Delta Sky Priority Check In just one of the perks given to their Elite Medallion members - Photo: Delta

Delta Sky Priority Check In just one of the perks given to their Elite Medallion members – Photo: Delta

This is a second leg (part) in a multi- leg series. Make sure to read LEG 1 first

Previously, I mentioned that you can get some pretty sweet benefits being an elite frequent flier and hope to expand on the idea a bit more on this part,  which deserves a whole article on it’s own.

Unlike earning points, the benefits come once you have achieved that elite status and each airline has different benefits they will give their elites.  Most of the airlines though tend to give the big three:

1)  Priority Boarding – This means you get to board before the general economy passengers, obtaining not only that precious overhead bin space, but a few extra minutes to get yourself settled without being crowded and holding up the queue behind you.

2) Priority Check In – Being able to check in without having to wait in long lines, going to the “front of the queue” almost can be worth its “wait” in gold.  Getting checked in and on your way to security fast and efficiently makes any frequent flier happy.

3) Priority Security – Avoiding that long security line behind that family with 8 children and 25 bags is always a good thing.  Speedily getting up to that security check point and getting through in the least amount of time possible means you can be on your way to the gate (or lounge) faster.  If you are lucky enough you may even qualify for TSA Pre Check (but that’s a whole different story).

In some cases these benefits can be worth it on their own.  But there are other, less common benefits, that some airlines give that really make it worth the effort:

  • Bonus Points
  • Seating Upgrades
  • Change Fee Waivers
  • Lounge Access
  • Free/Extra Baggage Allowance

American Airlines & other oneworld airline elite fliers (Emerald status) allow access to the First Class lounges in their network, even if you are flying on an economy ticket.  Star Alliance gives all of their Gold members lounge access as well (for a full run down on Star Alliance Gold benefits watch this snazzy YouTube video).

United Airlines Premier 1K fliers are able to make same day changes to their flights without fees and Delta gives complimentary domestic upgrades to most of its Elites (though you still have to fight the other elites for those First Class seats).

No matter what program you choose, they all offer something to their VIP customers to make them smile.

Getting an upgrade to a First Class Seat on Delta could land you in a seat like this on some routes - Photo: Mal Muir |

Getting an upgrade to a First Class Seat on Delta could land you in a seat like this on some routes – Photo: Mal Muir |

I am a Star Alliance Gold and a Virgin Australia Velocity Gold. These two programs probably mean nothing to the average American flier and most airline employees around the world barely know about the airline I hold Star Gold status with (and the less that know, the better). They both give some pretty great benefits to me that other programs don’t.  Just because I live in the USA (but from Australia) doesn’t mean that I need to credit all of my flying to a US based program.  Virgin Australia allows me to earn status on them, while I  fly on Delta, Virgin America or Hawaiian.

Some times the benefits can be a little confusing.  For instance if I was flying on United, I would get lounge access thanks to being Star Gold with a non us based airline. However, If I was Star Gold with only United, I would be in the Starbucks queue like everyone else for my morning coffee and not have lounge access. So doing the research on the privileges that different programs give is important.

Mileage running is just a way to get all the things you want with a travel experience as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible. Sure mileage running is not for everyone, but if it’s for you… it can be well worth it!

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.

Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos

CORRESPONDENT - SEATTLE, WA. Mal is an Australian native who has been a huge fan of airlines and aviation and currently works in airport-related operations. Email:
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Couple of comments. The perks like going to the front of the line and getting on the plane early are nice, but the holy grail is the upgrade. There is serious competition for them, and some airlines handle things differently.

Your elite level really matters. Bottom-tier elite fliers rarely get good upgrades, but top-tier elites usually do.

I’m an Executive Platinum on AA, and I’m Gold Elite on UA (Star Gold). I get really spoiled on AA, because Executive Platinums get upgraded on 90% of domestic flights. Sometimes there is more competition on certain routes, especially longer ones. DFW-Chicago, DFW-NY, and of course coast-to-coast flights are harder to get, but I still get them more often than not. There are some tricks you can use to get a jump on others of your tier…sorry, I’m not giving the best ones away here though…I don’t want to sit in coach while you use my trick to take my seat!

One day I will write a couple of guest blogs for David, explaining some of the differences between elite programs, and why it is and is not worth it to try mileage runs. In my experience, a bottom-tier elite level isn’t worth much at all. You almost never get upgrades, and you don’t get many other perks (on UA, for example, you can’t get into Economy Plus without paying). If you aren’t mid-level, it’s not worth spending extra time and money flying all over the place.

But if one trip from SEA to LHR and back gets you a top-tier level instead of a middle tier, it’s very much worth it.

Quick Correction for you.

United Gold Members do have complimentary lounge access when travelling internationally, that means both here in the US and abroad on international bound flights.

Hi Matt you are correct and that is mentioned. However as you would know a US Domestic flight (on a purely domestic itinerary) as a UA Star Gold does not get you lounge access. Whereas if you have Star Gold on an international Program such as Air New Zealand or ANA or any other international Star Alliance Carrier, your domestic only itineraries will get you lounge access.


Matt, let me add something for the low level mileage runner.
Between my Silver Status and my Dividend Miles credit card, I have all the perks I require. I have all the priority bonuses you mentioned, also comp first checked bag. I get two $99 companion vouchers and one free lounge access per year. Also 10000 preferred miles every year after i spend the required amount on the CC. Even at lowest elite level, I occasionally score a comp first class seat domestically. Internationally, I can try for upgrades that will cost me an additional $300 and 25K miles per leg.
Keeping my status means occasionally making a mileage run. I use points from a non-airline card to buy the ticket, upgrade if possible, and enjoy the adventure.
So, by not being too greedy, I enjoy many perks for little cash outlay.

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