What Happens to My Elite Benefits After My Status Expires?
"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.
While there are shortcuts to earning elite status with your preferred airline or hotel, holding onto your status in subsequent years requires some serious commitment and planning. TPG reader Art wants to know what happens if he books travel and his elite status expires before his trip ...
[pullquote source="TPG READER ART"]I'm currently a British Airways Silver elite, and have booked travel for after I lose my elite status. When I booked I was able to reserve seats for free. Will I keep that free seat selection or lose it after my status expires?[/pullquote]
We often receive questions about what happens to your benefits after your elite status expires, and the answer is almost always that you lose them. Art's case, however, brings up a very interesting point.
When you think about the benefits that airline elite status confers (bonus points, free seat selection, free checked bags, upgrades, etc.), you can generally split them into two groups:
- Those that apply at the time of booking
- Those that apply at the time of travel
In some cases, where a benefit falls might depend on your specific level of elite status. For example, AAdvantage Gold elites get complimentary Main Cabin Extra seating 24 hours before departure, but all other American elite travelers can select those seats at the time of booking. When it comes to upgrades, the exact policy varies by airline, but some allow top-tier elites to clear upgrades far in advance, while others have to wait until closer to departure.
Since complimentary seat selection typically falls into the former of the two categories above, the short answer to Art's question is that an airline is likely not going to revoke a benefit that's already been issued. Art shouldn't lose his free seat selection once his status expires, unless the airline swaps planes and "boots" him out of his seat. If that happens after his status has expired, he may no longer have a seat assignment, or even if he does, he may not be given the option to change back to a more desirable one. However, the chances of this happening are slim.
That being said, Art will lose any day-of benefits that come with his British Airways Silver status, including priority check-in and baggage handling.
The same logic applies to hotel elite status as well, but almost all hotel elite benefits apply at the time of check-in and not before. When you think bonus points, suite upgrades and free breakfast, there's generally no way to take advantage of those before your actual stay. The only exception might be for stays that happen immediately after you lose your status, as a hotel might upgrade you a few days in advance. However, that's a bit of a long shot.
If you know that you'll be losing your elite status (and a mileage run/mattress run is out of the question), it might make sense to book all your flights for the rest of the year and try and squeeze that last bit of value out of your elite status. While an airline likely won't come back and revoke the perks it's already given you, you should be prepared to be treated like every other passenger if your status expires by the time you actually travel.