Team TPG’s Progress and Strategy for Airline Elite Status in 2018

Aug 8, 2018

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Don’t look now, but it’s high time to start route planning for the second stage of 2018! For those looking to maintain elite status in your airline program of choice, now is the time to pause, take inventory, and map out a plan to ensure that your goals are met before we ring in the new year. Whether that’s locking in a small business trip that you’ve been putting off, pulling the trigger on a summer vacation, or scheming a mileage run late in the year, we want to make sure you’re booking stays on the card that’s most advantageous.

As you look ahead to gauge what’s possible with the remainder of 2018, be sure to check our guides for the best airline credit cards of 2018 and the best airline elite status programs in the US.

And, because it’s always fun to compare your own streaks with the staff at TPG, we’re offering a sneak peek into the progress of several of our own frequent flyers.

Where do you stand, and what are your plans to maintain (or achieve!) elite status? Let us know in comments!

Brian Kelly, The Points Guy

American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum

While I’m no longer making a concerted effort to qualify for AAdvantage Executive Platinum (worth $7,360 per our latest valuations), it’s likely I’ll reach it by the end of the year. Though I’m off the proverbial hamster wheel, it’s worth mentioning that complimentary upgrades, systemwide upgrades, a 120% mileage bonus, top-tier support lines, and a slew of waived fees and charges make flying hard to reach American’s highest tier worthwhile for many. While I maintain JetBlue Mosaic status via supplemental credit card spend and Delta Platinum status as a perk of holding an Amex Business Centurion card, there’s more work involved to stay atop American’s program.

JetBlue TrueBlue Mosaic

I still feel that the Mint is the best domestic business-class product on the market. I don’t intend to fly the required 30 segments or earn the necessary 15,000 base points by year-end; instead, I’ll maintain TrueBlue Mosaic by putting $50,000 of spend on a JetBlue credit card. When the schedule makes sense, I’ll opt to fly in JetBlue’s Mint cabin when cruising from coast to coast (or to one of the new Caribbean and Latin America destinations). After all, it’s really tough to beat the carrier’s incredible no-fee flight change policy.

Looking Ahead

Of course, I’ll continue to seek outstanding redemptions and experiences to see even more of the world in the second half of 2018, with elite status not being the top priority. It’ll be tough to top Emirates’ new first-class suites and touring my parents around the world on points and miles, but you can bet I’ll try.

For the moments where only private aviation will do, I plan to charge those fees to my Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. Given that I’m a Platinum Honors client at Bank of America, I earn 3.5% back on the kind of travel that The Points Pups like best. $100,000 in spending on that card gets me $3,500 cash back (or $2,625 on non-travel/dining spend), which I can use toward private jets and BLADE rides.

If you’re just getting started, be sure to visit TPG’s beginner’s guide to points and miles, along with our in-depth guide to credit cards — a vital resource for ramping up your point balances to splurge on your own adventures.

Zach Honig, Editor-at-Large

United Premier 1K

As a Million Miler, my status will never drop below United’s mid-tier Premier Gold level. I value top-tier 1K status tremendously, however, thanks to the airline’s Global and Regional Premier Upgrade certificates, so I always do my best to reach that 100,000-mile threshold.

Thanks to a busy travel year, I’m now less than 2,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars and 17,000 Premier Qualifying Miles from re-qualifying for 1K, so I shouldn’t have any difficulty reaching that tier by the end of December 2018, earning me 1K through January 2020.

Unfortunately there isn’t a way around the pesky PQD requirement for US residents — you can get a waiver after spending $25,000 on the United Explorer Card or the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card, but that’s only valid for Platinum status, not 1K.

Fortunately, I’ll make it, regardless. My biggest earner was June’s farewell flight in United’s outgoing Polaris first class, which was processed as a revenue ticket since we booked with Amex Membership Rewards points. That one flight earned me 14,112 Premier Qualifying Miles and $3,439 Premier Qualifying Dollars, bringing me much closer to 1K.

American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum

I hardly fly American Airlines, but I do find myself traveling on Oneworld partners from time to time, typically for TPG reviews. That’s exactly what’s happened so far in 2018, allowing me to achieve entry-level Gold status in the AAdvantage program, valid through January 2020.

My biggest earner was a business-class flight on Malaysia’s A350, which we booked with Amex points, just like the revenue United flight I mentioned above. Between that flight from London (LHR) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and the connecting A330 to Sydney (SYD), I earned 16,018 Elite-Qualifying Miles and 2,136 Elite-Qualifying Dollars, giving me a big boost toward Gold.

At this point, I’m not far from hitting Platinum, but without plans to book any more qualifying flights this year, I don’t think I’ll hit that middle tier.

JT Genter, Points & Miles Writer

American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum

As I cover American Airlines for TPG, my primary airline status for the past few years has been American Airlines’ AAdvantage Executive Platinum. Although I’ve flown many AA award flights this year, I’ve been boosted toward re-qualification thanks to the excellent earnings from partner premium economy flights on Cathay Pacific (24k EQM 3.2k EQD), British Airways (14k EQM 1.2k EQD) and the random high fare class I got on the Qantas leg from Perth-London (9k EQM 1.8k EQD). Some domestic Special Fare runs have also helped my campaign, but mostly it’s been a lot of individual flights to get me this far. I might be able to re-qualify without booking another flight as long as my flights to Hawaii and China post as Special Fares.

Asiana Club Diamond

When I did this mid-year elite status update last year, I’d just booked a $600 round-trip business-class ANA flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Sydney (SYD). Combining that with two cheap Air Canada round-trip flights to China earlier this year — during which I tested Airmule — I earned Asiana Airlines Diamond status (Star Alliance Gold). This status has allowed me to utilize United Clubs, check bags, get priority check-in and boarding and carry-on a bag – even on United basic economy fares.

Why Asiana? In addition to just requiring 40,000 miles to get Star Alliance Gold, Asiana gives travelers a 24-month qualification period to get this low number. Then, your status is good for another 24 months after the end of the qualification period. Since I started in December 2017, I earned Asiana Diamond status through December 2021.

Since Asiana gives travelers a 24-month qualification period, I still have another 16 months to earn the next 45,661 miles required to hit Diamond Plus status. However, since I haven’t stepped foot on an Asiana flight — and probably won’t for a while — the marginal benefits of the next level aren’t worth pursuing. That said, I might naturally achieve this status by listing my Asiana number on various flights when utilizing my Star Alliance status on paid economy flights.

Featured image (Salt Lake City International Airport) courtesy of Darren Murph / TPG.

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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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