Sometimes your elite benefits from airlines and hotels expire before you actually turn up to travel. This leaves many people wondering where that leaves them, and whether they’ll be treated the way they were when you made the booking, or as the customer they are now, without elite status when they actually turn up. The short answer: it can be a bit of both. Here’s the full story on what happens to your airline and hotel elite benefits if they expire before you actually travel…
Many people fail to consider one simple thing with their loyalty program. There’s almost always a difference between when your chance to earn or renew your status expires, and when your current benefits expire.
Many loyalty programs allow status to be earned until the end of the calendar year, but even if you fail to re-qualify, most elite statuses actually last at least one extra month from that date, like through the end of January, rather than the end of December. The same often goes for programs which don’t use calendar months too…
Be sure to note the expiry date on your card as the basis for when your benefits expire, rather than the day or date you fail to re-qualify for them. You may save yourself the headache of worrying about this stuff with just a quick glance.
Some elite benefits kick in at the time of booking, and if you’re booking before your elite airline or hotel status expires, for travel after it has expired – you may be able to use these without problem.
With airlines, things like preferred seat assignments happen at booking, so if you still have elite status at the time of booking, it’s unlikely you’ll be moved from that seat. That’s not to say it can’t or won’t happen, but from most data points a seat reservation sticks, unless the plane is changed or you make a flight change.
With hotels, it’s a lot harder to actually take advantage of any elite benefits at the time of booking, since you can’t really reserve specific rooms online. The only way you could possibly work around this would be to make a specific room request while you still have your status, and hope that it sticks.
We all love our bonus points, and frequent flyers particularly love their fast track lanes and cosy airport lounges. Sadly, once your status expires, so do all these perks. Even if your elite status expires on a Monday and you fly on a Tuesday, expect to have a completely standard airport experience, sans any of those perks. It doesn’t matter if you booked the airline ticket when you had the elite status.
Day of travel benefits at hotels are also typically all gone, so don’t expect a suite upgrade, or the ability to use the elite check in line. You may have made the reservation when you were an elite with the hotel, but at the day of check in you are a regular guest entitled to no additional benefits. There are cases where a hotel may choose to take mercy, especially if you’re a repeat visitor – but don’t expect the free breakfast or anything like that. And unless you want to look like a jerk, don’t inquire or make a fuss about it either.
Bear in mind that once you’re technically “out”, the airline or hotel is totally within their rights to take away benefits being received after the date. There are data points where some airlines have taken away preferred seats, but also others where complimentary upgrades cleared despite the status being gone.
Your best bet is to book whatever you can while you still have your elite status and hope for the best. Proactively getting in touch with any hotel properties about room requests could mean that your room is assigned or notated before your status expires, which would be lovely. At the end of the day you’re entitled to nothing, but don’t have much to lose from trying.
At the same time, there are so many elite status opportunities out there, it can really make sense to look into new programs, matches or fast tracks to regain your status. It never hurts to manually ask if there’s anything you can be offered to regain your status. Brands hate to lose good customers, like you!