Earning elite status with an airline can undoubtedly make your flying experiences more enjoyable. Besides earning extra miles on paid flights, it can add prioritized services, seat upgrades, and improved airport experiences — including lounge access and priority boarding.

Unfortunately, receiving frequent flyer elite status can also be a somewhat paradoxical experience. While you need elite status to improve your travel experience, the airline only grants it after you’ve served your time and flown thousands of miles.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

Some airlines provide pathways to elite status (or the benefits of elite status) without flying even a mile. This post will explore some of these methods for each of the major airline frequent flyer programs. We’ll have you on your way to the pointy end of the plane in no time.

JetBlue Tails
JetBlue offers one of the best options for achieving elite status without having to fly.

How To Achieve Airline Elite Status Without Flying

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska is one of our favorite mileage programs. As the last U.S. airline with a mileage-based rewards-earning program, Alaska also partners with a diverse portfolio of airlines. Even better, Alaska joined the Oneworld Alliance in 2021. So, you can now enjoy your Mileage Plan elite status on more than a dozen other airlines.

Mileage Plan currently provides a path to elite status purely through credit card spending — but only for a limited time. Now through December 31, 2022, targeted cardholders can earn 1,000 Elite Qualifying Miles per $5,000 spent on an Alaska credit card. However, it’d require a ton of spending to earn elite status through spending alone.

Mileage Plan members can achieve elite status without flying via a couple of other methods:

  • Receive Gifted Status — Mileage Plan members who earn MVP Gold 75K receive the ability to nominate someone for MVP status. So, if a friend or a family member has MVP Gold 75K, they can gift you status without needing to fly to earn it!
  • Status match — Alaska has a dedicated elite status match program. Elite members from 9 North American airlines can match their elite status all up to MVP Gold 75K status. It’s possible to earn some of these partner statuses without flying — meaning Alaska elite status is likewise possible without flying.

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines completely overhauled how AAdvantage members earn status starting in 2022. Rather than having multiple elite status requirements, now you only need to track your Loyalty Points. Here’s the short version of what you need to know:

  • You earn 1 Loyalty Point for every Base Mile that you earn
  • Base Miles come from flying, credit card spending, eShopping portal, dining rewards, SimplyMiles, and other eligible partners.

You can now earn AAdvantage elite status without flying

Elite status level requirements:

  • AAdvantage Gold — 30,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum — 75,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro — 125,000 Loyalty Points
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum — 200,000 Loyalty points

Earning toward American Airlines AAdvantage status without flying:

  • Dining rewards, shopping portals, and SimplyMiles — earn Loyalty Points towards elite status through SimplyMiles, shopping portals, and dining rewards is a great feature of AA’s newly revamped program.
  • Credit card spending — the miles earned from welcome offers do not count towards elite status. However, AA miles you earn from regular spending DO count towards elite status. Note that any bonus miles earned from category spending don’t count towards Loyalty Points. You’ll earn just one Loyalty Point per dollar spent. Thus, $30,000 of credit card spending would yield 30,000 Loyalty Points — and that’s AAdvantage Gold status.

Methods that don’t earn Loyalty Points:

  • Transferring bank points to AAdvantage from Marriott Bonvoy — or other transfer partners, if they were to exist.
  • Miles from buying, gifting, and transferring from other members.
  • Miles earned through Bask Bank.
  • Any miles that are considered “bonus” miles — including shopping portal bonuses, dining program new member bonuses, credit card spending bonuses, etc.

Things that you cannot earn without flying:

  • Million Miler status
  • Loyalty Choice Rewards

Other paths to AAdvantage elite status that you should know about:

  • American Airlines is known for periodically gifting elite status to non-elite members. Keep an eye on your email for an invite.
  • In the past, Hyatt Globalists have gotten free AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite status. More recently, Hyatt elite members have gotten an elite status fast-track option.
  • Non-elite members can challenge to earn AAdvantage elite status. The criteria (and costs) aren’t published, but you can call AAdvantage to check your options.

Alternatively, another path to elite-like perks is the benefits offered by various AAdvantage-cobranded credit cards. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (review) gives cardholders:

  • free first checked bags on domestic itineraries for the cardholder and up to 4 companions
  • preferred boarding
  • a 25% discount on inflight food, beverage, and Wi-Fi purchases.

Even better, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) offers all that plus priority boarding, priority security screening, TSA PreCheck application fee credit, and a full Admirals Club membership! With card benefits like those, who needs elite status?

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Delta is one of the best airlines for earning elite status without flying.

To earn Delta Medallion Status, you’re required to meet specific thresholds on two metrics in a calendar year: Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs).

Delta waives the MQD requirement for up to Platinum Medallion for those who spend $25,000 on Delta co-branded credit cards in a calendar year. For members who can spend $250,000 per year, Delta will waive the MQD requirement up to top-tier Diamond Medallion Status!

Moreover, Delta allows members to earn MQMs for meeting certain Status Boost spending thresholds on the following cards:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

Put together and it’s possible for Delta cardholders to earn top-tier status without stepping foot on an airplane! Here are some of the ways you could earn Delta Medallion status from Delta cards:

Lastly, SkyMiles members can also receive Medallion status by participating in a status match challenge. For these, Delta awards you an equivalent status for 90 days while offering a path to retain it.

JetBlue TrueBlue

For years, JetBlue TrueBlue had one elite tier, called ‘Mosaic’. But, starting in 2022, JetBlue took a page out of streaming service naming conventions and added a new “Mosaic+” elite status tier.

Both tiers of Mosaic get the following benefit:

  • 3X bonus points
  • Free same-day flight changes
  • First two checked bags free
  • Complimentary wine, beer, and liquor
  • Redeem points for the Mint Studio
  • Early boarding
  • Expedited security (in select airports)
  • Dedicated Mosaic customer service line

Basic Mosaic members don’t receive complimentary seat upgrades, but Mosaic+ elites do. And that’s great news as JetBlue Mint is perhaps the best domestic business-class product.

JetBlue Mint is perhaps the best domestic business-class product in the skies today.

JetBlue occasionally offers status match promos, which you can find on its promotions page.

However, the easiest way of qualifying for Mosaic status is via JetBlue co-branded credit cards. You’ll earn Mosaic elite status for one year by spending $50,000 in one calendar year on either card:

  • JetBlue Plus Card
  • JetBlue Business Card

Or, upgrade to Mosaic+ elite status by spending $150,000 in eligible purchases on these JetBlue co-branded cards.

United Airlines MileagePlus

Unlike Delta, United doesn’t offer any methods of earning elite status through spend on co-branded credit cards alone. However, the United Club℠ Infinite Card (review) from Chase, United’s premium card product, does provide several benefits that mimic United elite status—including free bags, complimentary upgrades on award tickets, and a United Club membership.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Annual Fee$525
Welcome BonusEarn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

If you have elite status with another airline, you can use United’s elite status match-challenge to shortcut your way to United elite status. Or, you can get United Silver elite status by being a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite member.

Related Tip: Marriott Bonvoy elite status also qualifies you for reciprocal benefits with Emirates Skywards via its Your World Rewards program.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

There are four co-brand Southwest cards that can earn A-List or A-List Preferred status through spending:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card — Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (review) — Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card — Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review) — Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Each of these cards earns 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent on the card—with no cap on the total number of TQPs you can earn.

While not a traditional elite status, the Companion Pass is another worthy goal for frequent Southwest travelers. It won’t necessarily elevate your airport or flying experience, but it (potentially) delivers far more value. Plus, it’s possible to earn it without a single flight!

Rapid Rewards members need to accumulate 125,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points in a year to earn a Southwest Companion Pass. Sure, at first that sounds like a ridiculously tall order. Thankfully, a lot of different kinds of points qualify, including those earned from:

  • Co-branded credit cards (including sign-up bonuses)
  • Southwest hotels
  • Southwest car rental partners
  • Rapid Rewards shopping portal
  • Rapid Rewards Dining

Lastly, Southwest offers a well-known status match challenge. You can match most other U.S.-based carriers’ status for a few months with the ability to extend it for a year.

Final Thoughts

American Airlines comes out on top if you’re looking for the easiest way to spend toward airline elite status. You can spend just $30,000 on an American Airlines card and get AAdvantage Gold elite status without stepping a foot on a plane.

However, perhaps a more important takeaway here is that you don’t necessarily need airline elite status to improve your travel experiences. In many cases, airline credit card benefits largely mirror the benefits offered for elite members. Plus, it’s much easier to justify paying an annual fee than to dedicate $30,000 of spending (or more) to one airline’s cards.

Lastly, anyone interested in earning elite status the “easy way” needs to stay informed on current status match opportunities. These can often transform one elite status into many, delivering a far better return for earning (or manufacturing) the first.

Got any tips on earning elite status without flying the miles? Let us know in the comments.

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