Get & Use Airline Status Part 3: Maximize Your Status
Ok great. You’ve finally made Platinum, Executive Platinum, Diamond, One World, etc. CONGRATS! Seriously, it’s a BIG achievement that only a few thousand can claim.
So now that you’ve got this new shiny Status, what should you do?? In broad strokes there are both written and unwritten rules you need to learn.
Written Rules and Benefits
It’s definitely key to read up on all the stated benefits you get with your Status. Be it points, upgrades, gifts, or exclusive access, you need to know EXACTLY what you’re entitled to, and take advantage of every single item. Also get acquainted with the exact year your benefits run through and when some items expire.
Make sure you start with these core benefits:
1. Special Customer Service Line - once you make any Status tier, you'll get access to a priority phone number to call customer service. This is the KEY (pun intended) to opening up many of the benefits you will start to use. Here is my Golden Rule: when in doubt, always call customer service to inquire or request help. Customer service many times is the only way you can redeem benefits, and often times can help you do extra special changes or reservations. Use it all you can. And, as you get higher Status, your customer service line also gets better!
2. Upgrades - check out the specifics on the number of complimentary or voucher-based upgrades you can get, and if there is a priority in them. On Delta for instance the complimentary upgrades are automatic on every flight, but you are awarded additional Regional or Global upgrade vouchers when you reach Platinum or better. These vouchers can automatically secure you an upgrade when you book (although you have to call) AND take priority to put you to the very top of the list on the flight if automatic upgrade confirmation is not possible.
Below: NxTSTOP worn across the world
3. Lounge Access - unfortunately lounge access for yourself is not usually granted automatically until the highest tier. However if you have the highest level airline credit card this will likely get you in anyway. Some benefits may allow you to bring in a guest, but you'll need to elect it specifically or use vouchers. By the way, lounge access means free food, drinks, access to showers, and at times even free merchandise like cosmetics, apparel, and face masks.
4. Gifts - This may consist of certificates to premium retailers (e.g., Tiffany's), the ability to award Status to someone else, or frequent flyer points you can claim. Depending on your program, awarding Lounge Access to a companion may also be one of these options. Check your calendar dates though because usually there is a deadline by which they must be claimed.
5. Standby Priority - have you ever missed a flight and then been subject to the dreaded standby waiting game? Well, Status moves you up the list. Get more Status and you improve your odds to nab a seat.
Unwritten Rules and (Lesser Known) Benefits
1. Special Pickups - one benefit I've had several times now is Delta sends a car to get me either at my destination or to bring me to my connecting flight. Besides being super cool, it's actually really convenient. For example, I was connecting through JFK on the way to Madrid and had to go from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4. Delta picked me up in the Porsche below and took me right to the lounge in Terminal 4.
2. Automatic Companion Upgrades - a great benefit I use all the time is booking friends or family on my own reservation so that they automatically get my Diamond Status. It's pretty successful - about 90% of the time if it's just two of us we will both get upgraded. You just need to make sure you book under yourself in the beginning because you cannot add someone later.
3. Ability to Change Flights for Free - changing flights is usually a hassle and expensive, but Status can help with that too. Within certain windows of time (e.g., starting 72 hours before the flight) you may be able to call up and change your flight time (or airport, see below) without penalty. Also, if your flight gets delayed or cancelled, you'll get the highest priority in rescheduling. The higher the Status, the more leeway you get, especially with regard to confirming the change. This rule has lost some importance now that many airlines have gotten rid of change fees, but it's still a great perk.
4. Ability to Switch Metropolitan Area Airports for Free - if your origin or destination city has multiple airports, then once you have high enough Status you can usually switch between them. While not something you would do often, this can be a nice benefit in a pinch if you change your itinerary last minute.
Benefits change all the time, so make sure each year you're reviewing the newest benefits. Luckily the programs have gotten to be better and offer more perks in recent years. But, the airlines do get tricky to introduce more hurdles now and again. Venture Out. Connect. Go Beyond!
No matter the status, don't forget your travel essentials.