When does airline elite status expire?

Dec 12, 2021

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Unless you have lifetime elite status, the process of qualifying for and maintaining airline elite status is often a yearly endeavor. As we approach the end of 2021, it’s worth checking that your status qualification requirements are squared away.

But, since it’s possible to earn status at any point throughout the year, one question you might have is as the year comes to a close is, “When does my airline status actually expire?”

In this guide, I’ll discuss when airline elite status expires for each of the major U.S. airline loyalty programs.

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Airline elite status basics

(Photo by HMBSoFL Photography/Shutterstock.com)

To fully understand when your airline elite status expires, you should consider two sets of dates:

  • Qualification period: How long you have to earn the elite status.
  • Membership term: How long you keep elite status once you earn it.

Until recently, most of the major U.S. airlines used a calendar year as their qualification period. However, with American’s impending switch to Loyalty Points, the qualification period for AAdvantage will soon be March 1 through Feb. 28 (or Feb. 29) of the following year.

Most airlines provide multiple ways — or have more than one requirement — to earn elite status. As an example, to earn Gold status with Delta Air Lines this year, you’d need to accrue 50,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) or 60 Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021. But, if you’re U.S.-based, you’d also need to earn 6,000 Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) during the same period.

Once you’ve qualified, the other set of dates to understand is the membership term. This varies slightly from airline to airline but describes the period during which your elite status is valid. Often, your membership starts when you qualify, runs through the rest of that calendar year and continues for the entire following calendar year. But, as mentioned above, some carriers don’t use a calendar year qualification period.

If you’re starting from scratch, you may want to try to qualify early within your qualification period. By doing so, you can maximize how long you’ll enjoy your elite benefits.

Now let’s take a more detailed look at the elite status expiration policies of several U.S. airline loyalty programs.

Related: Credit cards that can help you earn airline elite status

Alaska Airlines

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elite status typically expires on Dec. 31 of the year following the year in which you earned your status. However, if you held elite status as of Jan. 1, 2021 (excluding status obtained by a status match promotion), Alaska will extend your status through April 30, 2022.

Related: 6 ways Alaska Mileage Plan can improve and stay one of the best frequent flyer programs

American Airlines

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you currently hold elite status with American Airlines, it will expire on March 31, 2022. And, if you’ve already qualified for AAdvantage status this year, your membership will expire on March 31, 2023.

American Airlines AAdvantage will switch to the new Loyalty Points scheme for earning elite status in March 2022. Under the new Loyalty Points program, you’ll have a qualification period of March 1 through Feb. 28 of the following year (or Feb. 29 during a leap year). However, your AAdvantage activity will count double during Jan. and Feb. 2022: once toward earning status under the current elite requirements and once toward the first Loyalty Points qualification period. If you earn elite status during a qualification period, you’ll keep your status through the following March 31.

Interesting, starting in 2022, you can qualify for American elite status from credit card spending alone. As such, some of the best American Airlines cards, including the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, will become increasingly important for American Airlines loyalists.

Related: How to double dip your 2022 elite bonuses with an American Airlines credit card

Delta

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Delta Medallion elite status is typically valid through Jan. 31 of the year following the calendar year you earned the status. But, Delta has extended elite status. So, if you earned status through flights and spending during the: 2019 calendar year, your status will expire Jan. 31, 2022. If you earned it in the 2020 or 2021 calendar year, your status will expire Jan. 31, 2023.

It’s important to note that Delta Platinum and Diamond Medallion travelers also have deadlines for selecting Choice Benefits. Usually, these deadlines are the same as when your status expires. But, although Delta has extended status, the deadlines for selecting Choice Benefits have not been extended. And you’ll only earn new Choice Benefits if you earn status, not if your status is extended.

Related: No miles for you! Beware as Delta changes its basic economy rules again

JetBlue

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

JetBlue only has one tier of elite status: Mosaic. JetBlue Mosaic status is valid through the end of the calendar year after which you qualify.

Additionally, JetBlue is one of few airlines that allows you to earn its top status without flying at all. With enough spending on your JetBlue Plus Card or JetBlue Business Card, you could earn Mosaic status from home.

The information for the JetBlue Plus and JetBlue Business Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Is airline elite status still worth it?

Southwest

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Southwest offers the famed Companion Pass, but this perk isn’t an elite status. However, Southwest does offer two elite tiers: A-List and A-List Preferred.

A-List, A-List Preferred and the Companion Pass are generally valid for the year in which you earn them as well as one full calendar year afterward.

If you have your eye set on the Companion Pass, you should try to qualify as early in the year as possible to get close to two full years of free companion flights. However, note that Southwest occasionally offers promotional Companion Passes or promotional elite status with different expiration dates.

Related: 3 TPG staffers reveal their favorite elite status perks

United

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

United uses the term “program year” to refer to the timeline in which your United MileagePlus elite status is valid. The program year with United Airlines runs through Jan. 31 of the following year. Thus, your status is good for the year you earn it, all of the following year and a month into the next year.

Additionally, United has extended status and other perks in response to the pandemic. However, United’s extension isn’t popular with all flyers.

Related: I just earned airline elite status for the first time — and I’m never going back

Bottom line

Earning airline elite status can unlock many perks, but it’s essential to understand how long you’ll keep your status.

Especially as programs continue to extend status or offer reduced qualification requirements during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, don’t make any assumptions about when your status will expire. Instead, log in to your account and read any notices from the airline to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith and Katie Genter.

Featured image by fotoliza/Shutterstock.

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