I’m Airline & Hotel Status Complacent — Are You?

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I often get questions from readers about which airline or hotel status they should go for next. Something along the lines of:

“It’s only halfway through the year, and I’ve already (re)qualified for [airline/hotel loyalty program] [precious metal]. Which status should I go for next?”

Loyalty programs (sometimes) don’t offer enough benefits for marginal loyalty

I can relate to the struggle in general. If you’re a goal oriented person, it’s only natural to want to move onto the next goal once you’ve completely “qualified” for one. And the feeling isn’t unreasonable, given that almost across the board loyalty programs don’t do enough to incentivize marginal loyalty above the top tier, in my opinion.

For example, Hyatt gives you four confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards when you achieve Diamond status, each of which can be used to confirm a suite upgrade for up to seven nights. Potentially you can confirm upgrades for up to 28 of the 50 nights needed for Diamond. But you don’t receive any extra Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards if you spend 100 or 150 nights in hotels. So your percent of nights spent in a suite decreases the more you stay.

Andaz-West-Hollywood-Hotel-14

It’s no different on the airline front. American gives you eight systemwide upgrades when you qualify for Executive Platinum status, but as a published benefit they don’t give you extras for marginal travel (though in the past they’ve unofficially offered bonuses for passing certain thresholds).

American-Business-Class

My status situation this year

I’m trying to “normalize” my life a bit. Now, that’s a relative term, coming from someone who lives in hotels and flies 400,000+ miles per year.

But I don’t want to do this forever, and I’m contemplating settling down sooner rather than later, as fun as the past ~18 months have been.

We’re a bit over halfway through the year, and I’ve realized how complacent I am with status:

  • I’ve already way over qualified for Executive Platinum status with American
  • I’ve already way over qualified for Diamond status with Hyatt
  • I’ve already way over qualified for Platinum status with Starwood

AAdvantage-Tracker

On top of that I’m quite happy with the IHG Platinum status I have with the IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card, as well as the HHonors Gold status I have with the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card. In both cases I get that status just for holding onto the cards, and it comes in handy when I stay in a market where there are no Hyatt, Starwood, or independent hotels which interest me.

Which status will I go for next?

None.

I could easily qualify for more status levels, be it with another airline or hotel. I could get HHonors Diamond status by spending $40,000 on the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card, I could go for InterContinental Royal Ambassador, etc.

But sometimes it just feels really nice to be “complacent.” And by complacent I mean just enjoying the status I’ve earned, and not always having to plot out my travel like a chess game.

What are the benefits of that?

  • I’m more likely to try out some independent hotels when I’ve already requalified for the status levels I’m going for
  • Once you’ve earned status, it’s very hard to let it go; in other words, if I try to go for any more status, I’ll feel the need to requalify again next year, which makes it tough to “wind down”
  • Ultimately I have millions of miles, and it’s much easier to redeem them when you’re not constantly trying to book revenue tickets in order to requalify for an ever increasing number of status levels

Bottom line

In many ways my approach towards this hobby has changed. I’m no less passionate about it than day one, but I think I’ve just naturally “evolved” as anyone else in the hobby has. My priorities at age 15 are different than my priorities at age 25. 15 year old me would have thought the person who dies with the most status wins. 25 year old me thinks that the person with the most status dies first. 😉

Where do you stand on earning status — would you rather “over” qualify for a status level, or pick up status with more programs?

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Comments

  1. Perhaps you should take the opportunity to review the other American majors, Delta and United?

  2. @ Ben — Why didn’t you credit more of your AA flying to AS in order to re-qualify for top status with AS?

  3. In cases where status benefits are unlimited, like domestic upgrades or Starwood non-SNA suite upgrades, sometimes it is better to just enjoy the benefits you have, especially if you are looking at starting from zero status on a second brand.

    @Nola — if you read the recent article you will see why he doesn’t review United. If you read the rest of the blog you will see why he doesn’t review Delta. Though if he did fly Delta, his excess elite qualifying miles would roll over and he wouldn’t have this problem.

  4. Hi Lucky, I Live in the UK so maybe the rules are different but here you have to be 18 to have membership in loyalty programmes, and was wondering how you started at 15? The only reason I ask is because I am 17 and feel like I’m missing out.

  5. Obviously you should go for the Holy Trinity and qualify on segments as well. Only 69 segments to go!

  6. @ Bgriff, I’ve been following the blog for a year or more now and I understand that Ben doesn’t like the Delta FF program. Nick reviews Delta and I’ve also seen Tiffany’s reviews of various products, so I also recognize Ben’s attempt to diversify the blog as there are people who follow the blog who do not fly AA on a regular basis. All I’m saying is that Ben’s posts are very informative and he has a good eye for details, so it would be nice to see his impression of the other carriers that many readers fly.

    I can definitely understand the aversion to United.

  7. For me it’s quite simple, once I’ve attained status with my preferred travel companies, why would I want to give up the perks of that status to go somewhere else and start all over without those perks? It just doesn’t seem very smart to me.

    .

  8. I’ll over qualify for MVP Gold by 15K miles, but have little desire to go further. Stopped caring about AA after hitting LT PLT (for the most part). I would rather forge and cultivate relationships with hotels I frequent on a regular basis, than trying to build status and then be pissed when I’m not treated like the princess that I deserve to be treated like based on my status.

  9. I remember once waiting to board yet another flight with my boss and mentioning to him that a good performance goal for the next year would be to not achieve any kind of status with any airline or hotel. My tongue was only partly in cheek since the fun of the chase had long ago gotten old. We indeed have different outlooks and goals at different times in our lives.

  10. Well turned phrase at the end. So the post itself wins . . . my Best Post of the Day prize. No competition today, really.

    I’ve long ago decided that I’m ok just being a low-level elite on AA. If I want hotel status, I’ll get a credit card — or at least the two (Hilton & Sheraton business) that come with de facto lounge access.

  11. My husband and I, both self-employed, both have Lifetime UA Gold status (and I’m SPG Lifetime Gold/currently Platinum 100). We live in SoCal, so SNA/LAX and occasionally SFO are the airports we must use for our travels. When traveling for work, we buy the tickets that are best/easiest for us–nonstop, or with as few connections, and with best schedule whenever possible. We fly premium class as much as we can, either upgraded or purchased. Because we don’t need to requalify with UA, we fly UA when it’s convenient, and we fly AA and less often DL domestically when it’s convenient–but we don’t worry about AA status. We could care less about DL–we think it’s not any better than AA or UA and its miles are worthless to us. For international travel, we almost always use award travel in F whenever available–which is pretty easy with Chase UR cards, Amex MR cards, and Citi TY cards, and also with SPG cards and Starpoints from my 100+ stays every year. When SPG hotels aren’t available, we sometimes stay at Hyatts for work and leisure–using Chase URs when necessary–but avoid Hilton and Marriott or IHG unless we have no choice. We occasionally use Chase URs for Ritz Carlton for leisure. Other than UA and SPG Lifetime status, we don’t chase it at all. I do like to get SPG Plat, because I get upgraded 80%+ of the time and like that perk–plus I find I get better service at SPG hotels as a Plat than any other hotel chain with loyalty (not counting FS, RC, PH, Aman, MO, Pen, etc). So I completely concur and understand Ben’s take. When we travel for leisure, we stay where we want to stay…but if a StR or Lux Collection or PH hotel is available, we may stay there for less or free. Saving money when we can while still getting top drawer service is important to us…and smart for us.

  12. You did not take into account that AA has lifetime Gold/Platinum at the 1M/2M mile marks. If you’re doing 400K/year then it probably does not matter; and I don’t think they have ever offered lifetime Exec Platinum. They could make it motivational by offering it at say the 5M mark.

  13. The point of status isn’t having status but enjoying the perks of status. If you stop using the product once you’ve acheived status, you haven’t won anything.

  14. Congrats on the recent article, but I kind of felt bad for you after reading it. There’s a billion things more in life than if a VIP lounge is open. And do you ever travel to off the beaten path spots, or is it the same loop over and over again?

  15. Are you planning on requalifying for Alaska’s MVP Gold again? For me, I’m actually quite ok with star alliance gold and skyteam elite plus so as long as I qualify for those two, I’m fine. Kudos to you for requalifying exec plat! That’s not easy at all!
    I do hope you fly on JetBlue’s transcontinental Mint class at some point this year.

  16. @ Joey — Heh, requalifying for Executive Platinum was a bit easier thanks to those Beijing fares. 😉 And nope, not planning on requalifying for MVP Gold this year.

  17. @ Tyler — Thanks! I do get to go lots of new places as well — it’s not just the same places over and over.

  18. @ Oliver — In the US you don’t have to be 18 to join a loyalty program. I even know many babies with elite status. 🙂

  19. @ Gene — In theory I could, but frankly just didn’t feel like the status was worth chasing anymore. I value American miles roughly the same, and can always buy Alaska miles.

  20. I agree with you that it must be nice sometimes to just enjoy the status you have rather than running around trying to get another status. But you’re the one who knows if it would benefit you to get another status with, say, another airline!

  21. I trifecta’d on American today. I read your recent article. Your ex is hot and probably more comfortable than any super first class bed. I think you should come back down to earth and work it out with him.

  22. Lucky,

    My man and I was wondering if there’s any way you know of (and my email has been entered if this is private bidniz) but we was wondering if there’s some type of way to earn status with hotels and airlines, specifically to get to stay in suites and fly in First Class, but without spending any money? Or at least only spending a small amount? We want to live high on the hog but we also want need to save for our kids education and for various accessory items (you know what I’m talking about). Anyway, really enjoying your blog! Trying to get my girls to get into this too. Hope you’re enjoying that soap from the Parker. Be spoilt. 🙂

  23. I’ve been a loyal reader for a while now. Just read the recent article and I feel like I’ve gotten to know you better at a personal level. Great article.

    With my August trip, I will re qualify for EXP. Unfortunately, I will lose my *G with Star Alliance if I don’t re qualify with United. I’ve had *G status every year for the past 10 years or so with US then UA. I’d hate to lose my *G status…

  24. @ Lucky – agree with your points and wanted to add that reviews of independent hotels (or small chains) would be interesting. I seem to recall people bringing this up periodically.

    P.S. Just came back from Andaz Amsterdam — absolutely gorgeous (esp. with DSU)! Really wish Andaz West Hollywood people would’ve done something along those lines because their rooms (first photo above) are really, really plain. Awesome service though.

  25. Ben (and everyone else),

    I’m a Delta Diamond, based in SFO, and I primarily fly SFO – JFK and international to Asia, South America or Europe.

    I noticed you mention you’re focused on AA and Exec Platinum this year. I am getting a bit fed up with Delta; primarily because of high award cost/lack of availability, lack of much opportunity for int’l upgrades outside of Delta planes, and most frustratingly the inconsistent upgrade policies on Transcon flights.

    Given what I’ve been reading and hearing, AA Exec Platinum is way better in terms of upgrade availability domestically and internationally, value of miles, and partner airline award availability.

    I’m thinking of status matching over to AA Exec Platinum… what are your general thoughts on the topic? Any real pros and cons? It feels more and more like AA just offers a better program for elites…

  26. Dont forget about getting lifetime status. The extra activity is counting even after you qualified for the year.

  27. Glad to see You are beginning TO see The ‘light’. In realizing that The Schedule You keep, will eventually be left for others…if you don’t enjoy it now…with the proliferating ‘bonus’ Miles, a severe devaluation is forthcoming. I am in the same predicament, but I’m retired with 500K in award miles scrambling on the best way to utilize them..prior to March 22,2016…that is why I follow your posts…travel today is not what it was in years past, my recent trip to Luxor Egypt
    Exemplified that with a message sent via roadside rock…fortunately I am no longer time constrained…

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