For the first time in more than a decade, I’ll enter next year with almost no elite status, but there are upsides to that too.
Limited Business Travel, Opportunities, and Focus
The last year has involved far less business travel for me for a few reasons. The world has absolutely changed and while I support in-person meetings, sales calls, and events, sometimes customers are less willing to make time to meet in person. Instead of being able to conveniently and predictably meet at their office, workers are stationed at home, making lunch meetings an awkward affair.
For me personally, I partner in a couple of businesses and watch my expenses closely. The costs of travel this year have been very, very high even without factoring in inflation that seeps into the periphery of business travel like meals, entertainment, and in-town transportation. It’s incredibly difficult to justify (to myself or to my partner) thousands of dollars for meetings that used to cost a few hundred dollars especially when clients, staff, and partners are completely willing to meet for free on a video conference – loathed as they may be.
Further, my waning status with United Airlines and mixed experience with Delta on a trial this year left me jumping between carriers for important flights, taking Spirit on flights to Florida, and spreading myself too thin to maintain with one carrier.
Hotels too haven’t been as concentrated due to availability and costs.
First Time In a Decade Without Status (almost)
For the first time in more than a decade, I will have no status on major international carriers when the calendar resets in January and I do not intend to try for it before then. Just a few years ago I held both American Airlines Executive Platinum status (earned for about half a decade and then granted for one additional year as a Hyatt Globalist) and United 1k at the same time. During some of that overlap period, I also held Spirit Gold status.
For hotels, immediately prior to the pandemic I held Marriott Titanium, Hyatt Globalist, IHG Spire, and Hilton Diamond. At the turn of the year I will likely only hold Explorist with Hyatt and Hilton Diamond (unearned) as a benefit from my current Diamond status:
“Diamond status extension
Enjoy an extra year of Diamond perks with a one-time extension. Available when you have been a Diamond Member for 3 years and stayed 250 lifetime nights or earned 500,000 Base Points.” – Hilton
I assume I am eligible for that perk based on my years as a Diamond but I haven’t requested it yet and don’t know if I will receive it because status has been extended via COVID for so many years.
Regardless, I’m not that worried about it.
What Are The Upsides of Losing Status
Could there be upsides to losing status? Absolutely, and chiefly among them is the ability to be a free agent. I was a long-time loyal American Airlines Aadvantage member but felt freed when I left and moved to United. Most of that experience was positive, but I found that securing international upgrades – for me, the most important element of status – was often waitlist-only or required a very expensive fare that I would not have needed with American to be eligible. I tried Delta Air Lines this year and it was ok, but the points are worthless (see post later today) and I found the partner experience to be inconsistent.
I liked being able to purchase the best ticket for either value, time, or convenience that I wouldn’t if I had been chasing status. Sometimes elite status felt more like shackles and it was nice to be free of them.
Second, I am confident that status challenges will give me the option to regain my prior levels in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to obtain before. I have been away from American status for more than two years, and I will drop from Premier Platinum with United to nothing. But I will also have a chance to resecure my place (assuming challenges are offered) with more attainable requirements as things return to normal. I’ll finish with more than 40 Hyatt nights this year, too few for Globalist, but all year they have been generous with challenges offering the same level with just 20 nights, something I was ineligible for before but won’t be in the future.
There’s one more thing I look forward to: trying something new. I haven’t given Alaska a real shot in years and while it would be hard to maintain status on Alaska flights, its membership in oneworld changes its value to me and the opportunity for obtaining and retaining status. Maybe JetBlue will be worth considering, or a foreign carrier I haven’t given much thought to. Who knows?
What Does Next Year Hold?
My goal is to travel more in 2023 than I did in 2022 on paid tickets. For the most part, I have been living without significant status this year without any real consequence. I haven’t needed it which reduced my dependency on it. In fact, the only status I will really try to hold through the end of next year is Hyatt Globalist, perhaps Hilton Diamond, and Spirit Gold. Yes, that’s an odd mix, but allow me to elaborate.
In the pandemic I realized I was hoarding points despite preaching the opposite. It wasn’t clear to me that I was hoarding points because I was comparing myself to people who held millions, sometimes tens of millions of points. It was only when I couldn’t use those points to fly at all that I came to the conclusion that they need to be spent, but thanks to credit cards, replenishment is part of the mix.
I can usually find a decent deal for where I’m going, even if I need to cobble something unconventional together and that means I don’t need status to allow for the experience I want so I very well may not pursue it.
What’s really important to me is the hotel experience with upgrades and perks, something I will be hard-pressed to go without. But for flights, finding good deals or using miles for the long haul premium trips is easier to execute than relying on status to enhance my itinerary.
I frequently travel to Florida and that’s why Spirit Gold is important to retain. As a Pittsburgher, flying to Florida (or elsehwere as I will in the coming week) it’s not only less expensive to fly Spirit, it’s far more likely to get me where I’m going by simply being a nonstop flight. Even when I compare routes on competitors where I held status (like American and United) and the price was the same (Spirit Gold is essentially American Airlines Platinum or United Gold status) Spirit allows me to avoid a connection in fun airports like Charlotte and the risk of a delay or missed connection. It’s more valuable to me to arrive in two hours instead of four as well.
It feels uncomfortable to lose status after all of these years, but doesn’t seem worth the investment in maintaining or achieving status. Hard to use upgrades have all but gone away (American issues half the upgrades and releases very little space, United requires more expensive fares and almost all of the upgrades offered are waitlist-only) and without a large amount of domestic travel, status holds little value on airlines for me at the moment. However, I have considered – even attempted – to go without status before and returned. There are upsides to losing elite status, certainly, and I look forward to weighing whether status or free agency is better in 2023.
What do you think? Will you lose status at the close of 2022? What are you planning to do about it?