Frequent flier tips

Frequent flier miles on American Airlines count on British Air as well (Photo by Bryan Jones)
Frequent flier miles on American Airlines count on British Air as well

How to leverage your frequent flier status for perks on other airlines

The goal of piling up frequent flier miles is not to get free plane tickets.

The goal is actually to garner elite status.

Become elite, get the perks

The airlines won't go out of their way to tell you this (nor will gate agents always know your status unless you tell them), but once you achieve "elite status" on an airline (sometimes called "preferred" or "premier")—usually at 25,000 miles—you get all sorts of perks.

Elite status travelers usually get:

  • Free checked bags
  • Free premium or exit row seating
  • Priority boarding (either with, or just after, first and business class)
  • Use of the airline's airport lounge (home to cushy armchairs, free magazines and newspapers, free WiFi, free snacks and drinks, and sometimes even free booze)
  • Mileage bonuses (i.e.: all new air miles accrued are now worth, say, 1.5 miles)
  • Upgrades (though with a caveat. Upgrades are actually doled out in order of elite status, so any "Diamond" elite members—ones with more than, say 125,000 miles to the account—on the plane will get first shot at an upgrade, then "Platinum" members, then "Gold." The hoipolloi "Silver" elite members get to wait in line for any available upgrades left over—assuming they haven't been booked by random passengers who have outright paid for an upgrade. The higher your fare/ticket class, earlier you book, and sooner you check in, the higher you name goes on that list.)

Other benefits abound; check your fine print. Also, the higher your elite or preferred status (gold/silver/platinum or whatever), the more and better the perks.

One annoying fine print wrinkle: usually, the miles must all be earned in a single year for "elite" or "preferred" status through the following year.

Elite on one, elite on all

That's all fine and well, but here's the real secret weapon. Once you are "elite" on one airline, you can claim elite status perks whenever you fly any airline in its alliance.

That means that if you're elite on American Airlines, you're also elite on British Airways, since they're both part of the One World Alliance .

The other major airline alliances are (the one with United and Air Canada) and (its main domestic partner is Delta).

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