Category

Star Alliance

Easiest Ways To Get Elite Airline Status

At the Chicago Seminars, Mommy Points had an excellent presentation about Airline Elite Status.

While I have plenty of free Hotel Elite Status, I do not have any Airline Elite Status.

After Mommy Points presentation I decided that next year I am going to try and shoot for Top Tier Status on 1 Airline, either United or American, to see what all the fuss is about ; )

That being said, the thought of flying 100,000 Butt In Seat (BIS) Miles does not particularly appeal to me, so it was great to hear about some loopholes in Mommy Points presentation.

Aegean Airlines

For those of you not familiar with Aegean Airlines (wikipedia page), don’t worry, neither was I when I first heard of them.

Aegean Airlines is a Greek Airline that is part of Star Alliance.

What is “interesting” about Aegean’s frequent flyer program is how low the qualifications are for Star Alliance Silver and Gold Elite Status.

While on United or most other Star Alliance Members, it would take 25,000 BIS Miles to earn Star Alliance Silver Status, on Aegean it is only 4,000.

What is even better is that with the current sign up, you get 2,000 Miles Sign Up Bonus, so that 4,000 Miles for Silver is now only 2,000 Miles!

Link To Sign Up For Aegean Airline’s Frequent Flyer Program

For Star Alliance Gold Status, on United or most Star Alliance Members, it would take 50,000 BIS Miles. With Aegean it is only 20,000 Miles!.

Once you factor in the 2,000 Sign Up Bonus, it is actually only 18,000!

Once you have Aegean Elite Status, because they are a Star Alliance Member, you get Star Alliance Silver or Gold Status, which gives you free checked bags, priority security, lounge access, etc.

The only thing you don’t get is upgrades on United, because those are reserved for MileagePlus Elites : (

That being said, given how easy it is to get Aegean Star Alliance Silver status, I suggest everyone go for that because at a minimum you will get free checked bags as a Star Alliance Silver.

The best part about this whole thing is that you don’t even ever have to step foot on an Aegean Airplane to earn this Status. Simply credit a United or US Airways flight to them and you are good.

Only thing to watch out for is that most of the discount fares on United only earn 50% credit with Aegean. A full list of earning % by fare class can be found here.

However Aegean is pretty awesome in that they give 500 Mile Minimums for United flights, so to hit the 2,000 miles needed for Aegean Silver, you can simply credit 4 segments (500 Miles earned each segment) to Aegean!

All US Airways fares earn 100% on Aegean.

If you have a long flight to Asia or Australia, I’d also recommend crediting it to Aegean.

Remember you only need 18,000 miles for Star Alliance Gold with Aegean, so 1 trip to Australia or Asia, and you are set.

Of course, I wouldn’t fly to Australia or Asia just for fun to earn this status but if you have a trip planned anyways, Aegean is the way to go.

Now if the low Elite Status qualification threshold wasn’t enough, the real kicker is that apparently as of right now, once you qualify for Elite Status, it is more or less indefinite as long as you credit a flight to Aegean every 3 years.

Gary from View From The Wing had a great piece about it and the specifics.

Of course, Aegean could change this policy at anytime.

As I’ve stated many times before, most of the miles we earn now come from Credit Cards.

So even crediting 18,000 Miles to Aegean for Star Alliance Gold Status isn’t a huge deal when you can easily earn 65,000 United Miles by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase INK Bold.

The next time I fly on United, my plan is to simply make sure the ticket has 1 stop on each leg, so I can get the four 500 Mile Minimums and get Star Alliance Silver Status!

Turkish Status Match

While this Turkish Status Match trick won’t help you if you don’t have status, it is certainly useful if you do have status.

One of the really dumb quirks of United is that even if you are a Premier Gold Elite with them (50,000+ BIS Miles a year), you only have access to the Red Carpet Lounges if you are flying internationally.

If you have to fly Chicago to New York for work every week, you don’t get lounge access, but if you were flying Chicago to anywhere outside the U.S, you would get lounge access.

For anyone that has been in a United Red Carpet Lounge, it is not really anything special.

The marginal benefits are Free Internet, Free Beer & Wine, and comfy chairs.

If you are an United Elite and travel primarily in the US for work, you never have lounge access. Your only options would be purchase United Club Membership for a whopping $375 – $425 or get United Club Credit Card that has a $395 annual fee.

Both of those options are terrible, so if you have any Star Alliance Gold, One World Emerald, or Skyteam Elite Plus Status, I’d recommend Status Matching to Turkish Airways.

Again, View From The Wing has all the details.

Normally Airline Carriers don’t Status Match to other Airlines in their alliance because they are essentially poaching from their Business Partners, but Turkish has decided to buck the trend and do just that.

So if you have status on any of the above Alliances, I strongly suggest Status Matching to Turkish Airways.

It is free, and you don’t even have to credit any miles to them.

Once they approve you, they will send you a Turkish Airways Star Alliance Gold Card, and with that you will have access to all United Lounges, regardless if you are flying domestically or internationally!

While Turkish isn’t like Aegean in that the Status is indefinite, they do give you 2 full years of status and 2 years to re-qualify if you choose.

AA Challenge

All of the above examples focus on Star Alliance, but if you don’t have any Status an want to get status quickly, I’d recommend doing an AA Challenge.

More information can be found here.

With a Status Match (as talked about above), the Airline matches you to their program once they verify that you have Status with another Airline.

With a Status Challenge, you will receive the Status, but you have to complete some sort of requirement.

Basically it is just to make sure you are serious and not just getting the Status so you can get free lounge access with United…

For AA’s Status Challenge, there is a fee involved of $120 – $240 depending on what level you are shooting for.

In addition, for Platinum you need to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points in 3 months. For Gold, it is 5,000 EQP in 3 months.

Elite Qualifying Points are different than Elite Qualifying Miles. Basically, if you fly discounted fares, you will only earn .5 EQP instead of 1 EQP per 1 Mile Flown.

A full chart of Elite Qualifying Points by Fare Class can be found here.

The reason why this Challenge is important is that if you have a big trip coming up (Asia, Australia, etc), you can easily earn Status with American in a single trip.

So assuming that you buy the cheapest fare that only earns .5 EQP per 1 Mile Flown, a trip from New York to Australia via LAX would put you at around 20,000 miles, which would still meet the 10,000 EQP requirement.

Similarly, if you are going for Gold Status and need to earn 5,000 EQP, a simple Los Angeles to Paris trip would earn you 11,300 Miles. Even if you were earning .5 EQP per 1 Mile Flown due to a discounted fare, you would still pass the 5,000 EQP needed to complete the Challenge.

Unfortunately, I only recently learned about these AA Challenges, or I would have definitely done one when I flew on paid Economy tickets to Australia, Europe, and India in my younger days!

Recap

Hopefully if you don’t currently have Elite Status and are thinking about getting some, you now have some easy ways to earn it without having to fly 100,000 Miles.

While earning Elite Status is not for everyone due to the time and money involved, the benefits of Elite Status can be significant depending on your Elite level.

The perks can really add up when you factor in how much you save on ticket changes fees, baggage fees, as well as free upgrades, lounge access, etc.

Although you do have to pay a small fee for the AA Challenge, once you complete the 10,000 EQP requirement, you will have full AA Platinum status.

As you have seen with Turkish Airline offer above, once you have Status with one Airline, it is very easy to simply Status Match to another Airline.

So even if you only earn Status in 1 year, you can very easily Status Match to another Airline for the next year! Check StatusMatcher.com for more information,

If you have any questions, please let me know!

-Parag

The Benefits Of Point Based Systems Like Ultimate Rewards & SPG

If you have been following the Blog or following me on Twitter, you are aware of the struggles I had trying to find a cheap One Way ticket from LAX to SEA.

I will spare everyone my soapbox rant about how ridiculous it is that some One Way fares cost almost if not more than a Round Trip Ticket, for another day.

First, I used ViewFromTheWing’s advice and tried looking for Hidden City Ticketing.

However since Seattle is so close to the Canadian Boarder, most of the cities that used Seattle as a Hidden City were in Canada, so I wasn’t able to find anything that was cheap.

With only 2 or so weeks until departure, I was starting to think that I might just have to suck it up and drop $250 on a One Way ticket.

I did one last search of Saver Availability on United, AA, and Delta (who wanted at a minimum 60k SkyMiles for a One Way that should cost 12.5k), and came up empty handed.

While doing a final Fare Search on Kayak.com, I saw they had listed Southwest in the sidebar but didn’t publish the fare, so I thought what the hell, maybe they have a cheap $100 One Way fare.

Unfortunately Southwest’s prices were in line with everyone else’s.

However Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Program is “neat” in that they used a fixed formula to determine how many “Rapid Reward Points” it will take for a free flight.

Whereas United, AA, and Delta have a fixed redemption Award Chart, meaning that the cheapest One Way ticket in the U.S will be 12,500 Miles regardless if the actual fare costs $25 or $25,000.

Typically, the fixed redemption Award Chart is better for Customers since most flights these days cost way more than the value of the miles.

For Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” Fares, the formula to determine the amount of RR Points needed is the Base Fare (not including Excise Tax) X 60 Points Per $1 = Rapid Rewards Points Needed

So my base fare (not including the mandatory Excise Tax) was $170 X 60 Points Per $1 = 10,200 Rapid Rewards Points Needed.

I of course don’t fly Southwest so I didn’t have 10,200 RR Points laying around. I only had 520 Points from some free promos I had taken advantage of.

Normally this would be a HUGE issue and I would have just had to shell out the $250 for a One Way but because I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred I was in luck.

Southwest of course is a Chase Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner, so I simply logged into Ultimate Rewards and transferred over 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest Rapid Rewards Points at a 1:1 ratio.

The best part of this is that even if had I been able to find any Saver Award availability on United, AA, or Delta, it would have cost me at a minimum 12,500 miles.

So although I did have to shell out 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, I figure I still came out ahead because I was planning on spending 12,500 miles anyways!

The Point Of This Story

When I write about the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase INK Bold, and SPG AMEX, I consistently talk about the HUGE benefit of flexibility in these programs.

This is because they earn “Points” which can be transferred to Airline Frequent Flyer Accounts or Hotel Points typically at a 1:1 Ratio.

For those that are new, please do not confuse the above 3 Cards & their “Point” systems with any point earning Cards from Capital One, Citi, Bank of America, etc because they are not the same thing.

Cards from those issuers allow you to earn points but those points CANNOT be transferred to any Airlines at a 1:1 ratio and typically have a fixed value. Therefore they are not very valuable programs and you should avoid using or signing up for any of those Cards.

The best part about earning “Points” via Ultimate Rewards, SPG, or AMEX Membership Points, is that you can keep your Points in your central account until you need to transfer them.

No one really talks about this because it isn’t very sexy.

However this flexibility is HUGELY UNDER RATED.

While Chase’s Ultimate Rewards came to the rescue today with Southwest Points, Ultimate Rewards really has only 2 main Airline Transfer Partners, United and British Airways (which you can use for free flights on AA in the US).

However Starwood Preferred Guest is really where the flexibility is at, as they allows you to transfer to over 31 different Airline Partners.

Via Starwood’s SPG program, for domestic flights you can transfer your Starpoints at a 1 : 1.25 ratio to American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, British Airways (to use for AA domestic flights), and at a 2 : 1.25 ratio for United! 

Unfortunately Southwest apparently did not make the cut with SPG.

Similarly for International Flights such as to Europe, with SPG you have the ability to transfer to a minimum of 12 Airline Partners.

These 12 Airline Partners include AA, US Airways, United, Delta, British Airways, Air France, KLM, Iberia, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Air Berlin, or Air Canada. 

That list of 12 Airline Partners does not even include any Asian (Singapore, etc) or Middle Eastern (Etihad, Qatar, Emirates, etc) Carriers that fly from the U.S with connections in Europe.

The great thing about having all 12 of those Airline Partners as transfer options is that it covers every single Airline Alliance (Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam).

Therefore if you are flying to Europe, you should be able to find at least 1 Airline of those 12 Transfer Partners that has availability.

Last week, I just booked myself an Award Ticket to Europe (more on that booking process later this week), and I can attest to what a pain in the butt it can be having only 1 Airline Currency (United Miles in my case) at your disposal.

In my case, since there was no availability for my dates, I had to painstakingly piece together each leg separately and ended up with a flight to Europe that has 4 connections going each way.

So 8 plane changes total for an Award Flight that could easily have been just 2 or 3 connections total if I simply had more Airline Partner transfer options!

The worst part is that I don’t even earn any miles for all those stops : (

Recap

Basically, the point of this post is to remind people to not over look the benefits of the flexibility Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, AMEX’s Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs bring to the table.

As you saw with my last minute Southwest hail mary, transfer flexibility can really get you out of a bind!

If you think about it, just by having 1 Chase Card that participates in Ultimate Rewards and also an SPG AMEX, you have the ability to transfer at a 1:1 ratio into almost any Airline Frequent Flyer program in the world.

That is pretty cool!

-Parag

How To Get Star Alliance Silver Status For Only 3,000 Miles

If there is one thing that makes flying remotely bearable, it is Elite Status.

Although I love collecting miles, taking free trips, geeking out over airplanes, etc, surprisingly I don’t particularly enjoy the whole airport experience.

Up until this year, I was fortunate enough to have the lowest rung Elite Status on United because I flew 25,000 miles on United in 2010.

With my Elite Status, I would get bumped up to Economy Plus, occasionally bumped to First Class on Domestic Flights, got free checked bags, priority check-in and security, etc.

While those perks were nice, I didn’t re- qualify last year, so this year I am status-less and am now once again considered a normal traveler by United’s standards.

Since it normally takes at a minimum 25,000 miles to earn the lowerst Elite Status on any Airline, I didn’t think I would have Elite Status again for a long time. However last week, Gary from View From The Wing had an awesome post about how to earn Lifetime Star Alliance Gold Status as well as Star Alliance Silver Status for only 3,000 miles, which really got me excited.

He has typed out all the details on the offer, so if you are interested, check out his post.

Link To View From The Wing

Basically to sum it up, if you credit your flights on United or any other Star Alliance Carriers like US Airways etc to Aegean (a Greek Airline), for only 3,000 miles you can earn Star Alliance Silver Status with Aegean. That Silver Status is recognized by United and all other Star Alliance Carriers!

Outside of the benefits of having Elite Status, like free checked bags, what is really great about this offer is that you can just fly normal flights in the U.S and just credit them to Aegean. No need to do any mileage runs or fly anywhere exotic. A basic flight from Chicago to LA or NYC to Seattle would be enough miles to get Star Alliance Silver Elite Status!

Remember that normally on any Airline, to earn the lowest rung Elite Status it takes a minimum of 25,000 miles flown. With this offer, for 1/8th of the miles flown, you can get all the same benefit without having to fly the extra 21,000 miles!

I had originally heard about this Aegean Silver Status offer last year but at the time I could justify crediting my precious United miles to Aegean. However, with the recent United Mileage Plus Explorer offer as well as the Chase Sapphire Preferred offer, I have over 175k United miles so I can afford to “throw away” 3,000 miles to earn Status.

Since I am going to Seattle in September and according to WebFlyer, it is 3,420 miles round trip from Chicago, I plan on just crediting that flight to Aegean to earn Silver Status!

If you are flying somewhere more than 16,000 miles away like Australia, China, or India, the I’d highly suggest you think about crediting your flight to Aegean because you can earn Star Alliance Gold Status which gets you free worldwide lounge access as well as a host of other benefits like  Typically to get Star Alliance Gold Status you would have to fly over 50,000 miles in 1 year, with this offer you only have to fly 16,000 miles!

Overall, this promotion is definitely one of the better offers of the year, so if you have any flights coming up on United, US Airways or any other Star Alliance Carriers, I’d 100% suggest taking advantage of this offer!

A Few More Things

FFU Reader Ming commented that:

  1. Almost all the cheapest classes on United only earn you 50% of actual miles flown on Aegean Airlines. Be careful of the classes. (I believe all US Airway flights earn 100% for Aegean)
  2. The Silver or Gold Star Alliance Status on airlines outside of United won’t give you Economy Plus or any other upgrades that you would normally get as an United Elite.
  3. It becomes tricky after you obtain the status and want to utilize it. You need to enter the Aegean airlines mileage number while you check in.  To enjoy all the benefits including lounge access and priority boarding, you need to have the Aegean mileage number on your boarding passes all the way. It means you cannot claim the miles on other airlines. 

Although these rules make a bit more difficult to earn and use the Silver Status, I still think this is a particularly good deal and better than not having any Status.

What do you think?

-Parag