Why these TPG staffers don’t care about chasing airline elite status

Dec 11, 2021

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You may think that we’re all American Airlines Executive Platinum, Delta Diamond Medallion, and United Premier 1K members here at TPG. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Sure, we’re extremely passionate about air travel. Some may even call us obsessed.

Amplifying our fixation on flying and traversing the globe, many of the writers and editors at The Points Guy have some level of airline elite status, but a number of TPG staffers simply aren’t willing to jump through hurdles to obtain airline elite status in exchange for a bit of extra legroom and a comfier seat (or even the possibility of an upgrade).

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Here are eight TPG team members who share why they are intentionally not pursuing airline elite status next year or beyond.

In This Post

Madison Blancaflor, travel editor

I’m a budget traveler at heart, so I’m almost always going to pick flights and accommodations based on price. While I have a favorite major airline and hotel brand (Delta and Hyatt, respectively), that doesn’t mean I’ll go out of my way to stay at either if it will cost me more. Just recently, for example, I stayed at a Courtyard by Marriott and flew American Airlines because they were the more affordable options where I needed to go. Even if I did go “all-in” on one brand, I don’t travel enough each year to hit top-tier elite status which is where you truly experience the perks  So for me, chasing status just doesn’t seem worth the hassle when my primary goal is saving money.

Related: 9 things people misunderstand about traveling on a budget

Nick Ewen, senior editor

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Prior to having kids, I was a road warrior and laser-focused on earning airline elite status. I was part of the very first group of Delta Diamond Medallion members, and I enjoyed perks like complimentary upgrades, Sky Club access, and free changes and cancellations on award tickets. Once my daughter was born and my business travel slowed down, my desire to earn elite status began to wane. And WOW was it liberating. No longer was I tempted to look for mileage runs or book a connecting flight on my preferred airline when a nonstop (and oftentimes less-expensive) itinerary was available on another airline.

In addition, many of the perks that come with low- to mid-tier elite status levels are available by leveraging the right credit cards. I get free checked bags on Delta with my Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card (plus Sky Club access courtesy of my Platinum Card® from American Express), and I can use airline fee credits for seat upgrades or other baggage costs. And most airlines now allow free changes and cancellations on award tickets for all members — so that’s no longer a driving force. And given my location, roughly halfway between Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL), not focusing on airline elite status means that I can pick the carrier that makes the most sense for each, individual trip — based on convenience, price, and amenities.

Related: Best cards with airline-fee credits

Caroline Tanner, news reporter

Never say never, but I can’t say I foresee chasing elite status in the future. The hoops and hurdles required to reach valuable airline elite status often result in flying for the simple sake of flying. That’s particularly true if you’re not a road warrior and don’t organically travel frequently for work. As a former environmental journalist, the thought of flying simply to obtain elite status pains me. I’ll prioritize flying specific airlines based on convenience and price, rather than jumping through hoops for a specific airline just to earn elite status.

Related: Everything you need to know about carbon offsetting for your flights

Juan Ruiz, credit cards editor

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I’ve held American Airlines’ mid-tier Platinum status in the past and I can count on one hand with a closed fist, how many times I’ve received an upgrade to business or first class. Since I’m based out of Miami, an AA hub, even top-tier Executive Platinum status may not help me move the needle forward on achieving an upgrade. Instead, now I function like an airline free agent. With just about every airline servicing routes from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) or Miami (MIA) to destinations I want to visit, I favor the best flight times and fares over staying loyal to any given airline.

I’m afraid that if I focused on earning airline elite status, I would end up doing some irrational things, such as adding flight connections to increase flight segments or recklessly spending more for a premium seat, just to obtain more Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) – all for the glory of meeting elite status requirements. For now, if I want to feel like a top-tier elite without the need to chase status, I’ll book a premium cabin seat with the miles I’ve accumulated during the pandemic.

Related: Why the Citi Premier Card is a great choice if you’re an airline free agent

Andrea Rotondo, director of content, travel news & features

American Airlines main cabin extra seats
Main cabin extra seats provide a bit more legroom. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Right now, I don’t feel compelled to chase airline elite status. For one, I’m Lifetime Gold on American, and those perks — free upgrades on flights 500 miles or less, 24-hour upgrade window, 40% elite mileage bonus, free Main Cabin Extra seats at check-in, free preferred seats and a free checked bag — are enough for the short term. Also, throughout the pandemic, I haven’t traveled as much as I normally do. But, I’ve continued to grow my points and miles balances.

My plan is to use that loyalty currency to book my flights for 2022, 2023, and beyond. I always try to book premium cabins (that’s just a personal preference) so that means I already will have some nice benefits included with those tickets: priority check-in, security and boarding, and seating that’s more comfortable than what you’d find in coach. Since that’s my current strategy for flights, I don’t feel attaining additional airline status is all that useful to me at this point.

Related: 8 amazing first class seats you can still book with points and miles

Mitchell Stoutin, senior director

I’m mostly traveling alone for work these days and not with family that includes an unvaccinated toddler. The airports I’ve had to travel through for work purposes have all had direct flights from my home airport of Austin (AUS). I’m not willing to hop on a flight from Austin (AUS) to Charlotte (CLT) with a connection in Dallas (DFW) for the sake of earning one additional Elite Qualifying Segment (EQS) towards AA status — when I can fly direct to Charlotte.

Plus, flying out of Austin or Dallas, there are so many high-tier elites, I likely wouldn’t get upgraded with airline elite status. Of course, if I were regularly hopping across the ocean on a transatlantic flight or doing long transcontinental trips often, I might value it differently. But I’ll take the time and money I save over having to jump through hoops to earn airline elite status.

Victoria Walker, senior travel reporter

I can confidently say, I’ll never intentionally go after airline elite status. If I have to jump through hoops and hurdles to get elite status, then I’m not the target consumer. Hard pass.

Ashley Onadele, writer

Lake Nona Wave Hotel one-bedroom suite bedroom
Rendering courtesy of Lake Nona Wave Hotel

The truth of the matter is, I don’t travel enough to earn status based on flight segments flown or dollars spent (full disclosure: I don’t even know what MQMs, EQDs, etc. mean). I’m also not loyal to any one particular airline. I want to be comfortable when I fly so I’m more likely to research the airline with the most comfortable economy or premium economy seat even if I have to pay more out of pocket. This is especially true for international travel.

Additionally, my accommodations are more important to me than my time on the plane, so I’d rather have hotel elite status which may include perks such as free breakfast, room upgrades or free WiFi — plus, accruing and redeeming points on hotels allows me to stay at places I’d never pay the cash rate for.

Related: Best hotel elite status in 2021

Bottom line

The primary benefits of airline elite status typically consist of complimentary upgrades, priority check-in, early boarding and waived checked bag fees. However, many of these perks can be attained with a cobranded airline credit card.

For most people and even several of us at TPG, our travel strategy doesn’t include chasing any type of airline elite status. That said, there are many who disagree including lots of other TPG employees.

We also make exceptions for those who are true road warriors and can achieve top-tier elite status naturally.

Related: So, what exactly is elite status in travel — and how can I get it?

While obtaining or renewing airline elite status is an undeniably important milestone for many TPG staffers each year, some of us are keen on being free agents in the airline loyalty space. We’re not interested in the elite status ‘hamster wheel’ with all the annual pressure to acquire or retain airline elite status.

Your mileage may vary.

Featured photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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