What Happens to Existing Reservations When Your Status Goes Up or Down?

One of the classic data challenges with frequent flyer programs is: what happens when your elite status changes?

Historically you would make a reservation, and your status would attach to it. When I dropped from Starwood Platinum status down to Gold at the beginning of 2010, my Platinum status still stayed in my reservations I had already booked.

When I first went from United Premier to Premier Executive about 13 years ago, United didn’t see that I had a higher status with those initial reservations that I had made prior to my status increasing.

But as IT systems have become better, this has begun to catch up. Still, not all programs have improved here, and it’s worth knowing about yours specifically.

  • If your status is going up, do you need to proactively have something done to existing reservations in order to get all of your benefits?
  • If your status is going down, can you make reservations now to still enjoy top tier benefits even after you no longer qualify for that status?

Starwood used to just attach status to a reservation when it was booked. A hotel had to refresh the reservation to update the status usually at check-in, but as my own experience about five years ago suggests not always even then.

When I spoke with Starwood’s Chris Holdren recently, I asked about how things work currently. He explains that their system now automates the refresh frequently. So Starwood status should update automatically in future reservations, whether your status goes up or down.

Each program is different though so I always advise having your program remove your loyalty program account from a booking, and then entering is back in. While processes vary, with most that will force an update of your status so that you get benefits you’re entitled to when your status goes up.

And of course if your status drops, try to avoid making any changes or having anyone touch your booking prior to travel — you may just come out ahead.

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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  1. With United when I lost status, seats which were in Economy Plus that I had access too got rebooked to Economy when the flight got cancelled months before it was to take place, and I had to rely on the agent to grant me access to those Plus seats again when I called in.

  2. This worked out for me last year on a trip to New Zealand. I booked award tix when I was *A Gold, but it lapsed prior to the trip. However, my boarding passes all still said Gold, and I was allowed access to the Air NZ lounges even though I was flying economy.

  3. Alaska’s status attaches at the time of reservation. So if you lose status, the reservation still has your old status.

    It cuts both ways, though. Existing reservations still have your old status if you move up a tier. You have to call in and ask them to take your FF number out of the reservation (and then add it back in) for the new higher status to attach to an existing reservation.

  4. I suspect the old status is more likely to “stick” with partner FF numbers. For example, I’m AS MVP Gold now; will drop to general member in 2015. I’m an AA general member both years. When I put my AS number in AA reservations in 2014, I get benefits such as “main cabin extra” seating. I think there’s a good chance that, if I make AA reservations in 2014 for travel in 2015, and add my AS number in 2014, that the benefits will not be taken away.

  5. One effect of this on AA that happened to me this year: for reservations made prior to qualifying for Exec Plat, the upgrade wasn’t automatically requested (I had to go in and request the upgrade). For upgrades I had requested prior to q

  6. ^^ For upgrades I had requested prior to qualifying, stickers were deducted when the upgrade cleared (though I did seem to have Exec Plat priority) — a quick call to the EP desk had the stickers redeposited, though.

  7. Anyone know if this is the case with Marriott? I am Gold and had a light travel year so I will drop to silver. I have multiple Marriott stays on the books for 2015 and wondered it the status would attched to reservation?

  8. Phil, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marriott gives you another year of Gold, on the house so to speak. They are fairly generous with ‘soft landings’.

    Can confirm that Alaska status sticks to the booking, earlier this year I was upgraded both ways to Kauai even though I’d lost MVP Gold.

  9. A year after I left Delta for United, I was still Gold with Delta through Jan 31st. I had a flight on Feb 2nd, and had been upgraded automatically. However, when it came time to check-in, I was back in economy… as my status had finally disappeared two days earlier. The agents would not restore my upgrade either, apparently the Delta system checks once more on all the upgrades 24 hours out. For a moment there I thought it would work but the systems nowadays are better.

  10. I literally just experienced this yesterday when I checked in to Hilton Addis Ababa. At the time I booked I was Gold, since then have stayed enough to gain Diamond status but they still had me as Gold. Even though a big African conference on, when I told them I was now Diamond they upgraded me to a double story apartment! I think in future if I know this to be the case, I will call and alert the particular airline or hotel. Afterall, we all love good upgrade.

  11. Opposite impact when I was no longer AA Exec Plat — existing reservations which had upgraded were then charged coupons

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