Fast Track to Elite Status
How to Maximize Elite Status Miles
In my last article I talked about How to Maximize your Airline Miles. But as I discussed in my article on the Value of Elite status, while earning award miles is great, earning status miles and hence qualifying for different Elite levels is where all the real returns begin. I also talked about the how and what of Elite status in detail in another article. In this article I shall cover some tips and techniques that can help you maximize your Elite Status Miles and fast track you to Elite Status.
Always fly Airlines in the Airline Alliance:
You only earn Status Miles or EQM by flying the airline whose frequent Flyer program you are earning miles on, or on any of its alliance partners. In order to maximize Status Miles, only fly the airline you are earning status on and on its alliance partners. Avoid flying non-alliance airlines as much as possible. Typically non-alliance partners do not credit status miles. There are very few exceptions to this rule. I have heard that flying Kingfisher Airlines (of India) can credit you status miles on Delta. Check with your frequent flyer program before you fly.
Know the fare bucket rules:
Some airlines, especially some non-US based airlines have certain heavily discounted fare buckets (or fare classes) that do not earn you any status miles. Or they earn you only a small percentage of actual miles flown as your status miles. British Airways has several such low priced fares that credit you status miles at a fraction as low as 1/4th of the actual miles flown.
The reverse is also true. Most airlines give 1.5 times or even upto 3 times the status miles for higher class fares such as, full fare economy, Business class, First class, etc. Know the rules for status miles awarded for the fare class you are flying.
Double Elite Qualifying Miles (DEQM) promotions is the airlines’ way of giving you a fast path to get to Elite status. Every year several airlines run these DEQM promotions. These promotions allow you to earn double status miles for flights taken during the promotion period. Watch out for these. They allow you to get to Elite Status levels without really having to fly all those miles (B*tt-in-seat or BIS miles, as they are called). In my opinion, these DEQM promotions are your fastest pathway to Elite status.
You have to register for the promotion with the airline in order to get the double status miles and they always have restrictions on booking and travel dates. They may also have fare bucket restrictions such that ultra cheap fares do not qualify. For people who qualify based on segments flown instead of miles earned, sometimes these promotions also include a Double EQS promotion.
Online credit card ticket purchases:
Several airline give status miles for dollars spent on the airlines own website to purchase airline tickets, using their branded credit card. If the price is the same as what you are getting elsewhere and of course, if you have the credit card, this is a great way to get some extra status miles. I have seen that airlines tend to limit the maximum status miles you can earn this way to 5,000 miles per year. They also tend to limit the status miles earned only to flights operated by them and not include code shares.
Minimum Miles per segment:
Depending on the airline you are flying and the program you are earning miles on, when you fly a short flight, you may get the status (and award) miles credited based on the actual miles flown or a preset minimum. This preset minimum is typically 500 miles per flight (British Midlands has a preset minimum credit of 600 miles). This becomes a big bonus if you fly very short segments very often. For example, I fly Washington, DC to Charlotte, NC a lot. The actual flying distance is 321 miles. If I fly US Airways, I will get a credit of 321 miles, unless I am an Elite on US Airways, in which case I get 500 miles. As a non-Elite on US Airways, this is a bummer for me as I get 321 miles per leg, even if I earn miles on the United Mileage Plus program. On the other hand, United Airlines has a minimum credit of 500 miles per leg for the same route, if I fly them. So, if I fly United for the same round trip, I will get 1,000 status (and award) miles, as opposed to 642 from US Airways. That is almost a 36% bonus. If you fly a lot of short segments, take this into consideration.
Take a train:
This is an option available only to Continental OnePass miles program participants. Amtrak give Status Miles on certain train routes from New Jersey’s Newark station, if travelled in conjunction with a Continental flight.
Buy Status Miles:
Very few airlines even allow buying status miles. Also, they are not cheap. But, if you are just a few status miles short of reaching the next Elite level, it may make a lot of sense. One airline that I am aware of that allows this is United Airlines, that too only to its credit card holders. They credit something called ‘Choice Miles’ when you make charges to your credit card. These can be swapped for status miles.
If there is a widely misunderstood activity undertaken by aggressive frequent flyers, it is the Mileage Run. I am going to dedicate an entire article to this topic. A Mileage Run is a trip you take for the sole purpose of earning status miles to get to the next Elite Status level. Sounds crazy. But, if you really value your Elite Status and are within reach of the next level, it is a justifiable endeavor. When does Elite status become so desirable such that it justifies a Mileage Run? Well, other than ‘status addiction’, there is the genuine case of people who actually take multiple extra long trips every year for work. If their employer requires them to always purchase an economy class ticket, a highest level Elite Status will help them tremendously in getting upgraded to higher class seats, making their journey more comfortable.
Now, some people do go overboard. I have actually seen people take 40,000 mile or longer mileage runs. That is well, maybe a bit, how shall I put it, over the top… (All other words I wanted to use here are against this website’s family friendly rating).
Furthermore, Mileage Runs can only be considered justifiable when the cost of the trip is ridiculously low. There are several forums dedicated to mileage run deals. People calculate the value of these deals on cents per status mile earned.
In full disclosure, I have never taken a Mileage Run. Will I ever take one? I do not know, the situation has not yet arisen. But thanks to a strict focus on my status miles earnings, I have earned Elite status at the mid or highest level every year for the past several years.
Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.
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