United has a great first class fare from LaGuardia to Seattle. You need to book 3 weeks in advance and seats aren’t available on all dates. You can stay in Seattle for a while or catch a flight right back, as shown below:
Why would you want to catch a flight right back?
It’s called a mileage run, though that’s a dying art as the airlines have made getting elite status on the cheap progressively harder.
I’ve had my fun with mileage runs. In 2003 I took AAdvantage of American’s AVNYC promotion to fly twice between NYC and Florida or California on $69 tickets for a free systemwide ticket. I used the systemwide ticket to fly from Sao Paulo-Dallas-JFK-Tokyo-Los Angeles-Miami-Sao Paulo.
In 2006 I spent 36 hours flying on 14 short-hops earning elite status and over 10,000 miles for each leg for less than $200.
United now requires US residents to fly 50,000 miles and spend at least $5,000 on United flights (if you spend $25,000 annually on the United Explorer card then you don’t have to spend $5,000 on flights) to earn Star Alliance Gold status for just 1 year.
And United blocks their own elites from using United Clubs when flying domestically.
Lazy? Take the Greek route to status:
Aegean, a Greek airline, is one of the 27 airlines that make up the Star Alliance. If you signup for an Aegean account here you will get 1,000 redeemable and elite qualifying miles for free.
Aegean only requires 19,000 elite qualifying miles to get Star Alliance Gold status.
Technically you have 1 year from when you signup to the program to get at least 3,000 more flight miles to reach Silver status at 4,000 total miles. You then have 1 year from when you earn Blue/Silver status to get up to 20,000 total miles and earn Gold status.
Once you have the Gold status it’s yours to keep. You just need to credit a single Star Alliance flight to your Aegean account once every every 36 months to extend your Star Alliance Gold status for another 36 months.
The terms of the program can change, but lots of folks have had Aegean Gold since 2010 and continue to enjoy the benefits by just crediting 1 United flight to the account every 36 months.
Aegean uses a complicated table where mileage earned is based on the fare class.
Most United coach tickets only earn half the flown miles. However United First Class tickets in F or A class earn triple the miles flown.
In the LGA-SEA flight example above you’ll notice that I selected flights that connect in Houston. By connecting there the total flight miles are 3,290 each way or 6,580 round-trip. When you credit that flight to your Aegean account (just enter your Aegean number on United.com or give it to an airport agent) you’ll earn triple miles because the ticket is a first class ticket in A class, so you’ll have 19,740 miles. Add that to the 1,000 miles you get at signup and you’ll have Star Alliance Gold status after the single round-trip flight!
Plus you’ll have 20,740 miles that you can use for Star Alliance award flights.
Star Alliance Gold Benefits:
-You and a companion can access over 1,000 Star Alliance lounges when departing from the airport on any Star Alliance airline. When you have Star Alliance Gold status from United you can’t access any of their lounges when traveling domestically, but when you have Star Alliance Gold status from a foreign carrier like Aegean you can access United lounges when flying domestically.
And yes, with Star Alliance Gold status you’ll have access to the Dan lounge in Tel Aviv even if you’re flying United coach.
-You get at least 1 additional free bag over the baggage allowance for non-elites. On Air Canada and United that even extends to each of your travel companions. On United in coach a 2nd bag to Israel for example would be free, a value of $200 round-trip per person. On United in business or first class you and your companions will get 3 free 70 pound bags. On Air Canada in any class you and your companions will get 3 free bags, a value of $650 round-trip per person.
-Star Alliance Gold status also gets you priority baggage handling, priority checkin, priority security, priority boarding, priority waitlisting, etc.
-When flying on United having Star Alliance Gold status will allow you to make the free same-day confirmed changes to your flight when done in the online check-in process.
-Aegean miles aren’t worth as much as United miles, so once you get the status you want you will want to switch back to earning miles from United. You can check your bags with your Aegean Gold card and then switch your number to accumulate United miles for the flight.
-You won’t get upgrades on United like you would if you earned elite status in their program.
-You won’t get bonus miles on United like you would if you earned elite status in their programs.
-You won’t get Economy Plus seating like you would if you you earned elite status in their own program, though some gate agents and an occasional phone agent may move you there for free.
-You won’t get expanded elite award availability on United like you would if you earned elite status in their own program, however anyone who has a United Explorer card gets expanded coach saver award seats and last seat coach, business, and first class standard awards. And United requires at least Platinum status (75K miles/year) to get expanded business/first class saver awards. Besides once there is coach saver award space you can always do a Plan B award to sit in the front of the bus.