February 28 came and went. That’s the milestone date for many where status drops or goes away completely based on the prior year’s activities. The two month cushion allows for any last minute adjustments to end of year travel recordkeeping as well as a grace period for airlines, hotels, and car rental programs to reconcile their books. In the meantime, many of us are already chasing status for 2016 with one-sixth of the qualification year already behind us.
I laid out my goals for the year and just finished my check up to see how I’m doing on my own “chasing status” quest.
I plan to once again qualify for Executive Platinum status on American Airlines. I’m in my fifteenth year as an EXP and fully intend to make it to sixteen. I can qualify with 120 segments, 100,000 miles, or 100,000 points. In 2013 I requalified with all three. Last year, I only requalified on segments (100 segments was the threshold last year).
I’m also diversifying this year by flying Delta. I am in the middle of a status match challenge with them. I was matched to Platinum status based on my Executive Platinum status and have so far earned Silver in that challenge. (I’ll hit Gold this afternoon and I’m on track for Platinum in late March/early April.)
American – So far I’m at 17 segments and 16,226 miles so I’m on pace to qualify either way if I keep up that volume.
Delta – So far I’m at 14 segments and 11,881 miles. At that volume, I’m on pace to at least requalify for Gold for the following year.
I’m feeling good about airlines. I’ve done no international travel planning yet but have projected international trips for Memorial Day, late summer, and Thanksgiving. I will put all of those on American so I can use systemwide upgrades and then focus on Delta for my domestic travel.
I’m a mixed bag when it comes to hotels. I currently hold Hyatt Diamond, Starwood Platinum (with Lifetime Gold), Hilton Diamond, and Marriott Silver. Some career changes I have in the works may see me doing more Marriott in my future so I’m working to requalify for Hyatt Diamond and then push any remaining discretionary travel to Marriott. I started the year 18 nights away from Lifetime Platinum with Starwood so I also want to hit that target in 2015.
My stays during the first couple of months of the year are always diluted by 2-3 weekends that are covered under a master billing agreement where I may not get credit. This year I had eight such nights but managed to get Hilton credit for two of them. I’m also working a project right now where there are NO hotels within my preferred programs so I’m scrambling for nights.
Hilton – I’ve managed to pick up two stays so far without trying and know I’ll have one more this week for a project I’m working so I’ll go ahead and requalify for Silver. I don’t plan to pursue a level beyond that though so I need to figure out how to direct stays away from Hilton so they aren’t wasted.
Hyatt – I’m way behind on Hyatt due to property locations not lining up with my Jan-Feb schedule. I should be back on track soon but right now I’m only at two stays of the 25 I need to requalify for Diamond status.
Marriott – My next milestone here is Gold status with 50 nights. I’m at three right now. I am on target with projected stays to hit Silver quickly though.
Starwood – I’m six nights done of the eighteen I need for Lifetime Platinum status. I should hit this later in the spring with projected stays at present.
I struggled with hotels last year and anticipate I may continue to do so this year. I don’t do heavy project work so most of my stays are 1-2 nights in duration. Marriott is a tough program for me as a result and Hilton isn’t much easier. Hyatt and Starwood make the most sense for me, program-wise, but I need a Marriott or Hilton due to the locations I sometimes travel to.
I’ve been using Uber a ton lately. After the latest rate cuts (coupled with a price increase for downtown parking), it is now less expensive for me to take Uber to and from work each day than to park my own car.
I’ve also been experimenting more with using taxis and ride sharing instead of a rental car in some cities. Last week in Buffalo that was a bust for me (I waited 90 minutes for a taxi one afternoon) and have figured out that I do need a rental car when I’m on business unless I can walk to my client sites.
I have yet to manage to rent a single Silvercar this year (thanks to the limited airports they serve) but I’m already seven rentals in with National Car Rental, a shoo-in to requalify for their Emerald Executive Elite status (unless I am forced to change rental companies mid-year).
In the cruise world, I knocked out two nights on Norwegian in January on a “cruise to nowhere” out of New York City and have another twelve nights booked for a “grand Mediterranean” cruise later this summer. I am not certain whether I’ll be able to take any other cruises in 2015 but I’m keeping my eye on short weekend cruises from the east or west coasts just in case.
Chasing elite status requires a strategy – and a bit of monitoring to be sure one is reaching milestone goals. At the end of the day, for some of us business dictates the way we can accumulate points and miles to an extent, but a solid plan is the best way to ensure continued use of benefits and perks.
If you too are chasing status for 2016, I’d encourage you to do your own one-sixth check up to see how you are doing so far!