Elite Status: Where I’ll End 2019

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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.

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.

Hyatt Globalist

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.

Marriott Platinum

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.

Hilton Gold

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Do you know how many of the 103,000 miles you have with AA are actually butt in seat miles?

    I’m not a heavy flier so I rarely get anything more than gold level with any airline but back when the economy was hurting I was Chairman Preferred a couple of years but it was largely due to bonuses and credit card perks. Out of the 100,000 miles I needed, I only flew ~50,000 miles (and that seemed like a lot). I had one PHX-BRU trip in coach (which I upgraded) that due to bonuses gave me 25,000+ miles alone (in those days sometimes the bonus miles also counted for status).

  2. Gary
    I have been Exec Plat for 7 yrs I have made the miles but I need about $900 more for the qualifying money. Do you think AA will let me buy it. I am finished flying for the year

  3. I will finally make United 1K after 3 straight years of Platinum – and now I need to convince my wife we should take a long international trip without our young kids (5 and 3) so I can take advantage of my Plus Points 😐

  4. IAD is my home airport. I refuse to fly UA if there is another option. (They mistagged my luggage in Frankfurt and when I complained they referred me to the German police “not wanting to travel on thee same flight as my bags”) I still have Star Gold Status from being a Million Miler.

    I also no longer select American when I can avoid them . They misconnected me in Miami and kept my money from the flights I could not take. I have Platinum status on AA but only have 6,000 miles on AA this year. (All cheap F seats on regional flights that I credited to BA so I now have BA Silver. Much more useful than AA Platinum.

    JetBlue left IAD because of the sky high airport costs. I love Jet Blue but its no longer practical. I won’t be Mosaic for the first time in years.

    That leaves me with Delta. I like Delta, hate connecting in Atlanta. Platinum status is very useful. Delta employees seem to care about status so I’m with Delta even though there is a big (and growing) premium to fly on Delta.

    Total flying in 2019: 80,000 Delta, 6,000 American, 10,000 United, 5,000 JetBlue , 15,000 Iberia, 10,000 Turkish , 10,000 BA

  5. Like you, I used to be a dedicated AA flyer – only looking elsewhere occasionally, when the fare was really out-of-line. Now, whenever possible, I drive. It’s a lot more relaxing when I can afford the time to travel this way. If not, we look to Southwest before checking AA.com.

    Sorry to hear your problems with Marriott. Thankfully, I didn’t have any problems with my Lifetime Elite status. In my case, though, something similar happened when Delta never added my Northwest miles when combining programs – even after multiple calls and emails. Between that, and their atrocious treatment of my parents when they flew on my miles, I’ve long since written Delta off.

  6. @Hope – They will likely offer you a buy-up, and it will likely cost more than $900. If you value EP your best bet is to just take a quick $900 flight.

  7. Well, I guess you don’t have to “worry” about refueling or paying the tolls at Silvercar, but you will have to pay: $9.95 for the refueling and $4.95 for the toll transponder use (per rental, plus actual tolls, when the transponder is used). No worse than the legacy car rental places, but not much better either. It’s disappointing that Audi is gradually rolling back a number of the things that used to make Silvercar so distinctive and low-hassle.

  8. Since being laid off from my job in Oct of 2019 and taking on a new job in Dec of 2019, I am going from PLAT to SPLAT! Only personal travel and I will miss even Gold by 500 miles on AA. Hotels are even worse so I don’t want to talk about it. Next year a few leisure trips to Europe will help me at least have some status again.

    My wife is dropping from EVP to PRO, but she isn’t too upset about since it meant less travel and we have had more time together for the first time in 6 years.

    As the career winds down over the next decade, the transition to traveling for fun verses business is something I am looking forward too.

  9. I have been an executive Platinum on AA for 10 years. Now, I only fly Southwest. So much better! Bags always get to the carousel on time, no need for priority (self check in is super fast), no need for priority boarding (speedy boarding regardless), none have IFE, Southwest’s WIFI is cheaper, they have more LIVE TV channels, they serve more drinks and flight attendants are friendlier, their seats have more pitch… and most importantly, they are always on time!!!

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