United Says I’m a Slacker – What About You?

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Believe it or not, 2015 is over 60% completed, which means that assuming your travel is evenly distributed throughout the year, you should be about 60% of the way to qualifying or re-qualifying for the elite status levels that you would like to earn with your preferred hotel and airline partners.  Not very long ago I was pretty dedicated to earning elite status including doing “mattress runs” to earn hotel elite credits and “mileage runs” to earn elite qualifying airline miles.  In 2014 I had top tier United 1K status, top tier Hyatt Diamond status, and my husband had top tier SPG Platinum status.  We were pretty set with some decent perks and we used them as much as possible.

Someone enjoyed our elite status!

Someone enjoyed our elite status!

These top tier elite status levels got us upgrades, occasional suites, waived change fees, bonus points, and all around somewhat better service.  However, that ability to dedicate time and resources for that much travel came and went, and in 2015 I dropped to second tier United Platinum status, we no longer have SPG status, but we still have more airline/hotel status than the average bear, and plenty to make many of our travels a bit more comfortable.

Then this year life has not only obviously continued to make it much more difficult to devote resources to travel, but I also have just had less desire to spend chunks of my life on the road or in the sky unnecessarily.  My husband also no longer has a job that has him on the road and earning miles/points, so not only are we naturally earning fewer points, but we are obviously not really making progress toward elite status for next year.

In fact, United Airlines wanted me to know that I’m a slacker.  A couple weeks ago I got an email from them showing my progress toward re-qualifying for Platinum status, and as of July 15th and I only had earned 11,755 elite qualifying miles of the 75,000 that would be needed to retain Platinum status for another year.  It doesn’t take a calculator to realize that is way off the pace and August is going to come and go without me making any additional progress toward 75k.

United 2015 elite status.jpg United Elite Status.jpg

I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in August Texas heat that I will hit 75k elite qualifying miles again this year.  Just hitting Gold status at 50k may be a stretch even though I do have several flights booked on United in September – December.  Some of the drop-off is due to tightening our finances, some is due to just wanting to be home more, and much is due to being too pregnant to travel and then caring for a newborn.  Even if everything else had stayed the same, having a baby will do a number to your elite status levels…which of course is a small price to pay, but a reality none the less.

However, I really don’t care.  Sure I would prefer to keep my elite status with United as it has really made life a bit easier with waived award ticket change fees, free E+ seats for my family, etc. but the reality is those perks are only worth as much as you use them.  I don’t know exactly what 2016 will have in store for us, but I do know I will have a daughter in kindergarten and another daughter who is between 6 months and 18 months that year, so I don’t think I’m going to be spending huge chunks of time flying around the world taking advantage of elite status levels.

Hanging with these two > mileage running for elite status

We will take some trips in 2016 for sure, but probably not enough to justify investing time and money into doing tons of mileage runs for a higher elite status level.  Instead I can just pay for the extra legroom seats or suite upgrades when we want them, or bite the bullet on award change fees when life throws us curve balls.  That may result in a few hundred extra dollars a year in travel expenses, but that’s far less than when it would take to go from 11.7k miles to 75k elite qualifying miles from September to December.  If you are in a similar situation, keep in mind that some co-branded credit cards can give you “elite like” perks or even low/mid-tier elite status levels just by virtue of having or using the cards.


See you another time upgrades…

I expect that there will come a time again in the future that higher tier elite status is something that I will earn either naturally or through a bit of extra work/travel, but that time is not right now and that is totally okay by me.  I appreciate United letting me know I was slacking, but not enough to actually do much about it.

How are you doing with your elite status levels, or are you mostly not worrying about it like us?

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  1. After the devaluation from United and their continued lackluster service (and Delta devaluation and not really being that impressed with AA and expecting them to go revenue soon also), I have kinda given up chasing airline status. I rather spread my miles I receive from business travel around and use foreign carriers (for when flying outside the states) to get points with them (specifically BA). I am sure a lot of people still get great use out of being a platinum or exec platinum or diamond or w/e flyer nowadays. But I only fly about 50-60k miles a year and to me, they are really not worth it anymore.

    Also, I have no faith in United keeping prices remotely close to what they are. I rather just put the travel expense on my Amex or CSP and transfer to airlines with certain sweet spots.

  2. Not worrying about status. I don’t travel enough to hit those qualification levels, and so I concentrate on travelling for as little out of pocket cost as possible. I thought I could possibly hit AA Gold, but that’s not going to happen, and I figured it’s not worth stretching financially to hit it. I’ll just use my surplus of miles to fund the upcoming trips I have.

  3. Hahah got a very similar email, though I have been flying, however other airlines, mostly Southwest. United killed the value proposition for me when they started selling upgrades rather than upgrading elites. Miles wise I may have come out ahead with their revenue based changes but if you’re going to sit in economy you may as well take someone with you.

  4. My wife and I are in a similar boat. While we were never a top-tier elite with any airline, my wife was AA Plat in 2014 and AA Gold this year. We just had our first child and therefore my wife won’t be traveling for work anywhere near enough to re-qualify for AA Gold. Now that isn’t that big a deal since Gold doesn’t get you very much especially now with USAir and AA elites fighting for the same FC seats. Now for hotels, I am Marriott Gold which is great. CL access, free breakfast, and upgrades. My wife is SPG Gold and while we love SPG properties esp Westin and W hotels, we don’t really get much with SPG Gold so doing a mattress run would be silly. The next couple years for us will be Marriott stays and very few leisure flights. For us, we would much rather spend time with our lil girl than in hotels and airports trying to earn elite status for which we don’t get a great return on the time and money invested to earn it.

  5. I had Platinum status on AA for 2013 and 2014, dropped to Gold this year. I bought a condo earlier this year so traveling less to allow my savings to rebuild. Plus, when I travel I look at other airlines – I book airfare based on convenience, schedule, and price which may or may not be on AA. As for hotels, the only status I have is Hyatt Platinum thanks to their credit card. I have, and will continue to “kayak” when booking hotels – 3-4 star at the best location and for the best price.

  6. I hope United is sending out a LOT of these emails… And maybe more and more people are flying less with them… Customers can only talk with their wallets so maybe more people will dump United.. Hopefully this will get Smisek’s (or at least the board) attention

  7. I became a United Million Miler in early 2014, so I haven’t worried about requalifying since thanks to lifetime Gold status. Still, I flew 45000 miles in 2014. I only expect to hit 15000 miles this year.

    I will try to get nine more Club Carlson nights to retain Silver status. I get Marriott Gold status thanks to lifetime United Gold status.

    Hertz Gold Star (I think that’s the name) is also a nice perk of the lifetime United Gold status.

    I don’t know if I’ll hit two million with United and it’s accompanying lifetime Platinum status. That is another 15 to 20 years of heavy flying.

    • Why not just get the Club Carlson Card? The 40k annual retention bonus is worth more than the annual fee, and you automatically get gold status.

        • I’ve thought about getting the card. Perhaps when I recover from my serious injury and can get back to work.

          The main reason I like Club Carlson properties is there is a Radisson in my small hometown of 30,000 outside of Boston. They have decent suites, so when we go to visit it is nice to get upgraded to a huge suite.

          There are also some nice Country Inns & Suites in the small midwestern towns where I travel to short track speed skating competitions. Its always nice to get upgraded there too.

  8. It’s the perfect time to think of starting a status match daisy chain. It’s where you use an expiring status to get status for the next year on a different airline. With UA Platinum you can easily get Turkish for Star Alliance Gold (which you can use when flying UA) or Alaska MVP Gold, which partners with AA & DL. Of course, the following year, you can use your new status to match to another airline. Rinse and repeat.

    • Indeed and I may go that route. However, the catch is again that it is only worth it if you will use what you get. Worth it if you know you will use it though!

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