Let’s set the stage: I’m an infrequent flyer, partially due to the fact that I never travel for work and partially due to the fact that I hold a traditional day job and can’t take off for vacation at will. In a typical year, I’ve got a handful of short-haul flights to visit family, 4-5 domestic flights for getaways or events, and an international trip that I look forward to all year long. That uses up my time off from work easily, meaning that quite frankly, I don’t have time for mileage running with the hopes of earning medium or high-tier status (especially considering some of my flights are free thanks to frequent flyer miles!).
Over the past year, I’ve been claiming that it’s not worth it for me to be loyal to an airline and earn status and instead I’ve been a free agent to take advantage of better flight times, routing, and prices rather than staying loyal for the few bonus points and nominal perks that low-level status holds. Coincidentally, though, my flights to visit family for Christmas was going to bump my Delta segments for the year up to a total of 30: exactly enough for low-level status. I was going to go from being a nobody to a less-than-somebody and for irrational reasons, that was a little bit exhilarating.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had different plans and winter weather delays/cancellations meant that in order to have time with my family over the holiday, I ended up re-routing to end the year one segment short of silver status. It was a trade-off I was happy to make in order to still spend time with my family, something worth significantly more to me than status. Yes, I have a request in for original routing credit, though I think it’s doubtful I qualify since I switched routings voluntarily with the weather.
As a result, my 2012 totals clock in at a total of 32,000 miles flown (can you tell I’m a short-haul flyer?) on seven different airlines with vacations including Puerto Rico, Denver, Phoenix, Pensacola, and Morocco, plus a few other trips for personal reasons. Based on my upcoming travel plans, I’m assuming I’ll again be flying around the 25,000-mile mark on paid flights in 2013, though possibly quite farther when you factor in award flights.
If you also ended the year without status, don’t fear. Low-level status only comes with a limited set of benefits anyway, including free preferred seats (such as “economy plus” seating or simply an aisle seat in the front), longshot upgrades to domestic first class, 25% bonus miles, priority check-in, priority boarding, and free checked bags. Out of these, you can receive a number of those perks just by holding the correct credit card and you can usually get just as much value by saving cash on tickets by booking the cheapest airline as you would by earning 25% bonus miles on your paid flights. That truly leaves the preferred seating and unlikely upgrades as forfeited benefits, two things I don’t personally value too highly given that I tend to end up on regional jets for hour-long flights where it doesn’t matter. You may consider that much more valuable if you are in a different set of circumstances.
To be fair, I value mid/high-tier status benefits more highly, including things like waived award ticketing/redeposit/reissue fees or waived same-day confirmed changes. I don’t pay these fees now, but I think if I had the option to take advantage of them for free, I would. I just can’t justify flying 20,000+ additional miles in a year for extra benefits since I’m pretty far from qualifying otherwise. Am I the oddball in this mileage world? How many miles would you fly solely for the sake of earning status? Leisure travelers: do you work toward status or do you choose your airlines based on other criteria? I’m genuinely curious!