How a $78.10 flight gave me elite status for a year

A couple of years ago I did a good amount of traveling and racked up 23,894 miles with United Airlines. It’s a lot of flying for many people (today those are pedestrian numbers for me as I fly over 150,000 a year now). When you fly that much or earn that many elite or premier qualifying miles your are embarking upon elite status territory.  Many airline programs start their loyalty reward status programs at 25,000 miles including United Airlines. The programs start January 1 until December 31st a full calendar year. I didn’t fully understand the programs. I hadn’t read and researched the intricacies of loyalty reward programs nor did I have a resources like www.liveretirednow.com and due to that mistake I missed earning United Silver Status by 1,106 miles.  A simple round trip flight to Atlanta from Miami would have provided enough miles for me to reach that status level and enjoy the benefits and perks of United Premier status such as free checked bags, or priority check-in, priority security, & priority boarding. In addition to the mileage bonuses and opportunities to be upgraded on flights. I missed out on those and other benefits by 1,106 miles. In january when I was reviewing my account I realized my mistakes and vowed to never let that happen again.

Therefore I read as much as I could on the airline websites, I studied the elite status program levels and requirements. I made sure I fully understood how they worked and what the benefits, shortcuts, and hurdles that could pop up along the journey to gaining elite status. By doing so I was able to gain elite status with American Airlines and reach the platinum level. I used some of the shortcuts I learned and was able gain elite status with American Airlines in just over 60 days.  Upon doing so then perks and benefits began to be unveiled to me and a whole new level of travel experience began for me. Perks and privileges such as automatic First Class upgrades and the ability to earn double miles for every flight I took as well as a guaranteed 500 mile minimum for flights under 500 miles. I flew several short haul flights each year so this perk was one that had additional value. 1000 extra miles on roundtrip flights.

As the year came to an end I was just short of reaching my mileage I knew I had a few weeks to get some flights in if I wanted to maintain my platinum status. I used my low cost flight strategy to find a roundtrip flight for $78.10 from Miami, FL to Las Vegas, NV.  The flight departed Miami at 7:30pm and arrived in Las Vegas at 9:00pm. The challenge was my return trip was leaving Las Vegas at 8:15am so I literally was on the ground for under 12 hours. With 12 hours in Vegas I figured what’s the point in getting a hotel, I’m only flying on this flight for the 4300 miles I would pick up for flying. What I calculated was I had to fly 10 hours roundtrip and spend 12 hours on the ground in one of the most exciting and adventurous cities in the country Las Vegas. So I would lose a full day of my life in the pursuit of platinum status, however was it really losing a day of my life?  I determined I could work on the flights there and sleep on the flight back. I could still get a workday in, I actually enjoy working on flights the time without the interruptions of phone calls, emails, or instant messages allow me to focus and reach a higher level of productivity.

Upon landing in Vegas I headed to the airport lounge and grabbed a cocktail and some dinner. I befriended the bartender and asked what should I explore on my layover. I explained my next flight left at 8:15am and I wouldn’t be getting a hotel. My plan was to stay out all night and enjoy Vegas then head back to the lounge when they opened in the morning at 4:30am grab breakfast and board my flight. By the time I got off the plane, headed to the lounge, grabbed dinner and a couple cocktails it was already 10:00pm. After a few free redbull infused cocktails to make sure I had the energy to stay up and stay out all night in vegas I took the bartenders suggestion and headed to the bellagio with my backpack. I changed clothes at the airport lounge and put on a blazer in an effort to look the part for my vegas adventures. Then I headed to arrivals and jumped in a taxi  to the Las Vegas strip upon arrival at the Bellagio I had one issue, my backpack. It had my laptop, a change of clothes, and basic toiletries like toothpaste and a toothbrush. The last thing I wanted to do was carry it around all night however being a international traveler I knew I had more options then to leave my bag at the expensive airport luggage storage.

I arrived at the Bellagio and headed straight to the luggage check.  In many cities around the world flights depart at all times of the day however most hotels usually require checkout at 12pm (unless you have access the perks of elite hotel status and 4pm checkouts). For example if your flight departs at 10pm but check out of the hotel at 12pm you don’t want to carry bags with you all day. Your hotel will usually provide luggage storage for these situations.  I wasn’t staying at the Bellagio however I knew with confidence and determination I could convince the bellman to hold my bag for me. Upon reaching the luggage check with confidence I expressed I was in need of luggage storage because my flight is leaving later and I would not need a hotel room tonight.

The key points here are I expressed what I wanted and why I wanted it and that I gave the impression that I had checked out without saying that I had. The bellman asked what room I was in and I expressed I’m not staying in the hotel tonight but that I would like to enjoy the amenities a bit longer before heading to the airport for my flight.

The bellman so yes sir and gave me a claim ticket and now I was ready to hit the town.  I gambled a little since it’s vegas and that’s what you do, I also ventured into the hottest night club with the aid of a new friend I meet at the tables. We booth had taken a bit of a hit from the recent switch of the dealer and built a bit of a rapport with one another. We realized things we doing downhill fast so we colored out or cashed in our chips.  He mentioned the popular night club at the hotel and I expressed I hadn’t been to it. We walked over and passed the line of those waiting to enter were greeted by the bouncer and where admitted entry with no question. I grabbed a round of drinks as a way to say thank you and we explored the club. The DJ was playing a mix of hip hop and house beats and the crowd was really enjoying the rhythm the DJ laid out.  The atmosphere was one of fun and excitement with a feeling of limitless energy in the air. It was a good night to be in Vegas!

I enjoyed the club for a while longer and then headed back out the the table to see how my luck had changed. My new friend decided to join me and with luck on our side we slowly worked our way back up to a profit. I was feeling good knowing that the “house” hadn’t won against me and was eager to exit while I was ahead. I still had a few hours before my flight would be boarding and I figured that I could head to the airport around 5am, navigate through security, visit the first class lounge and grab breakfast all before boarding my flight and resting on the 5 hour flight back to Miami. With my plan in place I visited another night club and enjoyed the scene dancing and partying the night away. I headed back to the Bellagio to pick up my bag from luggage check. The bellman I had left my bag with was still on duty so I said thanks and gave him a generous tip for his assistance in the eventful and outrageous trip all to secure my elite status for the upcoming year.

It seems a little odd to fly across the country and stay up all night just to maintain elite status but it’s all part of the commitment that I have to loyalty.  I understand and value the benefits of my airline loyalty and what may look like a slight sacrifice to some is simply a memorable story I can share and that further establishes my dedication to the lifestyle I have chosen. I’m not advocating flygin cross country to a overnight flight and partying the night away in vegas for everyone however I do believe that if you choose to establish and maintain loyalty the perks and benefits will far outweigh the extra effort. I hope this little journey down memory lane has been helpful for you.  Please give me your thoughts or feedback and let me know what are some of the wild things you may have done to maintain elite status for another year!