Ah, [[Elite Programs | elite status]]!
That's what frequent travelers get after flying at least 25,000 miles during a calendar year in most major airline loyalty programs. With that status come perks like upgrades, shorter security lines, priority boarding, and waived fees. By design, these are the seat-of-the-pants benefits that are most meaningful to those who travel the most and, not coincidentally, make the largest contribution to an airline's bottom line.
Because elite benefits can only be given to a few (otherwise, what's "elite" about them?), airlines rarely make it easier to qualify. But American is doing just that, with a new promotion allowing members of its AAdvantage program to earn double elite-qualifying miles for American, American Eagle, or AmericanConnection flights booked and completed between March 18 and June 15.
Note that the bonus only counts toward elite qualification—the extra miles cannot be redeemed for free flights. And only flights booked after registering for the promotion qualify for the bonus.
In American's program, Gold status is awarded after 25,000 miles, Platinum after 50,000, and Executive Platinum after 100,000 miles, with increasingly valuable perks as one moves up the tiers.
With the bonus, then, an AAdvantage member would qualify for Gold status after 12,500 flight miles. So three cross-country round-trips would be more than enough to reach entry-level elite status, or to upgrade from Gold to Platinum status. (Hint: As reported here, American is offering bonus miles and airfare discounts for travel between Boston and the West Coast—a nice opportunity to cost-effectively rack up extra redeemable miles and earn elite status.)
US Airways has had a similar double elite-qualifying miles offer in place for travel between February 3 and March 31. But US Airways doesn't move the market. When American, on the other hand, rolls out such an offer, it would normally trigger a competitive response from the likes of United, Delta, and Continental. In these uncertain times, the usual rules of business can't be assumed to apply. Members of other programs can hope for similar offers, but it's by no means certain that their patience will be rewarded.