If my calendar isn’t lying to me it’s July 1 (I’m hoping it is and it’s actually April 1, because that’s the only way I wouldn’t feel horrible about all the changes happening in the industry lately), which means it’s the start of the second half of the year. That’s a great time to track elite status progress for the year, and see what areas need to be concentrated on in order to avoid the end of the year mileage run and/or mattress run rush.
In my case I’ve had a pretty weak first half of the year. So far this year I’ve flown over 100,000 butt-in-seat miles on award tickets, which isn’t good news for my elite status requalification. While it’s great to redeem miles, award tickets also don’t count towards status, so I’ll have to focus a bit more on revenue flights and less on award flights for the remainder of the year.
And frankly I’m having a similar issue with hotels. I’ve been staying at too many hotels without loyalty programs, and am a bit less than half way to requalifying for status with my two main programs.
With that in mind, here’s where I stand on elite requalification for the year with the programs that matter most to me:
I’m just under half way to requalifying for Executive Platinum status. That’s probably because I haven’t done a mileage run to China yet this year, which I’ll definitely do in the fourth quarter of the year when fares are typically cheapest and upgrades are easiest to confirm. I’m not worried at all about requalifying with American.
Alaska Mileage Plan
Since moving to Seattle, status with Alaska has become very important to me. As an MVP Gold member you can change and cancel tickets without any fees (the money simply goes into your travel bank), so that’s an extremely valuable benefit. I’ve also yet to miss an upgrade on Alaska, though I’ve also only flown them up and down the west coast.
I’m way behind on requalifying for MVP Gold, though, which requires 50,000 flown miles on Alaska and their partners. At the moment I have only about 14,000 elite qualifying miles, many of which are from my Emirates trip earlier in the year, which I credited to Alaska. The other issue is that I’ve booked a lot of last minute award tickets on Alaska using British Airways Avios given how few Avios are required, and I don’t earn miles on those tickets.
Anyway, after Labor Day I’ll start looking for some mileage run fares on Alaska, as they usually have same day transcon turns for under $300 roundtrip in the off season. My biggest frustration with them are their lack of power ports, which makes it very difficult to be productive on a same day turn mileage run. I’m thinking of upgrading to a new MacBook Air, which comes with 12 hours of battery life — that would certainly help make my transcon turns more productive.
So while this requires a lot of flying, I’m confident I’ll requalify, and it’s something I have to do if I plan on staying in Seattle next year (which is a whole different can of worms for another post).
British Airways Executive Club
I got matched to British Airways Gold status when they took over British Midland. As an American flyer the single most valuable benefit of British Airways Gold status is access to the American Flagship Lounges even when traveling domestically. While on one hand I’ve considered trying to requalify (given that there are some efficient ways to do so by mileage running to the Caribbean on American in first/business class), I’ve come to realize that I only connect in airports that have Flagship Lounges maybe a handful of times a year, at least on domestic itineraries. On international itineraries I already get access to those lounges on account of my Executive Platinum status. So it’s just not worth putting in effort to requalify for access to a nicer lounge for a few trips a year.
Starwood Preferred Guest
While I can requalify for Starwood Platinum status on either 25 stays or 50 nights, I definitely want to reach the 50 nights. That’s because last year Starwood introduced new elite benefits, including 10 suite night awards for Platinum members that reach 50 nights.
While I’m more than half way in terms of stays and half way in terms of nights, I’m really pretty far behind. That’s because I get four elite stays and ten elite nights towards status requalification every year just for having the Starwood Personal American Express and Starwood Business American Express (each offers two elite stays and five elite nights annually). Without those I’d only be at 14 stays and 15 nights. So it’s time for me to play catch up. Big time.
Hyatt Gold Passport
I plan on qualifying for Hyatt Diamond on 25 stays as opposed to 50 nights, so I need 14 more stays. The issue with Hyatt is I’ve made quite a few award stays this year, and Hyatt doesn’t count award stays towards elite status, so I need to do more revenue stays for the rest of the year. I’m still hoping for a decent promotion in the second half of the year that makes mattress running more efficient. It does kind of make me long for the days that I lived in Tampa, given the number of properties there that I could efficiently mattress run at.
I earned Hilton Diamond this year by spending $40,000 on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. While the program devaluation sucks, I still wanted to see what Diamond status was like if for no other reason to share my experiences. The Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card comes with Gold status for as long as you have the card, which more or less gets you the same benefits as Diamond. So I may just decide to pay the low annual fee on the credit card in the future and take advantage of the Gold benefits when Hilton’s are the most convenient properties. Then again my first stay as a Diamond member was impressive as I got a suite upgrade without asking, something I’ve never gotten as a Gold member.
It’s time to book revenue flights for the rest of the year and stick to Hyatt (revenue rates only) and Starwood (revenue and award rates) for my hotel stays.
How are you guys doing on your 2013 elite status requalification?
(In the interest of full disclosure I earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the above links — thanks for your support!)