Since the airlines started charging for everything from baggage to where you sit, the cost of travel has been increasing for many travelers. There is a group in the population, however, that’s not being hit very hard by these changes – those with elite status. Airline loyalty is being rewarded more than ever and it may be easier to reach the gold (or silver or platinum) than you think.
You no longer have to be a weekly business traveler to obtain elite status with an airline. Even if you just fly a few times a year it may be possible to end up in one of these programs. With a few tweaks to your regularly scheduled, travel, you may find yourself checking your luggage for free, receiving upgrades and whizzing your way through the quicker security lines.
Pick your favorite airline. The first thing you want to think about is where your loyalty should go. Look at the airlines you have flown in the last year. Was there one you flew more often than most? Is one of the airlines at your local airport(s) so it’s the most convenient? Ask yourself where you would get the most use out of elite status if you could obtain it and then put your focus on that airline.
Stay with the alliance. Once you have decided which airline you want to obtain status with that doesn’t mean that you have to fly that airline every time. Most airlines have an alliance with a few their airlines. If you want to obtain status on American Airlines, for example, you can fly a dozen different airlines within the One World Alliance and receive elite qualifying points on American. Just be sure to check before you fly on what the rules are.
Ask about a challenge. Some airlines will offer an elite qualifying challenge so that you can earn status quicker. This is great if you find yourself with a lot of travel in a short period of time when that might not be the norm the rest of the year. Air Tran will give you elite status if you get 10 credits within 90 days, regardless of how few times you flew before. Other airlines have similar unadvertised deals. It can’t hurt to call and ask.
Finally, think about how it all adds up. A Caribbean or European vacation and a few business trips could get you into the elite group quicker than you may have imagined. Also, if it’s going to cost you only $10-$20 a flight more sometimes to fly the airline you are looking for status on it is well worth it considering you will save more than that on baggage every time you fly during your elite period. On the other hand, if you find that there is no consistency and it’s going to cost you much more stick with one airline, it may be worth it to just look for the best fare you can get and try to squeeze it all in a carry-on.