Elite status, while not as great as it used to be, has a lot of perks to assist the traveler. From things like upgrades (whether that is with cars, hotel rooms, or airlines) to things like exclusive phone numbers for customer service, having elite status can take travel that some may dread and turn it into a much more manageable situation.
One Of My Favorite Perks Of Top Tier Airline Status
When I was a Delta Diamond Medallion member several years ago, it was also nice getting the upgrade e-mail at the window for upgrades letting me know that I would be sitting up front for my next trip. I even received some international upgrades as a result of the amount of booked passengers and they needed to free up more room in economy.
Award Fee Waivers
As nice as the upgrades are, they are not my favorite perk of top tier airline status. To me, it is like this: I am going on the trip anyway, if it is up front that is great but if not, that is fine also. To me, one of my favorite perks of top tier airline status is the fee waivers. Like many of you, I book quite a bit of my airline travel as award travel. It is nice to get travel for nearly free to almost anyplace in the world, but that can start to cost if you need to make any changes at all – and it can cost a lot! With some airlines charging $200 per passenger to get your miles back from a cancelled trip (United Airlines), that can get very expensive if something changes about your trip and you want to cancel it.
Not only that, but if you need to make changes within 21 days or you want to book the travel within 21 days, that can also be expensive at $75 a pop. It is true that Delta does allow you to book within 21 days for no fee but they do something pretty bad also by not allowing even their top tier elites cancel an award ticket within 72 hours of departure! While there are some exceptions and little tricks to avoid some of the fees (such as booking out further than 21 days and then changing it within 24 hours of booking it or having the United Club card to avoid the $75 close-in fee on United flights), for the most part you can be on the hook for paying for those free miles if you need to change or cancel anything.
Top Tier Airline Status Saves Money
Not so with top tier elite status! With the domestic airlines – Alaska, American, Delta, and United – their top tier elites get fee waivers on those award fees plus phone booking fees (if the itinerary is booked on the phone). For Alaska that is MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K, for American it is Executive Platinum, for Delta it is Platinum and Diamond, and for United it is Platinum and 1K (and GS). That can add up to some major savings if you ever need to make changes!
While you may not go into trip planning thinking about making changes, they can happen and when you have top tier status, you may make those changes quicker than you would otherwise! For example, in 2014 I was a United 1K elite member. Our family had award tickets to fly back to Europe in June. However, we had to make a change because of some scheduling thing that came up in the US. That involved our cancelling our awards (we could have changed it but did not know what date we would need to move it to yet or if we would use something different) – for free. If I was not a top elite with them, that would have cost us $1,000 for the redeposit fees ($200 per ticket)! That was a great benefit that saved us some serious money – at the minimum, it would have cost us $500 if we had simply changed it!
The same happened with Delta as we had to make award changes a few times as schedules shifted. Now, as an AA Executive Platinum member, it is helping me once again. I am trying to construct an interesting trip/itinerary of sorts for late this year. However, the long-haul is one that I wanted to nail down quickly as availability was very low. Without yet knowing what the destination will be, I can simply add the flight on later to what I need as well as make changes or cancel it altogether if I decide against taking it. The same goes for speculatively booking a couple of premium cabin awards with AA miles before the March 22 devaluation date. Having top tier status, I can book now and cancel later without worrying about any fees – I love it! It certainly frees me up to book some trips that I would not book this far in advance thanks to the fact that I can cancel it without a fee.
Sure, there are a lot of great perks of top tier airline status. However, for me in my situation, having fee waivers on award tickets is certainly one of my favorite perks.
What is your favorite perk of top tier airline status? Has it saved you money?