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Starting a New Year of earning Miles and Status

Here we go again – Starting a New Year of earning Miles and Status:

If 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 in the world, that was the case. There are a few exceptions – some airlines like BMI have a rolling 12-month window over which they award and reset their status miles. This gives every passenger his or her own anniversary date on which their status miles reset to zero. My ‘personal’ date with BMI is sometime in November. A very few number of other airlines allow for roll over of status miles. Delta just introduces this last year. They roll over any status miles you earned in a year beyond what you needed to get to an Elite level, to the next year. United has an award of 2,500 roll-over status miles for reaching certain EQM thresholds in a year. For the rest of us, we begin every year with zero status miles and a clock ticking to get to an Elite level in the next 12 months.

As I am typing this article out, I am on my first flight for the year. It will earn me a mere 1,000 EQM on United for this round trip. But, in the first week of January, I will be opening my score card for the year. Only 99,000 EQM to go to retaining my 1K status…Plan for Elite Status.JPG

To maximize reaching an Elite level or even levels, if you choose to do it on multiple airlines, it is imperative to have a plan. A plan to maximize every status miles earning opportunity you can get. In this article I share things that I focus on. These have helped me be a Premier Executive (Mid-level Elite tier) on United for several years and a 1K (United’s top tier that can be earned), last year. I am nowhere near the Clooney character from Up in the Air – I do not fly that much and hope I never have to (unless of course, this blog really takes off and I can retire from my day job and fly around the world fun…)

What are your flying patterns?

It is all going to depend on how much you actually fly? What is referred to in Frequent Flyer lingo as Butt-in-seat (BIS) miles. If you fly twice a year to Gramdma’s and grandma does not live on another continent, you are not going to reach an Elite level any time soon. In full disclosure, my Grandma does live on another continent, and if I go see her twice a year, I will be a Premier Elite on United just on those two trips.

On the other hand, if you do fly over a 100,000 miles in a year, pick one airline and go for it. You will surely be able to hit their top-elite level.

It is people like me, who have erratic, somewhat unpredictable, travel patterns; who travel ‘just about’ 40,000 to 60,000 miles in a year and who never pay for upper class seats, that need focus and planning. These are the kind of people I call UN-road-warriors and have dedicated this Blog to.

What kind of focus?

Focus on one airline to earn miles on and more importantly, one alliance to fly on. I have United as the airline that I earn all my miles on and as United is a part of Star Alliance, I only fly on Star Alliance airlines – primarily United and US Airways. This year, I will also have Continental as an option, other than all the others in Star Alliance.

Miles or Segments?

If you regularly fly multiple very short flights or even just two flights every week, you are more likely to make a top level Elite on an airline via segments rather than miles. Two flights a week is over 100 segments in a year, getting you to the top Elite tier on most airlines. I know one person who flies every Monday and Thursday. Each flight is only around 300 miles each, but he makes it comfortably to Chairman Elite status on US Airways, although his total miles flown do not exceed 35,000 miles!

If you think you have a better shot at making Elite via segments, you can even increase the number of segments you fly by taking routes that require a change of planes. It is a painful way to do it, but it doubles the number of segments earned. Think Segment Run instead of Mileage Run!

Make a list of all EQM options your Airline has.

Other than flying, most airlines have other methods to earn status miles. These include:

Credit Cards – United for example, gives 1 EQM for every dollar spent on their website to purchase tickets, using some of the United branded credit cards. They also, on at least one of their cards, award 5,000 EQM if you spend over $35,000 on the card in a calendar year. Most other airlines with branded credit cards offer some similar methods to earn EQM.

Class of service (CoS) bonus EQM – If you travel in upper class or have the ability to purchase full-fare economy tickets, most airlines give additional EQM for such tickets. These multipliers of EQM earned may be as high as 3x on some airlines. Check with your airline, if you do fly in upper class cabins.

DEQM promotions – I would have never reached 1K status on United last year without the two DEQM promotions they ran in 2009. Just one trip I made to Dubai during their second and totally unexpected DEQM promotion earned me 28,000 status miles. Register with your airline to get notified of promotions. There are several forums, such a FlyerTalk that are a great source of such information. You can also follow us on Twitter and become our Fan on Facebook. We intend to post all promotions we find on these two sources.

Other promotions – This is mainly due to the economic downturn and hence will not last forever (I hope, the recession that is), but we are seeing airlines come up with more and more offers that involve earning status miles without flying. We have seen some hotels offer status miles for stays and as I already mentioned above, multiple multi-month long DEQM promotions.

Wishing you all a very Happy, Prosperous and Mileage filled 2010! Safe Travels.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed explanation about Elite Status and some programs, yet I’m wondering why you didn’t mention Asiana Club? Star Gold is earned after flying 40,000 qualifying miles within two years, and status lasts for two years. I think this rule alone makes Asiana a better FF program than any of the other star alliance members recalculating EQM every calendar year (or on a rolling 12-month basis), doesn’t it?

  2. FFnewbie,

    Asiana definitely has some great features that make it very useful, especially if your goal is just to earn Gold status. Here are three things to keep in mind before staring accumulating miles on Asiana – 1) The most benefit of being an Elite is when you fly the airline you are an Elite on. For example, as an Elite on United, I get double miles for every mile I fly, Economy+ seating, priority boarding and priority handling during irregular ops. As a Star Gold on Asiana, I will get this extra special treatment only when I fly Asiana (which I personally am very unlikely to do). 2) Asiana has terrible burn rate on several routes. When you earn miles, the value of the miles is based on what you can redeem them on. Asiana charges much more miles for the same routes than other airline. 3) Asiana has a ‘terminal’ expiration policy on their miles. Use it or lose it. You cannot save their miles for later use by keeping them renewed. Hope this helps.

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