Last-Minute Airline Elite Status Tip: Do This Instead of a Mileage Run

Dec 15, 2018

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With only a fortnight before the calendar year ends, there’s precious little time left to plan a mileage run. If you’re still looking to achieve elite airline status for next year by reaching certain thresholds of miles flown and dollars spent by Dec. 31, 2018, here’s a tip for doing so while also making life a lot more comfortable.

Over the past few years, the major carriers such as Delta, American and United have all implemented “upfares.” At it’s most basic, they’ve enabled post-purchase upgrades. If you’ve already booked an economy seat to fly home for the holidays, or if your company has booked you in the main cabin for a year-end business trip, you may be able to pay to move yourself into a higher cabin. If you don’t see it via the web when toggling through upcoming trips, just give your airline of choice a call and ask how much it’ll cost to move to a premium cabin for upcoming flights.

Paying to upgrade from standard economy into Delta’s Comfort+, American’s Main Cabin Extra or United’s Economy Plus is a surefire way to spend a few extra dollars — dollars which will qualify as spend towards those ever-increasing annual spend requirements synced with elite status tiers (as long as you’re moving up for a flight in the 2018 calendar year, as elite-qualifying dollars post when you actually take the trip).

You may be better off splurging on a paid first class upgrade than trying to squeeze in a mileage run
You may be better off splurging on a paid first class upgrade than trying to squeeze in a mileage run

Here’s an example for Delta flyers: If you need to cover a larger gap than the one between economy and Comfort+, consider splurging on a first class or business class upgrade. While it’ll no doubt cost a pretty penny to move to Delta One on a hypothetical transcon flight between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX), the money you spend on the upgrade will count towards your annual MQD tally. On top of that, by paying to move into a different fare class, you’ll likely receive additional MQMs according to Delta’s accrual chart.

Just be sure to pay cash for the upgrade rather than SkyMiles — an option Delta recently added — as upgrades purchased with miles do not earn additional MQMs and MQDs.

That same logic applies to American Airlines and United — if you use your own cash to spring yourself into the forward cabin, you’ll earn additional qualifying miles and dollars for the difference between the coach ticket you’d previously purchased and your shiny new seat assignment near the plane’s nose.

This may not work for those looking to cover massive gaps in miles and spend, but it may be the push you need to hit that next tier. Saving yourself the hassle of booking and flying a flight to nowhere in particular while also making existing flights more luxurious is a win-win, especially if paying up to do so secures a higher tier of airline status for 2019.

To discuss more last-minute elite status strategies, check out the ongoing discussion in the TPG Lounge as well as our exhaustive guides below.

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