If you’ve seen Up In the Air, know people who fly a lot, or have seen certain ads from airlines, you might be curious about airline “elite status.” Elite status is a set of benefits given to those customers who give the airline (or hotel, or car rental company) a minimum volume of business, which can be measured in different ways. The intent of elite status is to reward people for loyalty to the brand. Many people just shop for the cheapest price and fly different airlines based on fare. Some businesses require that.
Airlines have different tiers of elite status (e.g. silver, gold, platinum) and have increasing levels of benefits. They normally start with early boarding, free checked bags, access to better seats, and go up to bonus miles, upgrades to business/first class and lounge access. Not only do the benefits vary from airline to airline, but they change over time…mostly due to how profitable and competitive the airlines are with each other. The tiers sometimes change, as do the threshold for qualifying.
The minimum threshold for most airlines’ lowest tier is 25,000 miles. That’s about 5 round trips between NY and LA. Historically, that has been “butt in seat” miles and didn’t include bonuses, etc…although that is changing.
100,000 “butt in seat” miles in a year will still get you to Executive Platinum for now, but now the only metrics are “Elite Qualifying Miles” or “Elite Qualifying Segments”. Since 2016, you can earn multipliers of EQMs based on class of service or promotions.
AA has announced that soon there will also be a minimum annual $ spend in addition to the to reach its tiers. AA is also soon moving from 3 tiers to 4, to match moves previously made by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.