Is Airline Elite Status Worth It?

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A reader recently asked me a very legitimite question — if most of my travel is not for work, why do I do so many mileage runs to keep my United 1K status (and shortly my US Airways Platinum status)?

I go for elite status mainly for upgrades, but also because I get a 100% bonus on all miles flown, if my flight is cancelled they’re quick to try to come up with good alternatives, and I have fewer/no fees when using miles to book award trips.

Because my award trips (which I haven’t talked much about yet) are what I live for. 🙂

120,000 US Airways miles get me a first class ticket to Asia on partner airlines like Thai Airways and Asiana where the experience in the air is as fun as the actual vacation time.

using airline miles for amazing first class trips

As a United 1K or US Airways Chairman I only need to fly 60,000 miles to earn enough miles for a trip like that.

Is elite status worth it for you?

  1. How often do you fly?
    If you’re an infrequent traveler, the expense and time you’d incur to earn elite status might be more than you’d pay to purchase the amenities you want a couple of times a year.
  2. What benefits do you value most?–If you like avoiding checked baggage fees and boarding while there’s still overhead space available, then the lowest level of airline status might be sufficient.
    –If you’re looking for upgrades, then you probably want the highest tier reasonably possible and you probably want to do research on which airline is likely to result in the most upgrades on your routes.
    –If you value free club lounge access based only on your status, then you probably want to go for gold status on an international airline like Aegean (Star Alliance lounges) or British Airways (American Airline lounges).
  3. Do you need flexibility?The higher the status, the fewer the fees for cancelling award tickets, rebooking tickets, and avoiding co-pays. Not to mention, United 1K’s at least, elites often have access to more seat inventory than non-elites. I decided late last fall to do everything possible to keep my United 1K status when I had reasons to book and cancel multiple last minute award tickets and was able to do so with no fees for booking less than 21 or 7 days out and no penalty for cancelling within a few hours of the flight’s departure. Not to mention I enjoyed changing my award tickets to Thailand 5+ times to get better first class cabins without having to pay the usual $100+ change fees.
  4. Is most of your travel time sensitive?
    The higher the status, the better the customer service (usually), and this really matters when flights are cancelled or delayed.  If they actually care that your travel plans have been disrupted, then you’re going to be at the head of the line for being rebooked quickly and on flights that hopefully minimize inconvenience and delay.

Elite status isn’t the best option for everyone, especially if you have to go to great lengths to get it. So don’t let anyone make you think you need to have a higher status, or have elite status at all if the benefits you will actually use aren’t more than the cost and effort.

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world.

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