The Complete Guide to Airline “Million Miler” Programs

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Many hard-working people have a goal in life of someday becoming a millionaire, but many travelers I know aspire to a far different numerical achievement: to become a Million Miler.

Yes, it’s true — hitting the million-mile mark of flown miles with a particular airline is considered a pinnacle of travel that many enjoy achieving.

It’s really the airlines’ fault…they hold out the carrot of perpetual elite status (for as long as the program exists) when a flyer hits a million flown miles! The ante is then raised to even higher status when multiple millions are flown.

But is achieving Million Miler status even worth the time, cost, and effort? When achieved organically, Million Miler status is definitely worthwhile; you’re flying the miles anyway!

For business travelers who rack up a lot of flown miles and eventually hit a million miles, benefiting from the ongoing status is a deserved reward.

But setting Million Miler status as your goal if you’re a leisure traveler who pays for every flight might be a foolish endeavor — and an expensive proposition.

With that said, there are leisure travelers who pay for flights with Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, American Express Membership Rewards Points, Citi ThankYou Points, or other valuable credit card rewards currency.

These travelers would earn flown mileage credit towards Million Miler status with those flights while minimizing costs.

However you choose to achieve the Million Miler milestone, you might want some guidance and information on what awaits you when you get there.

In this article we’ll answer these questions about Million Miler status:

  • Why would I want to be a Million Miler?
  • Which airlines have a Million Miler program?
  • How do Million Miler programs work?
  • How do I track my miles towards Million Miler status?
  • Any tips on shortcuts to reach Million Miler status?

Hang on to your seat — we’re going to explore the journey to becoming an airline Million Miler!

Delta Porsche
A Porsche ride from one plane to another on Million Miler day. Image courtesy of Christine Krzyszton.

Why You’d Want to Be a Million Miler

The best and most practical reason to become a Million Miler is to receive lifetime airline elite status. Earning airline elite status on an annual basis has become increasingly difficult due to a trend in revenue-based requirements that must be met in order to qualify.

Million Miler, however, is a level of recognition you can achieve without having to jump through the hoops that are associated with qualifying for annual airline elite status.

For example, there are no revenue requirements or the need to reach a specific level of spending on a credit card to waive those requirements.

You fly, you earn miles, you live long enough…and you become a Million Miler. It’s all in your control (except maybe for the living long enough part).

When you reach Million Miler, you are bestowed with lifetime elite status that lasts as long as the program exists (not necessarily your personal lifetime).

Hot Tip: Elite status like this can be valuable for avoiding fees, getting priority service when things go wrong, earning complimentary upgrades, and much more.

Now, should you even work towards this achievement?

Let’s explore the path to Million Miler status and see if the effort is worth it.

How Do Million Miler Programs Work?

Million Miler programs are not based on how many frequent flyer miles you’ve earned — they’re based on how many airlines miles you have actually flown on paid tickets.

Each airline Million Miler program calculates miles differently.

For example, miles that count toward Million Miler status may be calculated based on only those flights operated by the airline and not partner airlines. Or you may receive the same amount of miles whether you paid for first class or economy.

In some cases, you’ll find that miles are easier to earn in one program over another — but the benefits you receive for flying a million miles may be less than stellar.

Let’s take a look at the domestic carriers with Million Miler programs and review the requirements. We’ll also tell you what to expect when you reach a million miles and show you how to find out if you’re approaching the milestone.

American Airlines plane
Image courtesy American Airlines.

American Airlines Million Miler

The Program

Here’s what you can expect when you fly a million miles or more with American Airlines.

  • 1 Million Flown Miles: AAdvantage Gold status for the life of the program plus 35,000 bonus miles
  • 2 Million Flown Miles: AAdvantage Platinum status for the life of the program plus 4 one-way systemwide upgrades
  • Each Subsequent Million: Additional 4 systemwide upgrades

And here’s a summary of the benefits you would receive with Gold and Platinum elite status:

Gold and Platinum Elite Benefits

  • Dedicated customer service line
  • Automatic upgrades on flights 500 miles or less
  • Ability to earn and redeem 500-mile upgrade certificates
  • Upgrade companion with 500-mile certificates
  • Mileage bonuses
  • Priority security, check-in, boarding, and preferred seating
  • Complimentary standby
  • Free checked bag
  • Discounted Admiral’s Club membership
  • Waived award processing fee
  • Oneworld priority check-in and standby

Additional Benefits for Platinum

  • Additional free checked bag
  • Oneworld business and frequent flyer lounge access
  • Oneworld priority boarding and security

For more information on elite status, see our guide on American Airline’s AAdvantage loyalty program.

Hot Tip: If you are interested in having elite status with American Airlines, we can walk you through the process of requesting and completing a status challenge. Find out more about participating in an AAdvantage status challenge in our expert guide that tells you everything you need to know.   

How to Earn Miles Toward American Airlines Million Miler

Million Miler qualification miles are calculated based only on the actual distance flown. This is different than how Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) are calculated for elite status, as bonus miles do not count toward Million Miler.

Base miles earned on partner airline flights do count toward Million Miler.

AA Million Miler
Image courtesy of AA.com.

How to Track Your Miles

You can track your progress toward American Airlines Million Miler by logging into your AAdvantage frequent flyer online account. Once on the home page, click on “My Account” then “Your Activity.”

You will then see your Million Miler balance.

Delta plane
Image courtesy of Delta.

Delta Air Lines Million Miler

The Program

Here’s what you can expect when you fly a million miles or more with Delta Air Lines.

  • 1 Million Flown Miles: Silver Medallion status for the lifetime of the program plus select luxury gift
  • 2 Million Flown Miles and 3 Million Miles: Gold Medallion status for the lifetime of the program plus select luxury gift
  • 4 Million Flown Miles and Each Subsequent Million: Platinum Medallion status for the lifetime of the program plus select luxury gift

Here’s a summary of Silver, Gold, and Platinum Medallion status benefits.

Silver, Gold, and Platinum Benefits:

  • Rollover MQMs
  • Bonus miles
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • Preferred seating and priority waitlist
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Discounted CLEAR membership
  • Priority phone line
  • SkyTeam Elite status
  • Savings on Delta Vacations

Gold and Platinum receive these additional benefits:

  • Waived same-day standby and same-day confirmed fees
  • Sky Priority boarding
  • Priority security
  • Expedited baggage service
  • High-priority phone line
  • Elite Plus SkyTeam status
  • 5-Star Hertz status

Platinum receives these additional benefits:

  • Waived award redeposit/reissue fees
  • 1 Choice Benefit: Select from a $200 gift card, 20,000 bonus miles, gift Silver status, or 4 regional upgrades
  • Higher priority phone line
  • Skyteam lounge access
  • President’s Circle Hertz status

Visit the Delta Air Lines site for more information on their Medallion program.

Bottom Line: After flying 1 million miles with Delta, you only receive entry-level Silver Medallion. With that said, it’s much easier to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles toward Delta Million Miler than other Million Miler programs.

How You Earn Miles Toward Delta Million Miler

No matter how you earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) with Delta (even from credit card spending), all of those MQM miles will count toward Million Miler Qualification.

While this is a strong positive, reaching a million miles with Delta only grants you low-level Silver status.

Delta Million Miler
Track your Million Miler miles by logging into your Delta SkyMiles account. Image courtesy of Delta.

How to Track Your Miles on Delta

It’s simple to track your progress toward Delta Million Miler status by logging into your SkyMiles account online and clicking on “SkyMiles Summary.”

Delta partner chart header

Delta partner chart body
MQDs earned on partner airlines count toward Delta Million Miler. Image courtesy of Delta.

Shortcuts to Delta Million Miler Status

There are additional ways to earn MQMs that count toward Million Miler status than just flying on Delta Air Line flights.

  • Earn MQMs on Credit Card Welcome Bonuses: Completing the initial spending requirements on a Delta-branded credit card (such as the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express) can yield thousands of bonus miles, which frequently include MQMs. These MQMs, when offered on any Delta-branded credit card, count towards Million Miler status.
  • Meet Spending Thresholds for Additional MQMs: Both Platinum Delta SkyMiles® cards and Delta Reserve® Credit Cards award MQMs when meeting threshold spending levels.
  • Flying Premium Flights on Partner Airlines: You can earn a generous amount of MQMs towards Million Miler when flying with partner airlines on premium fares. The above chart is an excerpt from the Delta mileage accrual chart that shows MQMs earned when flying partner China Eastern.

Hot Tip: If you’re interested in Medallion Elite status with Delta, know that it is possible to earn status from spending on Delta-branded credit cards. You can also status match your current airline status to Delta. 

United Airlines
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

United Airlines Million Miler

The Program

Here’s an overview of the status you can expect to be granted when you fly a million miles or more with United Airlines.

  • 1 Million Flown Miles – Premier Gold
  • 2 Million Flown Miles – Premier Platinum
  • 3 Million Flown Miles – Premier 1K
  • 4 Million Flown Miles – United Global Services

Here are the highlights of the benefits you’ll receive.

Premier Gold, Platinum, 1K, and Global Services Benefits

  • Grant spouse or significant other equal Premier status
  • Preferred seating
  • Complimentary domestic upgrades
  • Instant upgrades on Y/B class fares
  • Mileage bonuses
  • Priority check-in, security, boarding, baggage
  • Priority standby
  • Priority phone line
  • Waived fees on same day changes
  • Lounge access when traveling internationally
  • Star Alliance Gold benefits

Platinum Premier, 1K, and Global Services Additional Benefits

  • Complimentary regional upgrades
  • Waived fees for award tickets, redeposit, and close-in fees
  • Better award availability
  • Discounted United Club Membership

Premier 1K  and Global Services Additional Benefits

  • 1K dedicated phone line
  • Global Upgrades

Hot Tip: United grants additional unpublished benefits for their top United Global Services level!

No other airline Million Miler program offers the ability to earn top-level lifetime status or gift that same status to a spouse or significant other.

Visit the United MileagePlus website for more information on elite status with United.

Bottom Line: United’s Lifetime Million Miler program with the ability to grant a companion equal status is an exceptional program. You also receive Premier Gold status when reaching your first million lifetime miles — not entry-level Premier Silver. 

How to Earn Lifetime Miles With United

Miles toward Million Miler Lifetime status are earned based on flight distance flown. Only flights operated by United and United Express count toward lifetime miles.

UA Million Miler
Your Million Miler progress is tracked within your United frequent flyer account. Image courtesy of United.

How to Track Your Miles

You can track your lifetime flight miles on United.com by logging in to your United MileagePlus account and selecting “View Account.”

Alaska Airlines Takeoff Mountains
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

Alaska Airlines Million Miler

The Program

Fly a million miles with Alaska Airlines and receive mid-level status for life.

  • 1 Million Flown Miles – MVP Gold status

Benefits Overview for MVP Gold Status

  • Complimentary first and premium upgrades (+ companion)
  • 4 guest upgrades annually
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • 2 free checked bags (+ companions)
  • Priority security, seating, phone line
  • Complimentary same-day standby/flight changes
  • Discounted Alaska Lounge membership
  • Fee waivers
  • Bonus miles

Find out more about Alaska Airlines elite status by visiting their Mileage Plan website.

Bottom Line: Alaska Airlines grants mid-level “MVP Gold status for life” once you have flown a million miles, unlike other airlines who have changed the duration of granted status to “lifetime of the frequent flyer program.”

How You Earn Miles

Miles are calculated based on the distance flown on Alaska Airlines flights.

Alaska Air Million Miler
Total miles are easily found on your Mileage Plan home page. Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

How to Track Your Miles

As soon as you log in to your Alaska Mileage Plan account, you’ll see your mileage balance and progress toward Million Miler.

Everything Else You Need to Know

Only paid flights accrue miles that count toward Million Miler.

Flights paid for with rewards currencies accrue miles toward Million Miler under the same rules as if you paid in cash. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards Points, Citi ThankYou Points, and U.S. Bank FlexPoints are examples of these types of rewards currency.

Lifetime Elite status received when you hit each million-mile threshold does not give you any miles toward the next level of elite status.

For example, if you fly 1 million miles on Delta, you will be granted lifetime Silver Medallion status. It normally requires 25,000 flown miles to achieve Silver Medallion status — but when granted, you do not receive 25,000 base miles to help you reach the next status level.

Note: You receive status only — this means you’ll start from zero each year and will need to fly 50,000 miles to qualify for the next level, Gold Medallion (in this example).

Also remember that “lifetime status” does not translate to your lifetime, but generally refers to the lifetime of the frequent flyer program.

There is no requirement to fly in any given year once you have Million Miler status; you will continue to have your granted status renewed for the lifetime of the program regardless of flight activity.

Final Thoughts

Hitting Million Miler status can be anticipated with expectations of grandeur, and then fall far short of that.

This is because when you hit a million miles…nothing much happens. Sure, you might get to select a special gift, receive bonus miles, or even get a congratulatory card.

You will also have your new granted elite status continuously renewed each year…but on the actual day you cross the million-mile mark, it’s likely that no one will notice.

Want your million-mile moment to be acknowledged? You can tweet your excitement about the upcoming experience and hope the airline notices. Or you can call the airline and they may put a note in the record locator of your flight.

If you’re close to hitting a million flown miles, you should definitely go for it — just don’t make it the reason you fly and then expect fanfare.

Don’t plan to be flying a million miles, but want to learn more about having airline elite status? You might be interested in our guides to status matches and challenges.


Featured Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock.com

FAQ

How do airline Million Miler programs work?

Several airlines offer programs that grant you lifetime elite status if you fly a million or more miles with them on paid flights. Each program is structured differently as to which miles count and the level of complimentary status granted.

Once you reach a million flown miles, you receive complimentary elite status that you will keep regardless of how much you fly in the future.

Am I a Million Miler if I have a million frequent flyer miles?

The miles in your frequent flyer account are different from actual flown miles and do not count toward Million Miler status.

Miles that count toward Million Miler status are normally miles flown on flights you purchase, not bonus redeemable miles that you collect and use to secure award tickets.

Is Million Miler worth it?

If you’re flying a lot of miles anyway, it is worth it for the lifetime elite status. Complimentary elite status can save you a lot of money on checked bags, premium seating, and other fees.

Elite status can also give you priority assistance if something goes wrong with your trip and make your journey more comfortable.

However, if you have to pay for all of your flights, or just want to fly a million miles for bragging rights and to have low-level elite status, it is not worth it.

Do the miles I earn on my airline credit card count toward Million Miler?

They can. Some Delta-branded credit cards offer Medallion Qualifying Miles in their welcome bonuses and when reaching specific spending thresholds.

Other than that, spending on your credit card earns redeemable miles, and not Million Miler qualifying miles.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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4 comments

  1. Agnes Nemeth · March 17, 2019 · Reply

    Hi! Great article. I have one quick question. Can you ever transfer lifetime miles from one airline to the other. For example, I have about 500,000 lifetime miles on AA but I switched over to United 3 years ago and now i have about 100,000 lifetime miles on United. Can i ever combine these to get to the Million Miler status on one of the airlines? Thank you.

    • Christine Krzyszton · March 18, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Agnes. Thank you for the kind words and for the question. Unfortunately, it is not possible to transfer lifetime miles from one airline to another. They’re actually not real miles, just a tally of how many miles you’ve flown with that airline. But it would be pretty sweet if you could.

  2. What about miles earned (not flown) through credit card spending? I have about 800,000 miles, none through actual flying though.

    • Christine Krzyszton · April 29, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Jen and thanks for your question. Only miles actually flown on an airline count towards Million Miler status. The miles you have earned on your credit card are redeemable miles or bonus miles, not flown miles. Delta is an exception and does offer a limited number of Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) for reaching specific spending levels on their branded credit card. These MQMs are counted towards the million mile total.

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