a glass of wine next to a window

About December time, it usually sets in. You know, that feeling of “oh no, I won’t re-qualify for my airline or hotel elite status”. After a year of comfort and benefits, no one wants to be kicked out into the cold, and fortunately, quite a few loyalty programs offer what’s called a “soft landing”, where you are gifted the next status down to soften the blow, rather than all the way back to bottom ladder.

Here are airline and hotel elite programs that give you at least a warm blanket for the year your earned status ends, rather than kicking you directly to the curb in a snowstorm…

a room with red chairs and a black and white floorHow A Elite Status Soft Landing Works

Let’s say a loyalty program has four tiers: general, bronze, silver and gold – with gold being the highest status you can earn. If you earned Gold, and at the end of your loyalty year failed to re-qualify, some programs will effectively gift you silver in this example for the next year, in hopes of enticing you to push your way back up the ladder.

These soft landings are generally immediate and last an entire year, so it’s worth knowing which will hook it up, and which ones boot you out the door. An extra year of benefits is definitely worth more effort than a program than sends you back to zero immediately…

a glass of wine next to a windowAirline Loyalty Programs That Offer Soft Landings

Here’s a list of all the airlines which currently offer a soft landing for all members who reach an elite tier. Obviously, if you only earn the second lowest tier, it’s back to general member, but for anyone at a higher level, you’ll drop one below your current status.

  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Alitalia Millemiglia
  • Alaska MileagePlan
  • British Airways Executive Club 
  • Emirates Skyward
  • Etihad Guest
  • Lufthansa Miles And More
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • SAS EuroBonus
  • Turkish Miles And Smiles
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Virgin Australia

a snow covered trees and a lake in a cityHotel Loyalty Programs That Offer Soft Landings

It’s always sad losing hotel perks, and the following loyalty programs soften the sadness with a one step downgrade, even if you fail to re-qualify.

  • Accor Hotels ALL
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • World Of Hyatt (Globalist only)

What If My Soft Landing Doesn’t Automatically Apply?

Technology and IT aren’t exactly known as fortes for airlines and hotels, so things happen. If for some reason you don’t automatically land to the next lower tier, it’s worth emailing customer service with your airline or hotel to see if there’s anything that can be done, based on your previous loyalty.

If you’re worried about losing things entirely, or want to move to a different program, don’t forget about elite status challenges, or matches, which give you a shortcut to similar perks with another airline or hotel. Here’s everything you need to know about all that.

Got another program with a soft landing? Add it in the comments section below!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Alaska don’t offer a soft landing. It is normally a challenge or they comp status if you have had status for years but don’t re qualify one year.

    I was MVP Gold last year and haven’t had a soft landing.

  2. +1 re: Alaska – I’ve been MVP Gold 75k the last three years and did not requalify for any status this year as I’ve moved abroad and cannot really use their partners with regularity. No soft landing – quite the contrary…

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