Remember the frequent flyer game began as a way to promote customer loyalty. Elite status within a program does the same thing. Each airline is a little different, but typically if you fly 25,000 miles in a year you are a low level elite with that airline. There are typically 3 levels with increasing benefits based on the number of “Butt in Seat”miles.
A silver elite member may get 1.25 to 1.5 miles frequent flyer miles for every mile flown on his preferred carrier. Gold member 2 miles for every mile flown and Platinum 2.25 miles per mile flown. In addition Elite members receive free upgrades to first class when available or with credits they receive for so many miles flown. Elite status is really helpful in the event of missing a connection or having to overnight at an intermediate city. The airlines take care of their elite members.
There are often more award seats held available for Elite members and better seating on all flights like access to exit row or bulkhead seats. It sure makes a big difference having an exit row with all that legroom when flying overseas. Changes to award tickets are sometimes done without charge for elites and many times you’ll receive priority standby status on oversold flights as an elite member.
Be sure to study the elite program of your favorite carrier. Sometimes at year end it is actually worth doing a “mileage run” to get the last few miles you need to achieve Elite status. Elite status has made it possible for us to fly to Europe and get enough frequent flyer miles from that one trip, for a free domestic round trip ticket.
The same rules apply here. For example, stay at a Hilton hotel 16 times in a year and get Elite status which gives you more points in your hotel award program and free room upgrades. All the hotel chains have an awards program. Sometimes just taking out a credit card with them gives you elite status for a year.
Part of out honeymoon was spent at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (1 week) in an Oceanside room with the points accumulated applying for their credit card, staying at a few Hampton Inns, walking for Breast Cancer with the Susan Komen foundation and just keeping my eyes open for Hilton Honors Points. We also spent 4 nights at the Rome Cavaleri Hilton on points instead of $480 per night.
The 2006 “Big Bonus” was applying for Marriott credit cards which gave us 10000 points per credit card (we got 4, and never used them but once each) and with each card we also got a $100 gift certificate good at any Marriott. Combined with the Bonus bucks offer ($100 off 2 night stays) from Marriott we were big Marriott fans last year. This last year, 2007, those same credit cards offered 15,000 points each and a free night stay in a 1 to 4 category hotel.