five people with different tier point earning periods is a “bit” of a puzzle. Still BAEC is the easiest way to OneWorld Emeralds, with no spend requirement.

  5. I’ve credited all my AA flying to AS and will obtain AS MVP75 which is worth less today than a week ago, alas.

    For the first time in ten years, I won’t be Exec Plat since AA gutted the program (if complimentary upgrades are near impossible and you can’t redeem systemwide upgrades or find milesaver premium cabin awards, then the program is useless to me.)

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