Achieving airline elite status can get you some awesome perks. Who wouldn’t want complimentary upgrades, the ability to change flights without fees, and free checked bags? Although elite status perks are generally similar, the difference may lie in how you’re able to receive certain perks (i.e. are upgrades instant or do you have to call the airline?) and at which elite tier.
As you’re researching an airline’s reward program, consider the perks that will make your travel more flexible and less stressful. Here are some of the best airline elite status perks you should aim to get when you’re traveling for business.
Upgrades to Business or First-Class
One of the best things about elite status is that it puts you in a better position to upgrade to a better seat or cabin. Delta, for instance, gives Medallion members and a companion Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades to Delta Comfort+ and first class.
Meanwhile, American Airlines, United, Delta, and Alaska all offer complimentary upgrades for certain regional flights to their elite members. American, for example, offers complimentary upgrades if flights are less than 500 miles in length, including flights to Hawaii. Also, there are annual upgrades if you’re an Executive Platinum Member. These upgrades can be used on international flights.
When elite members buy high fare tickets, they can easily upgrade. Alaska and United will provide immediate upgrades for full-fare class tickets.
Partner Options and Perks
The ability to upgrade with miles on an airline’s partner airlines is another terrific perk. For example, United Airlines has 27 Star Alliance partnerships who participate in mileage upgrades. Having options with partner carriers gives elite members the ability to transfer miles and points for upgrades.
Flexibility in Changing Flights, Even at the Last Minute
Sometimes your business travel plans change or there’s an emergency that can derail your travel schedule. Having the option to change your flight last minute without paying change fees gives you flexibility and peace of mind. For instance, United Airlines allows elite members to make changes 24 hours before a flight. Same-day discounted or waived flight change fees are available to United’s top three elite tiers—Premier Gold, Platinum and Premier 1K.
Fee Waivers for Checked Bags
Among the fees that cost business travelers a pretty penny are checked bags. Checked bags now cost around $35 per bag, so having free checked bags as an elite status perk—both for yourself and family or travel companions—can save you some dough when flying. Airlines that offer free checked bags to elite status members include Delta, United, Alaska, and American.
Airline Co-Branded Credit Card
As a business traveler, you may want to consider applying for an airline’s co-branded credit card. Although you’ll need to meet certain spending thresholds to help you earn bonus points and more miles, you can take advantage of the many perks. The same airline credit cards I’d recommend for earning miles are also offering 60k points, priority boarding, and more. Spending with an airline co-branded credit card will also get you closer to achieving elite status.
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