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Three airlines let frequent flyers earn elite status credits on award travel: Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. That's quite a deal, considering you get credit toward earning status on a flight you booked with miles, rather than paying cash. Here's what you need to know about earning elite status when traveling on award tickets.
Earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Elite Credit on Award Travel
Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to allow travelers to earn elite status credit on award travel. In 2020, when Virgin Atlantic first rolled out the ability to earn Flying Club tier points on award flights, it was a limited-time promotion. However, Virgin Atlantic has since made this a permanent change.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members earn tier points on all award travel operated by the airline. Unlike most airlines, Virgin Atlantic does not base tier points earned on distance flown or miles redeemed. Instead, Virgin Atlantic awards each flight a set number of tier points. Travelers receive additional tier points for travel in premium economy and Upper Class.
Here's how many Virgin Atlantic tier points you will earn on award travel:
- Economy: 25 Tier Points per flight
- Premium Economy: 50 Tier Points per flight
- Upper Class: 100 Tier Points per flight
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Silver, the airline's entry-level tier, is obtained after earning 400 tier points in a calendar year. You could reach Flying Club Silver status after just four one-way award flights booked in Upper Class.
Earn Delta Air Lines Medallion Qualifying Activity on Award Travel
In March 2021, Delta Air Lines followed in the steps of partner airline Virgin Atlantic when it launched a promotion allowing travelers to earn elite status credit on award travel. Thankfully, on March 31, 2022, Delta made the ability to earn elite status through award travel a permanent feature.
Here's how you will earn:
- Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) are awarded based on the distance of eligible flights. This earning structure is the same as the base miles earned on revenue fares.
- Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) are calculated by dividing miles redeemed by 100. If you redeem 10,000 miles for the award ticket, you will receive 100 MQDs. Redeemed miles are effectively worth 1 cent.
- Medallion Qualification Segments (MQSs) are earned similarly to revenue fares, meaning 1 MQS per segment flown.
Delta eliminated its award chart, which can make redeeming SkyMiles a challenge. To help, we've constructed an unofficial award chart to guide you through the redemption process and provide details on what you can expect to pay.
Earn United Premier Qualifying Points and Premier Qualifying Flights on Award Travel
The earning rates are as follows:
- 1 PQP earned per 100 miles redeemed
- 1 PQF earned per United or United Express flight
Dividing the number of miles you redeem for a ticket by 100 will show the number of PQP you'll earn. You won't earn anything on the award ticket's taxes and fees.
Note that you must book through MileagePlus to receive PQP on a flight. United and United Express flights booked using partner miles cannot accrue PQP. And you similarly won't earn PQP on partner flights booked with United miles.
Virgin Atlantic, Delta, and United are the only airlines awarding elite status credit on award travel — and all have made earning on award travel a permanent part of their programs. This development makes award travel more rewarding, and we're hopeful this becomes an industry-wide trend.
Have you made any progress toward earning elite status with any of these airlines through award travel?
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