One of the goals for many travellers is to reach elite status in an airline frequent flyer program. If you fly on a regular basis then having status can come in handy. In this article we discuss various ways on how to accelerate yourself into elite status.
Airline elite status comes with a number of perks. This can include mileage bonuses, advance seat selection, lounge access, priority boarding and of course upgrades. Elite status can also give you higher priority on wait lists and better service during “irregular operations” such as flight cancellations.
By their nature, frequent flyer programs are designed to incrementally increase spending from loyal customers. Elite levels and airline classes also play on the psychological need for vanity, hierarchy and differentiating yourself from the so-called masses.
With that in mind, let’s see with what we need to do to actually gain status…
Elite Status Requirements by Airline
The following tables show the annual requirements for gaining and retaining elite status for a variety of international airlines. These requirements can either be based on:
- total real distance-flown mileage
- special distance-based status/tier points number
- number of flight segments flown
- minimum revenue $ spend
American Airlines AAdvantage
GOLD: 25,000 miles / 30 segments
PLATINUM: 50,000 miles / 60 segments
EXECUTIVE PLATINUM: 100,000 miles / 100 segments
Delta SkyMiles Medallion
SILVER: 25,000 miles / 30 segments AND $3,000
GOLD: 50,000 miles / 60 segments AND $6,000
PLATINUM: 75,000 miles / 100 segments AND $9,000
DIAMOND: 125,000 miles / 140 segments AND $15,000
United Mileage Plus Premier
SILVER: 25,000 miles / 15 segments
GOLD: 50,000 miles / 60 segments AND $6,000 (Star Gold)
PLATINUM: 75,000 miles / 90 segments AND $9,000
PREMIER 1K: 100,000 miles / 120 segments AND $12,000
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Elite
MVP: 20,000 (partners 25,000) miles / 30 segments
MVP GOLD: 40,000 (50,000) miles / 60 segments
MVP GOLD 75K: 75,000 (90,000) miles / 90 segments
Air Canada Altitude
Prestige 25K: 25,000 miles / 25 segments
ELITE 35K: 35,000 miles / 35 segments
ELITE 50K: 50,000 miles / 50 segments (Star Gold)
ELITE 75K: 75,000 miles / 75 segments
SUPER ELITE 100K: 100,000 miles / 100 segments
British Airways Executive Club
BRONZE: 300 Tier Points
SILVER: 600 Tier Points
GOLD: 1,500 Tier Points
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
SILVER: 25,000 miles / 15 segments
GOLD: 40,000 miles / 30 segments
PLATINUM: 70,000 miles / 60 segments
Lufthansa Miles & More
FREQUENT TRAVELLER: 35,000 miles
SENATOR: 100,000 miles (Star Gold)
HON CIRCLE: 600,000 miles in 2 years
SILVER: 24,000 (retain 16,000) miles or 12,000 (8,000) miles with 2 A3 flights
GOLD: 48,000 (24,000) miles or 24,000 (12,000) miles with 4 A3 flights (Star Gold)
SILVER: 20,000 points / 10 segments
GOLD: 45,000 points / 45 segments (Star Gold)
DIAMOND: 90,000 points / 90 segments
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
SILVER: 15 Tier Points
GOLD: 40 Tier Points
SILVER: 25,000 miles / 25 segments
GOLD: 50,000 miles / 50 segments
PLATINUM: 150,000 miles
SILVER: 25,000 (retain: 20,000) miles / 20 (15) segments
GOLD: 50,000 (40,000) miles / 40 (30) segments
PLATINUM: 125,000 (100,000) miles / 60 (48) segments
Qatar Privilege Club
SILVER: 150 (retain: 140) Qpoints
GOLD: 300 (275) Qpoints
PLATINUM: 600 (550) Qpoints
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
CLASSIC PLUS: 25,000 miles (retain: 17,000 in 1 year, 35,000 in 2 years)
ELITE: 40,000 miles (25,000 in 1 year, 37,500 in 2 years) (Star Gold)
ELITE PLUS: 80,000 miles (40,000 in 1 year, 60,000 in 2 years)
Air New Zealand Airpoints
SILVER: 450 Status Points (retain 405)
GOLD: 900 Status Points (810) (Star Gold)
ELITE: 1,500 Status Points (1,350) – include 900 (810) Air NZ (partner) flights
ANA Mileage Club
BRONZE: 30,000 Premium Points including 15,000 on ANA
PLATINUM: 50,000 Premium Points including 25,000 on ANA (Star Gold)
DIAMOND: 100,000 Premium Points including 50,000 on ANA
GOLD: 20,000 miles / 30 Asiana segments in 24 months
DIAMOND: 40,000 miles / 50 Asiana segments in 24 months (Star Gold)
DIAMOND PLUS: 100,000 miles / 100 Asiana segments in 24 months
PLATINUM: 1,000,000 miles / 1,000 Asiana segments – lifetime status
SILVER: 22,000 miles / 25 segments including 5,000 miles on Avianca
GOLD: 40,000 miles / 45 segments including 10,000 miles on Avianca (Star Gold)
DIAMOND: 75,000 miles / 85 segments including 15,000 miles on Avianca
Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club
SILVER: 300 points
GOLD: 600 points
DIAMOND: 1,200 points
PREMIUM: 40,000 Lanpass km including 4 segments on LATAM
PREMIUM SILVER: 80,000 Lanpass km including 40,000 km on LATAM
COMODORO: 150,000 Lanpass km including 75,000 km on LATAM
BLACK: 210,000 Lanpass km on LATAM
Qantas Frequent Flyer
SILVER: 300 Status Credits (retain 250)
GOLD: 700 Status Credits (600)
PLATINUM: 1,400 Status Credits (1,200)
PLATINUM ONE: 3,600 Status Credits including 2,700 on Qantas
Singapore Air KrisFlyer
ELITE SILVER: 25,000 miles
ELITE GOLD: 50,000 miles (Star Gold)
Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
SILVER: 10,000 miles or 15,000 miles in 24 months
GOLD: 50,000 miles / 40 segments or 80,000 miles in 24 months (Star Gold)
PLATINUM: 80,000 miles in 2 consecutive years
Tips for attaining elite status
When looking at frequent flyer programs most in-the-know flyers will consider both elite status and mileage points earnings/redemption opportunities – and find a balance between the two.
Firstly you have to choose which airline and alliance best suits your needs. This will depend on a number of factors – your home airport, how often you fly and where you need to go.
It’s best to stick with one main program, usually from a major airline – in order to consolidate your status and mileage. You really don’t want to end up as a “12K flyer” – flying with a head-in-the-sand elite strategy and ending the year with a balance of around 12,000 qualifying miles with 3 different airlines – easily enough flying for elite status but diluted over different carriers which means you end up with nothing!
Now some programs offer easier routes to attain elite status than others. Let’s take the example of getting “Star Alliance Gold” status. From the above tables you can see that the likes of Aegean, Turkish Airlines and Asiana require less flying to attain Gold status than say Lufthansa and United. These could be an option for leisure flyers who don’t fly that regularly but want the status for their trips.
Do beware that some airlines may require you to fly a minimum number of segments with them each year. For example British Airways and Qantas require 4 segments to retain status; Aegean has a lower mileage threshold if you fly with them on 4 segments. This could pose a problem if you live on the other side of the world. ANA, Air New Zealand, Avianca and LAN also require a minimum number of mileage.
Frequent flyer status will run on either a calendar year basis or as a rolling 12 month period which depends on the date that you joined or attained elite status. Generally you want to gain elite status as early on in your membership year as possible – which means you will have the status for the rest of that year and have it for the following year as well.
At the beginning of each new year your qualifying mileage clock is set to zero and you need to start all over again. You then want to plan a strategy for retaining the status.
However some programs will give status for 2 years – for example Lufthansa and Turkish. On the other hand British Airways offers a “soft landing” which means those that don’t retain status are given the level below for the following year.
So British Airways top-tier Gold members who fail to re-qualify would be Silver for the next year – the Silver level still gives the all-important lounge access. So by qualifying early in the first year of BA, Lufthansa or Turkish you would get almost 3 years of elite status.
There are various ways to accelerate yourself towards elite status. Invariably this means flying the required amount of miles for the lowest possible price.
For your airline (and alliance) you need to get a feeling for the cost per status mile or point. Are there any good deals (such as cheap business class tickets) available which will help boost your qualifying points?
One point of contention is the new revenue based programs that are beginning to crop up – such as those from Delta and United Airlines – applicable to US residents. Minimum spend requirements mean finding deals will not make much difference to elite qualification.
Let’s consider some deal examples in the Oneworld alliance:
- Instant Upgrade Y-UP first class fares with American Airlines on multiple sectors across the US and even to Honolulu and the Caribbean. These can earn a significant amount of qualifying mileage/tier points.
- Buying discounted long-haul business or first-class tickets originating in Europe on British Airways or Qatar Airways. Finnair can also have some good business class deals to Asia.
- Buying Cathay Pacific premium class long-haul tickets starting in Taipei or Bali.
- Buying British Airways Club Europe tickets (R class) during sales – London Gatwick to Amsterdam or Jersey are usually the cheapest at around £220-£240 return yielding 80 Tier Points on BA.
- Buying a Oneworld Explorer ‘DONE’ business class Round-The-World (RTW) ticket which can really help yield elite status. Originate the ticket from one of the cheaper RTW countries – such as South Africa, Egypt or Japan (cheaper due to exchange rate and local market conditions).
If you don’t fly enough to gain or retain status over the course of the year you may need to take a status run flight. That is a flight taken solely for the status miles/points. It’s best to make these flights into a short holiday/vacation rather than just flying straight back without leaving the airport.
There are other ways of attaining elite status for frequent flyer programs. Status matching is where an airline will match your level from another airline program in the hope you become a valued customer. It can be possible to ‘roll-over’ status over a few years by carefully selecting status matches rather than qualifying by flying.
Some airlines have invitation-only status but you do need to have some clout to secure membership. Programs include Concierge Key (American Airlines), Premier (British Airways), Delta 360 (Delta), IO (Emirates), Chairman’s Lounge (Qantas) and Global Services (United Airlines).
Finally, if you don’t fly enough to gain elite status there are many possibilities to get lounge access without status.
Main headline photo credit: nakedsky/flickr