Jun 272016

Elite status with airlines is great. At a minimum, you can usually get a better seat on the plane. You also generally earn approximately double the miles each flight when you’re a top-tier elite member with most airlines in the US.

Then, there’s free luggage if checking bags is your thing. I know most top-tier elites go out of their way not to check luggage, but it’s certainly a nice benefit when you need it.

Did someone say upgrades? Most of the US airlines offer unlimited complimentary domestic upgrades to elites – space available of course – which is less and less these days. There’s also the ability to do international upgrades a few times a year with vouchers if you’re a top elite. Definitely a great benefit.

However, at least for me, while trying to do every country the single most valuable benefit is free changes on award tickets. Sometimes, I change tickets a lot because I can’t make up my mind. It’s good to lock things in when you find the availability in case it’s gone later, but other times there’s just a change of plans. Or, say 300 days out, you lock in the only routing available with miles…then closer in, better options open up. Free changes, and you’re good to go.

Then, there’s what happened today…

See, I’ve been wanting a flight on the Lufthansa A380. I got one once from Miami to Frankfurt on Christmas Day a few years ago, but I’ve been dying ever since to do it again. Lufthansa is probably my favourite first product, and doing it on the A380 is as close to perfection as it comes.

Once I decided to splurge the miles for a first award to Dubai to start my Turkmenistan trip, there was no question – I wanted the longest flight possible. Lufthansa generally doesn’t open up first awards until 14 days out, so booking United and changing to Lufthansa at 14 days is the best you can hope for. I did that, and at 12 days, lots of options opened up. Grabbing the Frankfurt to Dubai was a piece of cake. Question then was, how to get to Frankfurt.

DC to Frankfurt is a short flight, and wasn’t available anyways. Chicago to Frankfurt was, and surprisingly DCA to Chicago with United was there too. Put it on hold while I looked for something better. There was Houston to Frankfurt on the A380, but getting to Houston appeared to be a giant pain – and in the meantime the availability was gone. A week went by, and it looked like I was going via Chicago. Until this morning.

The longest Lufthansa flight from the US opened up this morning – LAX to Frankfurt! I grabbed it, not even thinking about how I might get to LAX. 11 hours on the A380 with Lufthansa in first was like a dream. Even managed to get an add-on with United from Las Vegas…but that’s as far as I could backtrack with miles.

I’m seriously short this year of requalifying with United in terms of miles. I’m only at around 50,000 booked so far, so am looking for United options whenever they come up. Found a shockingly cheap first fare from DCA to Las Vegas the night before, and I was set! No, this wasn’t how I expected this trip to go down, but, we have a new routing for the trip:


So, plans change, and the only reason I could even consider this is due to elite status. So, bring on one night in Vegas…..and then LA where I will have 6 hours (side trip to In-n-Out Burger perhaps?) and then a super long A380 ride to Frankfurt!

  8 Responses to “Why top elite status is so valuable when booking award tickets”

  1. Dear Jason,
    I follow your blog for some time now.
    It’s clearly the best choice to take Lufthansa via Frankfurt (not Munich with their old aircraft) to come home to Austria from California- love the Star Alliance lounge at LAX too..
    The only downside of that flight is the 3pm departure time.. So basically I was awake the entire time the last 2 times I took this flight
    Happy vacations from Austria,

    • Thanks Martin! My body should still be on East Coast time, so with a bit of wine I don’t think the departure should be too bad. Thanks for the good wishes!

  2. Long time reader here!! Cool you will pass by my temporary neck of the woods aka Malaysia!! Good choice you are going to Penang, nicer food and ppl than KL, enjoy a good char kway teow and sadly this country doesn’t have any artisanal beer i can recommend, just the boring tiger and carlsberg paying almost Western prices for them! Btw, stick to Uber in both cities, taxis seems to be getting worst!

  3. Yes, you must go for a quick trip to In-n-Out Burger while you’re on your 6 hour transit delay in LAX! But, you might also want to catch a quick nap somewhere in the airport to fully appreciate the 11 hour flight to Frankfurt in First Class! At least, that is what I would probably do myself.

  4. Hi there,
    I will admit to having been a little slow over the course of the last few days … in that I’ve been looking for hyperlinks to start appearing on FT and not reading the comments. And I just did. And I can understand why you took the stance you did also.
    All I wanted to say was/is that I have been an avid reader and follower for a number of years now and you have inspired me greatly. If, as and when you feel it appropriate (probably when this trip is finished!), it would be great if you could please update this blog here, on your blog … I am pretty confident I am not the only person who would love to see you make it to your final destination 🙂
    In the meantime, thank you for all the inspiration, pictures of cheese cubes (I’m Euro-Aussie, so never get that …) and for all the time you’ve taken to create these blogs, I have benefited from them all.

  5. Anxiously awaiting your trip report. I can not tell you how your trip reports inspire me to travel off the beaten track. Right now though I will live it through you..lol. It is a shame that some have to be so petty to take someone to task over their travel plans (FT). Please continue to provide us with your trip reports, it truly would be a loss for many if you didn’t. Again thank you for opening my eyes to some really amazing places in this world.

    • Thanks so much for those kind words Karen – nothing inspires me more to write than knowing it’s helping others to explore that great big world out there! First part is up, hopefully I’ll catch up soon! Best from Kazakhstan!

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