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Here’s How to Earn and Retain Airline Loyalty Status

Smiling traveler walks through airport with luggage in tow.

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When it comes to air travel, nothing beats the perks and privileges of airline loyalty status. From priority boarding and extra legroom to complimentary upgrades and access to swanky lounges, these benefits can transform your travel experience and help keep your personal finances in check. If you’re wondering how to earn and retain airline loyalty status, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the skies like a pro.

Understand the tiers and benefits

Before diving into the nitty gritty of earning status, it’s essential to understand the different tiers and their corresponding benefits. Most airlines have a multi-tiered loyalty program, typically including entry-level, mid-tier, and top-tier statuses.

  • Entry level (Silver/Bronze): Basic perks like priority check-in and extra baggage allowance.
  • Mid tier (Gold/Platinum): Access to lounges, priority boarding, and more frequent upgrades.
  • Top tier (Diamond/Executive): Enhanced lounge access, guaranteed reservations, and top-tier upgrades.

For instance, Delta Air Lines offers SkyMiles Medallion status with tiers ranging from Silver to Diamond. Silver Medallion members get priority check-in, while Diamond members enjoy exclusive benefits like complimentary Delta Sky Club membership and dedicated support lines.

Rack up the miles

The cornerstone of any airline loyalty program is miles — either flown or earned through various means. Here are a few ways to accumulate them:

  • Flying frequently: This is the most straightforward way. Aim for longer flights, as they typically earn more miles.
  • Credit card partnerships: Many airlines partner with credit card companies, offering bonus miles for every dollar spent.
  • Shopping portals: Airlines often have shopping portals where you can earn miles for every dollar spent with partnered retailers. This is a great way to boost your miles without even stepping onto a plane.
  • Special promotions: Keep an eye out for special promotions where airlines offer bonus miles for specific activities, such as signing up for newsletters or referring friends.

Maximize your spending

Leveraging your spending habits can significantly boost your miles. Here are some strategies:

  • Book direct: Always book flights directly through the airline’s website or app to ensure you receive full mileage credit.
  • Stay loyal to one airline: Stick to one airline or its alliance partners (like Oneworld, SkyTeam, or Star Alliance) to concentrate your miles and status credits.
  • Take advantage of hotel and car rental partnerships: Many airlines partner with hotels and car rental agencies. For example, American Airlines AAdvantage members can earn miles when they book through partnered hotels or rental agencies like Hertz and Marriott.
  • Join dining programs: Join airline dining programs to earn miles every time you dine out at partnered restaurants.

Optimize your flights

Strategically planning your flights can make a big difference in your status-earning journey:

  • Upgrade to higher fare classes: Higher fare classes often earn more miles. If it’s within your budget, consider booking premium economy or business class tickets.
  • Mileage runs: For the truly dedicated, a mileage run involves booking flights purely to earn miles and status credits. These are typically low-cost, long-haul flights designed to maximize miles.

Retain your status

Earning status is just the beginning; retaining it is equally crucial. Here’s how you can maintain your hard-earned status:

  • Know the requirements: Each airline has specific requirements to retain status, often a combination of miles flown, segments flown, and dollars spent. For example, United Airlines requires Premier Gold status members to fly 24 Premier qualifying flights and earn 8,000 Premier qualifying points.
  • Plan ahead: Keep track of your miles and status credits throughout the year. If you’re falling short, plan additional trips or leverage partnerships to bridge the gap. Or, talk to your airline about the possibility of putting future travel toward your current status. You might also be able to purchase the difference in miles to retain your status if there is a gap.
  • Use airline credit cards: Some airline credit cards offer spend thresholds that help you retain status. For instance, spending a certain amount on Delta cobranded cards can earn you Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs).
  • Combine business and leisure travel: If your job requires travel, combine business trips with leisure travel to maximize your miles. Extend a work trip into a weekend getaway to earn extra miles and stick with the same airline for both.
  • Book with partners: Airlines in the same alliance (like Oneworld, SkyTeam, or Star Alliance) allow you to earn and redeem miles across multiple carriers. This can help you maintain your status even if you need to fly with different airlines.
  • Monitor your account: Regularly check your frequent flyer account to ensure all miles and segments are correctly credited. If you notice any discrepancies, contact customer service promptly.
  • Take advantage of promotions: Airlines frequently offer promotions that can help you boost your miles and status credits. These might include double miles for certain routes, bonus miles for booking through the airline’s app, or special offers for using specific credit cards.

Earning and retaining airline loyalty status requires a combination of strategic planning, consistent flying, and leveraging partnerships. By understanding the tiers, maximizing your miles through various channels, and optimizing your flights, you can enjoy the benefits of being a loyal airline passenger. Retaining your status is about staying informed, planning ahead, and making the most of every mile you earn. So, next time you take to the skies, you’ll do so with the confidence and perks of an elite traveler.

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We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool recommends Delta Air Lines and Marriott International. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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