After traveling for an extended period of time, annual qualifications become a forgone conclusion, but lifetime status overtakes the annual goal. Here are my hotel and airline lifetime progressions and why I seek them.
What Is Lifetime Status?
Lifetime Status is awarded to elite travelers after years and copious amounts of flights and nights over an extended period of time. The purpose of lifetime elite status is primarily to continue to drive business travelers to stay with the brand for life. If a business traveler will qualify for elite status with an airline and hotel chain every year, they can match to another provider and gain status with a competitor. Those pursuing lifetime status are less likely to do so.
Then there’s me, but more on that later.
Some providers offer tiers similar to elite status offered in their program. For example, United offers Gold, Platinum, 1K and Global Services at one, two, three and four million lifetime miles respectively. Those who cross those thresholds will hold the earned status level and the associated benefits until death do they part.
Is Lifetime Status Worthwhile?
At some point, I will no longer travel for work and while I would hope to have enough miles and points to last me for awhile, I won’t re-qualify for status. Some leisure travelers do qualify for significant status, they are few and far between but should be commended.
The biggest risk pursuing lifetime status with a travel provider is that they may change what that status entails and how to achieve it. United did this some time ago, American Airlines too. Hyatt changed their program a few years ago that caused me to reconsider my own loyalty to the brand. Pursuing lifetime status may not be worth what it is whilst you pursue it, they own their program and members are powerless. If you don’t trust the brand now you won’t trust them more in ten years, benefits are unlikely to improve.
Which Airlines/Hotel Chains Do I Pursue?
I spent 15 years loyal to American Airlines, most of which were at lower tiers – in my first decade with the carrier I barely crossed 100,000 miles – I was an infrequent but loyal flyer as far as American was concerned. I switched from American Airlines to United a couple of years ago because Doug Parker has wrecked the airline. I abandoned my pursuit of lifetime status just over halfway to their entry level, Gold.
At my current pace, I will finish 2019 with about 180,000 lifetime miles with United. I have about seven years until I achieve million miler lifetime Gold status with United.
Hotel chains don’t track lifetime status progress as easily from the account page. I reached out to both Hyatt and Hilton to see where I stood. Neither Hilton nor Hyatt offer anything other than top tier status, Lifetime Globalist and Lifetime Diamond respectively. I have held IHG Spire for several years with hundreds of nights but they don’t offer lifetime status because they hate their elites.
My Concierge, who delivers a ton of value for me, indicated I am nearly 20% of the way to lifetime status. Since the earnings are derived from base points, I have a long way to go. Lifetime Globalists need one million base points ($200,000 spent with the brand); it will likely take me until I retire to achieve it.
Hilton, who trialled a Concierge program for some Diamonds but hasn’t rolled one out yet, stated they would get back to me on it. I’ve been waiting a few days so I will have to go off of my back of the napkin math: about five years and approximately 500 nights to this point, around halfway there.
Lifetime status isn’t for everyone, but it is something I will personally continue to pursue. It’s frustrating to abandon my progress to lifetime Gold with American; had I stayed with them instead of switching to United I would earn million miler in the next two years. Hilton has been the easiest to make progress toward due to availability of properties. Hilton and Hyatt continue to add to their Diamond/Globalist benefits and I continue to pursue them.
What do you think? Are you pursuing lifetime status? Already have lifetime status? Who returns the most benefit for your long term business?