Earn Elite Status Credits on Award Travel on These 3 Airlines Earn Elite Status Credits on Award Travel on These 3 Airlines

Earn Elite Status Credits on Award Travel on These 3 Airlines

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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.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Earn tier points when you redeem Flying Club miles with Virgin Atlantic. Credit: Virgin Atlantic

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.

Delta allows SkyMiles members to earn Medallion Qualification Dollars, Segments, and Miles on flights marketed and operated by Delta (excluding Basic Economy fares).

These 3 Airlines Now Give You Credit Toward Elite Status on Award Travel
Earn medallion qualifying miles, dollars, and segments on award travel on Delta Air Lines.

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

United Airlines allows its MileagePlus members to earn Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) on award travel, but only on United and United Express-operated flights.

aerial view of United Airlines planes parked at gates, one showing United artwork and the other with Star Alliance branding
Earn PQP and PQF on United award flights. Credit: Chris Leipelt/Unsplash

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.

Bottom Line

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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  • ‪Can the delta and virgin tickets be partner issued or only on their ticket stock like UA?‬

  • Alaska Airlines allows you to earn 100% elite qualifying miles if you use their Money & Miles program. https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/use-miles

    • Great point that you can pay with miles here, but it’s not actually an award booking. With Alaska’s Money & Miles, you’re cashing in points at 1 cent each (very poor value for what’s possible with Alaska miles) to get $100 or a maximum of $200 off the price of a cash ticket. Since you’re buying the ticket, you’ll earn miles. In contrast, the 3 airlines in this article let you earn status credits when redeeming an award flight that you paid for completely with miles.

  • Interesting. I wonder if it would ever become a permanent earning option.

  • “This is a welcome development that makes award travel even more enjoyable and more rewarding.” – Indeed! I hope other airlines will follow suit.