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TPG reader Bart emailed to ask about earning elite status:

“I’m about to take a trip that will put me over the mileage threshold for United Premier Silver status (I’ve already met the revenue requirements). I have other upcoming travel, and would love a shot at an upgrade. How long will it take for my status to kick in?”

Airline elite status can be highly rewarding, and if you’re going to put the loyalty and effort into earning status with an airline, you’d like to have as long as possible to enjoy it. Ideally, elite status would be granted immediately, but generally there’s a delay between when you qualify and when you can start reaping the benefits.

United Premier Silver status offers perks like a higher mileage earning rate, complimentary access to Economy Plus seating, free checked bags and more. Bart is hoping for an upgrade on flights in the near future, and wants to know if his status will be updated quickly enough for him to qualify. United.com offers the following guidelines:

“As soon as you qualify for a higher level, we will automatically upgrade your Premier status, your new benefits will be effective, and we will send you a new membership card.”

While that makes it sound like elite benefits are available instantaneously, in practice (and according to United reps) you can expect to wait about 24-72 hours from when you complete the flight that puts you over the threshold. If the system doesn’t recognize your status by then, or if you’re traveling again within that window, you can try calling the United Premier desk to see if they’ll help you out.

A
American Airlines updates your elite status instantaneously once you qualify.

Similarly, Delta says SkyMiles members should expect to wait one to two days (48 hours max) for Medallion status to show up after meeting eligibility requirements. However, in this case, the system updates automatically, so calling to expedite the process probably won’t help. This is true whether you’re moving up from no status to Silver Medallion or from Platinum to Diamond.

For its part, American says that AAdvantage elite status updates immediately upon completion of your qualifying travel. So if you earned status on the first leg of a trip, your benefits should (in theory) be available on your connecting flight. That makes it a lot easier to score an upgrade when you’re planning an American Airlines mileage run.

Your experience may vary with other airlines (or even with the three discussed above). If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve earned elite status, but it isn’t being recognized by the system, just ask for what you need. If you’re polite and reasonable, I think most airline reps and gate agents will be sympathetic to your cause.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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