Side-by-Side Comparisons of Airline Elite Status

As promised, I’ve finally combined my comparative reviews of different airline elite tiers into tables, which I hope you’ll find easier to understand. (See the original posts on low-, mid-, and top-tier status. Note that revisions were made between then and now.) There is a lot of different information that goes into making these. Not all of it is on one page. In fact, the fee information in particular can be hard to find. So, bear with me if there are still a few mistakes. I will edit them ASAP if you point them out.

These tables are designed to be printed in landscape format on 8.5″ x 11″ paper, but be sure to set your margins to 0.5″ on the sides and bottom. You can leave the top margin at 1″ to do a hole punch if you enjoy collecting stuff like this for reference. The images on this page are smaller, but click here to download a full-size PDF.

I have not included every nitty gritty detail, but most of the key benefits are included. If you ever need to find them again, I’ll include a link in the Travel Resources menu up above.

Hack My Trip loyalty programs screenshot

Bottom Tier Airline Status

chart of bottom tier airline status perks Middle Tier Airline Status

chart of mid tier airline status perks

Top Tier Airline Status

chart of top tier airline status perks

chart of top tier airline status perks

These two are meant to be used together. The top and close-to-top tier programs are so similar I decided not to break them up. But that requires more space, so you’ll need two pages to put them side-by-side.

About 

Scott created Hack My Trip while traveling on a budget during graduate school and continues to share his thoughts on better travel. He maintains elite status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hyatt, and Starwood.
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  • Sol_Invictus

    I have Delta Gold. I didn’t realize I could get free drinks in economy. Are you sure about this? How does that work exactly? Do I show my Gold card?

    • Scottrick

      “So, bear with me if there are still a few mistakes. I will edit them ASAP if you point them out.”

      No, I’m not sure about this. I’ll take another look, but it’s possible I copied something that was supposed to be in the Alaska MVP column.

      • Rover

        Great chart. It would be great if you could do one for ultra elite programs too. As a United Global Services Members I often wonder what the other programs offer….

        • Scottrick

          The problem is that most benefits of invitation-only programs are generally not published. I’m not willing to share self-reported benefits because any airline or hotel could provide the same benefits to a customer with no status if it were in a good mood.

    • Scottrick

      @8d4f059e5ff2fd5dc60ece2d07b632d4:disqus confirms you can receive a free drink. But my understanding is that you only get this if you print it out at home, not at the airport. Sort of like a reward for not hogging the line.

      • Sol_Invictus

        Ah ok, Geez. All this time a free drink. I should be more careful and read the fine print. Or just hang out on this blog more often.

      • Nic

        I have neve seen this and I usually print BPs. I got 4 coupons when I first got gold.

        • Scottrick

          Per this blog post, it appears you have to check in at home on Delta.com, not using your phone or another method. It also seems that the coupon is not guaranteed, but that your odds are pretty high. http://boardingarea.com/blogs/pointsmilesandmartinis/2012/02/deltas-have-one-on-us-free-drink-program/

          • http://www.facebook.com/dustinbess Dustin Bess

            This is my first time to your blog and I am somewhat new to hacking but I will hit Diamond this year on Delta so I wanted to add this in.

            When checking in online and selecting print boarding pass, select to print the extras, like weather etc. This will usually help trigger your coupon if your upgrade is unlikely. Then what I do is Print to PDF and email the document to my phone. That way I don’t have to deal with all the paper. I just pull up the doc from my email (helps to snap a screenshot of the coupon to your phone before take off if you won’t have internet access on the flight) and show the flight attendant when they come by. Just a little trick so you don’t have to deal with unnecessary sheets of paper.

            Thanks for the blog. I am enjoying reading your posts.

          • http://twitter.com/aaroncolorado Aaron Atencio

            Have the flight attendants ever given you a hassle because the coupon wasn’t printed out?

  • crescidp

    As a Delta Gold, you get a free drink/snack coupon when you print out your boarding pass.

  • Gerald

    this is boring ! people keep doing this ! how about something like middle eastern airlines or asian ones ?

    • Scottrick

      90% of my traffic is from the U.S. Most people aren’t going to be aiming for elite status with Singapore or Emirates. But I will look into running a poll in the future to see which region is of most interest for a future version of this comparison.

  • phazedowt

    AA gives access to the extra legroom seats (“Main Cabin Extra”) for all elites at time of booking.

    • Scottrick

      They can’t seem to make up their mind if they want to keep or remove that feature :P I’ll fix it.

  • FEV7

    Awesome reference! Thanks so much for the hours and work it took to put this together.

  • SK

    AA: For all elites, there is no fee for same day standby.

    Also no fee for Gold and Platinum for award change or redeposit if it is more than 21 days before you are set to fly on anytime awards (milesaaver will incur a fee). Just as a FYI since this table is accurate and assumes just any award. Useful for international destinations where there are no milesaaver awards.

    • Scottrick

      I’m basing my analysis on MilesAAver awards since that’s the primary product airlines use to market their programs to passengers. There will always be exceptions for those who pay more money or more miles.

  • sruly

    delta medallions get 70 lbs

    • Scottrick

      Correct. I may have been looking at international flights by mistake.

  • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    The PDF is awesome Scott! Thanks…though I will still fly AA! ;-)

  • MVPG

    Great charts! I think there is an error in the last two entries on the Alaska MVP chart: there is an award change fee of $75/$100, and the cancellation fee applies to all tickets (coach and first class). Fees are waived for MVPG, but not for MVP. http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/frequently-asked-questions/faq-status.aspx

  • Ryan L

    United Premier Gold only gives you preferred seating of +1.

    • Scottrick

      Correct. But while confirming that, I also came across language that looks like Premier Silver members get free bags for +8, not +1. So two things to fix.

      “MileagePlus Premier Silver and Star Alliance Silver members are allowed one checked bag with a maximum weight of 50 pounds and a maximum outside dimension of 62 linear inches. The benefits listed above apply to up to nine companions traveling on the same reservation as a Premier member.”

  • Diana

    thanks for putting this together! Could you include required number of segments also? I know people tend to qualify on miles, but we do mostly short domestic trips to see family. . .

  • http://twitter.com/aaroncolorado Aaron Atencio

    Thanks for supplying us with this great reference, Scott! I printed it out so I can keep it close by.
    On the subject of side-by-side comparisons, do you know anyone who has ever compared the different airlines requirements for mile redemptions? Extra fees involved, amount of miles needed to fly from US – Europe, US – South America, etc. Economy vs. first class, etc. ? I think a chart like that would be great.

    • Scottrick

      Keep coming up with more work for me *grumble* ;)

      I’ll consider it after I do the next airline and hotel charts.

  • indocon

    If you travel international, AA is the way to go because there is nothing like SWU on other carriers, I have never missed an UG on SWU for me and family of 5 over last 5 years, we plan on low travel days of coarse. For domestic travel, Southwest is the best way to go hands down. The author does not list the A-List but it is by far the best program. UG’s on domestic flights matter much less these days as compared to getting the first to board on SW, I have stopped eating food they serve in domestic first class. Also, SW’s network means that you will always have multiple ways to get from point A to B.

    • Scottrick

      There are pros and cons to any choice, which is why this table was made to help the reader make his or her own decision. If you travel for business and regularly book last-minute, United’s fare restrictions on systemwide upgrades may not be a major problem. With the addition of regional upgrades, United actually offers more total upgrades than does American, and it has a larger network to use them.

      Southwest has pros and cons like any other carrier. I chose not to include them because their loyalty program is very different from the ones described above. For example, it’s difficult to make clear comparisons between airlines that offer upgrades to first class and use miles-based status vs. Southwest’s coach-only aircraft and revenue-based status.

      Upgrades still do matter for longer flights, and it’s not like there is a choice between an upgrade or boarding first — elites on the above carriers get both. And although Southwest’s hub-free network means multiple routes are available, it also means that some of those routes will be indirect and could leave the passenger stranded temporarily in the event of a misconnection.

  • Jason

    Scott, have you done a similar chart for Hotel Loyalty programs?

  • Trajan81

    Looks like its time for an update with revenue standards becoming part of the mix soon.

    • Scottrick

      I have an update planned for later this year. Both United and Delta have no plan to start counting MQDs/PQDs until 2014 for status in 2015. Including them on this table when we still have 6 months in 2013 seems premature. (This has been my plan from the start since MQDs were announced.)

  • nycee

    Just a thought, you might want to include a chart for someone with the airline’s credit cards for us lackeys who don’t have status otherwise. :-)

    • Scottrick

      I can do that.

  • jetboys

    I think AA has extra legroom seats (“Main Cabin Extra” or MCE) on both domestic and int’l now. I also think that MCE for Gold level is just this year. (I’ve been very lucky with upgrades on AA so can’t say for sure.)

    • Scottrick

      The tables will be updated once the new year comes (and new program rules are announced). There are many changes that are coming but have not been well-defined, e.g., PQD earning rules on United.

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