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I just booked what I hope will be my last flights of 2019, and my last hotel stays as well. Looking back on the year I realize I traveled less – fewer days than I’ve spent on the road in recent times since the birth of my daughter last fall.
Less time in the air and in chain hotels for me will still seem like a lot of time away to many readers. In 2016 I was gone half the year. That hasn’t been close to true this year. Still, I’m on track to renew several of my status levels.
American Airlines Executive Platinum
I’m spending less than half as much with American Airlines as I was three years ago. I’m flying fewer miles, and only choosing American when it makes sense based on schedule or price.
Still, American is the largest legacy carrier at my home airport so I’m going to squeak back into Executive Platinum status for the 10th consecutive year. And I do mean sneak in. Executive Platinum requires 100,000 qualifying miles and $15,000 qualifying dollars. I’ll wind up the year with 103,000 miles and $15,155 qualifying dollars.
- This includes 10,000 qualifying miles from the Citi Executive card
- It also includes 10,000 qualifying miles and $3000 qualifying dollars from the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® – there was a mistake offer for paying bills via Plastiq, they only allow mortgage payments via Mastercard, and American cards are my only current Mastercards. That put me on a path to meet the spend requirements here.
I’m effectively doing just 80,000 qualifying miles and $12,000 spend. I was doing twice the miles and more than twice the spend before AAdvantage devaluations. When I used to need to travel my first stop was aa.com, and I’d book the best itinerary presented there. I no longer see need to connect in Dallas when another airline has a non-stop. That’s why I’ve flown Southwest, Delta, United, Alaska and even Spirit this year.
Southwest Airlines A-List
Southwest Airlines is the largest carrier in my home city of Austin, and since I’m no longer American Airlines-loyal I have a strong desire for non-stop travel. My most frequent destination is Washington National and Southwest has the only legal non-stop.
- The ‘perimeter rule’ limits non-stops from Washington National to 1250 miles. Austin is 1315 miles.
- There are a handful of exceptions granted in law, and handed out by DOT.
- Southwest has the one exception for DCA – Austin.
The perimeter rule was meant to help support Washington Dulles as home to long distance flights when that new airport opened in 1962. It had the opposite effect, delaying the development of Dulles as a hub. The perimeter rule meant a disproportionate number of short haul flights at National versus Dulles, and therefore a lack of feeder traffic for those Dulles long hauls. In other words, Dulles became home to only those flights the area could support through origin and destination traffic.
Arguably the perimeter rule might have made sense 47 years ago. There’s no world in which it makes sense today, but it persists because of lobbying by United Airlines which wants to protect its long distance flights at Dulles from close-in competition.
Thanks to United Airlines lobbying, I fly Southwest back home from DC, a conveniently timed departure that varies between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (The flight to D.C. which varies between Noon and 1 p.m. is next to useless).
Add in non-stops to cities like Nashville, times I’d rather fly to Chicago Midway than O’Hare, and trips for which Southwest’s schedule is more convenient to American hubs like Phoenix and Los Angeles, and I fly the airline a decent amount – never enough to make A-List Preferred but enough for A-List.
I signed up for a status challenge in 2018, met the terms of the challenge, and extended status for a year. I assumed I’d have all of 2019 to requalify, but Southwest’s challenges are weird, they provide exactly 12 months of status when you meet the terms of the challenge. So my status did expire in 2019 before I could requalify. However I rectified that with… another challenge. Once status expires from a successful challenge you can do another challenge.
Now that I have a Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, and need to put a bit of spend on it at the beginning of 2020 to earn a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, I’ll earn some tier points and have no problem at all requalifying again next year.
For 2019 I could have requalified for top tier Globalist status with 55 nights. That goes up to 60 nights in 2020. The number of nights to qualify the first time and requalify will be the same, but since the qualification criteria was introduced with the new World of Hyatt program they’ve adjusted terms so that:
- Free nights (both points and certificates) count towards status
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card comes with 5 qualifying nights a year; a free night every year after your cardmember anniversary that counts towards status when you use it; another free night after $15,000 spend each cardmember year that counts towards status when you use it spend $15,000 during your cardmember anniversary year; and 2 qualifying nights every $5000 spend (so $15,000 spend is an additional 6 qualifying nights).
I should wind up the year with 70 elite nights. Hyatt offers incremental benefits for every 10 nights stayed. So in addition to my full Globalist benefits and those from staying 60 nights,
- 4 confirmed suite upgrades
- A category 1-4 free night from 30 nights and a category 1-7 free night from 60 nights
- Club access or full breakfast
- 4pm guaranteed late checkout (subject to availability at resorts)
- Dedicated Hyatt concierge
Looking Out Over the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
I’ll be able to select an additional 10,000 bonus points or confirmed suite upgrade as a result of hitting 70 nights.
When Marriott and Starwood programs merged, I combined my accounts and lost a ton of activity. Somehow my combined account showed only 3 years of Platinum status. Every time Marriott said things were better on the IT side, my account told me otherwise. I never asked for any special favors fixing it. A few months ago my lifetime Platinum years finally shot back up. It then fell again but at least is still over 10. I’m missing lifetime elite nights though.
I still have to hit Platinum each year. For 2018 I did that just by converting my legacy Starwood Aemrican Express card-turned-Marriott card into their premium card since I’d already done $75,000 spend on the old card before the program cutover. I get 15 elite nights from having a co-brand card, and it’s easy to get most of the rest for instance Marriott will give you 10 elite nights a year for hosting a meeting of any kind. I hit Platinum again for 2020 but don’t plan to go out of my way to do so next year.
I’m never choosing Marriott at this point, but with all of their brands and taking on the Starwood portfolio they simply have hotels everywhere. For instance when I needed to be near Wicker Park in Chicago – I didn’t want to stay downtown – Marriott had me covered with The Robey, a Design Hotel (though I was stuck paying a resort fee at this urban hotel even using points, one of the most offensive policies of the program).
View from the Roof Top at the Robey
I’ll choose Marriott when it makes sense for convenience since I’ve got enough Hyatt nights to spare I don’t need to stretch to make sure I stay at a Hyatt.
I don’t stay at very many Hiltons, maybe 3-4 a year, but at least I’ve got Gold status from my Platinum Card® from American Express. The goal is to avoid the room over the HVAC, and if there’s a club lounge I’ll generally have access (or at least breakfast).
The Other Status I have, And The Status I’ve Given Up On
I used to be a National Car Rental Executive Elite. I still have Executive status from my Platinum Card® from American Express but the truth is I rarely use it. I don’t rent cars all that often anymore.
- Where there’s a Silvercar, that’s what I’ll default to, they now even have a rewards program that stacks on top of coupon savings and with various discounts it’s often no more money than a Nissan Sentra out of National plus I don’t need to worry about re-filling the gas tank before returning the car or being gouged for tolls.
- I just Uber a lot. Whenever I’m staying in a downtown area I’ll avoid the hassle of driving and parking. Sure if I’m going to be driving distances I’ll want a car but on most trips that’s not how my meetings work.
I’m an Uber Diamond in their year-old program. Between rides and UberEats I earn that pretty naturally. My wife and I share a car. I Uber to and from the airport. Whenever I’m going anywhere by car otherwise it’s usually with her. For the couple of times a month I need to run errands, get a haircut or whatnot, I’ll Uber. It’s a lot cheaper than a second car.