Last week, as I was en route on a flight that would give me the final handful of miles necessary to keep my frequent flyer status in 2013, I pondered my year in air travel: Priority reservations. Priority check-in. Priority boarding. Priority seating (case in point: a recent last-minute flight change cost me nothing and resulted in a free bump to Economy Comfort). Not to mention the frequent upgrades to business class—sometimes while traveling on reward tickets. Or the two free checked bags. Or the TSA PreCheck qualification, paid for by my airline, which let me sail through security with my shoes on my feet and my laptop buried deep in my carry-on. And all the handy drink and snack vouchers—there’s nothing like a hummus snack or some red wine to help those hours in the air whiz by!
This is all owing to the fact that I stayed loyal to my airline (and, of course, I traveled a ton—my addiction to boarding passes is severe). As comfort in the skies increasingly comes at a premium, my resolution in 2013 is to do everything in my power to maintain elite status. Sadly, most airline programs’ entry-level tiers don’t offer much in the way of perks these days, but you don’t need top-tier status to reap significant benefits: I’m going for mid-level elite to keep all the awesome perks I mention above. My game plan? Travel much (I need 50,000 miles), travel far (roughly, the equivalent of two round-trip tickets from New York to, say, Bangkok, plus another round-trip flight from New York to Honolulu), and travel smartly (you can earn qualifying miles through airline partnerships with credit cards, hotel stays, and even car rentals). And now for the fun part: where to go in 2013? Here’s hoping that wherever it is, it will come with some sweet upgrades (or at least a free hummus snack).
Jennifer Flowers is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @JennFlowers.