How to Cope With Losing Elite Status
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This is an installment in my Maximizing Elite Status series. Articles include; The Basics and Why People Mileage Run, Using ITA Matrix to Find Cheap Flights, How Much is Elite Status Worth?, Comparing Top Tier Status, Comparing Mid-Tier Status, Comparing Low Level Status, How to Get Elite Miles Without Flying, Understanding Elite Status Bump Thresholds, The Lowdown on Soft Landings and How to Cope with Losing Elite Status.
March 1 is one of the most significant days of the year for frequent flyers, a judgment day of sorts: it marks the resetting of the airline elite status ranks. Those who failed to meet the requirements for elite status in the previous calendar year are dropped.
For example, if you had Platinum status on American Airlines last year but only flew 30,000 miles in 2010, you’d fall to Gold status on March 1. Continental/United gave its flyers until March 3 since it it’s still figuring out how to merge MileagePlus with OnePass.
Though feared by many, this day is revered by true road warriors because it thins the herd and makes upgrades easier to come by. My elite status will be changing come Thursday - I'll drop from Delta Diamond to Platinum, though that's because I decided to roll over 35,000 MQMs since I just also qualified for American Executive Platinum. I'm currently at 43,000 MQMs and 95,000 American EQMs, so I have no doubt I'll retain these statuses for 2013 and maybe even pick up one more mid-tier on a Star Alliance carrier just so all of my bases are covered. I'm traveling more than ever, so elite status is nice for a multitude of reasons.
While the dash for elite status and ultimate qualification can be a high-inducing experience for some (myself included), losing status can be just as equally painful. Though I am dropping a level, I have some tips for those who are dealing with the crushing blow of lower (or no) elite status.
1) Relax. Take a deep breath. It's going to be okay. The great thing about losing elite status is that you can always get it back with the right dedication.
2) It’s Not As Bad As You Think. Check to see if you've been given a soft landing. Many programs will only drop you down one elite level (or sometimes keep you at your old level as a courtesy). American and Marriott will actually let you buy back your status, but it isn't cheap. Additionally, several airlines allow you to buy or spend your way to bonus elite qualifying miles so you can get a head start on earning status this year.
3) Reevaluate Your Needs. If you were dropped to no status, take a minute to think about why that happened. Losing elite status can help you clearly think about whether you really needed it in the first place. So often we requalify for the sake of requalifying (and the fear of having no status), but starting fresh gives you the opportunity to evaluate all of your options and go for the program that fits your current needs.
4) Status Match/ Challenge. Once you've figured out which program is best for you, try sending them an email asking them to offer you a challenge to attain status. Many airlines will fast track you or even grant you elite status based on past loyalty with a competing airline. So if you just lost Continental status, try emailing Delta with something like, "I was loyal to Continental for 10 years and I do lots of international traveling in premium classes. I've been unhappy with the Continental and United merger and I want to bring all of my business to Delta. Here is a screenshot of my Continental elite card - can you please match my status?" It's worth a shot - even if your status has expired. You can get all of the contact information for the airlines in this post I wrote about elite status matching.
5) Use Your Credit. If you decide to pursue status with a new airline or hotel, think about getting a new credit card to help build your elite balance up quicker. I list the top credit card deals on my Top Deals page. Some credit cards, like the Delta Amex Reserve, will actually give you 10,000 Medallion Qualifying miles with your first purchase, which will help you in your quest to re-attain higher elite status. Check out this post for ways to get elite miles without flying.
6) Get Gifted. If you don't want to earn status from scratch, try getting it as a gift. If you work for a big corporation, ask your corporate travel department if they have any elite status comps. If you know an uber-frequent flyer, ask if they can help. As a Diamond Medallion I had the ability to gift gold status, which I did for a close friend. I believe in travel karma, so being generous to those in desperate need of an upgrade will only benefit me in the future.
7) Be A Million Miler. Focus on getting million-miler status with your airline. Once you hit that threshold, many airlines will give you lifetime status so you don't have to worry about pesky yearly qualification periods. Check out for this post a run-down on some airline's elite status programs.
If you are losing elite status today, don’t despair. At some point in time it happens to all of us and your best bet is to analyze your needs and create a strategy to re-attain the right elite status for you. While we may obsess a little bit too much about elite status, no one can deny that the perks are worth working hard to get. I don't leave home without my elite status!