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Last chance to lock in elite status for 2007

SmarterTravel

With less than two months left to go in 2006, now’s the time to assess your progress toward 2007 elite status. If you haven’t qualified already, put down your Thanksgiving dinner menu and holiday shopping list, and turn your attention to mileage gathering. You can approach your quest for silver, gold, or platinum status from two different angles: slow and steady, or quick and speedy. Or for the best results, combine the two to bump yourself into the ranks of elite flyers.

Slow and steady

The traditional way of qualifying for elite status is to log a lot of air miles. If you’ve already booked tickets for overseas or cross-country flights this fall, you may have elite status all wrapped up. For those flyers who are less diligent planners, it’s time for a mileage run.

A mileage run is a flight booked solely to get miles. Sure, you can get a quick vacation out of the deal, but you may prefer to spend just one night or even a few hours in your destination before returning home. To find a lucrative mileage run, look for sale fares on long routes that will net you thousands of miles. Your goals are to get the most miles in the shortest amount of time, as well as to get the miles as cheaply as possible.

Don’t be lured by extra-mile promotions, unless they specifically indicate that the bonus qualifies toward elite status. Typical offers do not hand out elite-qualifying miles as bonus points. If you don’t plan to spend the night in your destination city, make sure you book a flight without a Saturday-night-stay requirement. It could mean the difference between a good deal and a pricey fare.

Quick and speedy

Feeling a little impatient? Luckily, a few airlines are offering shortcuts to elite status.

United will give you double elite-qualifying miles and segments if you’re willing to slip them some dough. Register by November 24 (that’s this Friday) and pay $499, and you’ll receive double elite miles on United, United Express, and Ted flights through December 16. The double miles are not redeemable for award travel. With this promotion, you’ll only have to fly half as far to achieve 2007 status.

US Airways is effectively giving away elite status with its current offers. Miles earned from almost any activity, from renting a car to staying at a partner hotel to sending flowers, will count toward elite status through the end of the year. So you can sit in your own home, do all your holiday shopping through the Dividend Miles Shopping Mall, and quietly earn elite status without leaving town. Or, you can combine a mileage run with a car rental and hotel stay with partner companies in order to increase the elite miles earned from a single trip.

If that offer won’t work for you, don’t worry. US Airways can put you on the fast track to elite status with its Go for Gold promotion. Whether you’re currently a Preferred member or not, you can attain Silver elite status by flying three first-class or Envoy-class (international business class) round-trips or Gold status by flying six first-class or Envoy-class round-trips through March 31, 2007. It’s a pricey way to get elite membership, but if you like to fly in style, you might as well get the associated perks.

Delta has begun new daily nonstop service between New York (JFK) and London (Gatwick), and you can earn status when you test out this flight. You’ll need to enroll for this offer online through December 15, 2006, then fly round-trip by January 15, 2007. Delta will upgrade your status to Silver Medallion if you fly in full-fare economy class (fare classes Y, B, or M) or Gold Medallion if you fly in BusinessElite class (fare classes J or D).

Your elite path is up to you

No matter which strategy you choose, it’s the right approach if it gets you 25,000, 50,000, or 100,000 miles by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31. You’ll be thankful you made the effort when you cut to the head of the check-in line or get upgraded to first class on your 2007 flights.

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