elite status

The two basic questions all travelers contemplating joining a frequent flier program and planning to commit to a single airline or alliance have to ask themselves are the same — What is my goal? Is it reachable?

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As carriers increasingly turn to partner carriers to expand their networks, more and more travelers are running afoul of dreaded “no mileage fares.” For travelers on legacy carriers, published fares are generally fine. And the only tickets that generally don’t accrue mileage are those booked on opaque sites like Priceline and some unpublished consolidator fares. However, with airline partners, many discount fares either give only fractional mileage or deny it altogether.

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If you don’t like some of the recent changes to your airline loyalty program, talk to Mike Croswell. He’s a United Airlines “Million Miler” who assumed that his three decades of devotion to the airline would be reciprocated after he stopped being a frequent flier.

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The reason to think about mileage runs now, is because, after mid-August, when kids go back to school, they are comparatively easy. Plus, fall fares tend to be comparatively cheap as opposed to fares in December, for anyone trying to squeeze in mileage runs after about the 15th.

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Of all the frequent flier awards, for many travelers upgrades are the most prized, especially for international travel. With good reason — ten hours or more in coach is generally something to be endured. The same time in business class can be a mini-vacation.

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Based on my admittedly unscientific sample of clients and friends, it seems like this competition will be greatly reduced in 2011. Even though travelers may have flown more actual miles, the lack of bonus miles will rank many of them at a lower level than last year.

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Whether it means things are looking up for our country in general or that the rich are just getting richer, many travelers are going to find that even though they flew as much or more in 2010 than 2009, they will end up with a lower United frequent flier status.

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Labor Day is traditionally the time of year when Americans pack up the summer stuff and get ready for the fall. It’s not a bad time to do a little travel housekeeping too.

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While airlines like to promote free tickets with their mileage programs, the award that many even semi-regular clients want is an upgrade. These are the very awards that are getting harder to get.

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It’s the time of year when airlines send out their new frequent flier cards, and advise travelers if they have kept, upgraded or lost their status. Whichever category you fall into, here’s three quick tips to make the process smoother.

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