Status Matches During Ski Season — Reader Success Story
Today I want to share a story from TPG reader David, who saved on airline fees after canceling some recent travel plans:
Last year I had a number of ski trips planned flying my primary carrier (Alaska Airlines) using miles and some paid flights. Unfortunately, I ended up getting sick multiple times during the course of the winter, forcing me to cancel four different trips. Luckily, Alaska allows you to cancel a ticket and pay the change fee at a later date.
While reviewing my travel plans for the rest of the year, I realized I would reach MVP status (a first for me), and be roughly 10,000 miles from achieving MVP Gold. Knowing that MVP Gold members get change fees waived (saving $125 per reservation), I watched for fare sales and booked two transcontinental mileage runs from my home in Portland, OR for roughly $250 per ticket. Those flights got me over the MVP Gold threshold for roughly the same cost as paying the change fees, plus I got all the added benefits of having Gold status.
It gets better. Looking at my plans for the winter of 2019, I saw that some of the destinations I planned to visit were better served by United. In mid-December, I submitted a status match for United MileagePlus Gold using my newly earned Alaska status. I was approved within a few days, and I immediately began booking United award tickets to Aspen, Jackson Hole, Crested Butte and Telluride. I was also able to provisionally book Alaska flights into Salt Lake City, Reno/Tahoe and Steamboat knowing I could change plans at the last minute with no penalty.
United Gold status has given me access to special award availability and reduced close-in booking fees for MileagePlus awards. It has also helped me save on bag fees, which are almost unavoidable when traveling with skis! During flight delays and inclement weather situations (common in these ski towns), I've been given priority on standby lists and allowed to make last-minute travel changes without fees. Maybe best of all, I've been able to do this while using Avianca LifeMiles (transferred from Citi) to book some of my awards for only 15,000 miles round-trip!
I often preach the importance of reviewing your travel plans for the year; David's story is a great example of how that effort can pay off. By keeping tabs on his progress toward MVP status, he recognized a way to avoid change fees for his cancelled flights. While David ended up paying nearly the same amount (and had to invest time into his mileage runs), he at least ended up with a higher tier of benefits to show for it. The takeaway is that the path to elite status is ongoing, so revisit your plans periodically to make sure you're still on course.
The best time to start a status matches or challenge is when you have a lot of upcoming travel planned with the airline (or hotel) program in question, as David did. You might also consider enrolling to take advantage of a specific benefit (like fee waivers) even if the status won't be of broader use to you, but that approach may not be as profitable as it appears. Many programs limit how often you can match or challenge for status. If you enroll just to escape a few change fees, for example, you might be squandering more valuable opportunities in the future. In short, you only get so many chances to use a status match, so use them wisely.
I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending David a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected.
Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!