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Suffering from a Bad Case of the February Frequent Flyer Blues

Feb. 15, 2011
4 min read
Suffering from a Bad Case of the February Frequent Flyer Blues
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Not only am I suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency from one of the worst NYC winters in a long time, I'm also going through a seasonal depression experienced by many frequent flyers which is caused by severe bloating of the frequent flyer ranks. Why is February the wost month for this ailment? Let me explain.

Airlines allow you to qualify for elite status from January 1 - December 31 of each year and as long as you hit your status threshold (say flying 50,000 miles) you enjoy status for the rest of the current year and for the following year. The interesting thing is that status doesn't expire on December 31 of the next year, but actually February 28th of the year after since most airlines give a two-month grace period. This grace period is a pretty good deal when you think about it - if you were to qualify for status today, your status would be valid for the rest of 2011, PLUS all of 2012, PLUS January and February of 2013. It sounds too good to be true, but it's not. That's why the 25,000 MQM bonus on Delta transfers is pretty spectacular - if you simply transfer 50,000 Amex points today, you get Silver Medallion status (with no other flying) until February 28th, 2013.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, this fact makes February the most "crowded" month for frequent flyers. Not only does everyone who qualified in the previous calendar year have status, but also those who did NOT qualify, as well as those who have earned status so far in 2011, which on Delta is common since you can roll over Medallion Qualifying Miles (some people roll over Diamond status!).

I normally wouldn't care about there being a lot of frequent flyers - the more the merrier, right? Not when it affects my upgrade percentage! On Sunday, I was number 7 on the upgrade list for 6 available seats on my LAX-JFK flight- as a Diamond. I am always prepared to fly in coach on this route because it's very elite heavy and there are only 16 seats and a lot of people actually pay for business class. However, when I Same Day Confirmed onto the 4pm flight, I was optimistic that there were 6 seats in business that would realistically go to gate upgrades. I mean, could there really be 6 Diamonds (or other passengers on full Y fares) ahead of me on a 3/4 full flight that showed a lot of exit row seats open?

Apparently so. I ended up missing out on the upgrade and I can't help but imagine that at least ONE of those passengers enjoying an upgrade didn't requalify for Diamond status in 2010 and would have dropped to a lower elite level if the airlines weren't so damn generous.

So before I take off my bitter hat, let me just say that I can't wait until March 1 when the herd is thinned a little. I worked hard for my Diamond status (like doing quasi mileage runs and exhaustive mouse clicking to take advantage of the crazy Amex points for MQMs promotions).

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If you are one of those poor suckers whose status drops on March 1, I feel your pain, but I don't feel sorry for you. There are plenty of ways to earn status the hard way, like how I did it on Sunday sitting in coach for nearly 2,500 miles!

(Note: The point of this post is not to complain that Diamond status is invincible and I deserve to get upgraded every time I fly (which I personally believe should happen), but moreso to illustrate the extreme crowding of the elite ranks in the month of February. No frequent flyers were hurt in the making of this blog post, though my legs did cramp sitting in coach!
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