Dropping Elite Tiers or Losing Status in 2014? Do You Care?

As you’re undoubtedly aware, it’s nearing the end of the qualifying year for 2014 airline and hotel elite status with December 31 quickly approaching. And for the first time in, well, forever, I’m either dropping tier levels or losing status completely in all of my travel loyalty programs.

a group of credit cards

MileagePlus cards pre-2012

If I were reading this post, say, two or more years ago, and knew it was from the “future me,†I’d be in an absolute panic about not requalifying for my beloved status. But today I’m not, and I don’t care that in my four primary airline and hotel programs I’m falling from:

  • United Premier 1K to Premier Platinum
  • American Platinum to General Member
  • Hilton Gold to Silver
  • Club Carlson Gold to General Member

Platinum on United is still above average, especially for my travel needs, and Summer (aka Mommy Points) posted a great piece yesterday about her thoughts and experiences as a Platinum this year. Plus, Scott over at Hack My Trip offers up individual posts by airline titled, “Is Status Worth It?” Here’s his case for United.

After next year, I’m sure I’ll fall back on my lifetime Premier Gold status, for which I’m thankful and happy to have, but it isn’t an absolute need.

But let me get back to why I don’t care so much about losing status with airlines and hotels. In addition to the reasons for snapping out of my upgrade phobia, elite status junkie phase, and for more recent things that have me questioning taking a booked trip, it’s because of the changing landscape of the industry itself.

It’s the introduction of an annual spend requirement on Delta and United (tick tock, American fliers), the abundance of loyalty program devaluations (too many to list), the ease of getting similar elite perks by holding the right credit card, being able to pay for elite services individually, and so forth and so on.

If you’ve attended the Chicago Seminars or Frequent Traveler University (any location) the past couple of years, both Randy Petersen and Steve Belkin often discuss many of these changes and their impact to those of us in the “hobby†of collecting miles and points.

I’m bowing out of the mileage/mattress running game for elite status as a result of this travel loyalty program evolution. It’s absolutely wonderful to have the upgrades and other perks, and I’ve enjoyed them for a couple of decades, but I’m done now.

I’ll certainly still be collecting and redeeming miles and points, but I’m going to play the game by my rules, not those of the airlines and hotels.

Are you throwing in the towel?

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.


Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie

Buh-Bye Upgrade Phobia: Rediscovering the Joy of Coach Travel

Pondering United Premier Platinum over Gold for 2014

United Premier Gold Elite Status Wins over Platinum, Unless…


  1. Yep, same here. Not going to go out of my way for status anymore starting next year. While I’ve never been anything higher than Silver, I’ve spent every year the past 10 years flying as much as possible given my work schedule and money, to at least get the lowest rung for United. Now, it’s just not worth it to me for exactly the same reasons you shared. Plus, I’m kind of looking forward to flying on other carriers (HA for one next fall!). *A is still my alliance of choice but, if there’s a lower fare on a carrier I want to fly on, I’ll probably choose that airline.

  2. Thanks for the mention, Darren. But why should anyone have Silver status with Hilton? It seems that Gold is pretty easy to get with a credit card or a MilePoint premium membership.

  3. I tend to agree. I have a chance to “buy my way” into platinum delta this year but is that 1500 dollars really worth it? I asked someone in the industry and they said from a pure cost benefit perspective its not worth it. Does it come down to an ego thing sometimes? I think so (esp when it means getting slightly better treatment). Either way its a tough decision and in the big scheme of things you realize their are way more important things to spend your money on.

  4. @Nick: I’m sure there are lots of takers of the $1,500 for Platinum, but yes… it depends on the person. I can honestly say that my ego was indeed inflated at times, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  5. I’m making the extra effort to get United MM, but after that I think I’ll throw in the towel as well. I love to fly and as much fun as I’ve had mileage running with United over the past fews, I like flying other airlines better now. I recently made MVP with Alaska which gets me benefits on AA and DL, and I’m perfectly fine with low tier status. After you’ve been there and done that the novelty wears off a bit. Top tier (or even mid tier) status isn’t what it used to be and domestic first isn’t much to get excited about. If I go overseas its usually on miles anyway, and my theory on hotels is that you get a lay flat bed no matter what. If I get free bags or get to cut an occasional line, I’m a happy camper.

  6. I fly for business and that won’t change as a result of the revenue requirements. What will change is my upgrade percentage, thanks to the end of the mileage running era. Those of us that actually make money for the airlines will no longer have to compete for upgrade space with those of you that earned your status solely on deep discount fares.

    I’m THRILLED about these changes and I’m really looking forward to the future of commercial air travel.

  7. So nice to get out of the game. I actually choose the flights that are easiest/cheapest/direct, rather than choosing to align with an airline.
    Don’t miss it at all… I can buy lounge access if I want, and the upgrades rarely happened anyways.

  8. This article should be preserved for posterity, so that future generations of airline executives can pinpoint the era in which they finally succeeded in making flying not fun.

    I mean that in all seriousness. You’re hitting upon a sentiment that many others – myself included – share. We used to just love to fly, and then the FF programs got us addicted. They got us to do crazy things like mileage runs because how bad could a day in the air really be, after all?

    Now, the airlines are rebalancing that relationship because they don’t want people like us to love them – they want the rich (and business travelers) to feel like they’re gods, and everybody else can just pay.

    Oh well.

  9. @Jonathan: I completely understand your point and agree airlines should give their best perks to their best ($$$$) customers. The potential volume of cheapos like me taking your upgrade on any given flight is probably slim, fwiw. In any case, though, I agree with you. It was fun for me while it lasted.

  10. @Alan: I feel completely freed, too.
    @Chris: Is so true how addicting frequent flier programs are. I first was hooked with simply flying like you, and then as soon as I earned my first miles in 1988, the game was on for a “free” flight. When I hit Premier in 1990 and got my first upgrade, well… it was like cocaine, I suppose, and elite status became a requirement.

  11. Agree with many of your points. I think the biggest non-FF perk this year was TSA pre check. Though it’s a bit bumpy, it’s a line-skipping program that is better than any premium security option in the US.

    Gold status on Star still counts for a lot internationally, so it’s great to have that as a 1K mm regardless.

    I think the main issue with the evolution of the programs *away* from fun is that the companies aren’t really considering what will engage us, but rather, only what’s good for them. Doing that carries major risks for the airlines.

  12. I agree with you. I am not chasing status with Delta or United anymore. The credit cards get me what I want, hotel and airline. I am saving my miles as “meta” miles in the Chase and Amex programs to spend where they will do the most good.

  13. @Gabe: I definitely appreciate having Star Gold status for life having hit the million. It’s a great perk when flying internationally, as you said.
    @MSPpete: That’s a great plan for your Chase and Amex points. Hold ’em till you find the best value.

  14. I was Platinum OnePass (highest level) from the day it was invented, having been a previous long time Gold OnePass member who Continental automatically grandfathered to the new Plat level. Maintained Plat OP every year through the UA acquisition and maintained 1K through 2012, 2013 and will qualify for 1K again effective 2014 (after a mileage run to TLV…). Alas, however, 2014 will probably be the last year to enjoy 1K status. As of 2015 I will drop to Plat or – gasp – Gold. I agree, the mileage bonuses and saverpass availability for 1K is better than Plat, but just barely. I will miss the upgrades however, since Plats rarely get upgraded on my frequent markets AND since the new economy UA seats truly horribly suck. And I will miss the Global certs. But frankly, UA has devalued its 1K and Plat product so drastically that it’s not worth it anymore IMO. Stupid plan, but it is what it is.

    • @Dodson: I have yet to experience the new economy seats, but I’m sure I will in the coming year(s)!
      @Mike: I’d say the mileage running game is still alive and well… IF you’re willing to meet the spend threshold, which for me is beyond my budget as of now.

  15. Is this for real? Is the mileage running game truly over or is everyone here more of an old school runner just being replaced by a new generation, and this happens every 5-10 years or so? Anyone with a longer term perspective?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.