I Have No Elite Qualifying Miles… And I’m Kind Of Excited About It

Filed Under: Travel

It’s the beginning of the year, which is a sad time for those of usĀ who earn elite status with airlines and hotels. For most programs, your status qualification resets at the beginning of the year. So while on Saturday we had a sense of accomplishment for the miles and nights we put in, we woke up on Sunday to find that most of our accounts looked like this:


For those of us on the status hamster wheel, status resetting is bittersweet. It marks the end of one journey, but at the same time it also means we get to start all over in planning new adventures. In past years I would have probably already had a lot of travel planned on American at this point so I could work on requalifying for status, though this year I’m feeling a bit different.

In a backwards way, I almost feel a sense of freedom in not having any elite qualifying miles with American. I feel like I actually have the opportunity to make an informed decision about which program I want to be loyal to, rather than the usual approach I take, where I say “well, I’ve already started requalifying, so I might as well finish it off.”

For the first time in years, I’m starting the year and seriously asking myself if I should even bother requalifying for status.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post with six reasons not to be loyal to an airline in 2017, and I’m increasingly finding that those points even resonate with my own travels.

Perhaps even crazier than not going for status, I’m thinking of possibly going for status with Delta. You can earn Delta status primarily through credit card spend, and given that they run a solid operation domestically otherwise, they might just be the best option. When you combine some domestic travel with some spend on Delta’s co-branded credit card, you can earn Platinum or Diamond status fairly easily.

So I’m not sure what exactly my point is, other than to say that my overall feeling with status resetting this year is different than it has been in past years, to the point that I almost feel some relief.Ā Anyone else have a similar feeling?

  1. At least I am Lifetime Platinum on AA. Looks hard to achieve $9000 or even $12000 in air fare to achieve Platinum Pro or even Executive Platinum…. When your company requires you to buy least expensive air fare….

  2. Yes Lucky it does feel liberating. One is no longer enslaved by an airline to chasing what is essentially nothing more than narcissistic goal.

    I truly hope this year I am able to continue flying airlines/flights that make the most sense at the time, and not sheepishly bend my schedule and pocket book to accommodate the need to fly solely one or two airlines in order to chase some marginal goal.

    I feel my life and travel experience has become more colorful and enjoyable since I stopped chasing after these elusive programs.

  3. I no longer chase status !! Since I only take a few trips per year and always book business class using miles I just don’t want to worry about a clearing upgrade ..even when I was Delta diamond I never had an upgrade clear.. new year is exciting ..

  4. It’s kind of hard to shop around when most of your travel is work-related and you live in a hub city. Living in Philadelphia, about 65% of all traffic movements are on AA. As much as I would love to shop around, there’s just about only one sensible way to accumulate status in this situation. Open to ideas though.

  5. Completely agree, 11 years an EXP on AA and seriously considering switching to a combo of Delta and JetBlue. AA have just not done enough to justify loyalty, the devaluations, the code changes to make domestic upgrades harder, the 4 evips (formerly 8), the introduction of Concierge Key in priority above me (but no information on how to quality), the bait and switch of Citi card being pointless and this new Barclaycard… the list goes on…

  6. @Lucky,

    It would be interesting to see an article about securing Delta status and the various ways to efficiently accomplish it- if you are inclined to put one together. Starting to think about leaving AA as well.

  7. I feel liberated too after AA went revenue last year.

    Living in Philly, I completely stopped flying AA last year. I’ve actually been flying Delta a lot. I get free lounge access at PHL with the AMEX platinum card. Free bag + early boarding with my Amex Delta card.

    Last year I had Alaska status so I was able to get exit row seats for all my Delta flights. I’m okay with coach domestically.

    Use miles to fly Business or First internationally.

  8. Heyy ben, it has been a while since i have been writing to you regarding earning of miles, please please please let me talk to you once, i can really really help you acclerate colection of miles, just hear me and i guarantee, you will be astonished seeing how can i increase your miles database.

  9. My only goal for this year is Mosaic on JetBlue. Between Mint, their general quality of service and the fact that mosaic gets you free changes and cancellations on all tickets, it’s easily my most preferred domestic airlines these days. And their status is actually worth something if you like flexibility on changing plans.

  10. Going to work on AA status again. I fly enough domestically for work that having status still matters to get “premium” seats without paying for them. Not sure if I’ll end up with Platinum Pro or EXP. I have some early year long range flights that will boost EQM. The EQD credit from the Aviator spend will help meet EQD no problem.

  11. I’ll be using my southwest companion pass with my family. Their terminal at MSP is much calmer than the delta gong show.

  12. I stopped chasing status three years ago when United added co-pays to mileage upgrades on PS. It’s incredibly liberating. I’m free to always take the cheapest and/or most direct flight rather than suffering on the dollars/hours front in the name of “keeping status”.

  13. Delta’s rollover miles can prevent you from ever having this feeling … and just might lock you in for a long time if you start down the path with them, for better or worse.

  14. I’m bummed about losing my Hyatt Diamond and Hilton Diamond status this year. Was fun while it lasted.

  15. Very much so, Lucky. Years of Exec Plat and I am feeling less than loved with all the changes at American. Right now I am on Alaska #739 to LAX and feeling pretty good about becoming a “whore” to whatever airline I feel like flying that day. Because of the reasonable domestic first class fares now I see no reason to be loyal whatsoever. I may go for top tier MVP on Alaska given the merger and the increasing number of flights now out of the DC market. I also feel they deserve the business in not devaluing their program to the point of insult.

    As I said to a flight attendant on American recently after her telling me how appreciated I am as an Exec Platinum, “Oh, really? I have not noticed in the past year….I am so glad you reminded me.”

  16. This is my first year as EXP on AA and I’m not sure I’ll be able to use my four SWUs. Sad. I’ll be sticking with AA for the near term but I’m seriously considering Delta for 2018 all things being equal. Would love to revisit 2013 air travel again which was, in my experience, the peak before the downturn. Is this the bottom or will it get worse?

  17. This is the only time of the year when I can consider myself on a par with people like Ben and Brian Kelly!

    I think I’ll concentrate more of my bucks on hotel loyalty schemes from now on. At least with them there’s a clear path to earning lifetime status instead of the perpetual hamster wheel of airline FF schemes.

  18. I don’t travel enough for the top end status, and I missed Gold with United because of their PQD requirements. This year I’m doing all my earning to Singapore Airlines instead. Lets me fly JetBlue and Virgin as well, without spreading out my earnings to airlines I won’t be able to use them on.

  19. @Kai – except being loyal to Delta in Philadelphia isn’t that fun because of that terrible lounge. I find myself taking Amtrak and then the LIRR to JFK T4 because its such a significantly better experience.
    As far as Delta loyalty goes, I’m only loyal to Delta because I want to fly up front. I’d rather take that 25k of spend that I would have put on the delta amex and put it on my SPG card (getting much better return) so that I can fly up front with a better airline, thus getting everything that I was trying to get by achieving status.

  20. My travel is discretionary and so, I fly the best schedule and price. Discounted premium cabin fares work for me so I don’t miss status. The credit card currencies enable me to transfer miles to any number of airlines to “top off” or open accounts for award travel. The best of all worlds and certainly the unintended consequence of all the “loyalty” program changes over the last few years.

  21. B6 is good so far but just does not have enough routes. When they grow to a big player will they “transform” into another AA/UA/DL? Probably so, like when you made it into Washington you are no longer the same you.

  22. The few times I few UA last year (as LT 1K), seems like the UA employees were extra nice – calling me out by name and thanking me for being a 1K. Of course that isn’t GS, but the thought is you are still a big spender with no CC exemption (of course Lifetime doesn’t show on the Boarding Pass nor the Elite card – it still has an expiration date and issued every year). When CO – the expiration date was “Life”.

    Now I am guessing on AA – those that earn EXP might get more recognition. And the CC credit likely won’t be as visible.

  23. I agree, Lucky.

    I am EXP on AA (also Platinum for life).

    I have gradually been switching to just using the airline with the cheapest or best value business class fare in any route.

    With my wife and daughter stranded this week again by AA, I am making a further break and forgetting it.

  24. @Mike. As an EXP, it is very frustrating to see how poorly friends and family are treated on American when flying by themselves. I feel guilty to suggest they should fly American. And their complaints ring so true.

  25. While I do have this feeling with all the negative changes to the awards programs. Having and keeping EXP status with AA means I get to keep my Oneworld Emerald status. This is more important to me than having less SWUs or it being harder to clear domestic upgrades. Since I’m back and forth between NYC London and Bangkok often, having access to the lounges at LHR, BKK, HKG, and NRT is extremely valuable. Not to mention the Emirates F lounge at DXB if flying QF, and the QF lounge in SYD and LAX. Plus having the benefits of priority with Cathay, JAL, and Malaysia. Cathay treats Emeralds as they do their Diamonds. I’ve been op-upped plenty of times flying between HKG and BKK, even had a really rare HKG-JFK op-up last year. So yeah the changes suck, but it’s still the best program for me to keep my OW status and redeem on OW flights. For the crazy among us, there is a JNB-HKG-JFK RT on CX in Premium Econ that will net you 44k EQMs, 64.5k RDMs,and 6k EQDs. Was selling for $1600 last I saw it. That coupled with QR flights out of CAI and that’s a road back to EXP/Emerald. I currently hold Star Alliance Gold too, and I haven’t seen the same level of benefits that OW Emeralds get among alliance carriers. So I will be chasing EXP this year once again, already completed CAI-DOH-JFK in QR J to start the year.

  26. Free agent for me. Airlines have killed the goose that laid the golden egg by gutting their loyalty programs. Now they will need to earn my business the old fashioned way – convenient schedules, clean airplanes, on time service, reasonable service. I will buy upgrades as needed. No more unnecessary connections or waiting for an inconvenient time for a flight on my preferred carrier. My time is worth more than useless points or fake upgrades to middle seats.

  27. I’m Lifetime Platinum as well, and I only have about 36K miles needed until 3MM miles. Trying to decided if it’s worth staying w/ AA for the 4 systemwide upgrades at 3MM miles. Since I live in Dallas, AA is a significant option, but hate using AA for international travel now that we’ve flown SQ, LH, EY and BA in 1st.

  28. I dunno. Most of my travel is for business, and I am traveling more next year, not less. I value a large route network out of LGA, JFK and EWR (in that order). So I really have two choices – AA or Delta. I earned Platinum on AA last year via promotion, and I may be able to earn Platinum Pro next year. It sees like EXP benefits on AA have been slashed, but from my perspective (Delta Silver, AA Gold or no status), making sure I earn status for 2018 makes a lot of sense. Ideally, you shouldn’t chase status – you should be earning status via the flying you were going to do anyway.

  29. It would be refreshing to see some DL trip reports…

    AX will also run specials sometimes. I was able to get an extra 10k mqm bonus on the Delta Platinum card this year, which was a nice offer. The downside with rollover MQM, though, is that you never quite feel you’re done for the year which makes deciding whether to travel using SkyMiles or buying international biz class tickets a hard call.

  30. I’ll likely use my EXP on Disney World flights monthly šŸ˜‰

    It’s still easy to meet AA status by partner airline tickets. Like the recent QR fares, they give you $3k spend at lower prices. Fly a couple of those and no doubt you’re half way there!

  31. Now that upgrades are the exception, versus the rule, anymore, I’m curious if you’ve considered going for status on a foreign carrier?

    Since AF F awards are only available to Flying Blue elites and LX only to Miles & More elites, perhaps snagging one of those would be an interesting change, as well as giving access to lounges, thanks to the alliances’ preferential treatment of non-us elites.

  32. Zero loyalty in 2017. No loyalty for airlines, no loyalty for hotels. It is all about cost/benefit. Will wait until the next 4economy cycle and when the economy tanks again hospitality players will come back begging for us to fly/stay with them. Then it is my time to chose the ones that deserve my loyalty. Watch our Delta and Hyatt. Let’s see how Marriott treats me now they acquired SPG.

  33. @Michael, the Delta lounge at PHL is small, but modern, has good food offering, and never crowded. I don’t bother chasing Delta status, so don’t really put any CC spend on that card.

    I’m a free agent at this point. Fly roughing 50k a year, almost completely on personal leisure travel. Use a combination of miles, gift cards from credit card yearly fee credit and Amex Offers discounts, and SW points.

    I have AA, United and Delta CCs. For roughly $300, I get all the perks lower tier elites get, but way more options than sticking with one airline.

  34. AA continues to annoy the customers. The Kiosks printing baggage tags are a disaster and the older flight attendants are aggressive towards passengers. Boarding process continues to be chaotic and the agents act like it is their first time with the boarding process. I fly AA only to maintain choice seats for exit row. upgrades? what are they?

  35. I used to have Virgin Platinum but now I don’t think I will chase it after Virgins best in class reward availability fell off a cliff.

  36. I am currently flying SFO-LAX near weekly for work, and while I always get an upgrade and kept it going the past quarter to maintain status – they just down-gauged to E75s and I am not looking forward to having to go to the Eagles Nest every week. Trying it the first couple week’s because travel is a bit irregular – but, with this AS/VX merger, switching is starting to make sense. Why be blindly loyal to AA for the joy of sitting in Eagles Nest when my flight is inevitably delayed compared to having a drink in the VX lounge? Sure, no upgrades – for now – but its a 1 hour flight and an overall superior flight experience.

    Frankly, just thankful my only other option isn’t flying United.

  37. I left the game of qualifying for status several years ago and haven’t blinked an eye. I buy fares on routes for trips that make sense and when I can score a good deal on First Class, I buy that too. My business trips for work has allowed me to fly carriers who have the best bonus promos at that time and it has been very lucrative this past year. Looking forward to trying Mint this next year. Safe travels everyone!

  38. @Papi…. I agree with your comment on the AA boarding process. There is so much stress during the American Airlines pre-boarding! A seat is a seat. But, if I could board a plane with ease and elegance, I would pay extra. It is always chaos with American Airlines. Living in Miami, we only have AA as our option. I wish we had a Delta or United option.

  39. I got an AA credit card per Lucky’s recommendation but will probably not renew my card after the year is up. Of course, I need to use all my miles before doing so. Because I am retired and usually have flexibility in choosing my flights, I found that it is not worth the $95 per year fee, especially because of the reasonable domestic first and business class fares offered on other airlines as @Chris stated. Though you don’t get airline credit card perks, those are included with business/first class fares. I use my Costco Visa card which gives 3% cash back when you purchase tickets directly through the airlines. They also give that percent on all hotel stays and taxi fares. (Unfortunately, they give the typical 1% for Uber, Lyft and Air B&B.) . There is no fee for the card and the yearly reimbursement check can be exchanged for cash at any Costco.

  40. I gave up the status game years ago and began concentrating on earning miles and points to cover my travel costs. Today I haven’t paid for a ticket in years and still keep accumulating miles point and more miles and points. I rarely ever fly coach so for me there is no point to play the status game. I fly when I want on whatever carrier I want.

  41. i flew 150K miles last year, but the closest i got to status was 34K with SQ … i either buy cheap economy flights that give 10/50% miles or use miles for J/F award tickets. i thought i was foolish, but i guess not!

  42. I’m also torn, being based in DFW, my options are typically nonstop on a carrier with dozens of extra aircraft on standby, or a connection that is often not any less expensive, and is flown by a subcontractor without the local resources in case of mechanical, etc.

    I’ve maintained PLT on AA the past two years, on my own dime for mostly domestic leisure travel, and it has saved me twice with SDFC when my original flight showed a delay hours ahead of boarding. I do value the two checked bags and the MCE seating most of all, as well as an occasional upgrade and the priority boarding. At least for this year I see myself sticking with AA, until they devalue the program and status even more.

  43. I went from AA EXP to lifetime AA GLD now and mid-tier (typically GLD) on DL. And indeed, it’s very liberating. I rarely fly at the front of the cabin domestically anymore, but the ability to book decent seats, book awards on both airlines close-in (using the huge pot of miles I built up in both programs), and avoid most fees on BOTH airlines has been incredibly liberating. Plus the rollover miles on DL means no last-second mileage runs.

  44. Here is my problem with that: I opted for cheap tickets and no status at the end of the year when taking my family to Hawai’i. I thought that — well, since I already have Gold on Virgin America and status matched to MVP Gold on Alaska — I might as well save a little money and book on Hawaiian. I had to book *something* on Hawaiian anyway, as we were going to be going inter-island from Maui to Kauai, so . . . and besides, I could get 50% mileage credit on JetBlue, which would be just enough to put me over the top for two MINT tickets SFO-JFK later in 2017. So what could go wrong?

    Well, the trans-Pac flights were HORRIBLE! Who flies 24-year old 767s with no IFE or power outlets on 5+ hour flights? That would be Hawaiian. Who flies with inedible food on 5+ hour flights? That would be Hawaiian. Who flies with a cabin so cold that it makes buying a blanket almost a necessity? That would be Hawaiian. (You should have seen the looks we received, getting of the plane wearing leather jackets, sweatshirts, etc., etc.)

    As for the inter-island flights, the best that can be said for them is that they were blissfully short — 45 minutes. Time enough for take-off, passing out pre-packaged 4-ounce cups of water or juice, and landing. But who flies Boeing 717s???

    AND we still haven’t received any credit — either on JetBlue or Hawaiian — for our flights.

    Should have flown Virgin . . .

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *