Which airline loyalty programs offer lifetime status?

Airline loyalty programs offer very attractive benefits to their best members, but this comes at a price: every year the customer has to “requalify”.

For some it’s easy, for others it can be a source of anguish: all it takes is a change in professional or personal life, a stroke of “bad luck” or a virus to miss out on the coveted status and lose the benefits to which we’ve become accustomed.

Many customers see this as a lack of recognition: an addictive game where, like the hamster in its wheel, they have to run endlessly without ever seeing the finish line.

Fortunately, some loyalty programs also award “lifetime” status. Once certain conditions have been met, often a certain number of years, consecutive or otherwise, during which you have held the status in question”, you can then benefit from it for the rest of your life without having to requalify, regardless of whether you become less loyal or frequent the airline’s routes or hotels.

In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of the frequent flyer programs that offer lifetime status and the conditions for obtaining it, and we’ll finish off with a few tips and tricks.

In this article:

Which airlines offer lifetime status?

Rather than listing the airlines, we’ve decided to classify lifetime status by loyalty program, since a program may be common to several airlines.

Flying Blue

(Air France, KLM, Aircalin, Kenya Airways, Tarom et Transavia)

Only Platinum status can be obtained for life.

To obtain it, you must have been Platinum for 10 consecutive years.

Flying Blue offers a “rollover” system, whereby a customer’s XP in excess of the level required to achieve/conserve status is carried over from one year to the next, making it easier to achieve lifetime status. Example: 300 XP are required to remain platinum, a passenger who obtains 400XP would start the following year with 100 XP.

At Travelguys, for example, it took us about 5 years instead of 10 to obtain the necessary 3000XP…although the lifetime Platinum will be obtained after 10 years, it was “mathematically” acquired after 5 without us having to worry about it.

The other statuses cannot be obtained for life, neither gold and silver on the one hand, nor the very elitist “Ultimate” on the other.

SAS Eurobonus

(SAS)

Only Gold status can be obtained for life, not Silver or Diamond. And that’s all we ask: Diamond only offers advantages on SAS: at Star Alliance level, Gold and Diamond are recognized as Star Gold, and that’s all we need.

To qualify for Eurobonus Gold for life, you must have held Gold or higher (Diamond) status for 10 consecutive years.

British Airways Executive Club

(British Airways)

British Airways offers Gold status for life, its highest status. You’ll need 35,000 points (with no time limit) to obtain it, which means that at a rate of 1,500 points per year to be gold, a passenger who qualifies with the minimum number of points every year will need 24 years to obtain lifetime status.

Technically speaking, you can reach 35,000 points and become gold for life without ever having been gold… At 600 points to become Silver, it would take 68 years to become gold for life, having always had a lower status… So this is only theoretical!

NB: Iberia and Aer Lingus are part of IAG like British Airways, but do not share the Executive Club frequent flyer program.

Finnair Plus

(Finnair)

Finnair offers two levels of lifetime status: Gold (3,000,000 points) and Platinum (5,000,000). The prestigious Platinum Lumo is not affected, nor is the Silver).

Given that 80,000 points are required each year to become Gold and 150,000 to become Platinum, it will take a passenger who requalifies in a “minimalist” way 38 years to become Gold for life and 34 years to become Platinum for life.

Iberia Plus

(Iberia)

Strictly speaking, Iberia does not offer lifetime status, but it’s just the same. Once 125,000 poins have been earned, no matter how long it takes to acquire them, the customer will be granted the Iberia Plus Infinita card, and at 200,000 the Iberia Plus Infinita Plus Prime card.

They are valid for life, give Oneworld Emerald status, vouchers for free upgrades every year and all the benefits associated with the highest level of loyalty in the airline.

Bearing in mind that the highest status is Platino (6,250 points per year), a “Platino” member who qualifies by reaching the minimum threshold each year will need 19 years to obtain the Infinita card.

Alitalia Millemiglia

(Alitalia)

Altalia offers its highest status for life: the Freccia Alata.

To become Freccia Alata Per Sempre (for life), you’ll need to have held Freccia Alata status for 10 consecutive years.

Please note: with the rescue of the airline and the obligation to restart on a new basis unrelated to the old Alitalia, the future of the loyalty program is subject to debate.

Miles&More

(Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, Austrian, Croatia Airlines, Luxair, LOT, Air Dolomiti, Adria Airways…)

We’ve been eagerly awaiting the introduction of lifetime status at Miles&More. It was announced in 2019 to take effect in 2021 as part of a more thorough overhaul of the program. The implementation of this overhaul was postponed to 2022 following the COVID and then further postponed indefinitely.

The reform provides for the possibility of lifetime status for the following two levels: Frequent Traveller and Senator.

Lifetime status is granted once a certain number of points have been reached: 7,500 for Frequent Traveller, 10,000 for Senator, with no time limit.

If we take as an example a passenger who qualifies every year by reaching the minimum number of points required (160 for Frequent Traveller and 480 for Senator in the new version of the program), the number of years required by the “average” customer to achieve lifetime status will be :

  • 7,500/160 = 47 years for Frequent Traveller
  • 10,000/480=21 years for Senator

As status depends on the number of points and not a certain number of years, members benefit from a system similar to Flying Blue’s “rollover” system, and can therefore obtain lifetime status much more quickly if they travel a lot.

The prestigious “HON Circle” is not eligible for lifetime status.

Asiana Club

(Asiana)

Asiana offers its two highest statuses for life: Diamond Plus and Platinum.

They are not excessively hard to achieve: 500,000 miles or 500 flights on Asiana for Diamond plus and 1,000,000 miles and 1,000 flights on Asiana for platinum. The number of flights may seem high, but it’s adapted to the Asian context, where air travel is often the only way to get from one place to another.

Lifetime Diamond Plus represents approximately 12.5 years of Diamond Plus and 10 years of Platinum.

Delta Skymiles

(Delta Airlines)

Silver, Gold and Platinum statuses are eligible, and even Diamond since July 2021.

The thresholds are 1,000,000 for Silver, 2,000,000 for Gold, 4,000,000 for Platinum and 6,000,000 for Diamond,

Knowing that it takes 25,000, 50,000, 75,000 and 125,000 miles respectively to reach these statuses, a customer who qualifies with the minimal amount of miles every year will need : 40 years for Silver and Gold status, 54 years for Platinum and 48 years for the diamond.

American Airlines AAdvantage

(American Airlines)

American Airlines offers two lifetime statuses: Gold and Platinum.

To obtain Gold for life, you need to have reached 1,000,000 miles and 2,000,000 for platinum. with 25,000 annual miles for Gold and 50,000 for Platinum (in 2021, due to COVID, the thresholds have been lowered) it will take 40 years in both cases for a passenger who reaches just the number of miles needed each year to keep his lifetime status.

Alaska Mileage Plan

(Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines offers lifetime MVP Gold status. Il s’agit de son plus haut statut derrière le MVP Gold 75K.

This is achieved with 1,000,000 miles. So knowing that the MVP Gold is 40,000 miles, it will take a passenger 25 years going at minimum speed.

United Mileage Plus

(United Airlines)

United offers lifetime status for 3 of its 4 statuses: Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K.

It takes 1, 2 and 3 million miles to get there. At 4 million, you “unlock” a status that only exists in a “lifetime” version: “United Global Services”.

These are miles based on distance travelled, which differs from the way status is calculated, so it’s difficult to estimate how long it will take to obtain lifetime status.

Avianca Lifemiles

(Avianca)

Avianca offers its two highest status levels for life: Gold and Platinum.

To achieve this, you need to have accumulated 1,000,000 miles for Gold and 2,000,000 for Platinum, and – a special feature of the program – be over 60!

Knowing that 45,000 miles per year are required to obtain Gold and 75,000 for Platinum, this represents 22 years for Gold (called Cenit 1M) and 26 years for Platinum (called Cenit 2M).

Qantas Frequent Flyer

(Qantas)

Qantas offers 3 of its statutes in a “lifetime” version. Explore Silver, Explore Gold et Explore Platinum. The Explore Platinum One is not concerned.

Given that it takes 250 points to retain a Silver, 600 for a Gold and 1,200 for a Platinum, and that the thresholds for lifetime status are 7,000, 14,000 and…75,000 points, the number of years to achieve lifetime status for someone requalifying at a minimum rate will be :

  • 28 years for a Silver for life
  • 23 years for a Gold for life
  • 62 years for a lifetime Platinum.

Lessons to learn about lifetime status

As you will have noticed there are two approaches: obtaining a certain number of points or holding a status for a certain number of years.

If we try to compare the two, lifetime status “on points” seems much harder to obtain, but this has to be put into perspective.

First of all, “points” statuses do not require a certain number of years’ status, whereas “years” statuses require consecutive years, which is very difficult to obtain.

Before the rollover at Flying Blue, some people had to start from scratch after having held a status for 5 years or more and having had a “dry without”.

Secondly, we are targeting a clientele that generally travels much further than the minimum thresholds and will often take much less time to obtain lifetime status than the ” theoretical calculations ” would suggest.

However, airlines with lifetime “points” status seem to have set the bar much higher than others, but that’s also a market issue. Americans, British and Germans fly much more than the French, and there is a need to avoid having too many people with a lifetime status. This applies to all status acquisition thresholds, which are highly dependent on the travel habits of the domestic market.

You’ll be wondering what the point of including “exotic” airlines in this ranking is. Well, the interest is the alliance of which it is a member.

A Eurobonus Gold status is recognized as Star Alliance Gold by all the airlines in the alliance, in the same way as a Senator Miles&More status, which is much harder to achieve. An Air France Platinum as well as a Delta Platinum or Diamond…

So sometimes it can be worthwhile to go for status with an “exotic” airline because it’s easy to achieve even if you never fly with them because of the way it’s recognized by the airlines you actually fly on.

Finally, you’ll have noticed that many airlines don’t allow you to hold their highest status for life. Why ?

Lifetime status gives customers a certain freedom. Their loyalty is rewarded, but since they don’t have to requalify, they can occasionally go elsewhere and fly with competitors “just to try it out”, or when prices are more competitive. By excluding the highest status from the lifetime program, they keep an incentive for the best customers! This is the paradox of lifetime status: by rewarding loyalty, it makes it possible to become disloyal.

Image : lifetime status by Mikhail Leonov via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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