In my last article – The Value of Elite Status, I discussed why you should have a goal to be an Elite on the airline program you earn miles on. I discussed the benefits airlines offer to their Elite Customers. This article was Part 2 of my series on the Economics of Airline Miles. In Part 1 I talked about the value of Airline Miles. In this article, I am taking a break from that series to do an in-depth description of what Elite Status is and how you qualify to be an Elite.

Elite levels and the benefits that come with them is how airlines reward their loyal and best customers. Every airline has its own Elite levels, its own requirements to qualify them and its own set of benefits that come at each level. Let’s start with the basics.

Elite levels:

Most airlines seem to have at least three tiers of Elite levels. While every airline has its own names for these, they can be classified as Basic, Mid-tier and Highest tier Elite levels.

Earning Elite Status:

It is important to point out here that all Elite Levels are attained based on the Status miles or EQM you fly. I discussed status miles in an article on that topic, posted earlier. Other than EQM, airlines also have an alternate qualification criteria based on segments flown. Every flight is considered a segment. So, if your trip involves one connection to go from city A to city B (IAD-CLT-RDU, for example), the trip will count as 2 segments. Qualification based on segments becomes very helpful for people who regularly take routes that have a connection and even more so for commuters who take several very short flights.

Some airlines, like Southwest have their own index (Southwest calls them credits) instead of Airline Miles that you accumulate to earn rewards. They hence, also have their own criteria for Elite Status. In the case of Southwest, they just have one Elite level – the A-List. Qualification for the A-list is based purely on the revenue spent on ticket purchases at Southwest, irrespective of actual miles/segments flown. In this article, I am going to focus on airlines that use Airline Miles for rewards. Let’s leave the discussion on Southwest and other airlines like it for a future article.

Now, let’s look at the Elite levels in detail.

Basic Tier:

Usually referred to as Silver. Example of names of this level are: Premier on United, Gold on American Airlines, ‘Frequent Traveler’ on Miles-and-More (the airline miles program for Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss). This is usually attained at the 25,000 status miles level. Some airlines do 35,000 Miles. If qualification based on segments is available, 30 segments are needed to qualify. Typical benefits include:

  • Priority Check-in and boarding
  • Bonus award miles (typically 25% bonus miles)
  • Access to upgrade award instruments or complementary upgrades
  • Waived checked baggage fees
  • Free access to Premium seats


Usually referred to as Gold. Examples of names are: Premier Executive on United, Platinum on American Airlines and Senator on Miles-and-More. It is usually attained at 50,000 status miles level (at 100,000 Miles for Miles-and-More) or 60 segments.

Most airlines also give lifetime status at this mid-tier level to their customers who have demonstrated long term and consistent loyalty.

Some airlines (such as United) award their mid-term Elite Status for life to people who have flown a Million Miles on flights operated by United in their life so far. British Midlands Airlines awards lifetime status to you if you have been at the Gold level for 10 consecutive years. It bears to note here that ‘lifetime’ status means for your life or that of the airline, whatever comes first. Given the financial state of most airlines…

Elite Status.jpg

Typical benefits include – All benefits for Basic Tier level and:

  • More bonus award miles (may be as high as 100% bonus miles)
  • Additional baggage allowance
  • Access to much sought after premium seats such as exit row seats

Highest Tier:

Usually referred to as Platinum. Examples of names are: 1K on United Airlines, Platinum Executive on American Airlines and ‘HON Circle Member’ on Miles-and-More. It is usually attained at the 100,000 status miles level (at 600,000 miles over 2 years for Miles-and-More) or 100 segments.

Typical benefits include – all the benefits of the Mid-Tier level and:

  • Access to more upgrades. Example would be ‘System Wide Upgrades’ (SWU) which are instruments that can upgrade any trip with one coupon each way, irrespective of routing, number of connections, etc. (subject to availability of seats, of course)
  • Dedicated customer service phone # and email
  • Highest priority on waiting lists (for seats or for upgrades)
  • Ability to award Basic Elite status to someone else

Well, that’s my round up of Elite status. Look at your mileage earning patterns. Which airline miles program do you earn miles on? How many miles in a year? Let’s get you to Elite next year. If you have a specific question about your mileage program/earnings, feel free to reach out to me. I can be reached via my email id on the Contact Me page or you can DM me on Twitter. Remember; never give out your account information in public. Security of your mileage account is nowhere near where it needs to be. That is a rant I will leave for another post.

Thoughts on this article? Leave a comment below…

I will now be going back to my series on the Economics of Airline Miles. Part 3 is on How to Maximize Earning Airline Miles.

You can receive regular Tips on Maximizing Airline Miles via RSS or Email. Links are on the left. You can also keep upto date with Frequent Flyer and Airline News by following me on Twitter.

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Posted by unroadwarrior | 37 Comments

37 responses to “Airline Elite Status – the What and the How?”

  1. […] are two articles on the what and the how of airline Elite levels and the Value of Elite Status. Like what you read? Receive regular Airline Mile Tips via email or […]

  2. […] an Elite. As I discussed in detail in part 2 of this series – The Value of Elite Status, Elite status on a frequent flyer program will earn you bonus miles on that program, every time you fly. This […]

  3. […] qualifying for different Elite levels is where all the real returns begin. I also talked about the how and what of Elite status in detail in another article. In this article I shall cover some tips and techniques that can help […]

  4. […] Along the same lines, such airlines do not allow you to earn Elite Status by flying any other airline. If they even do have an Elite Status available thru their program, you can only achieve Elite Status by flying the airline itself. Airlines like Southwest and JetBlue do have a limited Elite Status program. Achieving Elite Status here is achieved based on the revenue spent on the airline, not on miles or segments flown. I compared Southwest’s frequent flyer program’s Elite Status with traditional full featured programs’ Elite Status in my article on the What and How of Elite Status. […]

  5. […] Airline Elite Status – the What and the How?    The Economics of Airline Miles – Part I […]

  6. […] Today all three airlines share this single program. Anyone who had miles accumulated or had elite status in any of the three pre-acquisition airlines got their miles combined to one total sum and retained […]

  7. […] being an Elite will not eliminate the taxes and the fuel surcharges, it will eliminate or at least reduce any […]

  8. […] you are like me, you logged in to your primary mileage account, the one you have Elite Status on, on Jan. 1st and saw a big fat Zero in your Status Miles (EQM) total. For almost every airline […]

  9. […] If you are flying on a paid for economy ticket and upgrade using miles, you are still given all the Elite Status benefits you are entitled […]

  10. […] They have unsold First or Business class seats and they are using them to reward their customers with Elite Status […]

  11. […] more importantly status mile when flying any of the alliances member airlines. You can also enjoy Elite status benefits on all alliance members. Furthermore, you can redeem your miles for an award ticket that […]

  12. […] of your Elite status on the code shared flight will all depend upon the relationship between the two airlines. If they […]

  13. […] popular Post on: Airline Elite Status – the What and the How? […]

  14. […] a United hub helps me a lot there. There are many out there who travel in order to earn miles or status. Or are willing to pay drastically more to fly airlines they want to. There, as Christopher […]

  15. […] Airline Elite Status – the What and the How: What is Elite Status? What are Elite levels available? How do I qualify and What do I get for […]

  16. […] awards MVP (equivalent to Silver status) at 20,000 status miles exclusively on Alaska or 25,000 miles spread between Alaska and its status […]

  17. […] the upgrade. This one was a complimentary upgrade for me, as a 1K Elite. But if I was flying international on an eight hour plus trip, I would gladly pay to upgrade (cash, […]

  18. […] The What and How of Elite Status GA_googleFillSlot("ba_unroadwarrior_post_single"); […]

  19. kay says:

    I am quite new to this blog and I am really liking it. Thanks Unroadwarrior.

  20. unroadwarrior says:

    You are welcome Kay. Welcome to my world…

  21. […] are some exceptions to this guidance of one airline per alliance. One reason would be to get Star Gold status on a non-US based airline. This gives free lounge access on all domestic Star Alliance flights. I […]

  22. […] every Elite Status level airlines have two ways to qualify. One is the traditional way to qualify – with Elite […]

  23. […] to Elite Status. I actually earned 25% of actual miles flown as both redeemable miles (RDM) and Elite Status Miles (EQM) on an 15,000 mile round trip. This had made British Airways one of my least favorite airlines […]

  24. […] Alliance was my first choice as I have maximum miles on Star Alliance airlines and have Star Gold Elite Status. I used the ANA Award finder tool to look for awards on Star Alliance airlines. No luck. Nothing […]

  25. […] (sorry, the ‘mileage aware’ traveler), it is the time to make sure they make their status level. It is the time for the Mileage […]

  26. […] that makes an orbit of the earth, we are talking a minimum of 26,000 miles. Now we are talking. Silver in one orbit, Gold in […]

  27. […] a thread that went on on FlyerTalk about a person planning a 47,000 miles mileage run. To reach an Elite Status level that takes 100,000 miles to reach, that is going almost half the distance via a mileage run! […]

  28. […] so that people will pay top dollar and spend over a week on a plane, just to qualify at the highest Elite levels. Of all these benefits, one I wish to never avail of, but value the most when I do, is how the […]

  29. […] count. The value of the vouchers you get depends upon the actual delay caused on your trip and your Elite Status level. Apparently it hurts you more if you are delayed when you are a Gold, as opposed to when you are a […]

  30. […] co-blogger. I am seeking people who have a passion for airline miles, hotel points and attaining elite status – the main theme of my blog. I am still reaching out and responding to some of the people who […]

  31. […] What they have instituted is reciprocal matching of status in their programs. Now, being an Elite on either program is not something to write home about. But, it is better than nothing. Now A+ […]

  32. […] miles you need to your next award trip or an upgrade on your next long haul trip? Is it reaching an Elite level? Check with your airline to find out what changes they have made for next year. In most cases, the […]

  33. […] Status – people with a higher Elite status get a higher […]

  34. […] due to their expiration, probably the most important thing related to miles and hotel points is Elite Status. Almost all programs use a calendar year to compute Elite Status. Other use a rolling window. This […]

  35. […] Elite qualification is something some of us have to fight for all year. As a (un)road warrior, this is an annual process for me – scrounge for every PQM to get to (for me) 50,000 PQM in a year for qualifying as a Gold Elite with United. This year was no different. And plans did not go as I had hoped either. There were cancelled trips, trips on Delta (yikes!) as United has terrible early morning connectivity to Atlanta from DC, missed flights that resulted in me flying American (double yikes!) and the mother of them all – I redeemed miles on myself (breaking my own rule) for a roundtrip Business Class ticket to India! […]

  36. […] bonuses for that too. These bonuses can be up to 200% for Award miles (RDM), but remain 150% for Elite miles. Conversely, if you purchase discounted Business or First tickets, you may not earn any bonus Elite […]

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