Elevate Your Elite Frequent Flyer Status

Some examples of my past mileage runs and mileage boosting trips. Some of these might seem a little crazy - but they’re nothing compared to what some people put themselves through, just to elevate their status.

Some examples of my past mileage runs and mileage boosting trips. Some of these might seem a little crazy - but they’re nothing compared to what some people put themselves through, just to elevate their status.

2019 is just around the corner, which means there is little time to renew, move up, or gain elite frequent flyer status for the first time. Where do you stand as an elite with your preferred airline? Are you within reach or do you still have several thousand miles to go? If your answer is the latter, relax, you can still get there. Let me introduce you to a little thing I like to call a mileage run

Before we go any further - we’re not going even begin to talk about whether elite status is actually worth what it used to be - that’ll come at a later time. This post is just about how to achieve that status this year still, and what to do in the future to attain status faster.

Now, look at your frequent flyer account. See how many elite qualifying miles you still need to achieve the next status. If you’re new to chasing elite status, keep in mind that elite status is attained by what we call butt in seat miles (American, Delta, and United title these differently - but they work the same). Essentially, you’re credited for the actual distance of your flight between two cities, not all of the bonus miles you might earn based on your current status. Some classes of service credit you with bonus elite qualifying miles (see the bottom of the post for airline specific details). Pay attention, too, to your total annual spending with your airline. In the last couple years, the three major US airlines added an annual spend requirement to their elite qualification. So, if you are several thousand dollars away still, a mileage run might not do you any good (unless you decide to splurge on a first class ticket to Europe).

What exactly is a mileage run? A mileage run is what frequent flyers sometimes do towards the end of the year to get the miles they need to elevate their qualification status to the next level. It might be a last minute business trip that could have waited until after the New Year, it might be a quick weekend getaway (paid for out of pocket), or it might be a trip to a random airport and back just to get the necessary miles (also out of pocket). My dad once flew a mileage run to London (from the Midwest), during the week between Christmas and New Years.

What can you still do this year? If you’re within striking distance of the next elite tier, look at doing a mileage run in the couple weeks. Figure out the total miles you need and find a cost effective itinerary that will get you there. Remember, paid First Class tickets will get you more qualifying miles than an economy ticket.

What can you do next year? Build your miles earlier in the year so a mileage run isn’t necessary. If your travel schedule allows for it and you don’t mind layovers or longer travel days, consider flying out of the way on mileage boosting trips. Rather than fly nonstop from say San Francisco to Dallas, instead look to connect through Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, etc. You never know when those miles might be needed later in the year, so look for opportunities to rack them up early. The photo at the top of the post highlights some of my mileage runs and mileage boosting trips - like flying from Denver to Minneapolis, back to Salt Lake City, before ending up in Philadelphia.

Good luck as you sprint towards this year’s finish line and welcome to my blog!

American Airlines

How to qualify: Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) plus Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs)

Gold ($3,000 EQDs and 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs)

Platinum ($6,000 and 50,000 or 60)

Platinum Pro ($9,000 and 75,000 or 90)

Executive Platinum ($12,000 and 100,000 or 120)

EQM credits per mile flown: Full Fare First/Business - 3; Discount First/Business - 2; Premium Economy - 1.5; Economy (Y) - 1.5; Economy - 1; Basic Economy - 0.5

EQD waiver: Spend $25,000 in qualifying purchases with your American co-branded credit card and receive $3,000 in EQDs, which will be added to your current EQD total.

Delta Air Lines

How to qualify: Earn Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) plus Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs)

Silver Medallion ($3,000 EQDs and 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs)

Gold Medallion ($6,000 and 50,000 or 60)

Platinum Medallion ($9,000 and 75,000 or 100)

Diamond Medallion ($15,000 and 125,000 or 140)

MQM credit based on miles flown: Full Fare First/Business - 200%; Discounted First/Delta Premium Select/Business/Premium Main Cabin - 150%; Economy - 100%; Basic Economy - 100%

MQD waiver: Make $25,000 in qualifying purchases with your Delta American Express credit card and the MQD requirement is waived for Silver, Gold and Platinum. Spend $250,000(!) and the MQD requirement is waived for Diamond.

Delta is the only airline that offers roll over miles, meaning any extra miles you earn above the qualification threshold roll over to the next qualification year.

United Airlines

How to qualify: Earn Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs) plus Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs)

Premier Silver ($3,000 EQDs and 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs)

Premier Gold ($6,000 and 50,000 or 60)

Premier Platinum ($9,000 and 75,000 or 90)

Premier 1K ($12,000 and 100,000 or 120)

EQM credits based on miles flown: Full Fare First/Business - 300%; Discounted First/Business/Premium Economy - 200%; Economy (Y) - 150%; Economy - 100%; Basic Economy - 0%

PQD waiver: Make $25,000 in qualifying purchases with your United bo-branded credit card and the MQD requirement is waived.

Alaska Airlines

How to qualify: Earn qualifying miles or qualifying segments

MVP (20,000 miles on Alaska or 25,000 miles on elite-qualifying partners or 30 segments)

MVP Gold (40,000 miles on Alaska or 50,000 miles on elite-qualifying partners or 60 segments)

MVP Gold 75K (75,000 miles on Alaska or 90,000 miles on elite-qualifying partners or 90 segments)

Qualifying miles credits based on miles flown: First Class - 175%; Economy (Y) - 150%; Economy - 100%;

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