Elite status has changed a bit just over the past couple of years. Most of the changes have not favored the traveler who is not a top-tier or big spender with their chosen airline. In addition, the miles accrued in the airline programs are now less valuable with what can be redeemed. As a result, many flyers have grown frustrated with frequent flyer programs and turned to just flying with the cheapest airfare instead of staying hooked to a particular program.
Elite Status Still Helps
While elite status has changed, there are still many good arguments for keeping elite status. To realize many of them, all you have to do is to walk into an airport for a flight and observe. Elite status, often at the lowest level or mid-tier level, helps to cut through the crowding and fees that exist all across airlines.
Here are some of the advantages to having elite status:
- Free baggage allowance
- Priority check-in
- Priority baggage handling (which can sometimes be fickle but still exists as a benefit)
- Priority boarding
- Better customer service (at least it gives phone numbers that are answered quicker)
- Preferred seating
- Complimentary domestic upgrades
On my part, some of the nicest, dependable perks of elite status is being able to have priority lines in the airport. Upgrades are not a sure thing (unless you are a top-tier, even then not a guarantee) but knowing that I will not have to stand in the long lines greatly improves my airport experiences. From the time an elite traveler enters the airport, they will have access to a priority check-in counter/baggage drop-off, enter the TSA-security area through an elite/priority line, and board the plane through an elite/priority line. While it may seem like not a big deal to have those lines, it can easily save the traveler over 30 minutes of time at larger airports (sometimes much more time). Not only does it save time, but it also gives you access to guaranteed overhead bin space since you can board the aircraft earlier than the rest of the economy customers.
Premium Cabin Tickets Give the Same Access
Of course, elite membership is not really necessary if you are used to traveling on premium tickets. Many frequent travelers have been used to redeeming their miles for premium cabin travel and that gives all of the above advantages to the premium class traveler without having to have elite status. If you continue redeeming for premium class travel, then you probably will not miss having elite status. But what happens when those premium cabin award tickets start to cost a lot more than they used to? This is the case with United (after tomorrow) and Delta (now and after June), as well as foreign carriers like KLM/Air France. The increase in required miles for premium cabins is significantly higher. What happens now? Now, having elite status becomes much more valuable. This way you can continue to enjoy much of the airport experience that you used to have with premium class tickets.
Aegean Gold Worth More Than Ever
Which brings us to the reason of this post – Aegean Airlines Gold status has just greatly increased the value it can provide travelers who are used to having the premium airport experience. Why? They haven’t made any changes but the changes United has made highlight the value of Aegean because Aegean Airlines is part of the Star Alliance (as is United and, for the time being, US Airways) and having Aegean Gold gives you Star Alliance Gold. Star Alliance Gold is the highest tier elite status recognized across the Star Alliance. With that status comes all of the priority access privileges listed above. It does not come with upgrades, but balances out somewhat by offering something else extremely valuable – lounge access at all Star Alliance lounges, even when flying domestic or in economy. As long as you put your Aegean Gold number on your reservation and show your Gold card, you will have access to Star Alliance lounges all over the world. United Airline elite members do not even have access to United lounges in the US when flying domestically – but Aegean Gold members do!
The reason I single out Aegean Airlines Gold as opposed the numerous other Star Alliance airline members is because of their low threshold requirements to attain Aegean Gold (and thereby Star Alliance Gold). While other airlines mostly require 50,000 miles per year to achieve their mid-tier status (which is what translates to Star Alliance Gold), Aegean requires 20,000 total miles – and the status lasts for three years (in fact, it lasts even longer than that as long as you credit one flight to Aegean within the three years). That means, instead of trying to hit 50,000 miles every year, you only need to fly 19,000 miles (Aegean gives you 1,000 miles for signing up) and it will last for three years. That is huge!
With the United devaluation coming, many travelers will start redeeming their miles for economy cabin travel instead of paying the much larger premium cabin mileage prices. Having status as Aegean Gold will give you continued access to the priority lanes as well as lounges throughout your award journey. When you book an award ticket with United, you will be able to add your Aegean number to the reservation and you will be all set!
I was reminded of how great Aegean Gold is when I made a trip to the US recently. I had been in the lounge (as an economy passenger, thanks to Aegean Gold) and then went to plane to catch my connecting flight. When I got there, the line of waiting passengers was already a couple of hundred strong. Instead of having to stand there waiting and dreading the fact that there would be no bin space available, I swung over to the left side and went through the elite line. From the time I passed the other economy passengers until I was in my seat was only about 2 minutes. What was the difference between me and them? Aegean Gold status!
Here is the information you will need about Aegean Airlines and where to sign-up:
- Sign-up link for Aegean Airlines Miles & Bonus
- information about Aegean Airlines elite program
- earning table for the different Star Alliance airlines
- spending table for Aegean Airlines
- information about Star Alliance Silver & Gold
Are you Aegean Gold? How have you enjoyed the experience?