My 2017 Airline Elite Status Recap And A Look Forward To 2018

It’s a new year and that means all the airline elite status counters reset to zero last night.  While I was watching the ball drop and counting down with my family, the hamster wheel was getting cranked up for me to hop back on in 2018.

As 2016 came to a close, I wasn’t 100% certain where I’d be focusing my business in 2017.  I had a good idea, but wasn’t sure I was ready to take the plunge.  I started out the year asking for help from readers to make my decision.  Then, I formulated a plan.  If you don’t want to read all the gory details, I planned to focus on United.  American would be my backup carrier, but I’d probably end up playing the field a bit more in 2017.

I booked a Frontier flight and a Spirit flight in the past twelve months.  Neither of them killed me, no PTSD.  They both represented good values and saved me time.

Now that I’ve set the table for what I expected to do, let’s see how it turned out:

United Airlines

Jeebus, that’s a lot of PQMs.  No question, I did a lot of flying on United this past year.  I only needed 100,000.  My main reason for choosing United was to save time.  I wanted to make sure I was home with my family as much as possible.

For once, I finally walked the talk.  Even though it’s been a decade as an Executive Platinum member, I started looking at United flights before I looked elsewhere.  If they had a nonstop where I needed to go, that was almost certainly my first choice.

American Airlines

These numbers might look a bit deceiving.  It might actually look like American was my true backup.  In some ways, they were.  But, I only had 8,000 actual flight miles.  The rest are EQMs earned from credit card spend.  That shows the power credit cards can have in the elite equation.  If I didn’t already have lifetime Platinum status with American Airlines, the credit card spend and my handful of flights would have earned me Gold status.  Gold status won’t blow your socks off, but it beats flying with no status.  Earning elite status with credit card spend might not be the best choice for you, but it’s at least one to consider.

In the end, I used American Airlines for exactly what I said I would.  When they could save me time on connecting itineraries.  And, in one rare case, I flew them home from Miami to IAD, since United refuses to compete on that route.

Southwest Airlines

My companion pass benefits ended yesterday.  It’s such a phenomenal benefit.  I just don’t have the network out of IAD to make good use of Southwest.  Driving an hour or more to a secondary airport defeats the purpose of spending more time with my family.  If you live West of the Mississippi or in one of their East coast focus cities, you should be considering Southwest.

Wait, There’s A Delta Update????

Welcome to the new era of airline loyalty.  When everyone offers you roughly the same ROI for miles flown, you base your choice on other criteria.  Delta popped up a handful of times as the most effective way to get from point A to point B.  I had totally forgotten they flew from Salt Lake City to Washington-National Airport.  That got me home one night when United had a problem.

I didn’t earn elite status with Delta but I did have a small handful of flights that earned miles.  In each case, these flights were the best times or a significantly cheaper connecting option.

What Does 2018 Look Like?

I used to have angst about the year starting over.  All those zeros in my progress bar…..

A bit surprisingly, this year I’m just not worried.  Sure, life on the road is better with airline status.  I got my fair share of upgrades in 2017, though I stopped tracking it closely.  Complimentary upgrades just aren’t something to rely on any longer.  The airlines sell those first class seats/upgrades so cheaply, someone is bound to shop them up.

I expect 2018 to be a photocopy of 2017.  United will continue to be my first choice out of IAD.  They have the most nonstop options to fit my schedule.  If 2017 is any indication, American won’t be a true backup next year.  I canceled one of my American Airlines credit cards that earns EQMs. That spend can more effectively go elsewhere.  I’ll still keep a stash of AAdvantage miles around.  They’re useful for domestic US travel.  And, I’ll want to go to South America at some point.  They’re pricey to redeem to Europe (when you can find availability), since almost everything flows through Heathrow.  The loss of Air Berlin will make it harder to get around Europe on oneworld awards, though Fly Niki may be coming back to life.  I’m not holding my breath that they’ll be available for award flights.

Southwest and JetBlue are two airlines I would seriously consider giving more business to.  Alas, neither has much of a network out of IAD.  I expect to fly both a handful of times in 2018 when the opportunity presents itself.

And, I’ll still shoot for 100,000 PQMs on United.  I think there’s enough value there, even though my upgrades don’t clear consistently.  Mostly, it’s help when things go wrong (broken planes and weather).

Flight times and price will be my main decision drivers in 2018.  That’s too bad for the airlines. They kinda killed the ability to get me to make irrational decisions because of shiny objects.

What decisions are you making for airline loyalty in 2018?

The post My 2017 Airline Elite Status Recap And A Look Forward To 2018 was published first on Pizza in Motion

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