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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have decided that I am traveling far too much these days to not have elite status with an airline. It’s been years since I had airline elite status, and even then it was only low tier status. Over the last year or so, traveling on my airline of choice (Continental, now United) has gotten increasingly difficult without status, so I decided that needed to change. So, this week silver became my new favorite color when I obtained (lowly) Premier Silver status by flying 25,000 elite qualifying miles with United!
Up until recently, simply by having the Continental OnePass credit card (now the United MileagePlus Explorer card) would get me “Premier Access” that allowed me to access the elite security line and board the flight early. Boarding early is important so you don’t end up having to gate check your bag because the overhead bins are already full before you get on board. The MileagePlus Explorer card still provides for early boarding, but it no longer provides access to the elite security line. In truth, it probably never was supposed to, but it worked that way for years by virtue of “Premier Access” printing on your boarding pass.
Despite my best intentions, there is usually something that causes me to get to the airport slightly later than I wish. So, just about every time I am met with a security line that is so long it wraps around the corner, I sit there and kick myself for not having status and cutting it too close for comfort on making my scheduled flights. Now, I again have access to an elite security line when it is available. Thank goodness! In my world, saving a few minutes is a huge victory.
I have been flying enough miles per year to have at least a mid-tier elite status with an airline, but there were a few things that were preventing me from actually having that status. For one, I often fly on award tickets, and as a result do not earn miles toward elite status on those tickets. Secondly, I was flying on a number of different airlines when I lived in Austin since there was no one airline that had a dominant presence in Austin. As a result, the elite qualifying miles I was earning were going into lots of different pots.
However, now that I live in Houston I have a carrier that clearly offers the most non-stop flights at my disposal. United is the clear choice for me to fly on 95% of the time. I will do just about anything to avoid a connection when flying as they are much harder for my kiddo, and they increase the chance of delays, missed connections, lost/delayed bags, etc. I also generally don’t have time to add several hours to my traveling day, so direct flights are the ones for me (yes, I know I would earn more miles with connections, but I gotta draw the line somewhere). So, making sure that just about all of my paid flights are on one carrier helped with my quest for elite status.
The next thing I did was become more strategic about when to redeem miles for free flights. When I could afford to do so, I stopped redeeming reward tickets for my tickets, and instead only redeemed for my daughter and husband. My own ticket would be a paid ticket and thus would earn miles. There are certainly still times that I am flying on a reward ticket, but if the cost of the ticket isn’t too terrible (i.e., generally under $400 or so for a domestic ticket), then it makes sense to conserve some miles and earn miles instead. The cost of the trip is still maintained at a manageable level since only one ticket purchase is required, but the whole family benefits by my status. It’s pretty much a win-win situation. This will become even more true as I am able to attain a higher elite status. Clearly not everyone can do this since you must have the available funds for the ticket, but it is a good strategy for some. It is a strategy that also pairs nicely with starting to save up a bunch of miles for a large international itinerary we hope to enjoy as soon as my daughter is four years old.
I am traveling with my daughter and Grandma Points this week, and having status will already come in handy not only at the airport, but on the flight itself. There are plenty of E+ seats still available for our flight, so I should be able to move two of our seats into the E+ section when I check in 24 hours before the flight. Once I obtain Platinum status I will be able to reserve up to eight E+ seats at the time of booking – that will be very nice! The E+ seats are going for $59 each for this flight, so that is immediately a $118 savings by having status, since I likely would have purchased those seats anyway. Assuming we get them on the return flight, that is another $118 saved. That type of savings will really add up quickly for us.
I should obtain Gold status (50,000 miles) while on the Star MegaDo in November, if not just before that event. I should end the year with Platinum status at 75,000 miles if everything happens as planned. However, for now I am very excited to have Silver status. I have no doubt some will laugh at me being excited about low-level airline elite status, but it is seriously a huge improvement over having no status. I also know that not all families travel enough for elite status to be a realistic goal, but I have no doubt that there are some out there that are within striking distance if a few key strategic decisions are made (like selecting who to purchase a revenue ticket for or sticking with one carrier/alliance when possible). If you, or someone in your family, can obtain some level of elite status with an airline just by being a little more strategic with how you travel, then I absolutely recommend going for it. I’ll let you know my thoughts on having each level of elite status with United as I go after I get some more flights under my belt.