Easier airline elite status in 2021: Summary by Airline

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Due to the fact that the pandemic has drastically reduced business travel, most airlines have made changes so that it is easier to earn elite status in 2021 for the 2022 program year.  Some airlines have reduced elite eligibility requirements, some have boosted elite earnings, and some have done both.  Many also offer status match challenges to woo elites from other airlines.  Below you’ll find a summary, by airline…

Background

Airlines offer elite status to entice customers to choose them over other airlines. The customers who give an airline a lot of business receive extra benefits such as free checked bags, preferred seat selection, upgrades to first class, etc.  Elite benefits vary by airline and by level of status.  Airlines often offer multiple levels of status with the best perks reserved for those who fly with the airline the most.

Each airline has different requirements for earning elite status, but in general most require some combination of the following:

  • Miles flown (which may be called something like “Elite Qualifying Miles”): a measurement of how far you’ve flown on that airline in a calendar year
  • Money spent (which may be called something like “Elite Qualifying Dollars”)
  • Number of flight segments flown (which may be called something like “Elite Qualifying Segments”)

Some airlines offer to waive certain requirements if you spend enough money on their credit cards and sometimes there are multiple ways to mix and match qualification criteria. In 2021, many airlines have additionally either reduced requirements or added boosts to make the path to elite status easier.

American

American Airlines has introduced lower qualification requirements along with status boosts…

Elite Requirements

Earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs), plus either Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) or Elite Qualifying Segments (EQSs) on eligible-fare tickets to qualify for elite status:

  • Gold: 20,000 EQMs or 20 EQSs, and $2,000 EQDs (vs. the usual 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQSs, and $3,000)
  • Platinum: 40,000 EQMs or 45 EQSs, and $4,500 EQDs (vs. the usual 50,000 EQMs or 60 EQSs, and $6,000)
  • Platinum Pro: 60,000 EQMs or 70 EQSs, and $7,000 EQDs (vs. the usual 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQSs, and $9,000)
  • Executive Platinum: 80,000 EQMs or 95 EQSs, and $12,000 EQDs (vs. the usual 100,000 EQMs or 120 EQSs, and $15,000)

Status Boosts

  • For 2021, AA will waive the EQD requirement to qualify for Gold, Platinum or Platinum Pro status if you spend $30,000 on net purchases with an eligible AAdvantage® credit card that post to your account between January 1 – December 31, 2021.
  • All base EQMs, EQSs, and EQDs earned on flights taken from October 1 – December 31, 2020, count toward 2021 requirements.
  • Earn back status:  Those who have status already, can earn back the same level of status with $15,000 credit card spend or $2,000 travel spend. Details here.

Status Match Challenge

Unlike most other airlines in this roundup, AA doesn’t currently offer a free public status match challenge.  However, they do offer challenges.  They’ll always let people pay a fee to start a challenge, but they also sometimes offer free targeted challenges for program members, and especially for those with Hyatt elite status who have linked their AA and Hyatt accounts.  One Mile at a Time has a good post detailing these options, here.

Alaska

Alaska has kept the same requirements as usual, but has added status boosts to make achieving those thresholds easier.

Elite Requirements

MVP Gold 100K will launch by end of January 2022.
* Qualifying Alaska Airlines flights include AS001-1999, AS2000-2999 (operated by Horizon Air), and AS3300-3499 (operated by SkyWest).
** Minimum Alaska flight segment requirement will change to 6 for MVP Gold and 12 for MVP Gold 75k in 2022.

Status Boosts

  • 50% more Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs): All active Mileage Plan members will receive a 50% bonus on elite-qualifying miles earned on flights marketed and operated by Alaska Airlines between June 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021.
  • 2021 status extension & requalification: Members who held elite status as of January 1, 2021 that are unable to re-qualify by year end 2021, will have status extended through April 30, 2022.  You’ll then have another opportunity to retain your status by flying January – April 2022 (details not yet announced).

Status Match Challenge

Alaska Airlines offers a standard status match challenge where they’ll match your status from a competing airline for 90 days.  If you fly Alaska Airlines enough during those 90 days, you’ll keep status longer.  This is a one-time-only match.

To keep status longer, the 90 day flight requirements vary based on the level of status you were matched to:

  • MVP status — fly 5,000 miles on Alaska
  • MVP Gold status — fly 10,000 miles on Alaska
  • MVP Gold 75K status — fly 20,000 miles on Alaska

Once you have earned the miles needed to maintain your status, it will extend beyond the first 90 days like this:

  • Start your status match by the end of June and meet the requirements to keep your status through the end of the calendar year.
  • Or, start your status match between July – December and meet the requirements to keep your status through the end of next year.

More details can be found here.

Delta

Delta has kept the same elite requirements as usual, but has added multiple options to reach those requirements more easily.

Elite Requirements

Delta Elite Status
Definitions:
  • MQMs: Medallion Qualifying Miles can be roughly thought of as the actual miles flown. It’s important to understand that these are different from redeemable miles which can be used to book award flights. MQMs are only used for earning elite status.
  • MQSs: Medallion Qualifying Segments are the number of segments flown. Unless you fly a very large number of short flights, you are unlikely to earn elite status through MQSs.
  • MQDs: Medallion Qualifying Dollars are the sum total of your base-fare spend (e.g. doesn't include taxes) on Delta-marketed flights.
Explanation:
In general, to reach each elite tier, Delta SkyMiles members must earn the stated number of MQMs or MQSs and spend the targeted amount of MQDs. In other words, its not enough to just fly far or often, you also need to spend a lot of money with Delta.
Fortunately, there’s an easy exception to the MQD requirement for Platinum status and below: Simply spend $25,000 or more with Delta branded credit cards and the MQD requirement goes away. Even better, several Delta branded credit cards offer bonus MQMs for high spend, so it is possible to tackle both requirements (MQMs and MQDs) through spend without setting foot on a plane. Unfortunately, Delta requires $250,000 in credit card spend (across all Delta cards you have) to get a MQD waiver for top tier Diamond status.

Status Boosts

  • Earn elite status with award flights: Between April 1 and December 31 2021 (and again in all of 2022), Delta fliers earn Medallion qualifying miles, segments, and dollars on award flights.
  • 50% to 75% status accelerators: Between April 1 and December 31 2021, Delta fliers will earn 50% to 75% more towards elite status.  Main cabin bookings (including basic economy) earn 50% more MQMs, MQDs, and MQSs.  Premium cabin bookings (Comfort+, First Class, Premium Select, and Delta One) earn 75% more MQMs, MQDs, and MQSs.  These accelerators work for award tickets and Delta Vacations too!
  • Credit card welcome bonuses: At the time of this writing, Amex is offering welcome bonuses of 80,000 SkyMiles plus 20,000 MQMs on both the Delta Reserve consumer card and Delta Reserve business card.  If you haven’t had either card before, it’s possible to sign up for both in order to get 40,000 MQMs after meeting minimum spend requirements.
  • Credit card status boosts: Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve cards always offer status boosts (bonus MQMs) with high spend.  In 2021, they offer 25% larger boosts as follows:

Status Match Challenge

Delta offers a status match challenge where they’ll match your status from a competing airline for 3 months.  If you earn enough MQDs and either MQMs or MQSs during those 3 months, you’ll keep status through January 31, 2023.

To keep status through January 31, 2023, the 3 month Medallion requirements vary based on the level of status you were matched to:

  • Silver: Earn 6,250 MQMs or 8 MQSs, and $750 MQDs or a MQD Waiver
  • Gold: Earn 12,500 MQMs or 15 MQSs, and $1,500 MQDs or a MQD Waiver
  • Platinum: Earn 18,750 MQMs or 25 MQSs, and $2,250 MQDs or a MQD Waiver

More details can be found here.

JetBlue

JetBlue only has one elite level: Mosaic.  Status earned in 2021 will be valid through the end of 2022.

Elite Requirements

  • 7,500 Mosaic Qualifying points (vs. the usual 15,000 points)
  • 6,000 Mosaic Qualifying points + 15 segments (vs. the usual 12,000 points and 30 segments)

Status Boosts

Achieving any one of the following will give you Mosaic status for 2022 (details can be found here):

  • $50,000 spent on purchases with your JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card during the calendar year (as before)¹
  • $30,000 spent on purchases with your JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business Card + 4,000 Mosaic Qualifying points during the calendar year (new and exclusively for 2021)
  • $15,000 spent on purchases with your JetBlue Plus Card between 10/1-12/31/2021 (new and exclusively for 2021)

Status Match Challenge

JetBlue is not currently offering a status match challenge.

Southwest

Southwest offers two elite levels: A-List and A-List Preferred.  They also offer their Companion Pass, which is similar to elite status but much more valuable since it lets you add a companion to every flight for free for the rest of the year in which it is earned, and all of the following year.

Elite Requirements

Southwest has kept the same requirements as usual:

  • A-List: 35,000 points or 25 flights
  • A-List Preferred: 70,000 points or 50 flights
  • Companion Pass: 125,000 points or 100 flights

Status Boosts

For 2021, instead of lowering their elite requirements, Southwest gave their members status boosts.  Each Southwest member with an account opened by December 31, 2020 received the following boosts in 2021:

  • 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs)
  • 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs)
  • 10 qualifying one-way flight segments towards tier status
  • 25 qualifying one-way flights towards Companion Pass

The following chart shows how many more elite point earnings are required after considering the boosts:

Southwest has also offered short term and/or targeted promotions this year, such as these:

Status Match Challenge

Southwest offers an A-List status match challenge where they’ll match your status from a competing airline for 90 days.  During those 90 days, you only have to fly 3 round-trip qualifying flights (or 6 one-ways) in order to extend your A-List status for another 12 months.

More details can be found here.

United

United has both lowered elite requirements in 2021 and added status boosts to help.  United no longer has distance requirements for elite status.  Status can be achieved with a combination of Premier qualifying flights (PQF) and Premier qualifying points (PQP), or with Premier qualifying points (PQP) alone.

Elite Requirements

United MileagePlus members must complete 4 United flight segments to qualify for 2022 Premier status, plus the following:

  • Premier Silver: 8 PQF and 3,000 PQP, or 3,500 PQP (vs. the usual 12 PQF and 4,000 PQP, or 5,000 PQP)
  • Premier Gold: 16 PQF and 6,000 PQP, or 7,000 PQP (vs. the usual 24 PQF and 8,000 PQP, or 10,000 PQP)
  • Premier Platinum: 24 PQF and 9,000 PQP, or 10,000 PQP (vs. the usual 36 PQF and 12,000 PQP, or 15,000 PQP)
  • Premier 1K: 36 PQF and 13,500 PQP, or 15,000 PQP (vs. the usual 54 PQF and 18,000 PQP, or 24,000 PQP)

Status Boosts

  • PQP Gift: In 2021, United gave elite members Premier qualifying points (PQP), as follows:
    • Premier Silver: 875 PQP
    • Premier Gold: 1,750 PQP
    • Premier Platinum: 2,500 PQP
    • Premier 1K: 3,750 PQP
  • United card spend towards Premier 1K: Now PQP earned from your eligible United MileagePlus credit card — including the United MileagePlus Explorer Card — will count toward Premier 1K status, if you also meet the PQF requirement.
  • Pick your path promo: Early in 2021, Premier members had the option of choosing Easy PQP, a PQP deposit equal to 10% of the PQP-only requirement with no strings attached, or a Welcome Back Bonus offer where United gave PQP bonuses as long as members took 3 PQP-eligible trips.
  • Fly to the Finish challenge: A personalized challenge for requalifying faster can be found here.
  • Breakout bonus: Until November 30, 2021, you’ll earn bonus Premier qualifying points (PQP) on your next three United or United Express® trips.  Details can be found here.
  • Waived United flight segment requirement for members outside of the US:  For MileagePlus members with an account address outside of the 50 United States as of January 1, 2021, United credited their account with the 4 United flight segments needed to qualify for 2022 Premier status.

Status Match Challenge

United offers a status match challenge where they’ll match your status from a competing airline for 120 days.  If sign up in 2021, after July 1st, and you earn enough PQFs and PQPs during the challenge’s 120 days, you’ll keep status through January 31, 2023.

To keep status through January 31, 2023, the requirements vary based on the level of status you were matched to:

  • Premier Silver: Fly 4 PQF and earn 1,000 PQP on flights operated by United or United Express
  • Premier Gold: Fly 6 PQF and earn 2,000 PQP on flights operated by United or United Express
  • Premier Platinum: Fly 10 PQF and earn 3,000 PQP on flights operated by United or United Express

More details can be found here.

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