You've Lost Your Job and Your Elite Status. Now What?
Your boss has called you into a conference room on a Friday morning. There was nothing on your calendar so you're curious what this impromptu meeting is regarding. As you slide open the glass door with a cheerful "Happy Friday," you notice that the head of HR is sitting next to your superior. Your stomach turns.
Yes, the worst has happened and you are losing your job. As your heart ricochets against your ribcage and sweat sprouts from the top of your head, your mind begins to race. But it isn’t the steady paycheck or health benefits you’re lamenting the loss of. It’s the three to five business trips per month you had been taking for the past year on the company’s dime that earned you that elite airline status you covet so dearly.
Whether you’re dropping down from Platinum to Silver or losing your status altogether, here are a few ways to help you deal with your loss. My condolences, by the way.
But it’s not as bad as you think.
Remember that despite the fact that you are losing something you earned, there’s always the opportunity to earn it back again. This isn’t the end of the line for your extra leg room and upgrades. As long as you focus and remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint, you’ll return to the Promised Land.
Maybe this is a good thing after all, too. This is the perfect opportunity to take some time to think long and hard about what’s important to you. Reevaluate what makes you really happy and make the next decision based upon your needs instead of your wants. I’m talking of course exclusively about switching airline rewards programs. Career, relationships, etc. I’m unfortunately no help on.
While maybe not the most ethical of recommendations on this list, this is the most practical. The first thing you must do once you find out you’re losing your job (besides file for unemployment and start updating that CV) is to investigate other airlines to see if they’ll match your status or give you comparable status after you complete a challenge. Several carriers, including Alaska, American Airlines and Delta, will generally do so. Most airlines require a simple screenshot of your card and your frequent flyer number in order for you to be deemed eligible for status match, though in many cases you'll need to complete a status challenge by hitting certain flight and spending requirements within a specified amount of time.
You could even consider even positioning it to the new airline as, for example, “I’ve flown as an AAdvantage Platinum Pro member for 10 years now and I’m not happy with their service. I’m looking to make a change and would like to conduct my business travel on United. Would you honor this match through 2019?” No need to disclose whether or not your status is going away at the end of the year. It’s worth a shot.
Credit Card? You Got It
On your quest to reattain status, there are certain helpful power-ups you can gather along your way. Namely, airline-branded credit cards. Consider opening a new credit card to help build you back up to elite status quicker, as some offer elite-qualifying miles as sign-up bonuses. Of course, make sure opening a credit card is something you’re able to do from a financial standpoint.
Become the Million Mile Man (or Woman)
This pertains to your individual flying history, because if you’re not close to the million mile lifetime threshold this unfortunately isn’t an option for you. Many airlines like United grant elite status for life based upon how many lifetime flight miles you’ve earned. Those lucky enough to hit 1 million lifetime miles on United will be rewarded with Premier Gold Status permanently. For the two million mile club it’s Platinum Status, three million gets 1K status and a four-million miler becomes a Global Service member.
Travel Smart But Cheap
For some, earning elite status is done by flying either X amount of miles or X amount of segments combined with spending X amount of dollars on their particular airline. If you have an airline-branded card, that required spending on flights is often waived if you spend enough on that card. Which leaves you with the dilemma of qualifying for status either on miles or segments.
While mileage runs to log elite-qualifying miles often can be the quickest way back to elite status, qualifying on segments in some circumstances is the cheaper of the two. It takes an infinite amount of patience and an abundance of free time, but I myself used this technique in 2017 after losing my job in February. For every long-haul domestic flight I took (San Francisco to Newark, Los Angeles to Atlanta, O'Hare to Orange County) I would book flights with connections. This turned every round-trip flight into a four-segment one as opposed to a regular two-segment, earning me segments at double speed.
Sometimes, if I had a very early nonstop flight somewhere, I would change to a connecting redeye the night before to the same city. A perfect example was when I was scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu early on a Friday morning. 24 hours prior I switched to a late hop Thursday night from SFO to LAX and then a redeye to HNL, gaining me more segments for no additional money and a few more hours on the beach in Hawaii. I know, it sounds like complete blasphemy adding more time and planes between cities, but then again so does paying extra for a second checked bag.
Let’s be honest, though. If you aren’t one of the lucky few who’s flown millions of lifetime miles, you’re in a rut and it’s going to take time to get out of it. Be surgical in your strategy to maximize the travel you plan on doing until you’re back on your feet again. Believe it or not, it is possible to travel while unemployed and earn both miles and segments toward getting that elite status back. Good luck!