A Case Study in How a Status Match Impacts on Loyalty (Part Two)

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A few days ago, I started explaining how a status match led me, over the period of a few years, to completely switch my loyalty away from British Airways Executive Club. You can read that post by clicking here.

As a brief recap, status with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles lasts for two years. It is also substantially easier to retain status once you’ve earned it (or been status matched for it)

Stage 3 – What an Amazing Promotion!

Thanks to a status match in 2013 and an inexpensive Business Class trip in 2014, I enjoyed Elite status (Star Alliance Gold) from late 2013 until late 2017. I had no particular intention of taking it any further, and expected to lose my status. Perhaps my lack of activity was the reason I received an e-mail…

Regular readers might recall that, back in March, I wrote about a trip to Colombia. I had been targeted for a highly lucrative promotion.

Quadruple status miles for flying in Business Class with Turkish Airlines… Regular Business Class fares already earn 160% of miles flown, meaning that this 4x promotion would become 640%. (Can you imagine BA offering 4x Tier Points? I can’t!)

So, instead of allowing my “Elite” status to fade away, I had the opportunity to upgrade to “Elite Plus” status. This would require 80,000 status miles within a 12-month period. But at an earning rate of 640%, 80K status miles would only require 12,500 actual flown miles – in other words, one long-haul return in Business Class on Turkish Airlines.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that status miles are also redeemable miles – 90,000 miles is good enough for a return reward in Business Class from Europe to just about anywhere Turkish Airlines flies. Although there are surcharges to be added, I don’t think too many people mind when the miles are essentially free. (which probably explains the enduring popularity of the BA Premium Plus Amex)

And, returning to the theme of soft landings, an Elite Plus member who fails to re-qualify (40,000 status miles in Year One or 60,000 miles over two years) will simply be dropped to Elite status. Since both levels of status are equivalent to Star Alliance Gold, I would receive at least four years of elite status.

So, thanks to this promotion and a £1600 ticket, I locked in the following:

    • “Elite Plus” status (Star Alliance Gold) until 31 May, 2019
    • “Elite” status (still Star Alliance Gold) until 31 May, 2021 (even if I never set foot in another Turkish Airlines airplane)

(note that a personal status year resets upon qualification for the higher tier)

Stage 4 – I Think I Should Re-Qualify for Elite Plus…

I was already feeling pretty good about Miles & Smiles when I noticed yet another quirk in their system for elite status re-qualification. Once you qualify for a given level of status, any excess miles are immediately rolled into your re-qualification balance. To show you an example…

Imagine that you are stuck on 79,500 status miles – not quite Elite Plus – and you take a long-haul flight in Business Class that earns you 5,500 status miles. You will reach 80,000 status miles during your flight, and those excess 5,000 status miles start counting for your re-qualification. So, by the time you land, you have reached Elite Plus, and you will only require 35,000 miles to re-qualify for Elite Plus (under the 40K in Year One target). For standard flights, this is helpful, but not crucial. But when you are in the middle of a very long flight with a 4x bonus, this becomes quite relevant.

So, during my final flight from Istanbul to Bogota, not only did I hit 80,000 status miles, but I cruised an additional 24,000 status miles beyond that. This meant that I only needed 16,000 status miles before May 2018 to re-qualify for Elite Plus!

It is fairly hard to ignore that sort of opportunity, which led me to consider one of the main perks of Elite Plus. For one return ticket per year (or two one-ways) Elite Plus members can upgrade ANY Economy Class fare to Business Class when flying on Turkish Airlines. No additional taxes or surcharges are payable. Members are not restricted to relatively expensive Economy fares. And you don’t even need award space in Business Class, simply the cheapest Business Class fare bucket.

At this stage the persistent travel hacker in me started to work. I wanted to find a holiday idea that would combine:

  • A cheap fare in one of the fare classes (M,H,S,E,Q,A,O) that earns 100% mileage credit with Turkish Airlines
  • A destination far enough away that I could earn 16,000+ status miles with a simple return
  • A route that was easy to find availability for the upgrade to Business Class

I ultimately settled upon a trip to California, which ticked all of those boxes and cost me £800. With that, I locked in:

  • “Elite Plus” status (Star Alliance Gold) until 31 May, 2021
  • “Elite” status (also Star Alliance Gold) until 31 May, 2023 if I accept the soft landing

Stage 5 – The Future…

2017 was a pretty good year. For £2,400, I received two long-haul holidays in Business Class, plus enough miles for 3 one-way reward flights in Business Class. And of course SIX years of Star Alliance Gold status.

I won’t have to think about my Elite Plus status until the period between June 2019 and May 2020. Thanks to the two-year system operated by M&S, that is my next window for a “Year One re-qualification” for 40,000 status miles. Unless the rules change, I have lots of time to come up with a travel hacking strategy to re-qualify yet again, although I already have some ideas.

Even if I don’t manage to re-qualify for Elite Plus, for the next three years I will still be able to upgrade one long haul return trip per year to Business Class from even the cheapest Economy fares offered by Turkish Airlines. So I’ll certainly be passing through one of my favourite Business Class lounges regularly.

And six years is a huge window of opportunity. Rather than staying on the hamster wheel of BA‘s what-have-you-done-for-us-lately “loyalty” / Tier Point system, I wonder if a Oneworld airline might come along with its own status match opportunity…

Do you have a good story about a status match that turned out better than you ever imagined? Let us know in the comments section.

 

 

Comments

  1. Pangolin says

    Cool. This works brilliantly if you get the 4x offer (as you did) but knowing my luck I wouldn’t receive anything and then I’d have to bust a gut to requalify. I prefer to have a guaranteed path to achieve *G (by qualifying or requalifying) so that I can make plans for how best to achieve it, rather than relying on receiving some fast-track offer just before it is due to expire. In your case, you weren’t actively looking for requalification so that’s fair enough.

    This isn’t quite the same as a status match but I’ll get *G shortly via an accelerated path to Kris Flyer Gold as part of the Infinite Journeys tie-up that Singapore Airlines has with Shangri-La (Golden Circle). If you have Golden Circle ‘Jade’ (which you get automatically via the Amex Plat) then you only need 3 segments within 4 months on SQ to get Gold from scratch. I booked an RT from ZRH-SIN and then patched in a hop to KUL and back to give me 4 segments. I’m surprised that this isn’t more widely mentioned as a lot of people who read these sites will have the Amex Plat.

    As for TK’s Miles & Smiles, the thing that puts me off that is the stories I’ve heard about having to visit a TK office in person in order to redeem an award. Is that true?

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Thanks for the heads up re. SQ and Shangri-la. I vaguely remember having seen something about that but not sure if it was here on InsideFlyer UK.

      As for M&S, one major downside is that you do have to visit a TK office to issue Star Alliance partner rewards. (TK metal you can book online) I haven’t bothered, even though it really isn’t all that inconvenient for me to pop over to the airport. It’s definitely not my main “earn and burn” programme though, partly because there is no SPG partnership to top up with.

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