If you’re planning to switch programs or want to earn miles at a different program, because this flight will earn you more miles there, you might have the problem, that your status benefits may not be recognized by the system. In theory, some airlines let you add two frequent flyer numbers: One for earning miles, and one for the status benefits. Sadly, however, most airlines will only let you add one frequent flyer number.
Example: You have a Miles&Smiles Elite card (= Star Alliance Gold), but are flying in Lufthansa’s K class, which won’t get you any miles at Miles&Smiles. So, you want to earn miles at Lufthansa’s Miles&More program, but still enjoy your Star Alliance Gold benefits, such as lounge access. What is the solution to this problem?
There are some options to enjoy your status benefits while earning miles at another program. Nevertheless, none of the options is perfect. There is always a certain risk or downside. Here are the pros and cons of three possible solutions:
1. Adding the Card That Earns Miles
When booking your flight, you enter your frequent flyer number of the program at which you wish to earn the miles. You’ll be sure to get those miles, but no one at the airport will know that you hold a status!
- Miles: As the correct frequent flyer program is registered in the booking, you can be sure, that the miles will be credited to the correct program
- Priority Check-in: If you show your status card, you’ll be able to use the priority check-in counter without any problems. Just make sure, however, that the staff at the counter doesn’t switch the numbers in your booking.
- Fast Lane: Just like with the check-in, you should be able to use the fast lane by showing your status card. There would only be a problem when there’s only an automated boarding pass scanner to let you through. In that case, try to find someone from the airport staff.
- Priority Boarding: Should also be granted by showing the status card.
- Lounge: You should show the staff your boarding pass and your status card. Sometimes, the staff will insist that the status card number has to be registered in the booking. In that case, you’ll have to argue. You could also change the number, and then change it back again.
- Waitlist priority: As your status isn’t noted by the system, you won’t have a higher waitlist priority. This also counts for free upgrades.
- Seat blocking: As you officially don’t have a status, you won’t get any seat benefits, such as free seat selection at some airlines, or even a free middle-seat.
- Priority baggage: Usually doesn’t work, as it is harder to override the system in this case. You should always ask, though.
2. Flying Without a Frequent Flyer Card
If you don’t add any frequent flyer number to your booking, you can simply credit the miles retroactively after the flight. You should, however, really make sure before the flight, that no one adds a number to your booking. Sometimes, for example, a website might automatically add your frequent flyer number if you’re logged in while viewing/booking it.
- Miles: After booking, you’ll have some extra work to do. Nevertheless, you’ll have plenty of time to think about where you want to credit those miles.
- Priority Check-in: Just like in Option 1, this should be possible by showing your status card. Just make sure, that the staff doesn’t add the number to your booking.
- Fast Lane: Also possible by showing the status card. Only sometimes problematic with automatized doors.
- Lounge: After showing your status card with your boarding pass, entering the lounge shouldn’t be a problem. The staff will usually let you in, especially if you own that airline’s status (e.g. Miles&More Senator in a Lufthansa Senator Lounge). Nevertheless, you also have to make sure here, that your status number won’t be added to your booking.
- Waitlist priority: No status in the booking, no higher priority in the system.
- Seat blocking: Not possible, as the status has to be in the system.
- Priority Baggage: Not automatic, but maybe the staff will allow it.
3. Switching Numbers at the Gate
In this option, you’d add the frequent flyer number with the status to the booking and would change it right before boarding at the gate. Through this, you can enjoy almost all status benefits without any problems, but bear the risk, that the number switch at the gate doesn’t work or that the airport staff refuses to do it. You also have to be at the gate very early, as once boarding is announced, you cannot switch the numbers anymore.
- Miles: Works automatically, but it could happen that the switch didn’t work, and so the wrong program will get the miles.
- Priority Check-in
- Fast Lane
- Waitlist priority: Until you switch the numbers, you’ll enjoy the higher waitlist priority.
- Seat blocking: As nobody usually gets checked in right before boarding, the seat next to you should remain empty. The staff at the gate could, however, still seat someone next to you.
- Priority baggage: As the baggage tag is printed out and added to your luggage during check-in, it should still remain the same once you’ve switched your number.
All three options have pros and cons. Option 1 is the easiest. Nevertheless, one isn’t guaranteed to get status benefits. If you switch the numbers at the gate, as in option 3, you’ll enjoy all the status benefits, but always bear the risk, that the numbers can’t be changed because e.g. boarding has already begun. If you don’t want to be asked many questions about why you have two different numbers, then option 2 might be the best for you, while keeping in mind, that you then won’t enjoy some status benefits.
Have you already made some experiences with this? I’d love to hear your comments!