I’m finally getting a moment to breathe and look back on my 2022 year in travel. Let’s start with airline status. If you want to hear more about my airline status goals we had a detailed discussion this week on the pod. At a high level, 2022 was a year where I continued to choose whatever airline offered me the best itinerary to maximize my time. A nod was paid to cheap first class fares since it’s virtually impossible to be at peak productivity. It was also about trying to get as many top-tier elite airline status “notches in my belt”, but that was pretty far down the list of priorities. In fact, I made many more decisions around credit card spend to achieve elite status than I did selecting flights. Let’s take a look.
I easily re-qualified for 1K status in 2022 with an immense amount of spending. Tickets were pricey all year long, higher prices than I’ve ever paid for airfare. Looking ahead to 2023, neither my PQF or PQP number would have been enough to qualify for 1K. That’s pretty stunning to me. United announced higher qualification requirements back in 2019 but, due to the pandemic, never put them in place. They recently announced they would do so for the 2023 qualification year. I would have needed to achieve 54 PQFs (8 more segments on United) or another 1,000 PQP (essentially another $1,000 in base airfare).
Looking ahead to 2023, that means I’ll need to average almost 5 flight segments per month on United if I don’t want to spend $24,000 in airfare. With Washington-Dulles Airport (IAD), a United hub, my home airport, I frequently am able to find nonstop options to my destination. As I look ahead, I think I could hit 54 segments this year, but only because of United’s change to award a PQF for each segment on an award flight. We’re doing college visits with our daughter over the next year and some of those trips will inevitably involve hopping on airplanes. My best guess? I’ll slide through with United 1K status by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. I expect airfare to cool off just a bit in 2023 which means I’m going to need 54 segments to have a realistic shot at 1K status.
Delta Air Lines
Delta became my backup carrier during the pandemic. I began to rely more heavily on them because, even on some connecting itineraries out of IAD I was able to get where I needed to be earlier than a United nonstop. Business travel is all about maximizing my time on the road and a mid-morning departure is the worst of both worlds. With credit card spend I easily achieved top-tier Diamond status on Delta. I had a total of 21 segments, which equates to 5 or 6 business trips on Delta. In reality, it was a patchwork of Delta and United flights on my trips this year to maximize my time on the road. I think Diamond status is easily achievable in 2023 with all the rollover MQMs I have and the ability to hit the $250K in spending on a Delta credit card.
The big question is whether it’s worth it? Hard to say without knowing how many segments I’ll have with Delta, but I’m guessing it won’t necessarily be “worth it”. However, dating back to earlier in the pandemic I did decide to make a run at some level of lifetime status with Delta. I also think Delta’s service levels are higher than their competitors right now. If history has taught me anything, that’s subject to change. At least for now, it seems worthwhile to keep some Delta status and consider inching my way to some level of lifetime status.
Oh….American. We have such a complicated history. I was a huge fan of American Airlines for so many years. It started out because my father, a road warrior in the 70s, 80s and 90s, flew American quite a bit when I was a kid. Then, I spent a decade as an American Executive Platinum member, consistently getting upgraded on almost every single flight for years on end. As it turned out, my chase for lifetime status with American would end up with massive disappointment when they introduced a new level (Platinum Pro) above my lifetime Platinum status. They’ve also largely abandoned IAD as an airport, so I’m left with scraps.
Still, mostly for sport (and a need to beef up my AAdvantage balance) I pushed hard with strategic spending to hit Executive Platinum status in 2022. And, with the changes American just announced, my Executive Platinum status is even more valuable than when I earned it. Dedicating some spending to AA in 2023 will be even more lucrative because I won’t have to achieve a minimum number of segments to enjoy some of the good stuff. The downside is that I just don’t have a ton of opportunities to fly American where it doesn’t cost me more time or money. I think my plan here is to continue directing strategic spending to American Airlines (shopping portal bonuses, unbonused credit card spend) and see where I am midyear.
This really should have been top-tier Super Elite status but somewhere along the way there was a glitch. Since Air Canada wasn’t a logical choice very often for me in 2022 that turned out just fine, although I would have enjoyed comparing the benefits of their top-tier status to others if time allowed. I do think I’ll make a run at Super Elite in the future, and I am thinking about trying to hit their incredible “companion pass” offer by committing heavily to the Chase Aeroplan card. Maybe when the kids are another year older and more independent.
2022 Flights In Review
I actually don’t have one image of my full year in travel. I started using Flighty midyear and absolutely love the product. I signed up for a Lifetime Flight Pro membership and so far have no regrets. Flighty tracked just shy of 60,000 miles in the air for me starting at the end of June. By my estimate, I had somewhere around 100,000 miles in the air, which was pretty normal for me prior to the pandemic.
New destinations were limited in 2022 with just one, Reykjavik. But, boy, was that an incredible destination. I hope to write up more of that trip in the near future. I think other than the Iceland routes the only other new route I flew was LAS-BWI. I had a couple of really interesting flights I was hoping to pick up in 2022 (my first into London City LCY, for example) but circumstances conspired to keep those cool lines off my map. We’ll see what 2023 holds. Here’s a pretty colorful pic from Flighty showing my second half of the year.
The Final Two Pennies
If you had told me anytime prior to the pandemic that I could have held top-tier status on three airlines, I would have said that either you were nuts or I was divorced. You may be nuts, I can’t say. But, I’m definitely not divorced. My prediction for 2023 is that I’ll drop at least one of these status levels in 2023. United 1K status is the one I’m most likely to keep, followed closely by Delta Diamond. The rest…….we’ll just have to wait and see.
I had a healthy helping of Southwest and Spirit flights this year because they made the most sense. They were cheap and well-timed. That will continue to be a refrain for 2023, especially with my Frontier Go Wild Pass.
The reality is that with free changes on virtually all airline tickets the need for top-tier status is just much less critical for road warriors. Those policies will change over time. For now, the upside to top-tier status just ain’t what it used to be.
What are your elite airline status goals this year?
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When there is only 200k miles to go until UA Lifetime Gold( Star Alliance Gold), I would put that on the top of the list.
I definitely see the long-term value in Star Gold, and hope United wouldn’t pull the rug out and take Star Gold away from UA Gold benefits.
I’m not specifically pushing for LT Gold, though the majority of my travel still goes to UA because I’m hub captive.
That being said, after watching AA crush my lifetime status I’m more cautious about “going all-in” with any airline. Knowing I’ll never get 4MM on UA I figure it’s worth it to pick up low level DL lifetime status so I have more options.
I gotta ask, how do you figure that all that spend on a Delta card was worthwhile? Just to earn Diamond without the MQDs and for the marginal MQM?
Given the opportunity cost of that v. an AMEX PLAT, or even a CSR or Cap1, it would seem that spend on those cards for higher priced Delta tickets would have more more advantageous.
Of course, I don’t have a spreadsheet to n this and you probably do, but I can’t make that compute.