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What Can You Get for Flying 1 Million Miles (or More) on an Airline?

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By Ramsey Qubein,  AFAR

Airlines are getting more creative with the perks and benefits awarded to top spenders—in particular, their million mile flyers. Almost every major airline offers special rewards to frequent flyers, but the tally for earning “million miler” status can vary by airline (much like earning miles varies by airline). To reap the benefits of a particular million miler program, it’s important to know what each actually offers. Here, everything you need to know about what different airlines offer frequent flyers who hit the million mile mark.

Million miler perks

For most travelers, the most notable perk that comes with the million miler status level is lifelong elite status. The benefits of holding status can lead to free upgrades and earning more miles under airlines’ new revenue-based programs. More valuable are the waived bag fees, priority check-in, and boarding benefits. Neither Southwest nor JetBlue offers million miler programs, but most other major airlines share your million miler accrual balance in your online account.

Delta Air Lines

Delta measures million miler status by tallying up the number of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) earned. It gives its one million milers lifelong Silver Medallion status, which awards flyers with complimentary upgrades to first class or Comfort Plus seats (including middle seats) within 24 hours. Two and three million milers get lifetime Gold Medallion status, which tacks on the chance for an upgrade at 48 hours before departure plus waived standby and confirmed travel fees in addition to the Silver Medallion perks. It also provides free lounge access for flyers traveling internationally. To score Platinum Medallion for life, a person must fly four million miles with Delta, which comes with better fee waivers, standby priority, and access to upgrades. Delta’s top status level, Diamond Medallion, offers the airline’s million milers a Tiffany & Co. gift certificate each time they hit their next million mile landmark and the ability to gift Gold Medallion status to a family member or friend.

United Airlines

United is extremely generous with its lifetime status, giving million milers Premier Gold for life (this includes lounge access when traveling internationally). As part of the MileagePlus program, two million milers get Premier Platinum, three million milers get Premier 1K, and four million milers get the airline’s coveted Global Services status. United million milers can also award status to a companion for the year, which doubles the value of the perk. Keep in mind that basic economy fares on United do not count toward million miler status, but all other flown miles count. In fact, lifetime miles are based on flight distance, so travelers can rack up mileage counts on international flights.

American Airlines

American’s AAdvantage million miler program operates differently. When travelers reach a million flown miles, they are awarded Gold status for life plus 35,000 bonus miles as a gift. Fliers with two million miles earn Platinum status for life plus four one-way systemwide upgrades, which are good on any fare. Earning another million does not offer any higher lifetime status, but at each additional million flown miles, travelers score another four systemwide upgrades. American used to count every single mile earned in its program toward million miler status (including miles earned by credit card spending), but it is now based solely on mileage flown with American and its partners.

Alaska Airlines
Travelers receive lifetime MVP Gold status when they reach one million miles flown on Alaska Airlines. Gold status members receive priority check-in and boarding, two free checked bags, express security line at airports, complimentary same day flight changes, unlimited Premium and First Class upgrades, plus a 100 percent bonus on base miles earned. Flyers also receive elite benefits when flying with global airline partners, including British Airways, Qantas, and Icelandair.

Secret mileage tiers

It’s nice to have lifetime status, but airlines also reserve extra special attention for their highest spenders. These secret, invitation-only tiers provide the ultimate in travel perks. Airlines are mum on what the qualifications are for achieving this status level (it varies by airline), but it is generally believed that these are the top percent of an airline’s spenders each year.

360° status

Delta’s 360° status comes with special perks like closely monitored itineraries for any potential flight disruptions by a dedicated team reachable by private phone line (no need to call a reservations agent) and gate transfers in luxury vehicles. Delta also showers these top fliers with regular gifts like champagne or gift baskets mailed to their homes, and they enjoy the highest upgrade and standby priority.

Global Services

United’s top-tier Global Services program offers uber-elite fliers priority boarding before all other passengers, the highest upgrade and standby priority, a dedicated phone line, plenty of waivers and favors from phone agents, and more flexibility when it comes to finding award space (the airline will even make an award seat available if there are seats in other lower fare buckets still open). United also takes premium cabin meal orders by status level, and Global Services members almost always get their first choice (while other fliers will be asked for a first and second choice). Global Services members are invited into first-class lounges when traveling in business class, and like Delta’s top travelers, United takes those with tight connections to their gates via luxury cars.

Concierge Key

American’s Concierge Key program lets top spenders board the aircraft first and enjoy priority upgrade and standby status on waiting lists. They can contact a dedicated phone line or email address for special requests. Concierge Key members receive a free annual membership to Admirals Clubs plus assistance during tight connections from ground staff.

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