I always say that earning elite status, especially when you’re aiming for the top tier, multiple programs, or paying for it yourself, requires a lot of strategy. In my case, I’m trying to do all three.
Strategy helped me earn Premier 1K for the first time in 2011, when 500-mile minimums gave me a 5,000 mile boost over the course of the year (and which I completely forgot about). In 2012, I didn’t follow my year-long itinerary perfectly, but planning did show that I only needed 50,000 miles worth of pure mileage runs. I was able to complete half of that in the first quarter, when prices and traffic are generally lower, instead of waiting until the fourth quarter, when holidays reduce free time and increase demand.
I am not normally the New Year’s resolution type, but I have refined my travel habits as I fly more and more. In 2012 I resolved not to do more than one mileage run to the same destination after suffering through countless hours on regional jets or in the empty Kansas City terminal.
This year my resolution is to add more international flights to the mix and avoid needless connections. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. But since I estimate flying over 170,000 miles in 2013 (butt-in-seat) I want to get my mileage runs over and done with while also seeing new places. My goals include:
- 95,000 EQMs with United Airlines MileagePlus to earn Premier 1K. By booking some travel with my MileagePlus Select Visa, I can earn an additional 5,000 EQMs to reach the 100,000 requirement.
- 40,000 EQMs with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to earn MVP Gold. By flying exclusively on Alaska Airlines-operated flights, the requirement for this tier is lowered to 40,000 instead of 50,000.
- 40,000 miles of award travel that credits to no program. I plan to take a honeymoon to Istanbul and Bali, going the long way through Europe and several (un)necessary detours to experience specific equipment types. I also plan to use miles to book all my flights to the Bay Area and Oregon, since it no longer makes sense to pay ~$200-300 for a measly 1,500 EQMs.
I know many people, especially Beaubo, question the value of mileage runs altogether. (He does make an exception for limited cases.) Amol and I are going to do a little head-to-head to discuss their merit more thoroughly, but for now just assume I know what I’m talking about. I know, that’s asking quite a lot.
I’ve decided to add MVP Gold with Alaska Airlines as a new goal because both my parents now live in small, rural areas that are a big PITA to get to with United. Flying Alaska, and particularly when redeeming Avios for only 9,000 points round-trip, is much easier. In addition, I’ve just gotten tired of connections in general and think the direct flights that Alaska operates to certain cities, like Boston, Washington-Reagan, Austin, and the Hawaiian islands, make much more sense.
I’m especially looking forward to the benefit of being able to cancel and change revenue tickets with no fee, which I discovered when preparing my comparison tables of U.S. airline loyalty programs. (A European version is due out soon! Let’s just say I officially hate BA Executive Club.)
My other major strategy shift will be to book the majority of Megan’s flights as award tickets. I still need to earn my status, but the benefits of being Premier Gold with United just aren’t there anymore since they dropped the mileage-earning bonus from 100% to 50%. She’ll get my benefits anyway when she flies with me. And with Alaska in my sights, this is a prudent cost-saving move.
I’m not sure how the companion upgrade scenario will work out, but I’m hopeful since I have two United-branded credit cards that make award tickets booked from my account eligible for complimentary domestic upgrades. These clear after all revenue tickets at the Premier 1K level, so basically she’ll go from being after all other Premier 1Ks to being after all other Premier 1Ks and their paid companions. She still ranks before Premier Platinum passengers.
Looks like an ambitious year, no? Here’s hoping it goes without too much interruption, or at least the kind that offers lucrative compensation!