It might sound like #firstworldproblems to some, but losing your airline status is truly a terrible thing. There has never been a worse time for air travel with jam packed planes, everyone and their mother bringing carry-on bags and jamming them into the overhead bins, and just overall rude people. Having status on a particular airline takes the sting out of it juuuuust a little bit with priority boarding, lounge access, upgradability to business or first class, and access to extra leg room seats at no additional charge.
One of the issues with airline status these days is that with so many airline mergers, some of the loyalty programs have become almost completely useless. Your chances of being upgraded are slim to none with everyone on that upgrade list. This combined with credit cards that offer nearly almost all of the same things as airline status make it pretty hard to reap the benefits of a loyalty program due to so many people. However, sometimes it can make all the difference.
So what do you do when you've become accustomed to all of these perks and they suddenly go away because you haven't met the mileage goal or the minimum yearly spend required? This was something I had to figure out at the end of last year when my Premier Platinum status on United was going to disappear. For years I was a loyal traveler on United (and on Continental long before that), so when I hit my highest status level ever at the end of 2016 I was ecstatic. The only problem was that I achieved it on my final flight before I was changing jobs to one that kept me grounded for an entire year. So, for an entire year, I had Platinum status and was never able to fully appreciate it. Sure, I made a trip back home every few months, however I was using miles to cut down on the pricey tickets from Honolulu to Newark. This resulted in me not flying on one single paid ticket. Everything in my account showed "0." It was a little unsettling!
As the end of 2017 approached and there was yet another job change that was going to put me back out on the road, I couldn't fathom flying without status (like I said, #firstworldproblems). I thought if there was a way I could appeal to a kind United agent that maybe, just maybe, something could be done. I called up and spoke to a lovely lady named Rose who advised me to call back as it got closer to the end of the status year.
Calling back, I explained my sob story to the agent who told me that there was something that could be done. United will make an exception once every five years to those who have been status holders for the past few years. She went back in my records and noted that, indeed, for the past few years I had Premier Gold. She noted in my records that the reason I did not make a status level was due to a job change and she confirmed with me that I wanted to go through with this because again, it would not be able to be done for another five years. Since I had been Gold more than I had been Platinum, she was only able to offer me Gold level which I happily accepted. It became effectively immediately and I was off to the friendly skies with some free extra leg room.
If you should find yourself in a similar situation, call your preferred carrier to see what can be done. With so much competition out there, the odds are pretty good that they will be able to help you out for fear of you jumping ship to another airline. If you do not hold status but travel often, you should consider committing to one airline, even if this means you may have to take more connecting flights than non-stops from time to time. You'll thank yourself when you're sitting in economy and the gate agent comes on the plane and hands you your new boarding ticket for seat 2B.