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How Status Drops Affect Existing Reservations

By now, you know whether you’ve managed to keep airline status for the upcoming year or it’s time to join the normal ranks. By that metric, I’ve failed horribly.

I’ve actually known for a while I was going to lose my status for this year. It became apparent for a wide variety of reasons last year that it was no longer sensical for me to earn status on United. But the interesting thing is I had booked a bunch of flights for this year before my status ran out. So what happens when it’s time to join the ranks of everyone else? The quick answer is your status at the actual date of travel is the one that actually qualifies on the trip. Economy Plus seating may be no more.

In fact, I had a nice chat with a United phone agent about this when I booked a ticket last month. It didn’t even matter that I couldn’t select Economy Plus seats (I was a lowly Silver) but I did notice the baggage allowance I got was apropos to my then-current status. He affirmed that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the benefits on the actual trip.

There seems to be some indication a lot of it depends on individual frequent flyer programs. For instance, View from the Wing commenters noted that old status is more likely to stick to partner airlines instead of the airline that the status is attached to. One guy even reported that he was able to use the Air New Zealand lounge because the old status had printed on his boarding pass, despite the fact that he was no longer Star Alliance Gold.

Generally, the benefit that sticks the most is the seat assignment, if you’ve already managed to grab a good econ plus seat. Unless there’s a change in aircraft or equipment, odds are good you’ll at least get that. Unfortunately, lately, I have found United’s systems are getting better and better at kicking me out of even that, even if I try to change the frequent flyer number at the very last minute.

No one really seems to care about this unless they drop status. Upgraded status usually kicks in effortlessly at the beginning of the year. The sole exception might be Alaska Airlines, which attaches status at reservation. Interestingly, it cuts both ways whether you move up or down a tier. Meaning if you’re now entitled to other benefits, you’re going to have to call in and ask them to fix it.

In general, if your status has moved up a tier, you probably won’t have to do much to take advantage of the new benefits. On the other hand, if it dropped, just avoid making changes. There’s a good chance that some of the old benefits may “stick” to the current reservation. It certainly won’t hurt.



[View from the Wing]

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