The last article I wrote concerned the redemption of frequent
flyer miles for
free roundtrip domestic airfare. As you might recall
the threshold for one
free round trip ticket on most domestic carriers is 25,000
miles. Now it's
time to look at another option for use of those frequent flier
upgrades. Let me caution you right up front, obtaining
an upgrade is never
easy and virtually impossible if you're flying on a discounted
With that said lets take a look a few ways to increase your
odds of obtaining
Most major carriers have instituted a class system based on
the number of
miles you've accumulated on that particular carrier.
The higher the status,
the easier time you'll have upgrading to first or business
class. And once
you reach this "Elite" status, that status remains
in effect for one calendar
year. To maintain that status in subsequent years you
must accumulate the
required number of miles within the next calendar year.
For example, American Airlines through their "AAdvantage
Program" has four
different status levels; Regular "AAdvantage" members,
Gold, Platinum and
Executive Platinum. Each level requires more miles than
the next. Gold
status requires the accumulation of 25,000 points or miles
within a calendar
year; Platinum requires 50,000 and Executive Platinum 100,000.
Points or miles can be accumulate through flights on American
alliance partners such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific
or Qantas. You can
also accumulate points or miles by purchasing products and
American Airlines marketing partners who've agreed to participate
program. American has deals worked out with MCI, Hyatt
Hotels, Hertz Rental
Car, Countrywide Home Loans and various other businesses and
cities all across the United States.
I want to emphasis that these "Elite Status" programs,
regardless of the
carrier, require the accumulation of miles or points within
year. That doesn't mean you don't keep the miles
in your account for future
rewards, it just means you won't be an "Elite" club
member. In previous
years most major carriers had expiration dates for use of
miles, but those dates have been relaxed almost to the point
The airlines have made it easier to accumulate frequent flier
qualify for membership in one of the various "Elite"
programs, but there's a
catch. As I stated in the opening paragraph, redeeming
those miles for
upgrades is more difficult than ever, especially when flying
on discounted or
coach tickets. The airlines will usually wait until
the last second to issue
an upgrade in the hopes that someone will purchase a full
fare business or
first class ticket.
The airlines typically hold those upgrade requests for "Elite"
or those who've paid full fare for a ticket. The higher
your status, the
earlier you can request a seat upgrade. Using the American
again, Gold Members can request and possibly secure an upgrade
no more than
24 hours prior to departure. Platinum Members can make
that request 72 hours
prior to departure and Executive Platinum Members have 100
departure to request an upgrade. If you're a regular
"AAdvantage Member" you
can request an upgrade at the airport. Regardless of
your status, if an
upgrade is not available you'll be placed on standby.
If an upgraded seat
should become available "Elite" status members have
The American Airlines example is similar to that of most major
they all call their programs something different and the rules
for each can
be different as well. It's best to check with each carrier
or go to their
website for specific rules and regulations.
Does it make sense to fly one carrier all the time to accumulate
quickly? That depends on your flying habits and income.
If you're one of
those who fly to the same city several times a month, belonging
program is probably a good bet. Review you own individual
flying habits and
see what works.
Next week we need to spend a little time discussing the accumulation
Frequent Flier miles.