First class upgrades. Preferred seats. Free first checked bags. Preferential treatment.
These are some of the big perks airline elite status gives its members.
But are the time, money, and effort of pursuing elite status worth the investment for leisure travelers? Or can chasing status be part of the fun?
An interesting post by Your Mileage May Vary the other day — probably sparked by the “WTH?!” changes United made to its elite program — asked similar questions.
YMMV’s joeheg is based in Orlando and has tons of airlines from which to choose. Price and convenience are the two big factors in deciding which flight to purchase.
I’m sort of the same way, to a degree. I live in Los Angeles and live within 20 miles of two airports (LAX and BUR). For short flights to Vegas, Phoenix, or the Bay Area, I’m fine taking Southwest from Burbank. But for longer trips, we make the choice to fly Delta because of comfort and service. And that’s part of the reason my wife and I are both Medallions.
My Status: Part Work, Part Leisure
Several years ago, I got hooked on Delta Medallion status because:
- I often fly to North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Delta has the best flight selection for someone who travels to all three of those areas.
- My wife and I made a pact to travel more
- I’m about 6’1″ and need an exit row seat
So I pursued Silver Medallion status.
“I’ll be happy with just Silver,” I said at the time. “I don’t need first class. Just exit row seats.”
Well, that changed. 🙂 A few business trips and Delta Amex spend pushed me over the Gold threshold. (I soon had Diamonds in my eyes!)
One of my clients has since cut way back on Delta, American, and United trips. They instead opt for cheap fares on Southwest, Spirit, or Sun Country (even if it means three stops and a 13 hour day to fly an itinerary the Big Three could travel in four hours). That being said, I do occasionally end up on DL, AA, or UA when working for them. But enough to keep anything past Silver status solely based on my travel for them? Probably not.
I don’t always travel as much as road warriors who commute to work each Sunday or Monday and come home at the end of the week. But I also know people who are retired or semi-retired — and maintain elite status so they can travel in comfort while flying around the country to visit all their grandchildren. Their needs, desires, and goals are different.
So, really, I think it comes down to what people can afford — time and money-wise.
Is it Cheaper Just to Buy First Class?
Is the average leisure traveler who takes one or two trips a year better paying for first class or using points to upgrade? As opposed to taking mileage runs or other trips just for the sake of a couple chance upgrades, absolutely.
But for those who take several business trips a year or get itchy if they aren’t on a plane every month or two? It might be worth status.
Can Status Chasing Be a Leisure Activity?
I love flying, relaxing in Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges, and maybe staying a night or so at a destination. Going on mileage runs or taking weekend trips to Europe or Asia is something I actually find fun.
It’s how I choose to spend my time, money, and points. Does it make sense for everyone? Heck no. For me? 100%.
Delta Makes It Easier to Achieve Status
Thanks to spend thresholds on four of its credit cards, Delta SkyMiles members can achieve — or boost — status without stepping on a plane.
As I mentioned the other day, one can earn 160,000 MQM each year by maxing out spend on:
- Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express
Credit card spend is a major help in keeping at least Platinum status for my wife and me.
If you have the budget, resources, and time to achieve at least some bonus MQM, Delta’s credit cards make status a goal more people can enjoy.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Is elite status a waste of time for leisure travelers? Or to each his or her own? What makes sense for you? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section!
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